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Tammuz 5764 – Galus, Galus Everywhere

1 Tammuz 5764
From the desk of Rabbi Doniel Baron

Tammuz: Galus, Galus Everywhere

We came. We prospered. We forgot the Torah. They killed some of us and threw the rest of us out. Occasionally we were saved, but as a nation we always survived. Downtrodden and crestfallen, we wandered onto a new foreign land. We rebuilt, revived our spirit. We prospered. We forgot the Torah… Sound familiar?

The repeated story of galus dominates our past. At the very inception of what would become the Jewish people, Hashem informed Avraham Avinu that his children would pass through galus en route to redemption. There are even hints to galus in the second pasuk in the Torah. Why is the painful cycle of galus and geulah so essential to the development of the Jewish people ?

Although we live in difficult times, most of us are not faced with the daily and imminent threat of death or explusion. As we begin the month of Tammuz in which we begin the saddest period of the year and focus on galus, we need to understand what galus is and what it should mean to us.

A fascinating medrash in Bereishis Rabba (parsha 8) offers a window into the secret of galus. Hashem considered creating man and consulted the angels. This caused a commotion above, and the angels divided into different camps. Some argued in favor of creating man; others argued against.

Different attributes of the manner in which Hashem interacts with the world joined the conference. Chessed (kindness) lobbied for creating man since he bestows kindness. Emes (truth), however, argued against creating man since he is full of lies. Tzedek (justice) argued in favor of creating man since he has the ability to perform just acts. Shalom (peace) argued against creating man since he is full of arguments.

The conclusion? Hashem cast emes to the ground (and created man). The angels responded in protest: “Master of all Worlds – how can you disrespect your very signature of truth ?” In an apparent reversal, Hashem raised Emes up from the ground, as the pasuk says Emes mearetz titzmach, truth shall grow from the ground.

Medrashim don’t just tell stories. We need to understand this Divine policy conference and its resolution, and find meaning in the reversal in which the angels seem to convince Hashem that disregarding emes contradicts who He is.

The answer is so deep that it touches the core of galus – and also our existence. The Maharal explains that when Hashem “threw” Emes to the ground, it was not an act of rejection of, or disregard for, emes. On the contrary, he planted emes in the ground to realize the goal of emes mearetz titzmach. In other words, Hashem planted emes in the earth in a manner that gives the impression of the total absence of emes – but only so that it would sprout into a greater and more far reaching emes. That means that throwing Emes on the ground is really sowing emes. One only takes the effort to plant if he believes his work will yield a harvest manifold. By definition, Hashem’s planting Emes must yield an exponentially high return. Therefore, when emes bursts forth from man, the emes is a deeper and more powerful emes than that which was originally planted. Similarly, galus yields a level of truth not otherwise attainable.

To understand this idea, imagine you are given the job of explaining the world to someone from another planet. You start with a farm and show him an egg for the first time. You explain how delicious scrambled eggs are for breakfast. His natural reaction would be to enjoy the egg as it is and assume that nothing more can come of it. Imagine telling your alien mentee that placing this egg beneath a chicken and waiting for it to smell and decompose to the point that it is not edible will result in a something better than the egg – something with potential to produce thousands of eggs and millions of chickens. You would likely be greeted with skepticism.

Moving on in the farm, you show him a sack of seeds and try explaining that if you place a seed in the ground, it first lays dormant, then rots and falls apart only to ultimately produce plants with the potential for thousands of additional seeds. Your confused audience would undoubtedly respond with disbelief.

Nonetheless, on many levels, that is how our world works. Hashem in his Infinite Wisdom programmed creation with a built in cycle of decomposition and regeneration. New and better life sprouts from the darkest moment when all seems forgotten, lost, and hopeless.

What is the difference between emes before it is planted in the ground and emes after it is planted ? The original form of emes couldn’t tolerate the presence of sheker or falsehood. It contended that Hashem should not create man because he is full of sheker, despite the potential for occasional truth. The emes that was “thrown to the ground” and planted germinates and sprouts from the ground and produces a higher level of emes. Our tefillos describe the process of geula as one of growth and say that Hashem is matzmiach yeshua – he makes redemption grow.

