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Purim throughout Jewish history has been regarded as one of the most joyful holidays of the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated with wearing costumes, lavish Purim seudot and general merry making. However, there are other aspects of Purim which teach us important lessons concerning the Jewish people, their past, present and future.


This week's haftara has a message that is so timely today, it is as if it were just written. Yirmiyahu is requested by Hashem to purchase a tract of land, and the request to purchase this land is accompanied with a prophecy of conquest of the very same land by the Kasdim. Being a devoted believer in Hashem and his messages, Yirmiyahu goes ahead and purchases the land with a very detailed purchase procedure, witnesses, a deed, public announcement of the purchase, and then for safe keeping, places the purchase proof, today called "tabu" in Israel, into an earthen vessel of clay so it can remain for a long time as proof of purchase.


Rashi conveys important messages, not only by what he writes but also by what he does not write. Rashi at times chooses to remain silent in one place and then clarify in another one so that where he writes a commentary it is significant. In Parshat Shmot, Hashem reveals Himself to Moshe at the Burning Bush. He assures Moshe, "I have indeed seen the affliction of My people that is in Egypt "I shall descend to rescue it from the hand of Egypt and to bring it up from that land, to a land flowing with milk and honey" (3:8). This is the first time the land is described in the way that Hashem has chosen for it "eretz zavat chalav udvash." This will appear another fourteen times in Torah. In fact the second time it appears is also here at the Sneh. "And I have said I shall bring you up from the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite etc. to a land flowing with milk and honey" (3:17). Yet Rashi maintains silence and does not explain its meaning. Only at the end of Parshat Bo, "Today you are leaving in the month of spring. And it shall come to pass when Hashem shall bring you to the land of the Canaanite" that He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey..." (5:31) Here, finally Rashi says, "Milk flows from the goats and honey flows from the dates and figs." Well, why does Rashi wait till now? Why not explain it the very first time it appears in Torah? Obviously by choosing to wait and by selecting this particular posuk, Rashi wants to teach us something important. Moshe Rabeinu understood that as long as the people are enslaved in Egypt they will be incapable of appreciating the Divine description of a land that is bountiful, fruitful, verdant, and blessed with abundance.


Avraham's journey towards the Akeida takes 3 long days. During this time he is deliberating, debating, experiencing an extended inner struggle as depicted in the Midrash describing his meeting with an old man (his conscience) who makes him confront that which he is about to do. Where are you going? the man asks. Why do you carry a knife? The nature of Avraham's internal dilemma has been described as the "teleological suspension of the ethical", meaning that Avraham's understanding of G-d as being all good, is not compatible with Avraham's being commanded to sacrifice his beloved son. Alternatively, Avraham must confront the total contradiction between having been promised "Ki v'Yitzchak Yikarei L'cha Zera" (in Isaac shall thy seed be called - B'reishit 21:12) and being told to bring Isaac to the Akeida (Rashi on 22:12).


"Increase in the Land" Yaakov blesses his grandchildren Efrayim and Menashe: "Let them carry my name, along with the name of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak. May they increase in the Land like fish".


The parsha opens with the words "Tzav et Aharon v'et banav..." "Command Aharon and his sons-" concerning the Olah sacrifice. Rashi, citing Torat Kohanim, asks: Why does the Torah use the the term "tzav" (command) rather than "daber" (speak) or "emor" (say)? He answers that "tzav" demands alacrity ("zerizut") in the performance of a mitzva and it implies 1) immediacy, 2) future applicability, and 3) according to Rabbi Shimon, the additional element of financial loss. Since all mitzvot do, in fact, require alacrity, it is particularly urged in the case of this mitzva because of the potential financial loss that it involves.


The Mishkan, according to Ramban, continues the Sinai experience. Just as Sinai revealed G-d, and provided Israel with Torah, so too the Mishkan protects the Torah (the Aron), and is a center for G-d's revelation. As a location of kedusha, the Mishkan, like Sinai, is treated with respect and distance - guarded by fire and clouds, with different people permitted or forbidden from drawing near.


An allusion to Chanuka in Parshat Miketz may be found in Par'o's dreams, where "The poor-looking, thin cows ate the seven fine-looking, healthy cows" and "The thin ears of corn swallowed the seven healthy, wholesome ears." This parallels "You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak and the many into the hands of the few," which we recite in Al HaNisim. It is obvious from these weeks' Torah readings that Yosef, and later his brothers and father, Yaakov, had no desire to "go down" to Egypt. Hashem, however, decreed otherwise, and for reasons beyond their control, they remained in Mitzrayim until their passing. Yet their love and reverence for the Holy Land is reflected in their desire even just to be buried there. Indeed, all of them were eventually laid to rest in Eretz Yisrael. How fortunate are we, their descendants, who are able to live where they, during Yisrael's first exile, could not!


At times I hear it said or I read that Israel should pay no attention to what other nations think of us. A verse from our parsha is cited as "proof": HEN AM L'VADAD YISHKON UVAGOYIM LO YITCHASHAV, interpreted to mean that we should isolate ourselves from world-opinion and not take other nations into consideration. This interpretation cannot claim to be anything like the "official" view of Judaism. The main- stream interpretation of this verse has it referring to the continued existence of the Jewish people, while other nations can be destroyed.


People who have not made aliya tend to focus on how many difficulties they will face. They see family pressure, financial pressure, cultural pressure, pressure, pressure and more pressure