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Be Who G-d Meant You to Be and You Will Set the World on Fire

Start the Party: Learning From an Uncouth Dictator How to Celebrate Life

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    2187 views
  • February 24, 2021
  • |
  • 12 Adar 5781
  • Comment

Class Summary:

In the opening of the story of the book of Esther, the Persian Emperor, King Achashverosh, throws a grand party to celebrate his consolidation of power. It is a lavish, completely over-the-top feast, a drunken, decadent bacchanal that lasts for a full 187 days.

But although the only aspect of the party of any obvious relevance to the plot of the Purim story is that the King has his wife killed for not entertaining his drunken guests, the Megillah provides us with verse after verse of vivid description of the party itself.

Rarely does the Tanach give vivid descriptions of events unless they are important to understand the story. The Torah is not a historical novel; it is, as its name indicates, a book of lessons and teachings. It wants us to learn something. Why on earth would the king’s notorious decadence be relevant to us?

In a Purim address, on Purim 1973, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested an answer to this question that was, at the time, radically novel. It reframes our perspective about the type of person Judaism tried to develop.

Dedicated by Eliot Kaplan, in loving memory of Mitchel Kaplan, Meir Yisroel ben Chaim Mordichai, who passed away on Shevat 13, 5781. 

The Farmer

A Texas farmer was touring England. He happened to meet an English farmer and asked him, "What size farm do you have?"

The Englishman proudly announced, "Thirty-five acres!"

"Thirty-five acres?" the Texan scoffed. "Why I can get in my truck at 8:00 AM and start driving and at noon, I am still on my farm. I can eat lunch and start driving again and at 5:00 PM I am still on my farm.

"Ah, yes," the Englishman nodded in understanding. "I had a truck like that once."

The Party

In the opening of the story of the book of Esther, the Persian Emperor, King Achashverosh, throws a massive feast to celebrate his consolidation of power on the Persian throne. It is a lavish, completely over-the-top party, a drunken, decadent bacchanal that lasts for a full 180 days.

And then, when the 180 days are over, he throws yet another feast, lasting seven days. The celebrations continue for 187 days, non-stop!

It seems strange. Although the only aspect of the party of any obvious relevance to the plot of the Purim story is that the King has his wife killed for not entertaining his drunken guests, the Megillah provides us with verse after verse of vivid description of the party itself.

We learn of the setting of the party, the guests, the vessels and utensils used, and the materials and fabrics used to dress up the banquet:

There were hangings of white, fine cotton, and turquoise wool, held with cords of fine linen and purple wool, upon silver rods and marble pillars; the couches of gold and silver were on a pavement of variegated marble.

And they gave them to drink in golden vessels, and the vessels differed from one another, and royal wine was plentiful according to the bounty of the king.[1]

Why does the book of Esther feel the need to familiarize us with all the opulence of Achashverosh’s banquet? Do I really have to know how many fabrics were used at the feast and what was their type? Do I really have to know the types of goblets used? How does that help me understand the story?

Rarely do the Torah and the Tanach give vivid descriptions of events unless it is important to grasp the story. The Torah is not a classic history novel; it is, as its name indicates, a book of lessons and teachings. It wants us to learn something. Why on earth would the king’s notorious decadence be relevant to us?

In a Purim address, on Purim 5733, March 18, 1973, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested one beautiful explanation.

All In

The message of the Megillah is a simple one, though in a way surprising. When King Achashverosh throws a party, he knows he must go all in. Not for him was a mere hundred-day feast, or goblets from silver instead of gold. He makes a serious party and throws everything he has at his disposal at the party.

This king will not settle for mediocrity or even normal standards of a feast. He will not just get away with doing a fine job. If he can do it over the top, he will have it just that way! If he can drink for 187 days, so be it. If he can give his people a memory of a lifetime, this is what he will do. No less.

Now, as the Talmud states,[2] this king was a fool. He wasted his money and creativity on a foolish endeavor. Achashverosh’s motives in throwing his bash were far from holy. But the Torah is telling us the story, the Rebbe suggested, to teach us an invaluable lesson.

Even this paranoid, foolish king understood that in life you got to give it all you got! You ought not to live a life of “quiet desperation.” Do not settle for smallness. You got to suck the marrow out of life. Carpe Diem! Life calls on us to live it to the fullest.

If even the Persian dictator understood this, how much more do we—G-d’s people—need to understand this! Do not settle for smallness. Give life all you got. Utilize every potential, every resource, every opportunity, every faculty, and every talent. Do not squander a moment, and do not squander any aspect of your soul.

