Parshas Purim (5772)
One of the main themes of the holiday of Purim – a theme that is surprisingly little known by most Jews – is the reaffirmation of our belief that G-d truly listens to our sincere, heartfelt prayers and answers us in our times of need.
The Jewish people at the time of the Purim story (around 355 BCE) were in grave danger. The wicked Prime Minister Haman had convinced King Achashveirosh to pass a decree to annihilate the entire Jewish nation in one day, the 13th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. When the Jews realized that their entire future was in jeopardy, they poured out their hearts to G-d to save them from the harsh decree. G-d answered their prayers and the wicked Haman was killed and the Jews were saved.
The Mahara”l of Prague writes in the introduction to his commentary Ohr Chadash on the Book of Esther that the miracle that saved the Jews in the days of Haman was only brought about because G-d listened to their prayers, and he adds that there was no other redemption in history where the Jewish people were in such danger and they cried out to G-d and He heard their prayers like this redemption … as it is written in the Book of Esther that the Jews undertook upon themselves during that time “many fasts and lamentations” (see Esther 9:31).
As a result of the great salvation that came about through the heartfelt prayers of the Jewish people to their loving Father in Heaven, the Sages established for all time that the Jewish people commemorate the miracle of Purim each year so that we and our children never forget that G-d is close to us – and will always come through for us - whenever we call out to him in earnest.
As Maimonides writes in the introduction to his classic work of Jewish law, Mishneh Torah, regarding the origin of the holiday of Purim: “The Prophets together with the Rabbinical Court established and commanded [us] to read the Megillah [Book of Esther] in its proper time in order to remember the praises of G-d and the salvations that He did for us and that He was close to our cries, in order to bless Him and to praise Him, and in order to make known to the coming generations that it is true that which He promised us in the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:7) ‘For which is a great nation that has a G-d Who is close to it, as is the Lord, our G-d, whenever we call to Him?’” This theme is highlighted in Shoshanas Yaakov, the classic liturgical song that is recited publicly in the synagogue after the reading of the Megillah on both Purim night and day, where we say that one of the reasons why the Megillah is read is: “… to make known that all who hope in You will not be shamed; nor ever be humiliated, those taking refuge in you”.
It should therefore be obvious that our prayers on Purim have tremendous power. If this is the holiday the essence of which is the affirmation of our belief that G-d always listens to His people when they pray to him, then prayers on this day will most certainly be answered.
The Chasam Sofer adds that prayers on Purim are so powerful that G-d answers any heartfelt prayer on this special day – even if we don’t deserve it. He bases this idea on the words of the Ritv”a.
The Ritv”a in his commentary to Megillah 7a quotes the Talmud Yerushalmi which explains regarding the fulfillment of the obligation to give matanos la’evyonim, gifts to the poor, on Purim, that “kol ha’posheit yado leetol yitnu lo - we give to anyone who extends his hand to receive”. This is to say that on this festive day we give money to everyone who asks, without first checking to see if they truly are poor and worthy of receiving tzedakah funds.
The Chasam Sofer writes that just as we are not particular if the people to whom we give charity on Purim are truly deserving, and whoever extends his hand gets helped, so, too, does G-d listen to all our prayers on this special day, and kol ha’posheit yado leetol yitnu lo – He gives to anyone who extends his hand to receive. This year the Jewish people are once again in mortal danger – everyone knows that the President of Iran is building nuclear weapons as we speak and has plans to wipe Israel off the face of the map, Heaven forbid – and our very existence in the Land of Israel (and beyond) is in jeopardy. We also have so many other issues and tzaros that threaten to destroy the Jewish people from within – incredibly high rates of assimilation and intermarriage, unnecessary divorces and the breaking apart of families, abuse and dysfunction, illness and depression, lost jobs and livelihoods, etc. etc.
We have so much to pray for this year – and the holiday of Purim reminds us that G-d is always there for us, waiting to answer our prayers.
So let’s remember to carve some precious time out of this very busy holiday filled with Megillah readings, gift-giving, tzedakah-dispensing, eating and drinking – and really pour out our hearts to our loving Father in Heaven in the hope that He will answer our prayers and bless us and the entire Jewish people with all the things we so desperately need now more than ever.