פורים, הלל, גאולה ומדינת ישראל
Purim, Hallel, Redemption, and the State of Israel
Our Sages determined several ways to celebrate our joyous occasions and events as a People. One very meaningful and musical way includes singing Hallel during our happiest Festivities. Hallel is a compendium of six Psalms (#’s 113-118) attributed to our most beloved king, David; they display some of the most important motifs of our history and hopes: the Exodus, the Giving of the Torah, physical Redemption, the Resurrection of the pious, and the Coming of the Messiah. Hallel is sung during “momentous” Festivities – Pessach, Shavuot, Succot & Chanukah, Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of every Jewish month), and for the last decades, Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day (the 60th of which will be celebrated by Maccabi World Union’s leadership at this year’s Plenum).
Quite strangely, Purim – which celebrates our physical redemption from the evil Haman and his plans to kill all Jews – is not in the list of Festivities which deserve the singing of Hallel. Our Sages, of course, discussed this issue, and propose various reasons why Hallel is not part of Purim. Amongst them:
- Hallel is not recited for miracles that occurred outside of Israel, once the Israelites left Egypt and entered the Promised Land.
- The deliverance of the Jews from evil on Purim was only partial, since they continued to be ruled under a foreign empire (the Persian).
At first glance, these explanations are easy to understand; they make sense. It seems logical that partial redemption and exclusion from our Land are sufficient reason to not include the high praise of Hallel. On reflection, though, perhaps not recognizing the quality of salvation we had in Purim through a Hallel seems a little too strong: in that time, we faced the danger of total annihilation, and the whole Jewish people joined efforts during Adar 13 – 14 under Esther’s and Mordechai’s leadership to defeat Haman’s forces, and of course, with siata dishmaya, with the help of Heaven,we were saved from being completely wiped off the face of the earth. Surely, that is enough of a reason to add Hallel (only 6 Psalms!!) to our Purim prayers!
But the answer is still: it is not enough.
In their infinite wisdom, Our Sages wanted to teach us to relate to our history as a People in a holistic way, not focus on one event – however big and important – but especially if that event was to be connected in any way to divine, historical and lasting Redemption. True, our Purim redemption in the immense Persian Empire was extraordinary: it gave us the chance of historical continuity, a chance to reach a time when we would be free as an independent Nation – about 200 years later, under the Maccabees. Our Sages recognized the importance of Purim, but also understood that while there might be security for our people for a while without the Land of Israel, in the long run, our indefensible and minority situation could place us permanently in danger of persecution and destruction. The Sages daily felt that insecurity in their own flesh under the rule of the Roman Empire – Rabbi Akiva himself and many of the Jewish spiritual and politically leadership were brutally killed by that empire, together with tens of thousands of B’nei Israel. There was, then, redemption in Purim; but Redemption, a lasting Redemption that allows us to breathe free, grow, determine our own present and future -that Redemption could only be achieved on the soil of our historical Land in our own State – the State of Israel.
Our Sages, nevertheless, wanted to give special recognition to the kind of deliverance we had in Purim, so they explain that reading the Megillah (the reading of the Book of Esther) stands in for the singing of Hallel on Purim.
May this year’s Purim celebration bring to us a spirit of joy and thankfulness, recognition of the magnificent period we are living through – the era of our independence, our strength, our common present and future in the State of Israel, or at the very least, the inspiration it gives us.
May we hear the Megillah with the joy that today we can sing Hallel also on Yom Haatzma’ut, our Independence Day.
And, may we be as active as the generation of Esther and Mordechai, demanding the basic rights every people have – the right to live in peace and dignity.
With our best wishes,
Chag Purim Sameach!
Rabbi Carlos A. Tapiero
Deputy Director-General & Director of Education
Maccabi World Union