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The Jews had light, gladness, joy, and honor. (Esther 8:16)
Chazal, when analyzing this posuk, derive that the word honor refers to tefillin. The simple interpretation is that during the period of persecution that preceded the miracle of Purim the Jewish people were unable to publicly wear tefillin. However, in the aftermath of the miracle of Purim, there was a renewed commitment to the performance of this mitzvah.
Let us suggest a homiletic relationship between tefillin and Purim.
Chazal have instructed us to fulfill four mitzvos on Purim. They are: reading the megillah, sending food presents to our friends, distributing gifts to the poor and eating a Purim meal.
It is noteworthy that the tefillin also contain exactly four parshios (Devarim 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Shemos 13:1:10, 13:11-16). Perhaps we may suggest that the four mitzvos of Purim correspond to the four parshios the tefillin.
The first mitzvah is the reading of the megillah. This corresponds to the first parshah of tefillin. The first parsha of tefillin is the first parshah of shemah that we recite twice daily. In this parsha, we accept upon ourselves the yoke of heaven. Our acceptance of the yoke of heaven includes an awareness that Hashem has created this world and continues to guide and govern every detail of its existence without interfering with our free will. By reading the megillah we similarly express our recognition that it was Hashem who brought about the details of the Purim miracle in a hidden and miraculous way.
The second mitzvah is the obligation to send food gift packages to our friends. This corresponds to the second parshah of tefillin. The second parsha of tefillin is the second parsha of Shemah that we recite daily. The major theme of this parsha is the reward that Hashem bestows upon us for fulfilling His commandments. The rewards are described as gifts of material blessing, which can be further used to serve Hashem. On Purim we similarly send gifts to our friends so that they can use them to enjoy the holiday and incorporate them in the mitzvah of the Purim meal.
The third mitzvah is the obligation to distribute gifts to the poor. This corresponds to the third parsha of the tefillin. The third parsha of tefillin focuses on the commandment to eat matzah on Pesach. Chazal teach us that matzah is the bread of a poor man. We eat matzah on Pesach to remember that we were spiritually and physically poor in Egypt. Hashem in His kindness lifted us from our poverty by redeeming us from Egypt and giving us the Torah. Similarly, on Purim we emulate Hashem and also distribute gifts to the poor.
The fourth mitzvah is the Purim meal. This corresponds to the fourth parsha of the tefillin. The fourth parsha of tefillin focuses on the mitzvah of redeeming the firstborn son. It is noteworthy the there are major similarities between this mitzvah and the miracle of Purim. Just as the firstborn boy is redeemed so too we were redeemed from death on Purim. Just as shekalim are used to redeem the firstborn, likewise the shekalim of Haman and the mitzvah of machtzis hashekel that preceded them played an important role in the Purim miracle.
We can further elaborate the connection between the fourth parsha of the tefillin and the festive meal of Purim. Chazal ascribe unusual importance and significance to the meal that accompanies the mitzvah of redeeming the firstborn. An early source for this meal is the Gemara (Bava Kama 80a). The commentators explain the spiritual power of participating in such a meal can have an effect that is equivalent to fasting for eight-four days. Some explain that it is for this reason that garlic is customarily distributed to the guests at this meal. Garlic has the characteristic that even a small amount can give taste to a large pot of food. One can preserve the holiness of this meal by saving a small amount of garlic. The garlic can be used to flavor an ordinary meal with the holiness of the redemption of the firstborn. An in-depth explanation of the significance and importance of this meal and especially the meaning of eighty-four fasts is beyond the scope of this devar Torah, however it is evident that chazal did attribute extra special significance to the meal that accompanies the redemption of the firstborn. On Purim we are similarly obligated to enjoy a lavish meal to commemorate the Purim miracle where the Jewish people who are called the firstborn child of Hashem (Shemos 4:22) were redeemed from evil.
It is noteworthy that the parshios of the tefillin contain numerous mentions of Hashems name. The parshios are written with great care, precision and holiness. They are tightly rolled and covered with a piece of parchment. They are then inserted in a small compartment, which is stitched and sealed shut. It is also noteworthy that color of tefillin is black. The combination of the double enclosure of the parshios and darkness that envelop them is symbolic of the posuk I shall surely hide my face of that day (Devarim 31:18).
Chazal teach us that this posuk was fulfilled in the time of Purim. This occurred when Haman and Achashvayrosh decreed that every Jew be executed and the Jewish nation be totally annihilated (Esther 3:13). The Jewish people were stunned. They asked, Where is G-d? How can He allow this to happen? It appeared as if Hashem was hiding his face on that day. When the miracle of Purim occurred it was as if the mask of Hashem had been lifted. The intensity of revelation matched the depth of concealment. Indeed, the commentators explain the word megillah comes from the word giluy, which means reveal. The reading of the megillah reveals the concealment of Hashem.
The parshios of the tefillin all year round remain wrapped and sealed in darkness. Few have seen even what their own parshios look like. This is symbolic of how Hashems ways are hidden from us. However, Purim is the day when the parshios of the tefillin are revealed in a magnificent way. The major themes of what the four parshious represent are transformed into the commandments of the day, which are observed in public with great joy and excitement.
The Jews had light, gladness, joy, and Tefillin.
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001