Nice message; the medrash finally makes sense. But what relevance does it all have for us? On a personal level, we are required to relate to that period in life during which we did not live the ideal Torah life – our individual galus – as a learning experience.

What should our reaction be to our secular colleagues and the western world as a whole ? The easiest thing to do would be to utter an emphatic “feh,” completely block out those negative influences and experiences, and move on. And, as is often the case with the easiest option available, it is exactly what the yetzer hora wants us to do. Our real job is to see the truth everywhere, not just in seforim, yeshiva or the classroom. We need to see truth even in the utter ridiculousness of the society around us –that’s why its there ! We need to personify that emes which grows. We should react to even everyday sound bites for what they are, and thereby arrive at a higher level of emes. Is a dog really man’s best friend ? Is the best part of waking up really Folgers in your cup?

We need to acknowledge the sheker that surrounds us every day and expose it for what it is – utter falsehood. By doing so, we reveal that greater level of emes that uses sheker to make its point. That is the message of galus and this is how we can be matzmiach yeshua.

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Sivan 5764 – Part or Apart?

1 Sivan 5764
From the desk of Rabbi Eliezer Langer

Part or Apart?

Bnai Yisrael was to have entered Eretz Yisrael immediately following Matan Torah. Unfortunately, instead of responding positively when Hashem offered us His great gift, we requested to “check it out ourselves” and to send spies to see if this land was really all He had promised.

When Moshe appointed the spies, he renamed Hoshea, adding one of the letters of G-d’s name, and called him Yehoshua. As the Gemorah explains, this was to signify “Kah yoshiacha may’atzat meraglim” – May G-d protect you from the counsel of the spies. While, at first glance, we can say that Moshe singled out Yehoshua because of his closeness to him, why though, did he ignore Kalev? Why didn’t Kalev receive a special bracha from Moshe before setting out on this journey?

As the spies enter Eretz Yisrael , the pasuk tells us “vayaalu vanegev vayavo ad Chevron – and they went up to the Negev and he went to Chevron.” The Gemorah explains that the Torah tells us that only one person went to Chevron. Kalev separated himself from the other spies and went to the burial place of the Avot in Chevron to pray,as Rashi says “shelo yhe nisat lachaverav lh’yot b’atzatam – that he should not be swayed to be in their counsel.” Again we must ask, why did only Kalev separate himself from the group and not Yehoshua?

When the spies return from their mission with their negative report about Eretz Yisrael and the seeming inability to conquer the land, it is Kalev who stills the people toward Moshe. Why is it Kalev who speaks up at this point and not Yehoshua?

The answer of the Chafetz Chaim to these questions not only helps us to understand the specifics of these events but also can serve as a guideline for students about to return to their parents’ home after a year of intensive learning in Israel.

Each and every one of us is unique with different characteristics and nature from our friends. The way in which we react to evil is likewise different based on our own particular makeup. Some will see a situation that is incorrect and immediately come out against it with full strength. Others will see the same scene and try to work from within, to change people’s minds and thereby the results. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. The position of the one who attacks the situation “head on” is always clearly identified and he will not be swayed to change his opinion and to follow the majority. Unfortunately though, his strong view separates him from those of the opposing view, which may make his continued friendship difficult and, in certain circumstances, could actually present danger to the individual. On the other hand, one who appears to follow the majority but is actually working from within to change opinions may have success because in the eyes of the people he is “really one of them.” The danger to him though is that he may in fact, because of his close association and friendship with the large group, be swayed by them, giving up his uniqueness and ending up following the crowd.

According to the Chafetz Chaim, Yehoshua was of the first type and Kalev the second. Yehoshua was clearly identified by the people as being the “mesharet Moshe meb’churav – the servant of Moshe from his youth.” The meraglim knew that Yehoshua was not one of them and could never be convinced to join in their negative report about Eretz Yisrael. Moshe had said that the Land was good and there would be no way that Yehoshua would contradict him. If so, Yehoshua was in physical danger from the Meraglim. If they had a predetermined view they might actually kill Yehoshua to silence his dissent. Moshe therefore added the Yud to his name to his name with the prayer that Hashem should protect Yehoshua from the counsel of the spies.

