On Monday evening, March 2, community members gathered to hear a stirring shiur by Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro, well-known speaker, at Congregation Ner Mordechai. The shiur was hosted by Chazaq, Ner Mordechai, and Emet, which Rabbi Shapiro pointed out reflects the incredible achdus in Queens, where three organizations work together in such a beautiful way.
First, Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, Operations Manager of Chazaq, greeted everyone and urged everyone to help bring Jewish public school students to yeshivah through supporting Chazaq and also through supporting organizations like Our Jewish Children, which provides funding for students who would otherwise attend public school, and Nechomas Yisroel, and Oorah.
Rabbi Akiva Ruttenberg, Director of Emet, spoke first about the fact that we are standing on the front line in Queens of stopping assimilation in America. The Bukharin community has enrolled 80 percent of their children in public school, and only 15 percent of them attend shul and Jewish events. We have an obligation to stop this assimilation. He shared that Emet has started a Torah Connect one-on- one learning program that takes place on Wednesday evenings in the Yeshiva of Central Queens (YCQ) for women and at Beth Gavriel for men. This is an opportunity to make a huge difference in a family’s life.
Next, Rabbi Shapiro began by stating how it gave him tremendous chizuk to see hundreds of people coming out at night to hear a shiur. He then shared how the four mitzvos of Purim all shout the idea of unity. “Taking care of each other, that’s the message of Purim.” We have mishloach manos, giving gifts to one another, gifts to the poor, a festive s’udah where we invite people in friendship, and reading of the Megillah, where people gather together.
He noted that Purim is the one yom tov that has different starting dates. In the United States we celebrate on the 14th of Adar, while in Yerushalayim it’s celebrated on the 15th of Adar. In the Gemara, it says that there were five possible starting dates of Purim. This seems to contradict the concept of unity; but, in fact, he explained how it illustrates unity. It shows that Jews from all different backgrounds and cultures appreciate each other’s differences, and that is true unity.
He taught that when Mashiach comes, every holiday will disappear except for Purim. This is because unity is eternal. He imparted, “That unity is a taste of Heaven. It’s a taste of Mashiach.”
Rabbi Shapiro pointed out that we were learning on the yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, Zayin Adar. He shared how, if you are humble, you will always greet others first. It’s important, he taught, to be the first to initiate peace. Be the first to say, I was wrong. He added, “Don’t be the one who displays arrogance. Also, don’t focus on one time that somebody did something wrong. Focus on when people do something right. This is the art of turning from evil. Focus on hakaras ha’tov.
He taught that the central pasuk in the Megillah is when Esther says, “My question and my request is…” What is the difference between a sh’eilah (question) and a bakashah (request)? Esther was saying to the king that her sh’eilah was her bakashah. When our child asks us something, we need to hear the question but to also understand the bakashah. Rabbi Shapiro emphasized, “The essence of Purim is to hear the sh’eilah and to understand the bakashah.
He shared a story of a woman who asked a rav if she could use milk for the four cups of wine in the Seder. The rav gave her money for wine and he gave her extra money. He realized if she was using milk for wine, that she was not able to afford to serve meat at her Seder.
This beautiful shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber