A Lesson of Shushan Purim

Rabbi Meir Simchah haKohein from Dvinsk (1842-1926, Lithuania), in his Meshekh Chokhmah (on Shemos 12:16, s.v. “uveyom”), writes that Jews do not celebrate even the vanquishing of our enemies. As the verse in Mishlei (22:17) says, “בִּנְפֹל אויביך (אוֹיִבְךָ), אַל-תִּשְׂמָח — when your enemy falls, do not rejoice”. And this is why the verse he is explaining does not say that Pesach is celebrated “for on the middle of this day I meted out Justice on the Egyptians”, but rather “כִּי בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, הוֹצֵאתִי אֶת-צִבְאוֹתֵיכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם — for in the middle of this day I took you out of Egypt”. He points out that we do not celebrate Chanukah on the day the war was won, but on the day they got to the menorah and lit it.

When it comes to Purim, the Meshech Chokhmah points to the megillah’s description of the setting of the date “בימים אשר נחו מאויביהם — on the days which they rested from their enemies” (9:22). The celebrations are for the day after, after the human price was paid, and the Jews can celebrate the respite miraculously achieved.

It is for this reason it was so important to delay Purim in Shushan, so that cities that were walled in biblical days celebrate Shushan Purim the day after the rest of us do. The war lasted another day in Shushan. Had they set Purim to the usual day, Purim in Shushan would mark the day of victory! This would be unthinkable. Military successes are necessary, but not occasions for joy.

And so, Shushan Purim stands in testimony that indeed we cannot celebrate a day marred by the need for our enemies to die to achieve the redemption, and all the more so the death of innocents.



This post highlights and elaborates on one thought taken from an earlier post, “Compassion for our Enemies“.

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