Daf Yomi Avodah Zarah 45

The daf for 3/1/18 (Purim day) comes from Meseches Avodah Zarah 45. It begins with a mishnah describing the forbidden practices of worshiping mountains with a discussion in the gemara about the link between worshiping the mountain or the idols that may have been built on the mountain (translation from The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren Noe Talmud Bavli):

Mountains represent power and permanence. But even mountains can wear away after billions of years, while Hashem endures. Even the giving of the Torah occurred on a mountain. On this day of Purim, when we celebrate the deliverance of the Jewish people from the wicked Haman, I am reminded of Psalm 121 which also mentions mountains (translation from The Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures by JPS):

There are some interesting aspects to this Psalm. The beginning is not the typical “Shir Ha-Ma’alot” (a Song of Ascents) but “Shir La-ma’alot” (a Song to the Ascents). One idea might be the connection to the beginning words “Esah Enai el He-HaHarim” (I turn my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come? While we look to Hashem for our help (even though the name of Hashem does not appear in the Megillat Esther, we attribute the miracle of Purim to Hashem’s intervention), why does the Psalmist say “I turn my eyes to the mountains”? Couldn’t one just think, and pray to Hashem for deliverance? What if there are no mountains where one lives (there are mountains in Israel)? The Psalm is both spiritually beautiful and metaphorical.

By turning our eyes, we are engaging in a physical activity to channel the spiritual aspect of the request into action. We are looking, gazing, and purposefully observing (not just “seeing”) the gift of Torah from Mt. Sinai. We are not praying to the mountain (G-d forbid), nor do we expect G-d to be residing there (one could be looking at the Rocky Mountains, or the Himalayan Mountains). Hashem is everywhere, but by “turning our eyes to look for Hahsem”, we are seeking Him in our hidden created world. We must learn to recognize the miracles of godliness in all of creation and this way, we become vessels to promote godliness in the world through Torah and mitzvot. As we consider the miracle of Purim, give tzedakah, look at the mountains, or the flowers, or any miraculous creation of Hashem, and thank Him. Chag Sameach!

About the Author
Jonathan Wolf is a retired high school physics teacher. He retired to NJ with his wife. He is an adjunct professor of physics at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has published professional papers and has been the author of AP Physics review books as well as general HS and college physics review books. He is a past President and ritual chairman at a conservative synagogue on Long Island, NY before he retired to NJ.
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