Preparing for Purim – Part I
What is the proper way to prepare for the upcoming holiday of Purim?
Reb Nosson said that when one cries out to Hashem in prayer for thirty days prior to Purim, “Save me from the evil forces of Haman and Amalek,” a person can merit seeing Mordechai and Esther during the reading of the Megillah (some say that he said forty days). But the point isn’t to keep count of the days of saying “Save me…”. The idea is to motivate oneself to perform the Mitzvah of blotting out Amalek, through understanding that Amalek is a real force which stands over us and tries to destroy us. It’s similar to what Reb Nosson said that he sees Amalek standing over him with a metal stick. As much as we internalize who Amalek is, we will be able to ask Hashem and scream out to Him that we should be saved from him.
To prepare for Purim is by identifying with entire story of the Megillah of Esther and Amalek and reading it into our own daily lives, not to see it just as a story which happened many years ago. This is an important teaching of the Rebbe: to interpret every idea onto ourselves. When reciting Tehillim in which Dovid HaMelech screams out to Hashem to be saved from those who were pursuing him, we are supposed to interpret it onto our own situation with our own Yetzer Hara which is chasing after us. The same thing is by mourning at Tikkun Chatzos about our own personal “Destruction of the Beis HaMikdash”.
On this note the Tzaddikim explain the Mishna, “Whoever reads the Megillah backwards doesn’t fulfill his obligation” to mean that whoever reads the Megillah as if it’s a story that happened once upon a time – backwards – hasn’t fulfilled his obligation. The main thing is to concentrate on the “In those days in this time”, on what’s happening in our times.
Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender used to relate how in Uman they had to stop the Megillah reading several times because of all the noise of the congregation’s crying.
Therefore it’s self-understood that before Purim the main Avodah and the right way to prepare is by indentifying Amalek well, and crying out to Hashem to be saved from his dangerous hands. The more one prays, the more he will be able to feel the holiness of Mordechai and Esther when the Megillah will be read.
It’s therefore also appropriate to study these days the teachings of the Tzaddikim about Purim in order to understand what Amalek is (or at least one point of it), and to gain knowledge of what the holiness of Mordechai and Esther is. Since he knows what he’s asking for he will then be able to cry to Hashem better.
When I just think about my personal Amalek, I immediately give up from ever conquering it. I wonder if there’s any hope in this long conflict.
Amalek can let a person identify with the first half of the story of the Megillah, which tells about Klal Yisroel falling to enjoying Achashverosh’s feast and Haman’s decree. But he then makes us forget about the beginning of the miracle of ‘that night the king’s sleep was disturbed’ – referring to the King of the World. This is the part which tells us about the miracles and our hope. Amalek doesn’t want us to realize how much Hashem ‘disturbs His sleep’ so to speak, in order to bring us closer to Him from wherever we are, until in the end ‘it turns over that the Jews rule over their enemies.’
The same way we have to understand that Amalek is inside our hearts and we have to fight him, we also have to recognize and identify with the miracle of the Megillah. These days, as we enter into the month of Adar, it’s a Mitzvah to increase in happiness, meaning to awaken a new hope within ourselves. A new flow of Divine assistance is coming down now to help us fight Amalek.
This is also the reason for the Fast of Esther. Unlike other fast days which are in commemoration of troubles which befell us, this fast is in memory of the miracle, in order to remember that Hashem listens to all of our prayers.
This is the wicked ability of Amalek, who stands at the top of all malevolent and impure powers: to demonstrate for a person that he is so great that it’s impossible even to begin overpowering him. (Hil’ Birchas HaReiach 5)
Amalek is very tricky. He starts by approaching a person in a way that he shouldn’t realize it – in an unrecognizable manner. But even after a person wakes up to discern who Amalek is and that he must be obliterated, Amalek puts on a new outfit: despair, small mindedness. He throws person into a fear in order that he shouldn’t realize his own strength. He makes a person imagine as if Amalek is something so big that we can’t even start dealing with it. He reminds us of all the years that we have already cried: “save me from Haman and Amalek …” and it still seems as if we haven’t even begun to see any form of salvation.
Even more, not only does he cause a person to give up, he also mixes himself into a person’s psyche in a fashion that it’s difficult to make him out. A person imagines about himself that his whole essence is anger and earthly desires. He doesn’t grasp that this is not him at all but the Amalek which has attached himself to him. A person himself is a part of Klal Yisroel, a Yiddish soul whose source is from the Heavenly Throne, pure and holy and entirely removed from sin.
This is ‘remember what Amalek did for you’, to remember that Amalek has done all of this to you and this isn’t you. Through identifying the enemy, you will awaken within yourself the ability to cry out and the strength to fight him.
The truth be told, is that it is impossible to totally conquer Amalek until Moshiach comes. Then, Hashem’s name will be revealed throughout the universe, and all evil will be null. Amalek is this material world which hides Hashem. It’s therefore understood that we can’t totally erase him, because then the whole universe would be null.
It is important to know that the war with Amalek is fought little by little. The main Mitzvah is to remain persistent in battle, not to put down the weapon and surrender (Hil’ Shabbos 6). This is the Torah’s commandment to remember what Amalek has done to us. The way we erase Amalek is by remembering that Amalek exists and that he only wants that we shouldn’t realize that he exists.
Keep strong ‘to proclaim that all who hope in you will not be shamed, and all who take refuge in you will never be shamed’.