PURIM FOR PESACH | Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

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By Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

The writer and researcher Malcom Gladwell describes a fascinating experiment, let me share his words:

‘Imagine that I’m a professor, and I’ve asked you to come and see me in my office. You walk down a long corridor, come through the doorway, and sit down at a table. In front of you is a sheet of paper with a list of five-word sets. I want you to make a grammatical four-word sentence as quickly as possible out of each set. It’s called a scrambled sentence test. Ready?

  1. him was worried she always
  2. from are Florida oranges temperature
  3. ball the throw toss silently
  4. shoes give replace old the
  5. he observes occasionally people watches
  6. be will sweat lonely they
  7. sky the seamless gray is
  8. should now withdraw forgetful we
  9. us bingo sing play let
  10. sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins

That seemed straightforward, right? Actually it wasn’t. After you finished that test —believe it or not —you would have walked out of my office and back down the hall more slowly than you walked in. With that test, I affected the way you behaved. How? Well, look back at the list. Scattered throughout it are certain words, such as “worried,” “Florida,” “old,” “lonely,” “gray,” “bingo,” and “wrinkle.” You thought that I was just making you take a language test. But, in fact, what I was also doing was making the big computer in your brain —your adaptive unconscious —think about the state of being old. It didn’t inform the rest of your brain about its sudden obsession. But it took all this talk of old age so seriously that by the time you finished and walked down the corridor, you acted old. You walked slowly.

This test was devised by a very clever psychologist named John Bargh. It’s an example of what is called a ‘priming experiment’, and Bargh and others have done numerous even more fascinating variations of it, all of which show just how much goes on behind that locked door of our unconscious.’

Chazal knew a thing or two about such aspects of our minds. There truly is nothing new under the sun, just our knack of forgetting and reinventing our totality.

Allow me to share an example of a ‘priming experiment’ that we can all understand.

The Rebbe Rav Menachem of Amshinov Zt”l exclaimed that the reason for the added simcha during the month of Adar is its proximity to Nisan. The Torah tells us that the month of Nisan is called ‘Avodah” (service), as we see in Parshas Bo, “….you shall perform this service in this month.” (13:5)

Now, any service to Hashem must be done with joy, Simcha, as we see in Tehillim, ‘Serve Hashem with joy’.

So let us examine this wondrous month with its Yom Tov of Pesach. No other holiday has so much ‘work’ involved. Homes are reinvented, sanitised, with every nook and cranny swept and washed. Moaning sometimes seems to become the normative second language of our holy ladies, bank accounts are stretched to snapping, and where are all the needed hours for the extra cooking preparations?

Rav Moshe Fienstien Zt”l was want to say, the worst thing a Jew can say is, ‘Oy se iz shver tzu zien a Yid.’ (It’s hard to be a Jew). He felt that this simple folk saying had seeped into many homes during the difficult times for Yiddishkiet in America, and had subliminally driven a wedge in many Jewish hearts. Like our experiment, the constant groaning about how hard it was to be a Yied entered many sweet Jewish minds and unconsciously swayed them off the path of Torah Judaism.

How can we counteract this subversive seed of destruction? By adding to our Joy during the month of Adar, where the Purim celebrations brings unbridled joy into every Yiddisha Home.

The Torah hints to us that we must each prime ourselves with the joy of Adar so as to call on these reserves of Simcha when the going gets a bit hard in Nisan.

In Parshas Pikudei we learn:

“Moshe looked upon all the work, and they had accomplished it as Hashem commanded. Then Moshe blessed them.”  (39:43)

Rashi explains that the content of Moshe’s brocha was, “May it be the Will that The Shechinah rests among the Works of your hands.”  Take note that Moshe did not say, “May it be the will of Hashem to make His presence rest among you,” but rather “May it be the will,” which can mean a two-fold interpretation: (1) May it be Hashem’s will, and (2 ) May it be your will. One thing we can be certain of, that Hashem wishes His Presence to be among us. This was the purpose of the creation of the world. Our task is to make the world suitable for that Presence.

How? By allowing Hashem into our reality, and simcha is the key that paves the way to our hearts.

Rabbi Avrohom Twersky tells over a story that touches this point.

When the Kotzker Rebbe Zt”l was a young man, he met the Yid Hakodosh from Pshischa who asked him, ‘Young man, where is Hashem?’ The Kotzker answered, ‘Hashem is everywhere. There is no place where He is not.’

The Pshischa asked again, “Young man, tell me where Hashem is?’

The Kotzker quoted a verse from the prophets: “The entire universe is full of His Glory!”

The Rebbe of Pshischa showed some impatience, and asked, “Young man I have asked you to tell me where Hashem is?”

The Kotzker said, “Well if my answers do not satisfy you, then you tell me where Hashem is.”

The Yid from Pshischa answered, “Young man, Hashem is wherever people allow Him to be.”

This deep statement speaks to every one of us. Hashem’s blessings are there for us, but they can only manifest themselves if we allow Hashem in. The avodah of Nissan must be done with Simcha, and in this way we will all feel the brochos that await us. Adar is the reservoir for joy let it into our homes with anticipation for the Avodah ahead.

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