AN AMERICAN JEWISH SOCIAL COMMENTARY
A novel insight into Talmud Megillah 7 shared by Rabbi Yisroel Rubin at post-Purim 5783/2023 Beis-Medrash Night at Albany’s Shomray Torah (in honor of the upcoming yartzeit of his father, R’ Moshe Rubin, on Erev RC Nissan).
Gemorah Megillah 7a asks: how do we know Megillas Esther was composed with Ruach HaKodesh, divine inspiration? Six Rabbis quote six different verses to answer this question:
R’ Eliezer: “And Haman said in his heart” how else would we know his inner thoughts?
R’ Akiva: “Esther found favor in the eyes of all her saw her.” how else could we be so sure of that?
R’ Meir: “The matter became known to Mordechai” – he knew through divine channels.
R’ Yosi ben Durmaskis: “The Jews didn’t take any spoils” but perhaps some did? Only if written with divine inspiration could we say that with assurance.
Shmuel: “Confirmed and undertook” means that G-d confirmed what the people undertook. That shows that it was written with divine inspiration!
All these Rabbis seem to be saying the same thing using different verses: We wouldn’t know this info without a divine source. So why the argument? Why so many opinions? Why does Shmuel say regarding his teaching: My idea is better than theirs! As Talmud says elsewhere: “A pastry (an idea) should speak for itself, its own baker shouldn’t praise it!” (Rabbi Rubin has more questions on this Talmud piece).
What’s underlying all this? Perhaps, more than just proving a divine source, each Rabbi is “speaking his Purim” telling us what Purim really means to him. And we see echoes of these same emphases down to (& especially in) our time!
Some people and organizations focus on “What do antisemites think?” (as in the verse: “Haman said in his heart”) researching the root causes of Jew-hatred, that’s “their Purim”. Others get very excited when Jews are respected & appreciated by the media or when Jews go viral in a good way (as the verse “Esther charmed everyone”. For some its that their Tzadik or teacher has access to an inner knowledge, as in “Mordechai was aware”. Some are very into Jews keeping ourselves to a higher moral standard, restraining ourselves (as the Jews in the Purim story did with the spoils). Some focus on the spiritual effects of our deeds and actions in this world below. Everyone has their Purim, their miracle, their focus.
Rabbi Rubin looked back at his yeshiva years by the Rebbe and realized that of all the verses & teachings of the Megillah story, the one he remembers the Rebbe quoting the most, and most emphatically, was a different teaching of Shmuel, not from Talmud tractate Megillah (where most Purim teachings are taught) but in tractate Shabbos: “The Jews in the time of the Purim story confirmed and more fully accepted the commitment they made at Sinai”. Rabbi Rubin remembers this line as “the Rebbe’s Purim” his key focus and emphasis. It’s about Judaism’s increasing strength, being even stronger with even greater commitment, more meaningful, even far from Sinai, in exile—anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Everyone has their Purim!