For the week ending 15 March 2014 / 13 Adar II 5774

Retroactive Reading : "In those days in this time"

by Rabbi Richard Jacobs
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The Mishna (Megillah 2:1) brings an interesting halacha, which we follow to this day (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 690:6). “One who reads the Megillah l’mafrea does not fulfill his obligation.”

The Hebrew word l’mafrea is most commonly translated as retroactively, but what does it mean to read the Megillah retroactively? Normally we read a book from beginning to end sequentially and in order. What other way is there of reading a book?

The most obvious explanation is that the verses are read out of order, the later ones before the earlier. Even if only one verse is read out of order those hearing that Megillah reading have not fulfilled the mitzvah.

The Gemara (Megilla 17a) explains the underlying basis for this halalcha. “And these days shall be commemorated and celebrated” (Esther 9:28). The juxtaposition in the verse of the commemoration of the Purim miracle (the reading of the Megillah) with the celebration (the observance of Purim on the 14th and 15th of the month of Adar) informs us that just as the celebration cannot be performed out of sequence (the 15th of cannot come before the 14th) so too the reading of the Megillah must be in order.

The Meiri gives two reasons: 1) there is no pirsumei nisa — publicizing the miracle — when the Megillah is read out of sequence, and 2) when you read something out of order it is not called reading.

The Kotzker Rebbe offers a novel interpretation of l’mafrea. He explains that one who thinks that the events like those of the time of Esther occurred only then and not today does not fulfill his obligation since he has not reached the depth of understanding the message of Purim and Megillat Esther – that G-d runs the world from “behind the scenes”. It is incumbent on us to realize that also today there is no such thing as chance in the world. Everything is conducted according to the Divine plan.

Unfortunately it appears that today there are many who have not realized this depth of understanding. This is apparent in Israel both nationally and internationally.

Nationally: The recent High Court decision to order a re-election in the Beit Shemesh municipal elections is not only the demise of democracy. The same journalist who initiated the call to overturn the election results recently admitted that, having actually examined the evidence for himself, this court decision is based on an unprecedented package of speculations, half-statements and baseless assessments and is therefore a ruling without evidence. The consequence of this admission is that whatever the result of the re-election, the Israeli public has to resign itself to the fact that they live in a country which no longer even maintains the illusion of democracy. Someone attuned to the message of the Megillah will perceive G-d’s presence even here.

Internationally: One of the key ways that G-d relates to the world is midda k’neged midda – measure for measure. Is it any wonder that the Prime Minister repeatedly fails in his calls to have the Palestinians recognize the Jewish State when his government continuously (even after the recent massive prayer gathering of hundreds of thousands of people) tramples on the needs of the religious segment of the population and declares those who continue to learn Torah instead of serving in the army to be criminals? Maybe he too should recognize the Jewish State?

May it be G-d’s will that this year when we hear the Megillah we will read between the lines and realize that G-d’s running of the world is not relegated to history, but is part and parcel of our everyday lives.

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