The fast of Esther is a time of repentance and preparation for Purim
The fast of Esther comes before Purim in order to protect us. We go into the holiday from fasting for Purim can be a day of wild behavior so the Fast of Esther comes first in order to make the happiness come from repentance. True happiness comes from repentance. Purim is a day of atonement, on this day we are born anew. Just like the day after Yom Kippur we say I am a new person, whatever was, was; the same thing with Purim. The fast of Esther comes to draw down the true of the light of repentance into the day of Purim.
The month of Adar is parallel to the month of Elul for repentance. It is written that all fasts are to bring about repentance. The purpose of fasting isn’t to refrain from eating it’s to bring about contemplation and repentance. Similar to Yom Kippur, if I offended someone or need to return something to him I need to ask his forgiveness.
The Mishna Berurah says the reason for the fast is “to remember the G-d sees and hears every person in his time of trouble when he fasts and repents with all his heart just as the Jews did at that time (of Mordechai)”. He can make a new fresh start to serve G-d.
Purim: The greatest day of the year!
These scant notes are but a drop in the ocean of what our sages say to describe the greatness of Purim!
It’s well known that the celebrating of a holiday commemorating a miracle isn’t to remember that miracle that happened in the past; rather it’s to celebrate the spiritual light that emanates from that miracle that is present at the time of the holiday, today! The date chosen is the date that light is again revealed to the world. (Bnei Yissachar) “Just as the verse says “And these days are remembered and done in every generation and in every family and every city” in every generation the unique light of Purim comes down and illuminates the generation according to its needs” (Netivot Shalom).
The Pri Etz Chaim writes that the light of Purim is above our comprehension; “And behold this is shown not on Shabbat and not on a Holiday only on Purim alone, as the sages said, “All holidays will be nullified (at the time of Moshiach) but Purim will remain. As the verse says “their memory won’t leave their descendants forever”. Purim will remain because it’s light will always be there forever!”
In the Tikkunei Zohar it says “Purim is named after Yom Kippur that (Israel) will enjoy in the future”, meaning the Yom Kippur in the future. The Admor of Ruzhin says, Yom Kippurim is only like Purim but Purim is holier!
But how can that be? We know that Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year? How can Purim be greater? Yom Kippur is a Biblical commandment that has the stringency of “karet” whereas Purim is of rabbinical origin?
Therefore it’s important to explain that the ingredient of happiness plays a role here and the closeness we feel to G-d from the happiness of Purim surpasses the closeness we attain on Yom Kippur. There’s a good reason our sages said that “when Adar comes we increase our happiness”, because the whole idea of Purim already starts at the beginning of the month. From the 11th of Adar Purim starts to illuminate the world and the Megilla is already started to be read in the upper worlds of the heavens. As a preparation for this we already start to increase our happiness from the beginning of the month similar and parallel to the 10 days of repentance in Tishrei during which we repent and cleanse our souls and prepare for Yom Kippur.
The Tiferet Shlomo writes that Purim is greater than Matan Torah the giving of the Torah. The verse says that “the Jews observed and accepted upon themselves and their descendants” which our sages say means “they willfully accepted on Purim what they originally accepted under duress at the giving of the Torah where G-d held mount Sinai over them like a barrel forcing them to accept the Torah and all 7 heavens opened and they saw “There is none other than Him”.
Rabbi Shimshon Pincus of blessed memory explained that “All the jewish holidays are like a ladder with Passover being the first one and Purim being the ninth and last one of the year. The tenth will be the coming of Moshiach which is beyond our comprehension.
Understandably we can’t really comprehend what this means but we should realize from all this is that Purim is a mighty holy day and we should try to take the opportunity to reach for the light of Purim. “On Purim great lights were revealed to the world. These lights we not even revealed when the Jews left Egypt!” (Orah VeSimcha)
So, how do we receive the light of Purim?
The first way to merit the light of any holiday is by observing the mitzvoth of that holiday.
But besides that, when a person learns the deeper meaning behind the mitzvoth he is doing and what thoughts he should have when doing them, the light of those mitzvoth definitely has a far greater effect on his soul than doing the mitzvah thoughtlessly. Just as someone who prays with concentration reaches the soul of the prayer and without concentration it’s just not prayer, the same is with the mitzvoth. Doing the mitzvah properly in its entirety, knowing what to concentrate and think about and what this mitzvah can give him will definitely make it a profound experience even if he doesn’t reach the unfathomable depths of the mitzvah. We will attempt to learn the intent of the mitzvoth of Purim as best as we can.
Preparations before Purim: Giving the Half Shekel, Parshat Zachor, the Fast of Esther, the happiness of the month of Adar.
The 4 main mitzvoth of Purim:
1. Reading the Megillah (without missing one word)
2. Sending of food gifts (a minimum of 2 foods)
3. Gifts to the Poor -a minimum of 2 poor people (Whoever stretches out his hand, give him)
4. The Purim Festive Meal. “A person is obligated to drink until he can’t distinguish between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai” plus saying Al Hanisim in the prayers and Grace after meals.
Customs of Purim
Wearing costumes, eating seeds (as Queen Esther did in the palace of Achashverosh)
Every Holiday has its special way of serving G-d. On Shavuot you learn Torah, on Passover you eat matzot and stay away from chametz, on Sukkot you sit in a Sukkah and take a lulav and etrog, Yom Kippur has 10 confessions and fasting.
Purim’s special service is the only one in which one should make the special effort to be unconditionally happy!
Photo by Yaakov Lederman/Flash90
Thoughts of faith to reinforce the happiness of Purim (to practice from 1 Adar)
1. This Purim will be especially happy for I will make it so.
2. I will be happy regardless of outside success or failure.
3. I have the power to be happy on Purim and to accept upon myself the obligation to learn Torah and do mitzvoth with love and great happiness!
4. Describe in detail your own personal service to G-d and resolve anew to do it with happiness.
5. This one day I will focus just on the good! With thanks to G-d to sing to dance and be happy!
6. I have faith in doing mitzvoth and therefore I’m sure G-d is happy with my gifts to the poor, my food gifts, my listening to the Megillah and my festive Purim meal.
7. I accept upon myself all the mitzvoth with happiness!
8. I accept upon myself to always desire a relationship with you G-d and not give up on it!
9. I have faith in the strength of Purim to purify me just like Yom Kippur, I am prepared to start anew leaving the past behind and I resolve to come close to G-d through every test and experience.