Thursday, March 4, 2010

216 - Purim

The Mesilas Yesharim writes that man was created to have pleasure. Not just any pleasure, rather "to delight in Hashem and have pleasure from the radiance of His Shechina." Moreover, Chazal tell us that in the World to Come there is no eating or drinking; the righteous sit with crowns on their heads and they derive pleasure from the radiance of the Shechina. Pleasure is what dominates the timeline from one's birth until all of eternity.

Additionally Rav Wolbe writes (Da'as Shlomo Geulah pg. 207) that pleasure is the determining factor behind all of our actions. The question is only what gives a person pleasure. "Tell me what you enjoy and I will tell you who you are!" Determining what gives a person pleasure, is the litmus test for determining his essence. Even if most of one's pleasures revolve around physical gratification, does he also, from time to time, obtain enjoyment in the spiritual arena? Does he delight in performing a kindness for another, from connecting to Hashem through prayer, from the profundity of Chazal or an ingenious Torah thought? This is a question everyone should ask himself. Indeed, this is one of the lessons that we can glean from the story of Purim.

Chazal tell us that the three days of fasting that Esther instituted, had another purpose besides enabling the Jews to pray with more feeling. The fast was meant to counteract the physical pleasures they enjoyed when they participated in Achashveirosh's party. As the Gemara states, the decree to kill the Jews came in wake of their participating in that party. However, we must ask, "If all the food was kosher and no one was forced to drink anything, what could possibly be so terrible in partaking of the festivities, that as a result, all of Shushan's Jew's were slated for annihilation?" The answer is that instead of focusing their sense of pleasure toward the spiritual realm and thereby gaining eternity, they directed their pleasure toward the physical. They immersed themselves in a hedonistic party that was focused entirely on entrenching the body in pleasure. Only after they fasted and put the physical pleasures in the right perspective, did they merit salvation from their enemies.

Rav Wolbe related that he remembered a G-d fearing learned man in Germany who stated that as long as he has Wagner's music, he can't possibly feel dejected. How could it be that such a Torah scholarly man found his non physical pleasures outside the realm of Torah?

We read in the Megillah (8, 15), "And the Jews had light, happiness, joy and honor." Chazal tell us that this refers to the light of Torah the happiness of Yom Tov, the joy of bris milah and the honor of tefillin. The Jews came to a new perception of pleasure, and they acknowledged that true light, happiness, joy and honor are obtained through the Torah and mitzvos.

We ask of Hashem, "Please make the Torah pleasurable in our mouths." "V'hareiv" - "make pleasurable", shares the same root as the word "hitareiv" - "to blend" because the things in which one finds pleasure blend into the very essence and makeup of that person. Although we are flesh and blood and are therefore automatically connected to the physical pleasures, we should strive to integrate the Torah into our flesh and blood. This will enable us to enjoy the greatest pleasures in the entire world!

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