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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  ( has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


In preparing for Purim, I’ve obviously been practicing reading the Megillah aloud time and again. FYI - It’s not so easy remembering all the musical notes and punctuation when people are constantly yelling “Haman.” As a result of my endless reviews, I recently noticed something I’d never paid attention to before. Do you know how many times in the Megillah it mentions the word “sha’ar” (gate) or “chatzar” (courtyard)? Nineteen times throughout the first seven chapters, with at least one of them appearing in each of those chapters. If we include the “King’s palace garden,” then the count goes up to twenty-one!

The main stage backdrop for those seven chapters is the gate or courtyard of the palace.

  • Achashveirosh’s party takes place in the courtyard.
  • Mordechai hangs out by the palace gates to keep tabs on Esther.
  • Haman gets upset that Mordechai, who is sitting at the palace gates, doesn’t bow to him.
  • Esther’s messenger finds Mordechai in mourning at the palace gate.
  • Esther goes to Achashveirosh after three days of fasting to invite him and Haman to a party and the king sees her standing in the chatzer waiting for permission to enter.
  • Haman comes to Achashveirosh to ask for permission to hang Mordechai and is waiting in the courtyard, the king asks, “who’s in the chatzer” and is told, Haman is in the courtyard.
  • When Esther fingers Haman as the evil culprit, Achashveirosh exits in a huff to the palace gardens. 

A large portion of the Megillah is centered on these areas right outside the palace, places that are typically considered transitional areas. As we all know, transitions can be difficult, stressful, and chaotic times (see this University of New Hampshire study). So, why the emphasis on these areas?

Interestingly, though the words “chatzer” or “sha’ar” appear nineteen times, there is one very glaring omission in the Megillah. G-d is never mentioned. The story of Purim easily could have been chalked up to coincidence. Yet in truth, Hashem was right there, in the background, making sure that everything happens as it should.

Perhaps that is the message in having the sha’ar and chatzer play such a central focus and setting in the story. It teaches us that even during times of transition, times that might be chaotic and stressful, times that seem like there is no Hashem in our lives helping us – even then, He is there guiding the cogwheels of life with His hidden hand.

In my humble opinion, we are living in the midst of a historic transition, guided by the hidden hand of G-d. We are on the cusp of the messianic era, which is about to dawn at any moment. If it doesn’t happen in our lifetime, then it surely will happen during our children’s or grandchildren’s lifetime. 

Therefore, things are indeed chaotic, stressful and scary. 

One of the key factors that needs to be in place for Mashiach to come and for G-d’s presence to be revealed in the world is Jewish unity. Not uniformity where everyone is the same, thinks the same, looks the same and does the same. But rather where uniquely different people come together, share their strengths and complement each other for the sake of the one true G-d. Each and every one of us has the ability to assist in making this dream become a reality. The more we work at it - the faster it will happen. 

The bottom line is that we need to find common ground with those that we disagree with and work on bridging the gaps. Gathering together on Purim is a great way to begin that process.