At this time of year one can't help but contrast the two major redemptions of the Jewish people, Purim and Pesach. On Pesach we were redeemed from a wicked tyrant who was bent on destroying us. Our redemption was complete ( we never returned into the clutches of Pharaoh ) and our reconnection with the One Above was the inevitable outcome. The desert years saw us in tremendous closeness with Hashem – as evidenced by His presence dwelling amongst us in the mishkan. Perhaps that which encapsulates this intimacy the most is the fact that we brought korbanos – daily closenesses - to Hashem.
Purim was a redemption of a drastically different nature. Hidden miracles parading as court subterfuge replaced the open and glorious Divine Hand. The second temple that was the immediate result ( sanctioned by Darius son of Esther ) was a pale shadow of it's predecessor – and certainly the mishkan. To top it all off – most of the Jews stayed in the diaspora after Haman's downfall. What kind of half geulah are we celebrating anyway ?!
The key to understanding this lies in the service of the korbanos. In the times of the first temple the act of drawing close to Hashem's presence was a standardized, predictable act. We had the mechanisms by which to seek out and connect to Hashem – we need only draw physically close to the place where His Presence dwells. In the aftermath of that destruction, though, something in our national psyche changed. We could no longer follow that well worn path. We needed to beat a new path through the ashes back to Hashem's presence. The second Beis HaMikdash would only serve as part of that path – that's why we don’t celebrate purim on the day that the second Beis HaMikdash was rebuilt. The korbanos, brought on G-d's table, are a component. Our voluntary acceptance of the Torah, on our own table, is the rest.
In a standard korban we serve a feast to G-d, at the Purim seudah we serve a different feast – eaten by man – in the service of G-d.
The geulah of Purim didn’t just redeem us from the external enemy of a tyrant – it redeemed us from the internal enemy of self gratification. To celebrate – we indulge in all manner of treats – but all in the service of the One Above.
It is easier to burn an animal on G-d's altar for the sake of heaven – on Purim we learn to eat on the table of man – for the same cause.
Go ahead, enjoy your Purim – but don't forget that with every bite (or slurp) you are declaring and inviting Hashem's presence – not just into your temple – but into your life.
Freillichen Purim !