Kalev however was different as the Torah testifies: “V’avdi Kalev ekev hayta ruach acheret emo- he had a different spirit in him.” To the outsider he appeared to believe and to act just like the other spies and they all thought that he would join in the disparaging words about Eretz Yisrael. Therefore the danger to Kalev was not physical, but rather spiritual- he could be swayed to join the majority. He would try to work from within the group but he could not be positive that instead of convincing them that they might succeed in convincing him. Moshe could not pray for Kalev; Kalev had to go himself to Mearat HaMachpela and pray that he not be swayed to join their opinion and to not become like them.

It is for this reason that when the meraglim returned it could only have been Kalev who would attempt to quiet the murmurings of the people. In fact the pasuk actually says: ”Vayahas Kalev et ha’am al Moshe” – Kalev silenced the people against Moshe. To paraphrase Rashi, Kalev says to the people “Do you think this is the only thing that Amram’s son did to us?” People thought that Kalev would say some lashon hara about Moshe and they immediately started to pay attention. But instead Kalev said: he split the sea for us, he brought us the man and the slav to eat and we must realize that if he tells us to climb to the heavens we should get ladders and we will succeed.” The people would have never listened to Yehoshua since they knew that he would only support Moshe’s view; it was only Kalev, seemingly an insider, who would have had a chance to speak up in defense of Eretz Yisrael and the promises made through Moshe.

What we must ask is which approach is best for us? Is it better to be the Yehoshua, fighting, with guns blasting, people who do not see eye to eye with us, or to be the Kalev, respectful of others even when we know that their views are incorrect. The advantage and the danger of each approach is obvious, but which is the path that we should choose for ourselves? What I found most amazing about the approach of the Chafetz Chaim is that he says that the approaches of Yehoshua and of Kalev are both equally correct. The proof is that the Torah sometimes lists Kalev first and sometimes Yehoshua. What is important is for a person to know his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Can you stand up to the outside pressure without losing the level of kedusha you have achieved, without being swayed to become “like everyone else” or can you in truth affect others without becoming weaker yourself? Be honest with yourself and make your choice based on who you really are. Your teachers and friends that you made in Eretz Yisrael this past year remain happy to be sounding boards and guides as you continue to grow in Kedusha.

Have a wonderful summer.

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Iyar 5764 – The Four Almost Kosher Animals and Galut

1 Iyar 5764

The Four Almost Kosher Animals and Galut
By Rabbi Z. Rudman

Sefirah is a time of spirituality and growth. Parashat Shemini, one that we read at the beginning of the sefirah period contains a Midrash, which discusses the correlation between the four specific non-kosher animals and the four kingdoms, which are destined to subjugate the Jewish people. The fact that the Torah lists four specific non-kosher animals when obviously there are many more, is itself a cause for question. The obvious answer is in the fact that these animals have one kosher sign, as opposed to all other animals, which do not have any. Therefore, they need to be mentioned separately. What then, does this teach us about the four kingdoms?

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 13,5) writes the following:
‘And the camel’ this is Bavel ‘for he chews his cud [the Hebrew word is Geirah which also means to drag along] that it pulls another kingdom after it.’
‘And the arnevet’ this is Yavan ‘for he chews his cud that it pulls another kingdom after it.’
‘And the shafan’ this is Madai ‘for he chews his cud that it pulls another kingdom after it.’
‘And the chazir’ this is Edom ‘and he does not chew his cud’ and he does not pull another kingdom after it.
And why is it called a chazir [which in Hebrew is from the root to return]?
Because he returns the crown to its owners; as it says, “And the rescuers will go up from the Mount of Zion to judge the Mount of Eisav and the sovereignty will be for Hashem.” From this Midrash we learn that the history of the four kingdoms is a progression. As the Midrash says, each one brings on the next one; each galut brings on the seeds of the next galut. Meaning, Chazal are telling us that the purpose of the four kingdoms is not simply as isolated punishments throughout Jewish history, rather they are nation-defining experiences, which were necessary to mold the Jewish People. So if we view each galut as a learning experience, one from we are supposed to develop, then we have a chance to grow as a nation.

