Purim and Ki Sisa

I have heard many derashos discussing the linkage between parashas Tetzaveh and Purim, which usually falls out around the week of Tetzaveh. Typically involving the discussion of the kohein‘s uniform in Tetzaveh and all the mentions of clothing in the megillah — people wearing their finest at the party, Esther’s change into royal clothes, sackcloth when the news of Haman’s plot came out, Mordechai being dress up in the king’s finery, etc… But there is an intriguing connection between Purim and this week’s parashah (Ki Sisa), one I feel is even tighter than with Tetzavah. In Ki Sisa, Moshe comes down from the mountain, confronts the sin of the eigel hazahav (Golden Calf) and shatters the first luchos. In the aftermath of the consequent punishment to the worshippers of the calf, HQBH and Moshe have a long exchange, including Moshe asking, “הַרְאֵנִי נָא, אֶת-כְּבֹדֶךָ. — Please let me see Your Glory.” And Hashem replies:

וַיֹּאמֶר, אֲנִי אַעֲבִיר כָּל-טוּבִי עַל-פָּנֶיךָ, וְקָרָאתִי בְשֵׁם ה לְפָנֶיךָ; וְחַנֹּתִי אֶת-אֲשֶׁר אָחֹן, וְרִחַמְתִּי אֶת-אֲשֶׁר אֲרַחֵם. וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא תוּכַל לִרְאֹת אֶת-פָּנָי: כִּי לֹא-יִרְאַנִי הָאָדָם, וָחָי. וַיֹּאמֶר ה, הִנֵּה מָקוֹם אִתִּי; וְנִצַּבְתָּ, עַל-הַצּוּר. וְהָיָה בַּעֲבֹר כְּבֹדִי, וְשַׂמְתִּיךָ בְּנִקְרַת הַצּוּר; וְשַׂכֹּתִי כַפִּי עָלֶיךָ, עַד-עָבְרִי. וַהֲסִרֹתִי, אֶת-כַּפִּי, וְרָאִיתָ, אֶת-אֲחֹרָי; וּפָנַי, לֹא יֵרָאוּ.

And He said: I shall pass all My Goodness over your face and I will call out in the name “Hashem” [the name that connotes transcendence, creation and Divine Empathy] before you; and I will be Gracious to whomever I will be Gracious and I will show Empathy to whomever I will be Empathetic. And He said: You will not be able to see My “Face”, for no person can see Me and live. Hashem said: Here there is place with Me, and you shall stand on the rock. It will be when I pass My Glory, I will place you in a crack in the rosk; and I will place My “Palms” upon you. And I will then remove My “Palms” and you will see My “Back”, but My “Face” will not be seen.

Shemos 33:19-22

Moshe is told that man cannot see G-d. We cannot understand why He shows his Graciousness or Empathy to this person or in this situation and not in another. We can only get a small glimpse, sometimes, “from the back”, with hindsight. This is the message of Purim. The one holiday in our calendar that commemorates Hashem acting through nature rather than defying it. The name “Esther” is associated with the Megillah not only because of its protagonist, but also because her name connotes “hesteir panim”, Hashem “placing His ‘Palms’ upon us and hiding His ‘Face’”. It is only after the events unfold that His plans were visible. Until then, it all looks like “purim – lots”. Also, because of this destruction, the giving of the Torah on Shavuos needed to be repeated. Moshe descended with the Second Luchos on Yom Kippur. And our second acceptance of the Torah isn’t complete until Purim itself. ” “‘קימו וקבלו היהודים — The Jews established and accepted’ (Esther 9:27) — – קיימו מה שקיבלו כבר (בבלי שבת פח ע”א — “They established that which they had already accepted.” (Shabos 88a). The first luchos were entirely made by Hashem. The second luchos were quarried by Moshe. The first luchos represented a world where Hashem would not be hidden. Our sin shifted us to a reality in which He hides by weaving His Plan into the outcomes of nature and human action. The world of Purim. The Torah calls the Day of Atonement “Yom haKippurim“, which the Tiqunei Zohar homiletically explains, “a day which is comparable to Purim”. This is a possible linkage between the days. Yom Kippur and Purim combine to address the loss of Torah caused by the cheit ha’eigel (the sin of the Goldan Calf).

And your thoughts...?