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  • Writer's pictureJay Schwartz

A Whirlwind Diaspora Purim Trip as the Gateway for our Celebration of Pesach in Israel 5774

My Purim to Pesach “season” was a most inspiring one. I had the privilege of traveling along with Nefesh B’Nefesh to visit six major Diaspora Jewish communities as a representative of the LaGur BaRama Development Company of Ramat Beit Shemesh.

Lagur Brama is building the magnificent Emerald Heights/Emerald Gardens community, slated for completion by Summer 2016, where I have been asked to serve as rabbi. The construction on our community is currently underway. The rapidly selling homes and apartments range from lavish villas to duplexes and penthouses and apartments of many sizes facing a stunning vista of the hills of Judea.

In our travels to Jewish areas in Toronto, Montreal, South Florida, Chicago, Los Angeles, and of course New York City, we spoke with hundreds of individuals and families. They all formed a machane meshutaf, that shares a passionate interest and love for Eretz Yisrael. They long to fulfill the dream that my family and I achieved a few years ago by making Aliyah, i.e., to live here in a beautiful setting physically and spiritually and be part of a welcoming Torah community.

When my whirlwind Nefesh B’nefesh tour reached New York, I was able to share two special personal moments, the Bar Mitzvah of my dear nephew, Yishaya Dovid Schwartz, son of my brother Dr. Yoni and Sima Schwartz, and my dear father Rav Avrohom Schwartz’ shlita 90th birthday celebration, together with my wonderful mother, Gloria Schwartz, along with many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren!)

On the days before Purim, and on Purim itself, I participated for the 25th consecutive year in a Matanos LaEvyonim Bo Bayom Tzedakah campaign in conjunction with the Emergency Aid Fund of Yeshiva Torah Voda’ath.

The Emergency Aid Fund was for many decades under the auspices of my revered Rebbe, Rav Avraham Yaakov HaCohen Pam, zatzal, and Rav Nesanel Quinn, zatzal .It is currently administered by Rabbi Aharon Pam,the Rosh Yeshiva’s son, and Harav Hagaon Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, one of the leading poskim in America as well as Rabbi Meir Deitel of Yeshiva Torah Vodath. This year we were able to raise and distribute close to $50,000, all delivered on Purim day in venues both in the US and in Israel, to many extremely needy families and individual who depend on these funds, not only for Purim, but for Pesach as well.

I would like to personally thank, meomek halev, the following esteemed rabbis and communities, as well as community leaders that contributed so generously to the Purim tzdakah campaign:

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, (Aish Kodesh Woodmere); Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum,( Young Israel Lawrence-Cedarhurst); my cousins Rabbi Eytan and Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner, (the White Shul in Far Rockaway); Mr. Sam Davies and many of our esteemed friends from Congregation Sha’aray Tefilah in Lawrence; Rabbi Jonathan Muskat and all the wonderful and generous members of my former community, Young Israel of Oceanside;

My dear brother, Rabbi Chaim Schwartz of Congregation Shomer Mishmeres, Baltimore MD (who was recently appointed to a leading position at AIPAC in Washington DC); members and dear friends from my years as rabbi of Congregation Ohav Shalom of the Upper West Side; Harry and Rachel Skydell and family; the esteemed Rabbi Stephen Friedman Esq. of Congregation Ramat Orah NYC; close friends Dr. Gabe and Anat Levi; my “ brother” and chavruta Joshua Landes and Bryna (formerly Shuchat) Landes and family; Nelson Obus and Eve Coulson and family of Princeton NJ .

We must especially thank our dear friends Mrs. Leonia Kern and William Kern, of NYC and Howard, Lauren and Caitlin Glazer and family of East Hills ,NY who for many, many years have extremely generously of their time and of their funds to help fulfill this great mitzvah.

Purim serving as the gateway to Pesach observance is a common Rabbinic theme. Some Hassidic masters suggest that the key to predicting how one’s Pesach will be as hoped for, can be found in their personal experience of Purim day. Another example of this linkage is that the halacha requires us to begin studying the laws of Pesach(shoalim v’dorshim etc.),a full thirty days prior , i.e. on the day of Purim itself.

In addition, one is rabbinically obligated to make a formal search for chametz only at residences were one was present from Purim onward. Yet another example is from Talmud Megilla which concludes that the formal observance of Purim on a Jewish leap year, such as this year, 5774, may take place only in the second month of Adar because,

“somchim (we must connect) geulah(Purim) ligeulah (Pesach)”

Meaning ,that the joyous celebrations of Purim must be in close proximity, i.e.not more than 30 days before from glorious festival of Pesach.

The following Torah thought, help explain the spiritual link between Pesach and Purim. At the end of Megillas Esther, we have an addendum that seems both irrelevant and anti-climactic to the dramatic salvation of the Jewish People engineered by Mordechai and Esther with HaShem’s Divine Assistance.