This concept doesn’t only exist on a communal plane, but exists on an individual plane as well. In our own personal growth towards reaching the ultimate goal of dveykut ba-shem we must all progress by experiencing our own personal galut, whereby we develop from stage to stage, from level to level.

This message is found in the mitzvah of sefira as well. Here, we count towards Shavuot and unlike any other chag, the Torah does not gives us a specific date for the holiday. Rather, it was left to us to determine when we celebrate kabalas haTorah, because true kabalas haTorah requires personal toil and investment. However, just as spiritual growth and sefirah both have a goal so too there is a goal and an end to galut. Therefore, the last galut is described as the chazir, whereby we achieve the required spiritual personality and return the glory of Hashem.

The use of the term “return”, however, is difficult. Where do we see that Eisav returned anything to the Jewish People? Furthermore, in the context of ‘maaseh avot siman lebanim’ where do we see this idea?

If we examine the first time the Torah describes an interaction between Yaakov and Eisav, we find the following fascinating insight. Eisav willingly sells his Bechorah, the birthright, to Yaakov. Eisav and Yaakov make a deal. You give me food, and I will sell you my spiritual access. Here we find a hint, that Eisav will actively give Yaakov his due! Therefore, Eisav is known as the ‘Returner’, because that is his role: to return his stolen property to Yaakov.

Now we can understand why these four animals are unique and what exactly their connection is to the four kingdoms. These animals have some connection to being kosher, which might fool some people into thinking that they are truly kosher when in actuality they are not. Therefore the Torah emphasizes their lack of true kashrus. So too it is with the different kingdoms. One might think that they have true royalty. Yet we know that all sovereignty derives its source from the Royalty of Hashem. Interestingly, the text of the brachah that is said upon seeing a king, even a non-Jewish monarch, is: Who gave from His Honor. Therefore, any royalty, which does not acknowledge the Honor of Hashem, is in fact stealing from the Divine Royalty. Throughout history this theft is passed on from one kingdom to another. However, someone must return it. That someone is Eisav, who will at some day soon return this loyalty to Hashem!

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Nissan 5764 – Miriam and “Peh Sach”


1 Nissan 5764

Miriam and “Peh Sach”
By Rabbi Eytan Feiner

Her ticket to greatness was clearly earned while in the midst of Egyptian exile. We are speaking, of course, of the devout Miriam whose very name- the window into her core essence- turns the spotlight on the “merirus,” the years of bitterness, the Jewish people endured in Mitzraim. She was the righteous sister who stood watch by the riverbank, ensuring that her brother would be safe and that Yocheved could play an important role in the young Moshe’s upbringing. The renowned “Pu’ah” so obviously filled with laudable care, concern, and devotion, Miriam’s greatness certainly encompassed far more.

Amram had decided to divorce his wife and, as expected, all Jewish males followed suit. Along comes a fledgling Miriam- according to Pesikta d’R’ Kahana, she was but six years old at the time- and informs her father, none other than the gadol hador himself, that his actions are worse than even the wicked Par’oh’s for his decision affects the Jewish females as well (Sotah 12a). As R’ Yaakov Kaminetzky points out, Miriam was not relaying a prophetic vision; rather, she was expressing the profound insight emanating from a woman’s binah yi’seira, and it was that heightened understanding that ultimately convinced her father that she was in the right. Subsequently, Amram remarries Yocheved, all the others once again follow suit, and the Jewish family unit has been restored. And it was all due to the young Miriam.

