While discussing household chores over dinner one night, a friend’s wife said to her husband, “I don’t want you to do the dishes. I want you to want to do the dishes!” My friend is a dutiful husband who does his share of the chores, but it appears to his wife that he does them because he fears the consequence of not doing them, not because he wants to do them.
The Rabbis teach that there are two main motivations in life, Yirah and Ahavah, Fear and Love. One of the mitzvot of Purim is to have a seudah, a feast. The Halacha is that the feast must take place during the day. Why can’t it take place at night? Rabbi Zev of Strikov teaches in the name of the Baal Shem Tov that there were two times when the Jewish people accepted the Torah. The first at Mount Sinai and the second in the time of Esther and Mordechai, as it says in the Megillah, “The Jews undertook and irrevocably obligated themselves and their descendants.”
One of the classic Midrashim about the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai envisions God suspending Mount Sinai above the heads of the Israelites when He offered them the Torah. So they were literally in darkness when they accepted it, meaning they accepted it out of fear or under duress. But in the time of Mordechai and Esther, the acceptance happened after Haman and his minions were defeated, so the acceptance was in the pure light of day, purely out of love and a desire to serve God. Thus the Purim feast cannot take place at night, as if it is done out of fear, but rather during the day, done out of love.
It is always better to do the right thing than not do it, but it is even better to do it out of love than fear. So keep doing those dishes, but try and get excited about doing them!
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim,