Purim: Unbridled Love


Moshe Ben-Chaim



If you were told that three days before Passover you could fulfill the mitzvah to eat matza, you might find that difficult to accept. After all, matza forms part of Passover’s mitzvos, and three day’s earlier it is not yet Passover.

You now understand the problem regarding Rabbi Samuel ben Nachmani’s permission for some people to read the Megilla a few days before Purim (Tal. Megilla; 2a). This permission is based on a sensitivity to not burden country people to travel too much. In their small towns, it was not common to find a professional Megilla reader. Therefore, since Mondays and Thursdays were set times at which these country people visited the large cities for purposes of trying court cases (courts were found in larger cities) Rabbi Samuel allowed these country people to read the Megilla earlier, despite the fact that it was not yet Purim. But what source enabled Rabbi Samuel to make this allowance? Holidays – and all mitzvahs – have strict guidelines. And allowing a holiday-oriented mitzvah to be performed “before” the holiday…well…seems untimely!

Rabbi Samuel based his ruling on the second of these two Megilla verses (9:21,22):


“[21] To establish for them – that they shall make the 14th day of the month Adar and the 15th on it for every year. [22] As the days that the Jews rested on them from their enemies; and the month that was reversed for them from anguish to happiness, from mourning to a holiday, to make them days of drinking and happiness and to send portions [of food] each man to his friend, and gifts to the poor.”


Rashi explains (Ibid) from these words commencing verse 22 “As the days”, that Rabbi Samuel derived that there may be established two more days “As the days” that were already established. Now, since the days already established as Purim were the 14th and 15th of Adar, Rabbi Samuel concluded that another “pair” of days were hinted to here; days that will partake of Purim’s character. Thus, it is now possible to read the Megilla on these additionally sanctioned days, the 11th and 12th. But we must now ask why Purim – and no other holiday – deserved this additional-day design. What exits in Purim alone that additional days are warranted?

Furthermore, as we know that in all Torah verses, each item is related, what is the relationship between all the items in verse 22, which include the additional days of the holiday, a reversed month, drinking, gifting meals, happiness, and charity?

You may readily suggest that Passover and Succos too have multiple days. However, the mitzvahs of eating matza and dwelling in the Succah have special significance on only their first days. The remaining Chol HaMoade does not share the first day’s significance. And regarding Channukah, it has eight days due to the very nature of the miracle…none of those eight days are “extensions”, as is the case with Purim. But Purim celebrates our defeat of the enemy on the 14th and 15th alone. Why then does the Megilla give additional significance to the 11th and 12th, making it permissible to read the Megilla then? Why is Purim alone an “extended” holiday? And can those country people also have their Purim feast that early? Rashi makes this clear that they must have their feasts on the 14th. This makes matter more difficult: what is the nature of the 11th and 12th, in that these country people may read the Megilla then, but not have their feasts?


The Megilla goes on the describe at length the nature of the lottery cast by Haman to select a day of genocide…even teaching us in verse 26 that we must call these days “Purim” (meaning lottery). As a Rabbi once taught, Haman wished to denounce any Divine Providence over the Jews by exterminating us based on a lottery, a “pur”. Whichever month and day was selected randomly would be the beginning of our end. “Random” is the key word here. As Haman wished to show that Jewish fate is random and not under any Divine Providence, he used a lottery to select the day. “We can die at anytime”. It then appears that the Megilla stresses the need to name Purim so as to highlight the opposite: we are in fact under God’s Providence. The holiday must embody the concept of Divine Providence.

The Megilla then states that the Jews reaccepted the Torah out of love, having first accepted it out of fear at Sinai. Once the nation witnessed the wisdom, and salvation achieved by Mordechai and Esther’s cunning, they reaccepted the Torah out of a love. “Kimu vKiblu” – “They arose and accepted”. (9:27)


A Rabbi taught years ago that drinking brings about euphoria, and unbridled feelings of love and happiness. Drinking was therefore commanded on Purim so as to mimic the euphoric state of the Jews back then. I don’t have proof but wish to suggest that this might be part of a larger picture on Purim…


Perhaps the lesson in all the laws of Purim is one thing: we must have an unrestrained and complete expression of joy and love in connection with God and His Torah. Why is Purim the day selected to embody this idea? It is because Purim was an event where a true attachment to Torah was first realized on a national level. “Kimu vKiblu” – “They arose and accepted”. The Rabbis saw Purims’ nature as deserving eternal commemoration, even to the point that Maimonides states that in the future, the Megilla will outshine all other works. The Rabbis instituted Purim for all times for this reason: on Purim the nation reached the height of attachment to Torah. The Shima describes this very goal: “And you shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might”. The operative word here is “all”. Man is obligated to reach a state where he is completely bound up in his love for God, and in “all” possible expressions. It is our life’s objective to attain this attachment to the Creator. And with study, we will be continuously amazed at His wisdom, and His existence.

Why does verse 22 describe the Jews’ victory in ‘monthly’ terms:  “and the month that was reversed for them from anguish to happiness”? Surely they were victorious on the 14th and 15th, precisely why these are the holidays. What does “month” have to do with this?

Perhaps this answers why additional days were appended: one or two days of a holiday curtail the magnitude of what we are capable of. Rabbi Samuels’ opinion is that Purim is a holiday of “adding”. Meaning, the very nature of the Jews state was unbridled love for God and Torah. And to express this, we immerse in alcohol to mimic those feelings. But we express this in the structure of the holiday as well…we keep adding days, as if to say; that which is unbridled seeks to be extended. The euphoria brought about by alcohol embodies an unbridled state “emotionally”. But to truly express unbridled love, one must also not be limited in “time”, and this is expressed by adding days to the holiday. The fact that the Megilla adds more days to Purim, in the very same verse as the law to drink, may very well be this lesson: both target the same, unrestrained love. We are also taught to share our food with close friend and give charity, to insure that all Jews achieve the happiness they require: each one on his own level. Therefore, we share meals with close friends, since nothing is more deeply moving than bonding with a dear old friend. And to the poor, we open our wallets and give them what is burning in their hearts.


“Meshenichnass Adar, marbim b’simcha” – “From when Adar enters, increase in happiness” also targets this goal. It is not from Purim, but two weeks earlier that we start rejoicing. Perhaps this principle too is to embody this very idea, that an unbridled love is not time bound. Mere days cannot contain the true state of one living in line with Torah.

Another lesson regarding “Meshenichnass Adar, marbim b’simcha” is that the wheels of Providence were in motion long before the events culminated in our salvation. The Talmud states that just as one minimizes happiness when the month of Av commences, we are to increase our happiness when Adar commences. A Rabbi once taught that in doing so, we recognize the concept of God’s reward and punishment. By postponing court cases during Av, we attest to God’s ability to punish us with poor verdicts. No one can deny the numerous tragedies which occurred on the 9th of Av: from the Jews who sinfully denied God’s ability to enter them into Israel safely, to the yearly deaths of those Jews; through both Temple destructions…we learn that these are not coincidences. These tragedies are God’s hand driving our history. In contrast, but embodying the same idea, we celebrate as Adar enters, as a testimony to God’s Divine Providence. Adar is a time of happiness, when God worked wonders, and will do so for His loyal servants. This is truly a Divine lesson for all of us that despair in any part of life is no option. “Even if the sword is placed on your neck, God can save you from it”. (Tal. Avoda Zara 18b)


May we all use this time to reattach ourselves to Torah and God out of a love, and abandon a life of fear. Of course, this is only accomplished if we too “arise and reaccept a Torah lifestyle”, beginning with the greatest mitzvah of all…Torah study.