THE BAAL SHEM TOV ON PURIM
The Baal Shem Tov gives another interpretation: If you read the Megillah as past history, as something that happened to Mordechai and Esther long ago, you have not fulfilled your obligation.
Because the story told by the Megillah is absolutely relevant to us here and now!
In order to understand how those events are relevant to us, we need a little explanation…
The essence of the story of Purim began many years before the times of Mordechai and Esther, Haman and Achashverosh. Purim really began not long after Bnei Yisrael had come out of Egypt. After all of the miracles which had taken place, all the nations of the world were afraid of the Jewish People — all of the nations excluding Amalek. Chassidus explains that the numerical value (the gematria, for those of you who know the word) of the Hebrew word Amalek equals the gematria of the word safek — doubt, skepticism. Amalek had also heard of the miracles which took place.
But the Amalekite philosophers argued,
“Come on, what are you talking about? G‑d is interested in what goes on down here? Those weren’t miracles. They were lucky coincidences!”And so they attacked the Jewish people, cooling down the fear of G‑d and the dread that other nations had of us. Others too began to be skeptical about the miracles that had taken place…
In later generations, Amalek clothed himself in the treacherous Haman, who demanded the total destruction of the Jewish people. And so, in every generation, there is an Amalek, a Mordechai and an Esther.
That which cools down the enthusiasm to fulfill HaShem ’s will is none other than Amalek. You’ve most probably heard something like the following many times:
“You’re not going to eat only that kosher certification, are you? Come on. Don’t be such a fanatic!”Or, after you have just come out of a shiur :
“You’re walking around with these books, just like a bochur in Yeshivah ?”And then you say,
“Maybe I am being too religious; maybe I should just cool it! Maybe I took this upon myself prematurely; maybe I’m not ready for it.”And so you start questioning what you’re about to do.
Amalek can come from many different places. From things that you read, from what people say, from you yourself. But the end result is all the same:
“Come on, don’t get so excited about Yiddishkeit.”
That’s Amalek and you have to fight it. Because when you fight Amalek, you will be together with Mordechai and Esther! And when you win — because you will win if you are determined to do so — then you will get a taste of Purim as it will be revealed in the future.