DOUBLE YOUR FUN
Rabbi David Walk
When my wife and I started talking a couple of weeks ago about how we wanted to celebrate Purim, there were many options. We live in Jerusalem, so we could do it on Friday the fifteenth of Adar, called Shushan Purim. But we have kids all over the country and could go to one or more of them and celebrate on Thursday the fourteenth. However, the one thing we immediately agreed upon is: We're only doing Purim once. We know many people sleep outside Jerusalem (or Kiryat Arba, where we also have kids) on the fourteenth to celebrate regular Purim, then stay in Jerusalem to have another round of festivities on Shushan Purim. Been there, done that. Of course, there's also the curmudgeonly approach, personified by Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz OB"M, who reversed the order and didn't celebrate Purim at all. But we weren't going there. So, the question was: Which Purim? This article presents my thinking on the matter.
Why do we have Shushan Purim? It starts with a request from Queen Esther to Achashveirosh to allow the Jews of Shushan the capital another day of eradicating their enemies (Esther 9:13). So, the Megilla concludes: And the rest of the Jews who were in the king's provinces assembled and protected themselves...on the thirteenth of the month of Adar, and they rested on the fourteenth thereof, and made it a day of feasting and joy. And the Jews who were in Shushan assembled on the thirteenth thereof and on the fourteenth thereof, and rested on the fifteenth thereof, and made it a day of feasting and joy (verses 16-18).
However, when we check the Mishneh to find how to implement this imperative, we find: Cities which have been walled since the time of Yehoshua bin Nun read on the fifteenth (Megilla 1:1). Huh! Where did Yehoshua bin Nun come from? Look, it's hard to date the Purim story, but it was at least 700 years after Yehoshua. So, why should we determine the criteria for reading on the fifteenth based upon Yehoshua? Rav Ovadia M'Bartenura (1445-1515), in his classic commentary on the Mishneh, gives three reasons: 1. There is a linguistic connection (gezeira shaveh) between the wording describing Yeshoshua's conquest of Israel (Deuteronomy 3) and the language used in the Megilla describing the unwalled cities. 2. Yehoshua is given this place of honor, because he began the war against Amalek. 3. To give honor to Eretz Yisrael, because Israel isn't mentioned in the Megilla and this is the only holiday which has no other connection to our beloved homeland.
That's fine, but doesn't help me determine which date might be preferable to celebrate. I got an insight into a method of analysis from the Pachad Yitzchak. This great multi volume work about the holidays was written by Reb Yitzchal Hutner (1906, Warsaw-1980, Jerusalem), the renowned head of the Chaim Berlin Yeshiva in Brooklyn for over forty years. Rav Hutner discusses Shushan Purim in two articles in the Purim volume of Pachad Yitzchak. In Chapter 15, he points out that our initial battles with Amalek were a result of their sneak attacks upon us. However, after the conquest of Israel (about 1225 BCE), a new obligation came into effect. We now had a responsibility to seek out Amalek and eradicate them. Rav Hutner explains that this mirrored the situation in the Purim story. On the first day of battles we totally rebuffed the attacks which had been planned by Haman. On the second day of warfare authorized by Achashveirosh we sought out the enemy still hiding in Shushan. This second kind of offensive combat was first available to Yehoshua as he led the conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel. This point of view strengthens the logic of us connecting Shushan Purim to Yehoshua.
In chapter 5, the Pachad Yitzchak makes one of those elegant observations that makes you want to kick yourself and say, 'How come I never noticed that!' Rav Hutner points out that in the first fight with Amalek, Moshe says to Yehoshua, 'Choose men for us, and prepare for battle, machar (tomorrow, Exodus 17:9).' This lines up with what Esther asked of Achashveirosh, 'let machar be granted to us (Esther 9:13).' This is also in keeping with the original request of Esther, that Haman and the King come to a dinner today, but no request is made until the second dinner, machar. This is opposed to Haman who does everything now. He even comes in the middle of the night when he's inspired to hang Mordechai. According to Maharal M'Prague (quoted by the Pachad Yitzchak), that everything surrounding the demise of Amalek is about tomorrow. Even in I Samuel (30:17) when King David is going out to war with Amalek it says l'macharat (the next day). They're today; we're tomorrow.
Rav Hutner also uses this idea to explain the quote in the Rambam: All the books of the Prophets and the Writings will be nullified in the Age of Mashiach, except for Esther (Laws of Megillah 2:18). That's because the fight will be continued until then.
This idea goes all the way back to the grandfather of Amalek, Esav. When he sold his birthright to Ya'akov he said, 'I am going to die (Genesis 25:32).' To Esav and Amalek, tomorrow only brings death. For us the progeny of Ya'akov, tomorrow brings redemption. The Pachad Yitzchak concludes that this critical idea in encapsulated in the phrase machar k'dat hayom (tomorrow like the concept of today). For us tomorrow must be a continuation and improvement on today.
My conclusion from all this? Purim on the fourteenth is a celebration of the miracle, victory and survival. And that's cool. Shushan Purim is a celebration of our expectations and hopes l'machar. That's amazing! Let's be honest, there is no more congenial spot to contemplate 'happy ever-aftering' than here in Yerushalyim. We'll be keeping Shushan Purim in our holy, eternal capital. Purim Sameach!!