Rabbi Moshe Lichtman
[Excerpted from his book “Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah” available at his website: https://toratzion.com]
NEVER GIVE UP
Although the miracle of Purim took place outside the Land of Israel, Chazal teach us that Zion had a lot to do with the story. Allow me to mention just one example, which happens to be connected to Parashat Tetzaveh (which is always read around Purim time). One opinion in the Gemara (Megillah 12a) states that the reason the Jews deserved annihilation at the time of Haman was because “they derived pleasure from the meal of that wicked man [Achashveirosh].” Seemingly, this is a rather harsh punishment for eating non-kosher food. However, according to our Sages z”l, the main problem with the party was not what was being served, but how and why it was being served. The Talmud states (ibid. 11a) that Achashveirosh made his party in the third year of his reign, when – according to his calculations – the Babylonian exile was supposed to have ended. When he saw that the Jews were not redeemed, he took out the holy vessels of the Beit HaMikdash, invited all his officers and servants, and made a big celebration. The Sages of the Talmud also state that Achashveirosh wore the garments of the Kohen Gadol at his party (ibid. 12a). They derive this from a gezeirah shavah of sorts. The Torah says in Parashat Tetzaveh, “You shall make holy garments for Aharon, your brother, for honor and for splendor” (Shemot 28:2); and in Megillat Esther (1:4) it says, “When he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his splendorous majesty.” In effect, then, this party was a “Farewell Eretz Yisrael” party. It signified the end of the Jewish dream of Redemption. Nonetheless, many Jews participated in the party and even enjoyed it. Now we understand why they deserved annihilation.
A Jew who is happy to remain in exile, giving up all hopes of redemption, denies some of the most basic tenets of our faith. He forgets that the Jewish people have a unique purpose in this world, and that they can fulfill this purpose only when they live separately and observe the mitzvot in God’s special Land, far away from the foreign influences and impurities of the lands of the nations. The antithesis of this kind of attitude was Mordechai HaTzaddik’s. The Megillah (Esther 2:5-6) introduces us to this great man with the words “There was a Jewish man in Shushan the capital; his name was Mordechai son of Ya’ir son of Shim’i son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been exiled from Jerusalem with the exiles who had been exiled with Yechonyah king of Yehudah, whom Nevuchadnetzar King of Babylonia had exiled.” The Gra explains that the verse uses the verb “exile” three times to teach us that Mordechai never resigned himself to exile. Each time he was sent into exile, he made his way back to Eretz Yisrael, until finally – after the third time – he was unable to return. But even then, he never forgot where he really belonged. Some commentators find a hint to this in the title “a man from [the Tribe of] Benjamin”. They explain that Mordechai was called this because he exemplified the verse “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [its cunning] (Tehillim 137:5). If we would only emulate Mordechai HaTzaddik’s attitude and deeds, we would surely merit a “miraculous” salvation, just like that of the Purim story.