Body and the Soul!

The Hebrew calendar is set up in such a way that the Holiday of Purim – the 14th day of Adar – cannot coincide with Shabbos. However even if Purim would fall on Shabbos – which in fact does happen even today in a walled city like Jerusalem which celebrates Purim a day later on Shushan Purim – the Megilla, sending parcels of food, charity to the poor and the festive meal is not observed on Shabbos. The reason for this is given in the Talmud: We are concerned that were one to be obligated to read the Megilla on Shabbos, in his zeal to fulfill the Mitzvah he may take his Megilla scroll from his home and bring it to someone who knows how to read and chant it, and thereby violate the prohibition of carrying an item from one domain to another domain on Shabbos (in an area where an Airuv had not been erected). They therefore decreed that the Megilla not be read on Shabbos. This is also the reason we don’t sound the Shofar and take a Lulav and Esrog on the Shabbos.

Originally, when the Holiday of Purim was being established after the Jews were victorious over their enemies and spared from the threat of genocide, Mordechai considered establishing Purim as a Yom Tov – a holiday akin to the first days of Pesach with the restrictive activities of the holidays – as stated in the Megilla. This would not have stopped them from reading the Megilla, having a festive meal or sending parcels of food to one another, because on Holidays carrying is permissible. In fact, at this point, there was no mention of giving charity to the poor – for the exchange of money would have been forbidden on the Holiday.

The Talmud relates that this original idea was not adopted, and when the Megilla speaks about the actual enactment of the law it does not list Yom Tov. They only established a spirit of the holiday – similar to the intermediate days of Pesach and Succos. The Sages established four Mitzvos; listening to the Megilla from a scroll at night and then again on Purim day, giving charity to poor people, sending parcels of food to another and having a festive meal on Purim day accompanied by drinking wine.

Rabbinu Yaacov Milisa o.b.m. explains a reason why our Sages did not establish Purim as a full-fledged holiday.

The Torah mentions the word soul (Vayinafash) in connection to the Mitzvah of observing Shabbos. This means that G-d emphasizes and focuses on our spiritual component – our souls on Shabbos and therefore gives our bodies a rest from being involved in creative activities on Shabbos. The same is true with the holidays. On Passover, the Jews were exposed to the revelation of G-d’s presence which uplifted their souls. On Shavuos the Jews accepted the Torah and their souls were elevated due to G-d’s Revelation. On Succos the Jews were enveloped by G-d’s protection through the spiritual clouds. On Shabbos and each of the holidays the soul is highlighted and we are freed from being involved in physical creativity.

The Purim salvation differs from the other holidays in that it was a salvation of the physical bodies of the Jews. The Jews were spared from the threat of annihilation and therefore the laws that were enacted highlighted that which relates to our physical bodies; listening to the story, eating, drinking, sending parcels and charity to the poor.

Mordechai initially thought that since the Jews during the Purim salvation renewed their acceptance of the Torah as though they accepted it at Mount Sinai, there was indeed a major spiritual component in the Purim story similar to the giving of the Torah on the Holiday of Shavuos, and therefore Purim should be established with a soul type of celebration as we find with the Holiday of Shavuos.

However, the Sages of the time understood that the primary celebration was the salvation of their physical bodies – and a full Holiday was not established.

Noticeably, G-d’s name is not explicitly mentioned in the entire ten chapters of the Megilla. With a simple reading of the Megilla one will miss out on the “Soul” – the spiritual orchestration and component of the story.

The way to see the “soul’ of the Purim story is through the Talmud, which dedicates an entire tractate to explain and give amazing insight into the events stated in the Megilla.

Our Sages tell us that on the festive day of Purim, with all our involvement in the celebration and the Mitzvos, we have access to a deeper consciousness of our soul, which draws us closer and dearer to the Almighty. This gives our prayers added potency that will warrant G-d’s response!