There are two ways to recognize the sun: staring straight into it and recognizing its power and glory or locking oneself into a dark room and waiting for a crack of light to appear.
The Maharal discusses the importance of the Four Questions and why someone who conducts the seder as a monologue (and not following the question-and-answer format) is not fulfilling the obligation of retelling the Exodus from Egypt. This is to say that when one merely hears a statement, he does not incorporate it into his personality. It is merely “tagged onto” his awareness. This is not the case when one receives an answer to a question. When a person asks a question, a void opens that an answer fills. Something is absorbed rather than superficially resting on the surface.
The Vilna Gaon’s commentary on Shir HaShirim makes a similar observation. The satisfaction and pleasure that a person gets from food is in direct proportion to his hunger. Someone who isn’t hungry will reject the most delicious cuisine and, if he is forced to eat, it will not be happily digested!
Our forefather Yaakov did not receive his dream and prophecy until after he had left the yeshivah of Shem and Ever. When a man is in an atmosphere that is rife with holiness, his thirst for spirituality is not comparable to the desire that wells up within a person who is lost in a spiritual desert.
This is the difference between Shavuot and Purim. One festival commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Sinai and the other is a holiday of its reaffirmation in Shushan. In the first instance, Bnai Yisrael were compelled to accept the Torah; there was no physical coercion but, rather, the impact from the enormity of the event of revelation was so immense that it was likened to the mountains poised over their heads. The brilliant light of revelation left no room for doubt and, under the circumstances, it was impossible not to accept the Torah! At Purim, however, it was not the threat to life in itself that inspired teshuvah (return to observance) and a return to purity. Rather, the hester panim – feeling of abandonment – aroused powerful yearnings for a Sinai-like encounter with the Divine.
Our sages tell us that when Queen Esther confronted Achashveirosh, she cried: “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?” This psalm refers to the darkest hour of the night.
While Shavuot marks the cognizance of God through revelation, Purim celebrates the recognition of God that follows a desperate search in the darkness.
A Final Thought
According to the Ashkenazi version, the last blessing of the Amidah prayer begins with the words “sim shalom” (“give peace”) in the morning and “shalom rav” (“great peace”) in the evening. Why the difference? While there are many occasions during the day that a person needs peace, at home with one’s family, one needs much more peace because any small issue can disturb the tranquility of the home.
Candle Lighting Times
and Torah Portions
Friday, May 3
Light candles at 7:17 p.m.
Saturday, May 4
Torah Portion: Behar-Behukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34)
Friday, May 10
Light candles at 7:23 p.m.
Saturday, May 11
Torah Portion: Bamidbar
Friday, May 17
Light candles at 7:28 p.m.
Saturday, May 18
Torah Portion: Naso
Friday, May 24
Light candles at 7:33 p.m.
Saturday, May 25
Torah Portion: Beha-Alotekha (Numbers 8:1-12:16)
Friday, May 31
Light candles at 7:37 p.m.