Rabbi Benjamin Yudin
The Mishkan: A Different Kind of Group Home
The mishkan served as the religious center during the forty years that the fledgling Jewish nation traveled in the dessert, and was the hub of spirituality in the land of Israel until David/ Shlomo built the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalayim. The Ramban explains that just as at Sinai the entire nation camped around the mountain, similarly when they traveled from Sinai, the mishkan was at the center of the camp. The mishkan /mikdash unified the people. There is no Mitzvah for any individual to build a mikdash, rather it is incumbent upon the Jewish nation. It was to the mishkan / mikdash that they came thrice yearly to celebrate the pilgrim festivals and to bring the prescribed offerings. Once we were privileged to build a Beis HaMikdash, the Torah distinctly prohibited the offering of korbanos in any other location.
In addition, the ability to develop a close relationship with Hashem is attainable by every individual wherever in the world they might live. The individual keeping Shabbos, kashrus, and studying Torah can attain a personal closeness with Hashem. However, it is only when the nation is united in its pursuit of sanctity that there is a concept of kingship (government), sanctity of the Temple and sanctity of the community serving Hashem. This is only attainable in Eretz Yisrael.
With the above, we can now more fully understand a perplexing teaching of the Talmud (Megillah 12a) regarding the threat of Purim. The Talmud asks: what might the Jewish people have sinned so terribly that they deserved "l'hasmid laharog l'abed es kol hayehudim" - to G-d forbid destroy the entire Jewish nation? The Talmud gives two answers, both of which are puzzling on the surface. The first answer is that they worshipped avodah zarah - idolatry. However, a more careful analysis reveals that it was not actual idolatry, but "avak" idolatry, behavior that resembled idol worship, as they bowed to the image of Nebuchadnezzer. While surely a serious offense, at first glance it doesn't warrant such a harsh punishment.
The second response is even more difficult.
Rashbi teaches that they were "nehene
- they attended and participated in the party of Achashverosh.
What, however, was their crime? Lest we think that they partook of a non-kosher
meal, the Megillah explicitly states "
which the Talmud understands (Megillah 12a) to
mean that the king satisfied the individual dietary needs of each person,
including kosher food. Even the wine was mevushal.
So wherein lies the grave offense? HaRav
Yitzchak HaCohen Kook zt"l
and Reb Yosef
Salant zt"l in his
Be'er Yosef suggest a fascinating
response. They remind us of the prophecy of Yirmiyahu
that the Jewish people would return to their land after seventy years.
Achashverosh miscalculated and believed that the
seventy years had passed and the prophecy proved to be false. The
Jewish people were not returning home. He was therefore celebrating the demise
and downfall of the Jewish nation. Of course, if any Jew wanted to keep Kosher
they could in
Thus the Talmud understands that when we are told that he
donned "bigdei malchus"
- royal garb, it refers to the bigdei
kehuna - priestly garments, and specifically that of
the kohen gadol.
Moreover, he displayed the relics of the Temple
that would no longer be needed. Thus, their participation in this party was an
agreement that no redemption/salvation was necessary - they could remain Jews
Mordechai tried to persuade the nation not to attend. There is much more than individual observance of mitzvoth. Moreover, if the Jewish people forsake their sacred mission of being a holy nation, a holy people, then they lose their right to survive as a people. Their attending the party of Achashverosh had much deeper meaning. We can now appreciate Mordechai's plea not to attend, as he was advocating a difficult theological-religious perspective, the importance of the nation on their land.
We can now understand the response of Mordechai
who leads the people to teshuva (repentance).
Firstly, he tells Esther "lech
k'nos es kol
hayehudim" - "gather the entire Jewish nation".
The people need to be awakened regarding their belonging to a nation. Personal
participation in Torah and mitzvos is
insufficient. Secondly, he awakens the desire to return home to
The Raavad teaches that Taanis Esther is most unique, in that all other fasts have an element of sadness and tragedy, while this fast is one of simcha, happiness. Happiness that we were victorious over our enemies, and especially that we did not loose a single soldier. In addition, our fasting reminds us of their fasting for three days, which brought about the unification of the Jewish nation and ultimately our geulah. May we, through our fasting, be so privileged to bring happiness and hasten our geulah.