וישם המלך אחשורוש מס על הארץ ואיי הים. וכל מעשה תקפו וגבורתו ופרשת גדלת מרדכי אשר גדלו המלך הלוא הם כתובים על ספר דברי הימים למלכי מדי ופרס. כי מרדכי היהודית משנה למלך אחשורוש וגדול ליהודים ורצוי לרב אחיו דרש טוב לעמו ודבר שלום לכל זרעו.

King Ahasuerus levied a tax on the mainland and the islands of the sea. All his mighty and powerful acts, and the account of the greatness of Mordechai, whom the king had promoted, are recorded in the book of chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia. For Mordechai the Jew was viceroy to King Ahasuerus, he was a great man among the Jews, and found favor with the multitude of his brethren; he sought the good of his people and spoke for the welfare of all his seed.(Megillat Esther 10;1-3)

We could ask and obvious question . Why was it important for us know that King Achashverosh went on to tax his entire kingdom ,which Chazal tell us, spanned the globe ? What relevance does an account of the international financial dealings of the ancient world, have to us in the timeless document known as the Megillah?

Why is it also important for us to know that Mordechai was put in charge of this global management enterprise?

In fact, Mordechai is somewhat criticized for his “over-involvement” in the governance of Achashverosh’s kingdom, he was,as Rashi reports ,

רצוי לרוב אחיו ולא לכל אחיו מלמד שפירשו ממנו מקצת סנהדרין לפי שנעשה קרוב למלכות והיה בטל מתלמודו.

A number of the members of the Great Sanhedrin withdrew from associating with him because ,due closeness to the Throne, he was prevented from his usual study of Torah.( )

In other words, Mordechai was drawn away, by his work, from the world of Torah scholarship, and the halachic discussions of the Sanhedrin, which the rabbis saw as a form of Bitul Torah, one of the gravest offences. It seems unfair to end the Megillah with such a harsh critique of Mordechai, after all of his mesirus nefesh to save the Jewish People! So why are these p’sukim included in the Megillat Esther at all?

One could suggest that the Megillah at its conclusion is revealing a remarkable truth, that the ascendance of Mordechai the Tzaddik to power was not only a salvation for the Jewish People, but was a also a great benefit and a breakthrough of justice and hope for the entire world! The Mishna in Sanhedrin teaches that what benefits a tzaddik benefits the entire world:

כינוס...ושקט לצדיקים הנאה להם והנאה לעולם.

Consolidation of power and tranquility for the tzaddik is a benefit and pleasure for them and a benefit and pleasure for the entire world. (Sanhedrin 8:5)

The message seems to be clear—prior to the appointment Mordechai, Achashverosh and his corrupt advisors, including Haman, taxed the world mercilessly to finance their elaborate and orgiastic celebrations. Achashverosh’s tax policies were harsh and abusive. In order to have his world subjects celebrate the choice of his new queen Esther , he offered them some much needed tax relief from his unquenchable drive to fill his coffers with the world’s wealth. After the fall of Haman and with the appointment of Mordechai as the new Viceroy, things dramatically changed. The administration of the world’s economies came under the wise and just hand of a true tzaddik, who undoubtedly created, with his influence, hana’ah laolam, a just, fair and equitable system that allowed all the kingdoms under Achashverosh’s rule to flourish. So important was this benefit to the world, that Mordechai was compelled to set aside some of his Torah study, to deliver to the peoples of all the nations the benefits of a true and genuine Jewish leader.

This, then, is the necessary link between Purim and Pesach.They share a common theme. The Purim story ends by informing us that Purim ushered in the era of a new Jewish power and worldwide commonwealth. However that was only a beginning . The greatest accomplishment of Mordechai and Esther’s rise to power was how it would the stage for a return to Jewish sovereignty, both physically and spiritually, in the Land of Israel. Likewise the Pesach Exodus from Egypt, was not an end , but merely the beginning of a process that would continue to develop. A process that remained incomplete until it eventually culminated in the ultimate expression of Jewish redemption-the ability build in Jerusalem as spiritual capitol for mankind.

The Purim day celebrations must give clarity to ours and eventually to the world’s understanding of this important and timeless truth. That there is a universal value and benefit in supporting an authentic Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel that, will serve all mankind as an hana’ah laolam ; a source of blessing and prosperity for the entire world.

With this clarity we can hopefully gain the resolve and strength to refute our manifold enemies’ voices to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel.. instead we must Build, Develop and Support Yishuv Eretz Yisrael and Toras Eretz Yisrael .That was my mission to North America was all about. Hopefully we can be a part of creating gateway for Jews and many others to join us in helping this “Purim to Pesach” process take root and blossom.

With best wishes for a joyous

Chag Kasher V'sameach.

Rabbi Jay Yaacov and Chani Schwartz and Family.

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