Friday, March 25, 2016

When the wine goes in, the fragrance comes out.

By HaRav Dov Begon,
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

"A person is obligated to drink [Hebrew: lehitbasem] on Purm until he cannot tell the difference between 'Cursed be Haman' and 'Blessed be Mordechai'" (Megillah 7b; Orach Chaim 695:2). 

Seemingly we can ask: How can our sages require us to drink? Surely drunkenness causes great sin. Yet it is because the miracles performed for the Jewish People on Purim occurred by way of drinking parties. Vashti was removed from the throne by way of a drinking party, bringing in Esther. Likewise, Haman's downfall came about through a drinking party. Our sages therefore required us to drink enough that we should remember the great miracle by way of wine. 

All the same, we are not commanded to get drunk and to allow our reveling to diminish our dignity to the point of rakish foolishness, but only enough to achieve a pleasurable feeling of love for G-d and thankfulness for the miracles He performed for us. If, however, someone knows about himself that drinking will make him treat one of the mitzvoth lightly, such as ritual hand-washing or the blessing after the meal, or that it will make him skip mincha or ma'ariv, or behave frivolously, then better he should abstain. Let all one's deeds be for the sake of heaven. (Orach Chaim 695:2, Biur Halachah). 

Seemingly we can ask, "Why do our sages use the Hebrew expression "lehitbasem" [literally to have a fragrance] for "to drink", rather than "lehishtaker", the normal expression for "to get drunk"? It is because, as our sages said, "When wine goes in, secrets come out." And what are the "secrets" that come out of a Jew who drinks wine on Purim? Only good words leave his lips, and, as our sages said, "'Good' can only mean Torah," or, "'Good' can only mean a righteous person." 

The opposite occurred at the drinking feast of Achashverosh. There, the king's honorees, gathered together from amongst all the nations, sat and drank a king's share of wine, and their true faces were revealed, all lasciviousness and corruption, the opposite of the pleasant fragrance exuded by the Jewish People even when they drink wine. 

Today, thirty two years ago, on the 14th of Adar, the first day of Purim, our master Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook was taken to the celestial sphere. All his life he engaged in disseminating the Torah lights of his father. Those lights have spread a good and pleasant fragrance to the entire House of Israel and to the entire world. 

Rav Tzvi Yehuda was privileged to be the great educator who actualized the potential of his father's blessed light and raised up numerous disciples who follow in his light. Rav Tzvi Yehuda would customarily explain our sages' words, "The sanctification of G-d's name is greater than the Profanation of G-d's name [me'chullul Hashem] as meaning, "The greatest sanctification of G-d's name is one that emerges from the profanation of G-d's name." When a believing person merits to ascend in Torah greatness, and in the fear and love of G-d, he merits to see with his spiritual sight how truly everything is for the best. Then, even what seems at the time like the profanation of G-d's name, darkness and evil, turns out to be part of G-d's kingdom. 

And perhaps that is the spiritual level that the person drinking wine on Purim must reach, such that "he cannot distinguish between 'Cursed be Haman' and 'Blessed be Mordechai'." Both stand beneath the watchful gaze of G-d, and "everything G-d does He does for the good." 

Looking forward to complete salvation, 
Shabbat Shalom.

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