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Bnei Akiva is proud Volume 28 to be supported by
Shabbat Tzav 5771
1) To learn about the 4 Mitzvot that we do on Purim.
2) To understand what true Simcha is and to learn about why it is important to be happy on Purim.
3) To think about what we can do to make sure that we and other people have a very happy Purim.
Purim is coming – we’re so happy!
We hope that you and all of your Chanichim have a very happy Purim. To help you achieve this goal, this Choveret is all about happiness on Purim, dealing with why we should be so happy on Purim, and how we can bring true Simcha to ourselves and others on Purim (and in general).
Take this opportunity to encourage your Chanichim to take part in whatever activities are going on in your Shul over Purim and to get involved in all of the different Mitzvot of Purim. And make sure to get involved yourselves by coming to our Purim Party at the Bayit on Sunday morning, with Shacharit at 9:30, Megilla at 10:15, and a Big Breakfast Seudah at 11:00. Don’t forget to dress up!
Thank you to those of you who have given me useful feedback on the Choveret. Please continue to tell me what you think of the Choveret by emailing me at email@example.com
Have a wonderful Shabbat, enjoy Sviva, and make sure your Chanichim enjoy it too!
Purim is perhaps the easiest of all the days in our calendar to summarise with the common Jewish joke about what all the festivals entail:
They tried to kill us… we won… let’s eat!
It’s true that Jews have been oppressed by many different people throughout history, but whereas Pharaoh tried to make us eternal slaves (see Pesach story), and Antiochus tried to convert us to Hellenism (see Chanukah story), Haman wanted to wipe us out entirely.
In addition, although food plays an important role in most of our Chagim (if not in everyday life), on Purim we have a specific Mitzvah to have a Seudah, where we eat, drink and be merry like on no other day.
Four Happy Mitzvot of Purim
When we compare the Mitzvot of Purim to the Mitzvot of other festivals, it is no surprise that we are meant to be happy on Purim – and indeed for the whole month of Adar – as the Mishna in Mesechet Taanit (29a) says:
So what are the four Mitzvot of the day and how do they make us happy?
To hear the Megilla twice - We should make sure to hear the Megilla on Motzei Shabbat and on Sunday morning. Our happiness should come from appreciating that Hashem turned events on their head (‘venahafoch hu’) and that we were saved from Haman’s decree (even though Hashem is not
mentioned directly in the Megillah).
To have a Seudat Purim - We should make sure to have a big meal on Purim day where we eat and drink. Our happiness should be relatively straightforward for this one!
To give Mishloach Manot to two people - We should give two different people gifts of two items of food or drink each with different Brachot. Our happiness should come from the joy of giving to others.
To give Matanot l’Evyonim to two poor people - We should give enough charity for two different people to be able to have a proper meal on the day of Purim itself. Our happiness should come from enabling others who are less fortunate than us to participate in the Mitzvot of Purim as well.
משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה .
When we enter the month of Adar we increase in happiness.
If happiness is about eating, drinking and celebrating that we were saved from being wiped out, then we can understand why we need to read the Megilla, have a Seudah, and give Mishloach Manot. However, it is not so obvious at first glance why Matanot l’Evyonim should make us happy. We know that we have a Mitzvah to give Tzedakah to poor people, but this applies all year round, so we must need a very good reason to have an extra Mitzvah of Matanot l’Evyonim specifically on Purim.
Let’s look at what the Rambam says about Simcha on Purim:
According to this eye-opening statement of the Rambam, true happiness does not come from eating and drinking ourselves, or even from sharing food with our friends, but from helping and giving to those who are considerably less fortunate than we are.
Based on this understanding, it is perfectly clear why Matanot l’Evyonim is one of the four Mitzvot of Purim - and perhaps even the most important one. There are so many people who cannot afford to eat proper meals every day, even within our own communities, and on Purim in particular we must make sure to give generously to help these people.
It is preferable for a person to be more generous with his donations to the poor than to be lavish in his preparation of the Purim feast (Seudah) or in sending portions to his friends (Mishloach Manot). For there is no greater and more splendid happiness than to gladden the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the converts.
One who brings happiness to the hearts of these unfortunate individuals resembles the Divine Presence, which Yeshaya (57:15) describes as having the tendency ‘to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive those with broken hearts.’ (Hilchot Megilla, 2:17)
Elevating the Physical
There is an opinion in the Gemara that we should drink wine on Purim until we can no longer tell the difference between Aror Haman v’Baruch Mordechai - Cursed is Haman and Blessed is Mordechai (see Mesechet Megilla 7a).