So that’s all it took. A bit of binah yi’seira and but a few heartfelt words and Miriam’s greatness has been forever sealed. It was she who engendered the birth of Moshe and she who helped foster the salvation of the Jewish savior as she stood guard by the river and ran to find Yocheved, the most suitable nurse for her brother Moshe. And thus the redemption all started with but a few words (and a tad more) that enabled a Moshe Rabbeinu to be brought into the world and head towards his destiny.

This same Miriam would then follow her brother’s lead at their next encounter by water, but this time it would be decades later at Yam Suf. The awesome miracle of the splitting of the sea provided the backdrop for shiras ha’yam, as Moshe breaks out in the impassioned song of “Az yashir.” Immediately on his heels, Miriam responds and leads the Jewish women in song and music, as we witness the ultimate manifestation of her koach ha’dibbbur. This time around, her potent power of speech produced the greatest manifestation of unbridled dibbur as the pure mouth of a pious Miriam sings shira to HaKB”H.

In contrast to his sister, Moshe essentially began as one who did not “speak words,” proclaiming to HaKB”H that “lo ish devarim anochi” (Shemos, 4:10). Interesting to note is that his only sin- the one that disallowed him entry into Eretz Yisroel- came as a result of not speaking words when he should have; concerning the error of Mei Meriva, he hit the rock instead of speaking to it.

From Redemption and Shira to Lashon Hara and Tikkun

Let us now quickly turn our attention to the following: It was, we have seen, only through the bold words of Miriam that the birth of Moshe was made possible; she succeeded in restoring the Jewish family and her filial concerns, in turn, saved the entire Jewish people. Her words brought about her greatness– but they also brought about her single sin. The same Miriam, so concerned with the preservation of the family unit, displays that concern once again with regard to the marital relationship of Moshe and Tziporah. And why not? Last time around, Miriam’s bold words to restore a marital relationship produced a Moshe and enabled the redemption; perhaps it was her place, here as well, to ensure that the current “gadol hador” maintain the normative marital relationship for all to follow suit. This time, however, she errs with her power of speech and the result is lashon hara against the greatest of all prophets. Her punishment? She is sequestered outside the camp with no one to speak to, and she is only cured when, alas, her brother- the man of but a few words- comes forward to pray with, what else, but just a few succinct words…

The power of speech is oh so precious, but extreme vigilance is required to ensure that we use it at the proper time and place, and that we do our utmost to choose just the right words. Especially over the course of a Yom Tov the Arizal writes is all about “peh sach,” when the mouth does a lot of talking- when speech, sippur, and hallel (and eating, of course) are the order of the day- how cautious we must be to watch every word that comes out of our mouths. Let us learn from a Miriam how powerful but a few words can be, how they can do both so much positive and negative, how they can trigger a redemption while also giving rise to a leprosy likened to death, and let us make this “Peh Sach” a truly unforgettable one for years to come.

CHAG KASHER VI’SAMEI’ACH!

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Adar 5764 – Drinking on Purim

2 Adar 5764
From the desk of: Rabbi Eli Meisels

Drinking on Purim–The Anti-thesis of Control, or its Apotheosis?

Of all the Yomim Tovim on the Jewish calendar, Purim, and its method of celebration is one of the hardest to fathom.

As Chazal tell us “Chayav Adam L’vsumei Ad D’lo Yoda Bein Arrur Haman L’varuch Mordechai.” (A person must drink until he does not know the difference between the accursed Haman, and the blessed Mordechai.) Very strange.

This would seem to be the anti-thesis of all that we stand for, of all that we are taught and practice our entire lives. All of our Mitzvos, indeed our entire Torah, are guides to controlled living, moderation in every action, even control of our wayward thoughts and desires. But for one day a year, all that is seemingly discarded, as we get, not just a little high, not just moderately sloshed, but absolutely, falling-down drunk.
It is almost as though we take a vacation from our customary seriousness and spiritual growth, to indulge in a good, old-fashioned drinking party. Sort of a yearly release, a chance to let off some steam.

But if it were only a release, then the Ari HaKadosh certainly wouldn’t favorably compare Purim to Yom Kippur!

