Wednesday, August 13, 2014

419 - Purim

Shlomo Hamelech counsels us, "If you seek it like silver and you search for it like a treasure, [only] then will you understand the fear of Hashem and will you find da'as Elokim (the knowledge of Hashem)" (Mishlei 2, 4-5). What is this da'as Elokim for which we are searching?

Rav Yeruchom Levovitz zt"l explains that the main objective of krias Yam Suf, was not the awesome miracle and Divine revelation caused by the splitting of the sea. Rather, Hashem wished to surround Bnei Yisrael with perils from all sides to force them to acknowledge that there was no natural way out of their predicament. Such a situation would compel them to turn to Hashem. When Bnei Yisrael directed their focus toward Hashem, He responded by splitting the sea simply as a means of extracting them from their predicament. 

In a similar vein, Sarah Imeinu was not merely barren; she was physically unable to bear children as she did not even have a womb. Hashem created her in such a manner so that she and Avraham realize that the laws of nature left no room for a child and they would be forced to invest all their efforts in petitioning Hashem. The subsequent miracle of her bearing a child was merely to extract her from her difficulty. In summation, Divine Providence often removes all viable options in order to redirect our focus, so that instead of turning to outsiders for help we are forced to turn our gaze inward and come to the realization that it is only Hashem Who can help. 

With this introduction, says Rav Wolbe (Da'as Shlomo Geulah pg. 211), we can gain an understanding of what da'as Elokim is. It is a heartfelt sense of clarity that the Creator exists beyond any shadow of a doubt. 

How can one attain this da'as Elokim? There are two possible ways. The first, as mentioned above, is by coming to the realization that salvation can only be achieved through Hashem. Chazal tell us (Megillah 14a), "Greater was the removal of the signet ring [from Achashveirosh to Haman], than the forty eight prophets. While none of the prophets succeeded in causing Bnei Yisrael to repent, the [decree written by Haman after the] removal of the signet ring succeeded in bringing them back to the proper path." Despite the many foreboding prophecies, Bnei Yisrael always thought that there was a way out other than teshuva. However, when they were faced with Haman's evil threats of annihilation, they could not ignore their impending doom. This brought them to the realization that there was no natural way out and salvation could only come from Hashem.

The second way of attaining da'as Elokim can be gleaned from the Radak on the pasuk, "I had said I would not see Hashem" (Yeshaya 38, 11). He quotes Rav Saadya Gaon who explains that "seeing Hashem" is a reference to giving thanks. The Radak concurs with this explanation, "Since perceiving Hashem is thanking and praising Him and contemplating His ways." Someone who possesses the trait of hakaras hatov, sees Hashem in every single thing given to him by Hashem. He appreciates the many gifts he receives, and he thanks Hashem for each and every one of them. Thus, he sees Hashem in every aspect of his life.

The Purim miracle only occurred after Bnei Yisrael acknowledged that the only way out was with Hashem's help. This internal revelation was so strong that it brought them to new spiritual heights and was the impetus for renewing their acceptance of the Torah. They had gained a new appreciation of the Torah and mitzvos, as Chazal explain the pasuk, "The Jews had light, happiness, rejoicing and splendor. Light refers to the Torah, happiness refers to Yom Tov, rejoicing refers to the mitzvah of bris milah and splendor is a reference to the mitzvah of tefillin" (Megillah 16b). While we might have difficulty seeing the light of the Torah or the splendor of tefillin, Mordechai and his generation, after being forced to turn inward and perceive Hashem internally, attained da'as Elokim andwere able to tap into the pnimiyus of the Torah and mitzvos.

In conclusion, Rav Wolbe cites the Ramban (Shemos 24, 11) who writes that whenever there was a great revelation of the Shechina, Bnei Yisrael celebrated with food and drink. Rav Wolbe suggests that the mitzvah of feasting on Purim was enacted by Chazal as a celebration of the revelation attained by Mordechai and his generation, and the possible revelation that can be achieved each and every year when we revisit this awesome time. Purim has so much spiritual potential; let us make sure not to lose this awesome opportunity for growth! 

A Freilichin Purim!

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