Purim: Playing The Part
By Dovi Scheiner

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos chelek Lamed-Vav


King Achashverosh threw a huge bash. All the residents of Shushan were invited to join the King in the palace gardens. There was plenty to eat and loads to drink and, in time, the heart of the King grew merry with wine.

Feeling that he was missing his queen, Achashverosh asked that Vashti be brought before him. Queen Vashti declined the invitation of King Achashverosh, who grew stressed over the rejection. Achashverosh summoned his advisors for a consultation, to decide upon an appropriate response to the refusal by Vashti, his queen.

Well, hello? Am I the only confused one around here? The refusal by Vashti constituted a flagrant rebellion against the kingship of Achashverosh, and a rebellion such as this was a crime punishable by death! So why did Achashverosh procrastinate in his response, first calling a hearing of the Persian Senate and then ordering the formation of a special fact-finding commission?


The huge bash thrown by Achashverosh was specifically designed to accommodate the guests. It was the wish of the King that every aspect of the feast should conform to the comforts and wishes of the individual guests. As we read in the first chapter of the Megilla, "And the drinking was according to the law, without coercion, for so the King had ordered all the officers of his court, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure." At times, at a palace party, a guest will be coerced into partaking of food and drink; this was not to be one of those parties.

Following this particular theme of Achashverosh’s party, one could conclude that Vashti had committed no crime at all. Seemingly, when it comes to a celebration designed to satisfy the desires of the individual invitee, it would only be fair that Vashti should be accommodated in her particular wish, as well, which was to entirely avoid the event.


When the Megilla speaks of a king, it is alluding to Hashem. Thus, a party thrown by King Achashverosh for subjects within his capital city serves as a metaphor for a gathering called by the Alm-ghty for the benefit of us, His chosen people, Israel. For the Jewish people, there is no food like soul food, so the main course at any bash of the Alm-ghty arrives in the form of an instructive course in Torah wisdom. At such a Divine celebration, instead of being served, guests are invited to serve, actively partaking of the "all you can complete" mitzva smorgasbord.

Most significantly, at the feast prepared especially for the Jewish people, there is absolutely no element of coercion! Menu options ranging from vegan to less than delicate-essen are left entirely up to the tastes of the particular guest. Hashem simply places His vast Torah and manifold mitzvos before man and hopes that he will decide to bite in.


This is the story of Purim. While many of us regard Purim as a freewheeling holiday, truth be told, Purim is probably more like the holiday of free will!

At Har Sinai, with a mountain dangled precariously over their heads, the Jewish people were "invited" by Hashem to accept His Torah, and they hurried to oblige. Unfortunately, circumstances as they were at Har Sinai, this acceptance was somewhat lacking of human initiative, with a review of the event revealing the Jewish people not jumping for joy, but ducking for cover.

It was only much later, through the episode of Purim, that the Jewish people truly welcomed the Torah within the deepest recesses of their hearts. In the face of religious persecution at the hands of the wicked Haman, the Jewish people stood steadfast, righteously refusing to bow out and fade away. Thus, in the days of Purim, resolving by their own free will to dedicate themselves to the Torah way, the Jewish people achieved the fulfillment of what they had earlier accepted, embracing fully the Torah of Har Sinai.


At a lecture I recently attended, a noted mashpia related the story of a Jewish couple who reached their fiftieth wedding anniversary and the great party they threw on the occasion. Surrounded by friends and relatives, the wife stood up and offered a special toast on this unique occasion. She then went on to inform all assembled that the last fifty years had passed "like two days!" The gathering was wowed; imagine fifty years passing as just two days. But there was one man in the crowd who was admittedly confused. "Why," he wondered out loud, "would you talk of your long-lasting marriage in terms of two days, instead of simply speaking of one day?" The wife was adamant and held her ground. "As two days!" she rushed to assure her guest... "Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur!"

For some of us, unfortunately, the duration of our relationship with Hashem passes like two days. For some of us, unfortunately, our Judaism can be something of a Sinai experience; we oblige only as a mountain is held to our head. One man finds his davening to be lacking in spirit. One boy finds the road to honoring his father and mother strewn with obstacles and land mines. One bachur, constantly preaching love for one’s fellow Jew, discovers upon careful self-examination that in truth, he simply could not care less!

Purim serves as a wake-up call reminding us that although the Torah was first given through Moshe Rabbeinu, it was not fully received until the days of Mordechai. Purim serves as a reminder that the very same mitzva, initially accepted begrudgingly, may be embraced anew, willingly and lovingly!


So this Purim, as we fulfill our religious duty to imbibe kosher spirits, may we struggle to maintain a glimmer of consciousness with which we commit to the personal resolution to invest all of our religious duties with a positive attitude and kosher spirit!

Or, as the mashpia summed up: "May the next fifty years of our relationship with Hashem pass as two days... Purim and Simchas Torah!"


While many of us regard Purim as a freewheeling holiday, truth be told, Purim is probably more like the holiday of free will!


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