Not only that, but the Meiri, quoted in Biur Halacha, contains a well-known rebuke to those who could turn Purim into a drunken revelry, and he emphasizes that one’s drinking on Purim is meant to bring him to Ahavas Hashem, and to Avodas Hashem Mitoch Simcha. (Love of G-d, and service of G-d through Joy.)

The Biur Halacha continues, and writes that one who knows that his drinking will lead to wild behavior, or to a Zilzul (debasement) of even one Mitzvah is better off not drinking at all on Purim.
This being the case, it certainly cannot be that the point of drinking on Purim is to let off some steam.

However, the Meiri itself bears explanation. How indeed is one to serve Hashem when he can no longer distinguish between Good and evil, and why would excessive drinking bring one to Ahavas Hashem in the first place?

It is true that drinking wine can help raise a person to a greater level of spirituality (see Yoma 76b), but that is accomplished by drinking in moderation, not by getting so drunk that one can no longer tell the difference between Arrur Haman and Baruch Mordechai.
Also, if drinking is such a good prescription for uplifted Avodas Hashem, then why limit it to Purim, why not start each day with a hefty L’Chaim?

Of course, one could answer that on Purim the miracle came about in part through the wine feasts that Queen Esther arranged for Haman which would be a reason to institute drinking – but, by the same token, the downturn of the Jews also began with a wine feast, the illicit Seudas Achashverosh. So that drinking wine would not seem to be the optimum way of recalling the Purim miracle, in fact, a case could be made to avoid wine altogether.

Why then, do we drink on Purim, and what possible benefit can this drinking bring to Avodas Hashem?

Perhaps, by examining another significant aspect of this holiday, we can shed some light on this question. One of the central themes of the day is that ‘ Hadar Kibluha B’Ahava’, the Jews reaffirmed their acceptance of the Torah in a spirit of love.

Whereas the original acceptance of the Torah had in it an element of compulsion, this time the Jews accepted all of the Torah entirely of their own volition.

Come Purim, one hears of this concept in rabbinic drashos and assorted vertlach, but it is peculiar that there is no formal remembrance for this reacceptance of the Torah on Purim.
The Rabbis did not enact any decree or custom to memorialize this momentous event. It seems almost forgotten amidst the eating and drinking of the day. Why is this?
If the original acceptance of the Torah merited an entire holiday of Shavuos in commemoration, should not its reacceptance merit some manner of formal observance?

Perhaps if we can succeed in understanding the nature of Kabbolas HaTorah B’Ahava and how it differed from and enhanced the original Kabbolas HaTorah, we may also gain a deeper understanding of our seemingly mundane, corporeal celebration of this holiest of days.

Chazal tells us that at Har Sinai, God held the mountain over the Jews, and said, “If you accept the Torah, all is well, if not, there shall be your grave.” (Shabbos 88a)
The Talmud then asks, if Hashem forced us to accept the Torah, then why are we bound by that acceptance?
We know that a commitment, which is agreed to under duress, is not considered valid.
Additionally, if the Jews were coerced into accepting the Torah, why was it considered so notable and praiseworthy?

Were Hashem to have held a mountain over the Egyptians’ heads, they would also have agreed to anything He demanded.
The Maharal explains that the idea of God holding the mountain above the Jews is a symbol of not so much physical coercion, as that might indeed be subject to protest; rather it symbolized what was almost an intellectual coercion.

Hashem exhibited the innate truth of the Torah with such clarity that we had no choice but to accept it. The truth, indeed the existential imperative of the Torah was made so clear to us that it’s acceptance became inescapable.

This willingness, by an entire nation, to instantly abandon the proclivities and the prejudices of a lifetime, and to replace them with an almost entirely new system of living, just because we recognize this new system to be true and essential, is a sign of an astonishing integrity and commitment to truth, and is indeed worthy of the highest praise and commendation.

It is also untrue that any nation would have accepted the Torah under identical conditions. The other nations were approached by God, and given the opportunity to receive the Divine Torah, yet each rejected it for essentially the same reason, it would require too great a change from their accustomed lifestyle. (Avodah Zara 2)

In fact, even the seven Noachide laws had proven too much for them to consistently maintain.