However, we know that drinking alcohol can often have very negative consequences. We know that excessive drinking often leads people to behave in highly inappropriate ways, and that many terrible crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol. We also see in many places in the Torah that drinking alcohol can have severely negative consequences, such as in the story of Noach planting a vineyard (Bereishit Chapter 9) and in the story of Lot and his daughters (Bereishit Chapter 19). In addition, many commentators suggest that the reason that Aharon’s sons Nadav and Avihu were killed was that they offered their korban when they were drunk. So how is it that this Gemara seems not only to condone but even to advise drinking on Purim?
The answer may be that that in Judaism we do not make a complete distinction between the physical and the spiritual world. It is not only in the Shul, the Beit Midrash, and ultimately the Beit Hamikdash where we can experience true holiness and the Divine Presence can dwell. We can also experience spirituality in our everyday lives and everyday activities by sanctifying things in the physical world.
Nothing in the physical world is inherently negative; rather we have the potential to use everything physical either for a good or for a bad purpose. Alcohol is a perfect example, as when it is used at the wrong time and in excessive quantities it can have disastrous consequences, but we can also use it at the right time and with the right quantity and make Kiddush - the ultimate sanctification of a physical item for a spiritual purpose.
Purim is about recognising that the physical and spiritual worlds compliment each other. We read the Megilla in which Hashem is not mentioned by name at all, but we must recognise that He is actually controlling events and that He does play an active role in the physical world. We eat and drink and give gifts to our friends, but we must recognise that true happiness comes from helping others who are less fortunate than us and enabling them to perform the Mitzvot of Purim as well.
Not knowing the difference between Cursed is Haman and Blessed is Mordechai may simply mean knowing that there is not a complete divide between the spiritual and the physical, the light and the dark, the good and the bad. This is something that we must recognise all year round, but Purim is the appropriate time for it to be emphasised. Far from being central to our fulfilment of Purim, alcohol is simply something which can help us to understand the greater message about how we can elevate the physical world, if used appropriately and in small quantities.
DON’T DRINK DANGEROUSLY ON PURIM
There is not an independent Mitzvah to drink on Purim beyond the fact that we should eat and drink during our Seudah on Purim day.
If we know that drinking alcohol is likely to lead us to behave inappropriately then we should only drink a very small amount.
There is an important Halachic concept of Dina d’Malchuta Dina (the law of the land is the law) and therefore people who are under age should not drink alcohol unless given it by their parents in their own home.
While it is essential to make sure that Sviva is full of fun and games, it is also important to make sure that your Chanichim learn something. Therefore this section of the Choveret contains both GAMES and DISCUSSION POINTS, to help you plan meetings that ensure that your Chanichim get the most out of Sviva, both in terms of enjoyment and in terms of knowledge.
Mafia – Because Haman tried to wipe us out!
Wink Murder – Similar to above and also linked in with the secrets and hidden nature of the miracles of Purim!
Chocolate Game with Hamantashen – Lots of links here with food and Hamantashen and dressing up!
Purim Shpiel – See what your Chanichim can come up with!
(Remember that your Sviva has two excellent games booklets with tons more suggestions and also that not every game has to be linked to the weekly theme.)
Ask your Chanichim what they are dressing up as for Purim and encourage them all to come to Shul to hear the Megilla in their costumes and also to get involved in the other Mitzvot of Purim – Mishloach Manot / Matanot l’Evyonim / Purim Seudah.
Ask them if they know what things we have to do on Purim and see if they say things that are actually Mitzvot or if they say things like dressing up and then teach them about what the Mitzvot of Purim are.
Ask them what makes them happy and see if it tends to be physical things (like TV or music) or spiritual things (like Shabbat and family) and lead into a discussion about true happiness and how that links to Purim and how we celebrate it.
PURIM WITH BNEI AKIVA!
Motzei Shabbat at 20:00: Girls’ Megilla Reading at the Bayit. (Girls only)
Motzei Shabbat from 21:00: Rav Ilan and Tami are having an open house with music and dancing. (Bogrim only)
Sunday Morning at 9:30: Shacharit followed by Megilla and Breakfast Seudah at the Bayit. (Everybody)
Sunday Afternoon from 14:00: Purim Seudah at Rav Ilan and Tami’s house – stay the whole time or just pop in for a bit! (Bogrim only)
Motzei Shabbat at 19:30: Megilla at the Bayit followed by L’Chaim Kiddush. (Everybody)
Sunday Morning at 9:30: Shacharit followed by Megilla and Breakfast Seudah at the Bayit. (Everybody)
Sunday Afternoon from 15:30: Purim Seudah at Hagai and Moriyah’s flat – stay the whole time or just pop in for a bit! (Bogrim only)