For the week ending 28 February 2009 / 4 Adar I 5769

The Pur and the Poor

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
A Purim Perspective on Prosperity
Become a Supporter Library Library

"They therefore called these days Purim after the name of the Pur." (Megilat Esther 9:26)

Who put the "Pur" into "Purim"?

None other than that wicked Haman who tried to execute a "final solution to the Jewish problem."

Bent on genocide this villain set about choosing a date which would be most suited for carrying out his holocaust. He cast a lot – pur in Hebrew – and the result was a day in the Hebrew month of Adar.

Our Sages note that Haman rejoiced when the month that came up in his lot for months was Adar because that was the month in which Moshe Rabbeinu passed away and therefore an unlucky one for the Jewish People. He was unaware, however, that it was also the very month in which Moshe was born!

The conflicting signals indicated in the casting of a pur can be seen as an outline for the entire drama of the Purim story. The spiritual decline of our ancestors in the days of Mordechai and Esther in a sense reflects the absence of the influence of Moshe and his teachings. The spiritual renaissance initiated by the leaders in their own days, which effected their salvation, is perhaps a mirror of the arrival of Moshe in the world.

There is an important lesson to be learned from this incident of Heaven dictating the outcome of Haman's lot. The fate of the Jewish people is neither determined by their enemies nor is the timing of their troubles a matter of coincidence. A Divine plan writes history and every detail is perfectly orchestrated.

One of the mitzvot that was instituted in celebration of the Purim miracle is matanot aniyim – gifts to the poor. Many wise rationales have been offered for this particular mitzvah. In light of the above-mentioned lesson we may suggest that the Divine plan evident in regard to the economic situation of every individual reinforces our recognition of Heavenly control.

The realization that it is "G-d Who makes some people wealthy and some poor" is intensified when the rich seek out the poor on Purim in order to fulfill their obligation of giving to them. Our Sages have compared economics to a "rotating wheel" which can bring one down as well as bring him up. The giver must always view himself or his future generations as takers and therefore relate to those dependent on his generosity with compassion.

In a time of worldwide recession and massive unemployment the "rotating wheel" is fairly tangible. The perspective that must prevail at such a time is that such meltdowns are part of a Divine plan, which, like everything emanating from G-d, is for the ultimate good of its victims who are really beneficiaries.

Many soul-searching questions can be asked by people who have lost fortunes and jobs in the past year. Did they contribute as much to charitable causes as they could have? Is their momentary economic suffering a comparatively gentle form of atonement for sins which might otherwise have brought upon them illness or worse?

The conclusion of such soul-searching must be an appreciation of Heavenly control of human events for their ultimate good.

Jews in the time of the Purim miracle were lifted to great spiritual heights as a result of their arousal to repentance in the face of the specter of annihilation. In retrospect they viewed their temporary suffering as a blessing. So too must the lesson of the meeting of the rich and poor on Purim be a reminder that what appears to be a time of crisis will eventually be appreciated as a precious turning point in the spiritual state of every individual and the entire world.

A “Happy Purim and Prosperous Year” for all.

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