Thus, the nature of Kabbolas HaTorah at Sinai did not actually constitute coercion, but was rather an exercise of sound reasoning, which left the Jews no choice but to accept the Torah.

(This is Rav Dessler’s explication of the Maharal. For an in-depth treatment of Kabbolas HaTorah, and its interrelationship with “Na’aseh V’nishma”, see the Maharal in his Hakdama to Sefer Ohr Chadash.)

However, one explains the idea of ‘coercion’, though, it is clear that the first Kabbolas HaTorah was based on a logical conclusion, either not to be crushed by the mountain, or the recognition of the innate essentiality of the Torah.

Their acceptance was not an emotional decision, but a closely reasoned response, and a cognizance of there being no alternative.

It was a function of ‘Sechel’, of reason.
While this was certainly highly commendable, it is not yet the ultimate expression of devotion to the Ribono Shel Olam.
There is yet a higher relationship with Hashem. It is a relationship of Ahava.


Ahava is colloquially defined as Love, but in Jewish thought, it carries a much deeper significance.
It is the expression of a visceral devotion and attachment to something, with a stripping away of all logical considerations.
Reb Yisroel Salanter explains the difference between Ahava (Love) and Sechel (reason) with a Moshol, a parable.

Take a great Rabbi who has a son who has strayed from Hashem, and from his father’s teachings. The Rabbi has nothing in common with his son, and is in fact not even on speaking terms with him any longer.

This Rabbi also has a beloved Talmid, whom he considers very dear to his heart, indeed almost like a son. In fact, were one to ask the Rabbi, he would certainly say that he loves his Talmid more than his son.

One night a fire breaks out in the house and the rabbi has time to save only one of the two young men.
Without time for rational reflection, his instinctive reaction would be to save his son.
This says Rabbi Yisroel, is Ahava, an elemental, eternal love that is untempered by rational considerations.

In the words of Chazal, “Ahava Mekalkeles ess Hashura, true love corrupts the judgment.”
Even if pure reason dictates otherwise, this deep affinity, this love, can skew one’s actions away from the logical.
This is the highest relationship that a person can have with his creator, a relationship based not on fear of a Master, or on selfishness, but on a love for and a recognition of Hashem as our Father.

The subsequent reacceptance of Torah after the miracle of Purim was more than just an acceptance based on logic, it was, Chazal tell us, an acceptance of Ahava. It was an Ahava that stemmed from a recognition of Hashem’s deep love for Klal Yisroel, evinced by the many incredible miracles involved in the Jews’ salvation from Haman.

This was the superiority of the second acceptance of the Torah.
It was an acceptance based on a deeply felt love, and an innate devotion to Hashem and the Torah.

It was an acceptance brought about totally of the Jews’ own volition, with no element of constraint, even constraint of a purely intellectual nature.

Purim is the day when Klal Yisroel, as a whole, raised their collective character to a new level, a level far beyond the Sechel of Kabbolas HaTorah, a level of Ahava, of pure visceral devotion, of instinctive recognition of the Chessed of Hashem, and from that level, they rededicated themselves to the Torah, and reaccepted it, an acceptance of Love, of Devotion, of Ahava.

And that is the Avoda of Purim today.
We endeavor to return to that level of Ahava, to the Ahava that precipitated a second Kabbolas HaTorah, and we essay to serve Hashem from that heightened level of devotion.

This is why there is no one specific Mitzva to recall the reacceptance of Torah. Rather the entire day is a celebration, and an expression of Hadar Kibluha B’Ahava. Everything we do on Purim is mean t to bring us back to that rarefied level of Avodas Hashem, an Avoda from Ahava.

It is, of course, both difficult to reach this level of devotion, and to know if we are really acting form true Ahava, or from an artificial, mechanical Ahava.
There are so many factors, internal and external, influencing our behavior that it is often impossible to know what our real motivation may be.

