Purim is both the final holiday of the year (since it is celebrated in the twelfth of the twelve months of the Jewish year) as well as an experience of the final stage of all of history — the time of the Mashiach (Messiah) and Olam Haba (the World to Come). King David describes this end of the galut (exile) in Shir HaMa’alos (Psalm 126) — “Az y’malei s’chok pinu” — “Our mouths will be filled (at that special end of days’ time) with s’chok.”
S’chok (a type of ironic laughter) is the essence of Jewish humor. It is when the arrogant man in the fancy suit slips on the banana peel. We laugh because it seems so just, appropriate, and fitting. It is what we sometimes refer to as poetic justice.
Rav Berkowitz explains that while Sukkot is called “zman simchateinu” (the time of our joy — a very normative Jewish idea), Purim could really be called “zman s’chokeinu” (the time of our laughter — a very unusual idea).
The essence of Purim is “nahapoch hu — a complete turnaround.” Just when things looked the worst, the Jews were saved with a “turnabout” — b’davka (especially and ironically) through the aspects of the story that had seemed to be the worst:
- The wine in the banquet went from being one of the sources of the decree against the Jews, as well as a serious transgression, to becoming part of the solution and a mitzvah.
b. The parameters of honor which were established by Haman (he thought, for himself) ended up being given to Mordechai.
c. The gallows were built by Haman for Mordechai, and then used to hang Haman himself.
d. All of the property amassed by Haman, as well as his political position, were given to Mordechai.
e. Mordechai, who appeared to be the cause of the decree against the Jews, was really the key to the solution.
f. The tragedy of Esther being kidnapped from Mordechai ended up as the vehicle for the Jewish people’s salvation.
g. The 14thand 15thof Adar went from being days of destruction to becoming days of victory and celebration forever.
h. Adar went from being the most tragic month of the year to becoming the most joyous one. In addition, only because the seemingly random lottery process chose the month of Adar as the day when the Jews would initially be targeted for annihilation, they ultimately had enough time to be saved.
“Nahapoch hu — It was all turned around!”
A Time for Understanding
Purim, as we mentioned, is an experience of the days of Mashiach (Messiah) and Olam Haba (the World to Come) — not only in the aspect of turnaround and salvation, but also in the clarity and understanding that will characterize that time.
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Rabbi Asher Resnick serves as a senior lecturer at Aish HaTorah’s Executive Learning Center, and is a senior training lecturer for Aish’s Rabbinical Ordination program. As a close student of Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, he developed a special expertise in addressing fundamental issues in Judaism, as well as in bringing classical texts to life. As a bereaved parent, Rabbi Resnick’s extensive writings on loss, suffering and trauma provide a sensitive Jewish perspective on coping with these fundamental life cycle issues. Olami & NLEResources.com is happy to highlight several essays over the coming months featured on his website JewishClarity.com.