Monday, March 6, 2017

Sweetening The "Bad"

The Kedushas Levi, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichov, explains (Kedushos L’Purim, Kedusha Revi’is): “The Miracle of Purim was so great, in that everything that Haman did for his own benefit or to harm Yisrael was ultimately for Yisrael’s benefit – such as advising to kill Vashti and preparing the gallows for hanging. All his actions turned out to be for Yisrael’s benefit and for Haman’s own downfall, as we find in Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu (Rabba 21; Vayikra Rabba 5:4): ‘My cow’s foot broke for my own good.’ “From this, we can see that if something seemingly detrimental occurs to a person, he should think it is all for the good. He needs to remember that everything comes from Hashem and that since this is true, it is surely for his benefit, for Hashem is a good King and certainly nothing bad will come from Him. This is the light of Purim – that from all of Haman’s evil, good things resulted.” 

The Berdichover further tells us that when a person implants in his mind thoughts for the good, thoughts that all “bad” will turn into good just as Haman’s evil plans turned into good, nothing bad will come upon him. If he will rejoice in what seems to be bad and say “Gam zu l’tova – this, too, is for the good” – it will all turn out for the good. Then one will have nothing to fear, as it says in Tehillim (112:7): “He will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in Hashem.” It is all in the merit of thinking and saying that everything  is for the good, just as we see that in the days of Mordechai and Esther that it all turned out for the good. This is the meaning of “A person is obligated to become intoxicated on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai’” – that one is obligated to rejoice in this light of Purim. Which is to say, that he sees no evil at all in this world, that he sees no difference between the evil things – the ‘arur Haman’ – and the good things – the ‘baruch Mordechai.’ Both are good and there is nothing bad at all. Everything is from the Creator, Blessed Is He, and everything is good. We are instructed, “until he cannot tell the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.’” This teaches us that all is for the benefit of Yisrael, as in the days of Mordechai and Esther, when all evil thoughts were turned into good. 

While throughout the year we live with a clear differentiation between good and evil, on Purim the demarcation lines are blurred, and we reach an appreciation that even the evil is ultimately for the good. The Sifsei Chaim (Mo’adim II, p. 230) adds further that while the Aramaic word “livsumei” can mean “to become inebriated,” to become intoxicated with wine, it can also mean “to sweeten” (based on Maseches Megilla 7b, as Rashi explains at length). Indeed, one is obligated “livsumei b’puraya,” to sweeten all the evil in the world. This sweetening is achieved with the understanding that on the Purim level there is no difference between the good and the bad – both are equally good and both are means to sanctify Hashem’s Name. As such, we see that the gematria (the numerical value) of “arur Haman, cursed is Haman,” is equal to the numerical value of “baruch Mordechai, blessed is Mordechai.” When one has faith that even the bad is really good, and he thanks Hashem even for the “bad,” he sweetens the bad and causes it to become good, and then the good is revealed. The Ba’al HaTanya writes this explicitly (Iggeres HaKodesh 11): “Everything is ultimately good, but it is not revealed. With this faith [that everything is really good], everything becomes good even in a revealed sense. For with this belief that the entire lifeline of apparent evil draws from the good of Upper Realms, which is Hashem’s unfathomable Wisdom that is Eden above Olam HaBa, the apparent bad is mixed and included and uplifted to the upper goodness that is concealed.” May we merit the great revelation of goodness that we so await, speedily in our times, Amen.

["Kol Todah"]