The Gemara (Shabbos 88a) relates that when Bnai Yisrael accepted the Torah from Hashem in the desert, they were doing so with a sense of coercion. They needed to accept it, lest they be destroyed. After the miracle of Purim, however, the Jewish people renewed their commitment to the Torah given by God, yet this time, they did it on their own accord. It lacked the force that was present when Bnai Yisrael accepted the Torah in the midbar, and the aftermath of the Purim story served as the catalyst for their reaffirmation of the Torah.
Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Rosh Yeshiva of Knesses Yisrael or the Chevron Yeshiva (which relocated from Chevron to Yerushalayim after the Arab riots of 1929), writes of the unique nature of the Jews of Shushan being mekabel the Torah once more as a result of the plot that unfolded. He mentions that the Arizal, among others, notes a connection between Purim and Yom Kippur. The Vilna Gaon holds that the source for connecting these two holidays, is the aforementioned passage in Maseches Shabbos. One strong memory etched in my mind from my time in Yeshiva was when our Rosh Yeshiva would stop the Purim chagigah, and lead the assembled masses in Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim, just as we do to signify the end of Neilah on Yom Kippur. On the surface, one might think the interconnection of these two holidays is absurd. Yom Kippur is the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar, while Purim is usually referred to as the exact opposite. The mannerisms exhibited are strikingly different. You can feel it in the air. Nevertheless, the connection is exists. Yom Kippur is when Moshe Rabbeinu descended from Mt. Sinai with the second set of Luchos in hand, the time when the Israelites accepted the Torah. Sources elsewhere comment that this momentous occasion, accepting the Torah on Yom Kippur, should be met by a festive seudah. Yet, as it also serves as our day of atonement. As such, there is no deluxe feast then, but we partake of this celebratory meal on Purim.
Rav Cohen continues that something is missing here. The connection is apparent because on Yom Kippur, Moshe came to teach the people the word of God and Purim ushered in the dawning of “kimu v’kiblu.” But what about Shavuos? Shavuos is the day that Bnai Yisrael accepted the Torah! It’s referred to as “zman matan Toraseinu”, the very day that the Torah was given to the Jews in the midbar! We don’t stay up all night learning Torah on Purim (maybe you do…I’m looking at you, Litvaks!). Why is there no link between Purim and Shavuos?
In trying to answer this conundrum, we must take a step back. The Medrash Tanchuma (Parshas Noach) is curious as to why the Jews needed to be coerced into accepting the Torah in the first place. The Torah states that the Israelites seemingly declared “naaseh venishmah” in unison when first being offered the Torah. If this is the case, why were they pressured into acquiring it? Answers the Medrash that when they agreed to accept the Torah, it was only in reference the Torah Shebichsav, the Written Torah. The Written Law was something that, at the time, Bnai Yisrael could fulfill with relative ease. However, the Oral Torah was much more complex to master and keep with alacrity. They simply weren’t ready to take on this monumental commitment on their own, which is why they were compulsed to accept it. This all occurred on Shavuos. But when the dust settled in Shushan HaBirah, when Haman was vanquished and Mordechai and Esther successfully saved the Jewish people from the cusp of extinction, it was then that Klal Yisrael fully recommitted themselves to the Oral Torah. Generations had passed, and the Oral Law was still incumbent upon the Jews, yet Purim heralded the time when Torah Shebe’alpeh was willingly reaccepted with gusto.
There are times in our lives when we are burdened by the way we live our lives. Living an observant Jewish life is not easy (Have you seen day school tuition prices?!). Yet, it is a life that is full of significant meaning. One must work to uncover the meaning behind everything. Do not merely take life’s details as trivial. Even though the yoke has been thrust upon us, we can work to willingly reaffirm our connection to the Almighty, His Torah, and His commandments. It doesn’t need to happen after an averted catastrophe, or even all at once. Little by little we can imbue our lives with a profound sense of purpose guided by the Torah.
Just as the Jews of Shushan experienced orah, simcha, sasson, vikar – ken tihiye lanu!