Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Tzav) The Next Day!
Yesterday was Purim and today is called Shushan Purim. Here’s the reason why.
The Megilla tells us that King Achashvairosh’s palace was in Shushan Habirah – Shushan the capital. In truth, Shushan was not always host to the king’s palace; the kings, such as Nevuchadetzar, who preceding Achashvairosh, resided in Babylon. Achashvairosh chose Shushan as his capital residence by default.
King Solomon had built an awesome, elaborate and mechanical throne with golden lions and snakes that hoisted King Shlomo up the steps of the throne. This throne would only allow a Monarch who ruled over the entire world to ascend. After Nevuchadnetzar captured Jerusalem and the land of Israel he tried ascending Solomon’s throne, the lions and snakes threw him off and he became a lame.
Achashairosh wished to ascend Solomon’s throne but he was convinced not to do so. He decided to hire artisans to build a replica of Solomon’s throne; and they began their work in Shushan. After it was completed, they tried to move it to Babylon, but it was too big, heavy and cumbersome to transfer, so Achachvairosh moved his palace to Shushan.
G-d orchestrates all events, and the king’s move to Shushan was so that he would be close to Mordechai who lived there so that he would play a role in the dramatic events of Purim and the salvation of the Jews.
In the Purim story, Haman was given the king’s signet ring enabling him to decree whatever he wished upon the Jews. Haman decided through drawing lots which month and day to exterminate the Jews. On that day the Jews were forbidden to offer resistance against their foes. The day drawn was the thirteenth day of the Hebrew month of Adar.
The Megilla tells us that around two months after Haman was hanged on the gallows, which was just four days after he sent out his awful decree, Esther and Mordechai approached the king to retract Haman’s decree. Their request was turned down since the law stated that a decree that was signed with the king’s signet could not be retracted. What the king agreed to do is to amend the original decree and allow the Jews to defend themselves on the Thirteenth of Adar.
The Megilla tells us that the Jews defended themselves and killed 75,000 in battle. The Jews were able to rest and celebrate from their victorious battle of the 14th day of Adar. Thus our Sages established the Holiday of Purim on the 14th day of Adar.
There was one city where the battle spilled over into the 14th day of Adar as well and that was in Shushan itself. The Jews in Shushan were only able to rest and celebrate their victory from battle on the 15th of Adar. This was because, due to Haman’s family’s presence in the Shushan area, the resistance against the Jews was greater. Esther therefore asked the king for an additional day for the Jews to defend themselves. In the two days of battle, 800 Amelakites were killed in the Shushan area including the ten sons of Haman.
Thus the Megilla tells us that the 15th is the day which Shushan celebrates Purim. So if one happens to be in Hamadan, Persia on the 15th of Adar, he would celebrate Purim on the 15th day of Adar.
Our Sages extended the celebration of Purim to be held on the 15th of Adar to any walled city in the world that had walls built around it since the time that Joshua led the Jews into Israel. The point of time of Joshua is related to Purim because Joshua led the first war against the Amalekites. Since the Jews fought against the same wicked Amalekites in the Purim miracle, a walled city dating back to Joshua’s times shares the same date as the walled city of Shushan.
The most notable city that has this designation of celebrating Purim on Shushan Purim is Jerusalem.
We, who do not dwell in walled cities, also mark Shushan Purim as a special day by not saying certain penitential prayers and eulogies are not delivered at a funeral, however, we do not perform the Mitzvos related to Purim and we don’t recite the Purim prayers on Shushan Purim.
Haman’s decree against the Jews included an incentive. After the genocide of the Jews was complete, all the possessions of the Jews were not to be turned over to the government rather free for the taking.
In contrast, the Megilla attests that when the Jews defended themselves and killed their 75,800 foes, they did not take a single item from the possessions of the dead.
It is interesting that the theme of Purim’s Mitzvos are giving to the poor and sending parcels of food to friends and family which also presents an opportunity to reach out to those who may have drifted away. All this is to engender a sense of togetherness amongst us. Oneness and unity to G-d and one’s fellow man is what Esther called for before she put her life on the line when she appeared uninvited to the king to plead on behalf of her nation. Just as the Jews responded to her call, and thereby achieved victory and salvation, so too, when we follow her model it will be just as potent for us today!
Have a most enjoyable, restful and peaceful Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks