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Browse Zemanim: Pourim: Happiness and Joy, Gladness and Honor

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

We read in the megilah: "For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor" (Esther 8:16). In fact, we have a tradition to recite this verse every week as part of our deluxe Havdalah. The Gemara in Masechet Megilah explains that happiness represents Torah, joy symbolizes Yom Tob, while gladness and honor represent the misvot of Berit Milah and Tefillin respectively. Each of the terms in the verse correlates to an important element of Judaism.

However, our Rabbis ask: why are these important elements of Judaism written in code? If Torah, Yom Tob, Milah and Tefillin were intentioned, then why didn't the verse simply write: "For the Jews it was a time of Torah and Yom Tob, Milah and Tefillin"? Why use phrases that stand for other terms and not the terms themselves?

The answer is simple. After surviving the edict of Haman, the Jews felt elated. When they sat down to learn Torah, it was not seen as tedious or boring. Not only did they feel happy, but rather that person's that learning was pure happiness. Similarly, the fulfilling of the misvot were not embarrassing or bothersome but rather something they took honor in doing. The level of fulfilling the misvot with great fervor was the reason why the megilah using the terms it does to represent the above-mentioned Judaic elements.

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