Show up to life and to love with every fiber of your being. Hold nothing back. Dance to the end of love. Celebrate to the heavens. Flex all your spiritual, physical, and emotional muscles—let your infinite light radiate and inspire every person you encounter.

Don’t be stingy with your love and passion. Be who G-d meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

If someone is blessed with the ability to write, continued the Rebbe, then he or she must find a way to use that to change the world for the better. If you can raise 18 million dollars a year for Jewish education, do not be content with 17 million. Do not let fear or too much logic stifle you. Aim for the top. Do not make your target close and easy just to avoid fear and shame.

If you can build and spread goodness, kindness, truth, morality, Yiddishkeit, holiness, in yet a bigger and more effective way -- don't be satisfied with small measures. The days of an impersonal, restrictive Judaism must remain behind us. The Torah wants our youths, and each of us, to develop wings—wings that will propel them upward to reach their maximum potential and change the world!

There Are Three Types of People: Those Who Make Things Happen, Those Who Watch Things Happen, and Those Who Wonder What Happened. The Megilah teaches us: Make things happen and think big.

As hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine are hiding for their lives, or have fled and need to begin their lives anew from scratch, each of us must think big, and more importantly, act big. Our time in history does not allow for petty thinking, petty behavior, or small-minded ambitions. We want to go out of our comfort zones and change the world.

___________________

[1] Megilas Esther 1:6, 7.

[2] Megillah 11a.

Please leave your comment below!

  • S

    shaindel -2 years ago

    This magnificent essay is an autobiography of how one Chassid absolutely took the Rebbe's words literally and changed the world, one bold courageous step at a time. These leaps for mankind are not for the faint of heart. Keep the embers glowing, and may Hashem continue to enable you to be a beacon of Light in a dark Golus night!

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  • מ

    מנחם -3 years ago

    תודה!

    רעיון עוצמתי ביותר, תמיד הפריע לי למה צריכה המגילה לפרט בפרטרוט רב את כל הניואנסים הדקים שהיו במסיבה, איזה ריפוד על הכסאות ואיזה מרצפות בחרה ושתי המלכה כשבנו את הארמון.

    עכיון קיבלתי תשובה עוצמתית, וכמול העינים עומדת דמותו של הרבי מלויבאוויטש, הרי שאני גם מקבל דוגמא חיה של בן אדם שלא הסתפק בפחות ממקסימום, הוא לימד שאפשר לכבוש את כל העולם בפשוטו!!

    בהזדמנות זו אבקש שתי בקשות, ובפורים הרי כל הפושט יד נותנים לו... 1) אם אפשר בבקשה לתת גם לנו תושבי ארץ הקודש לפחות שיעור אחד בשבוע בעברית או אידיש, אפילו שיעור קצר, הרי התוכן וסגנון ההגשה של הרב ג'ייקובסון הם כ"כ נפלאים, ולמה נגרע ?!  2) אבקש אם אפשר לשלוח לי את השיעור/לינק מהשיחה שהרב ייעקובסון מסר עבור חסידי ספינקא מבני ברק לפני כשבוע. שמעתי שהשיחה היתה בעברית, ואני אשמח לשמוע אותה. תודה רבה רבה פורים שמח

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    • YYJ

      Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson -1 year ago

      נו ברוך השם התחלנו בעברית כל שבוע ויש האתר בעברית שלנו

      השיעור לחסידי ספינקא אין לי

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Purim Essay

Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • February 24, 2021
  • |
  • 12 Adar 5781
  • |
  • 2187 views
  • Comment

Dedicated by Eliot Kaplan, in loving memory of Mitchel Kaplan, Meir Yisroel ben Chaim Mordichai, who passed away on Shevat 13, 5781. 

Class Summary:

In the opening of the story of the book of Esther, the Persian Emperor, King Achashverosh, throws a grand party to celebrate his consolidation of power. It is a lavish, completely over-the-top feast, a drunken, decadent bacchanal that lasts for a full 187 days.

But although the only aspect of the party of any obvious relevance to the plot of the Purim story is that the King has his wife killed for not entertaining his drunken guests, the Megillah provides us with verse after verse of vivid description of the party itself.

Rarely does the Tanach give vivid descriptions of events unless they are important to understand the story. The Torah is not a historical novel; it is, as its name indicates, a book of lessons and teachings. It wants us to learn something. Why on earth would the king’s notorious decadence be relevant to us?

In a Purim address, on Purim 1973, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested an answer to this question that was, at the time, radically novel. It reframes our perspective about the type of person Judaism tried to develop.

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