We are blessed with a complex set of behaviors and inhibitions, such as Shame, Habit, Ga’ava, among countless others that prevent the real person from coming to the surface.
These concealing factors make it almost impossible for us to assess where we are really holding in our relationship to Hashem.

Most of these factors are a function of our protective Sechel, our so-called common sense influencing our behavior and overriding our actual desire.

For example, a person may really wish to sin, but fear of parents, neighbors, or sometimes even of Hashem, may prevent him form carrying out his real desire.

Or perhaps, simple “Boosha”, self consciousness, may stop him.
He may be embarrassed to be seen doing certain actions.

This, in and of itself, is actually not so terrible.

On the contrary, Chazal tell us that “Az Ponim L’Gehinnom”, a shameless person is destined to hell, as he is missing an essential safeguard against Aveiros.

It would be wonderful to possess enough shame to keep oneself perpetually in check.

However, it still won’t tell us where we are vis-à-vis our ultimate goal, which is serving Hashem from Ahava, from a real, visceral desire to do the will of Hashem.

The only way to accurately gauge our true spiritual level is to create a situation devoid of Sechel, and then see how we conduct ourselves.

How, though are we to dispose of these deeply ingrained inhibitions, and be sure that we are indeed acting from Ahava, and not from some other motivation?
This is where wine comes in.

Drinking wine strips away our protective Sechel, and exposes the P’nim, the inside. It allows the real person to come to the fore, and lets us see what we’re really all about.

When Chazal say, “Nichnass Yayin Yatzai Sod”, they are not warning drunkards against spilling the beans, they are telling us a universal truth; when one drinks wine he comes out, the real him, the him that’s hidden beneath all those layers of contrivance and artifice. In Chazal’s words:
“A person becomes known from his financial dealings, in his anger, and when he is intoxicated.”

This is the idea behind drinking on Purim.
It is a test, a test of our essence, of who we really are, and when we are really holding.

How will we behave with our Sechel neutralized, our inhibitions on vacation?

Do we fritter away the day on all sorts of Narishkeit, some harmless, others less so, or do we involve ourselves in Mitzvos and learning, albeit somewhat less coherently than usual.

Are we holding by Yemei Mishte V’Simcha, or Chas Veshalom, by Seudas Achashverosh?

In the words of Harav Yitzchok Hutner, zatzal, “On Purim we entrust ourselves to our Guf”.
For one day we let our body “call the shots”, and we hope that our neshama is the one that responds.

And this is the true meaning of the words, “one must drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai.

“He does not know”, because his Sechel is gone for a day, and he can’t consciously distinguish between good and bad, but his actions, they don’t change, they are still the actions of Mordechai.
We don’t suddenly get a temporary license to act like Haman just because we are drunk.

This is why the Arizal says “Yom Ki-ppurim”, that Purim is somehow more momentous that Yom Kippur, for on Yom Kippur we serve Hashem and repent while in a sublimely spiritual state, Mitoch Yirah, whereas Purim is an evaluation of our behavior while unrestrained by convention and sobriety, without the Yirah.

It’s easy to be a Tzaddik when everyone is fasting, davening all day, and dressed in sober white robes. In fact, to actually commit a sin on Yom Kippur requires some degree of enterprise.
But let’s see how you behave when you’re drunk, the Sechel is gone, and the surroundings are anything but conducive to Tzidkus.

Then we’ll know who and what you really are.

But it’s not only a test, it is an opportunity:

An opportunity to escape the limitations of our Sechel and to serve the Ribono Shel Olam not from habit, or convention, or even from Yiras Shamayim, but from a much deeper stimulus, from Ahava.

It is our chance to confront, and amend the casual error of Gezeiras Haman, the enjoyment of the feast of Achashverosh, and its modern-day counterparts; for by drinking ourselves dizzy, and still serving Hashem, we are returning to the original Purim in Shushan, where the Jews began with Seudas Achashverosh, but ended with Yemei Mishte V’Simcha.

This is the Avoda of Purim, and that, is why Chazal have told us to drink!