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Home » Purim

Rabba’s Astonishing Purim

Submitted by on November 12, 2004 – 4:42 pmNo Comment | 2,984 views

The Party

The Talmud relates a Purim story that at first glance seems astonishing. The great sage Rabba invited his contemporary Reb Zeira for the Purim Feast. During the course of dinner, intoxicated by wine, Rabba rose and slaughtered Reb Zeira. In the morning, Rabba prayed for a miracle and Reb Zeira was resurrected. The following year, Rabba invited Reb Zeira once again. Reb Zeira declined stating, “not every day does a miracle occur”.

The appalling nature of this story gives rise to several questions. A) How could Rabba allow himself to drink with abandon and not anticipate the possible consequences? B) How could Rabba ever invite anyone for the Purim feast knowing his propensity for losing control? C) Reb Zeira seems more concerned with resurrection then with the actual death. Would he be willing to risk death again if he were certain of subsequent resurrection?

Allow me to present a glossary of four key words that will offer a deeper interpretation to what actually occurred that night.


According to our tradition, performing Shechita (ritual slaughter) upon a kosher animal for sacrificial or kosher purposes is to uplift the animal to a higher level. Thus, the Hebrew term “Shechita” is translated in the Talmud as “uplifting”.


Our sages tell us “Nichnas Yayin Yatza Sod” – as wine enters secrets emerge i.e. wine is an agent that tends to reveal that which was previously concealed.

Rooted in the Hebrew word Rav, the Aramaic word Rabba is translated as large or great

An Aramaic word that means small or Minor

That Night

In light of the above we now gained insight into what may have transpired that night. Rabba, who had a large capacity for spiritual elevation, invited Reb Zeira, whose capacity was, by comparison, minor. As Rabba drank wine his inner soul potential, hitherto concealed, revealed itself thus leading them both on a journey of spiritual elevation.

Initiated by Rabba, the gradually building tide brought about a moment of ethereal ecstasy thusly “lifting”, or inspiring, Reb Zeira’s soul to a point of transcendence beyond its natural capacity. Woefully unprepared yet utterly stimulated, Reb Zeira’s soul expired in a rush of thorough exhilaration.

When morning arrived i.e. when Rabba came down from his spiritual high and saw what happened to his friend, he prayed for resurrection.

It now follows that Reb Zeira had no qualms about the experience itself and on some level may have even craved it, yet the fear that he may not merit the miracle of revival a second time forced him to decline the offer the following year.

Mount Sinai

I remind you of our ancestor’s experience at Mt. Sinai. After every one of the Ten Commandments their souls expired from the intense pressures of revelation and were subsequently revived by G-d. Yet after coming back to life they willingly subjected themselves to the next commandment knowing full well that they would die again. They paid no heed to their physical passing for they were confident that the miracle of resurrection would return. Reb Zeira on the other hand was not so sure.

This story demonstrates that joy on Purim is, if nothing else, a journey of the soul. Let us come away from this holiday renewed in spirit, rejuvenated in soul and inspired by an inner calm and peace. Let the joy of Purim permeate the rest of our calendar year. May our holiday joy and inner contentment shine as a beacon of light across the oceans; as a message of strength and support to our brethren in Israel, as a prayer for inspiration to overcome and to preserver.

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