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VOLUME 3 • ISSUE 8 TORAT ERETZ YISRAEL • PUBLISHED IN JERUSALEM • DISTRIBUTED AROUND THE WORLD

‫אדר תשפ”א‬

FEBRUARY 2021 UK EDITION

purim

WITH GRATEFUL THANKS TO THE FOUNDING SPONSORS OF HAMIZRACHI – THE LAMM FAMILY OF MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Chief Rabbi David Lau

answers some Purim questions PAGE 16

A CLOSER LOOK INSIDE THE MEGILLAH

Minister Omer Yankelevich

issues a national challenge for us all

PAGES 34–46

PAGE 22

Rabbi Hershel Schachter

delineates the difference between hidden and revealed miracles PAGE 14

Rabbanit Shani Taragin

shows how Esther repairs rivalry and infighting PAGE 7

Rabbi David Stav

on masking the truth PAGE 20

Eve Harow

explores Bar’am and the Purim connection

PEREK 1

PEREK 3

PEREK 8

PEREK 9

RABBI SHALOM ROSNER

YAEL LEIBOWITZ

RABBI MENACHEM LEIBTAG

RABBI DOV LIPMAN

WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT YOU GET

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

PAGE 29

PLAYING HIDE AND SEEK IN THE MEGILLAH

THE FOUR MITZVOT OF UNITY

LEND ME YOUR EARS: A HASTY (AND TASTY) HISTORY OF HAMENTASCHEN PAGES 24–25 GIL HOFFMAN OFFERS EXPERT INSIGHTS ON ISRAEL’S UPCOMING ELECTIONS PAGE 30

Wishing you all a ‫!פורים שמח‬

Karen, Jonathan, Sylvie, Aurelia and Joshua Hodes


Rabbi Andrew Shaw www.mizrachi.org office@mizrachi.org +972 (0)2 620 9000 CHAIRMAN

Mr. Harvey Blitz EXECUTIVECHAIRMAN

Rabbi Doron Perez

PUBLISHED BY THE MIZRACHI WORLD MOVEMENT EDITORIAL TEAM

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GRAPHIC DESIGN

Hadas Peretz

P R O D U C T I O N A N D A DV E RT I S I N G M A N AG E R

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How Can We Be Happy On Purim This Year?

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hat a difference a year makes. This time last year we were excitedly making plans for Purim 5780. Seudah invitations were sent out, Purim parties were planned and packed Megillah readings were organized. However, I never heard Megillah on Purim day or attended a Purim seudah – I was in bed with a temperature of 39.5, as was my son. Three days later the government advised that anyone with a new, continuous cough or a fever should self-isolate for seven days, and then it began – lockdown, closure of shuls, closure of schools – the beginning of a new reality. We will all be wearing masks this Purim. So, how will we be able to be sameach? Surely that is the essence of Purim. To answer that question, let us understand what simcha is, and what it is not. We all know the phrase ‫ִמ ְצוָ ה ְ ּגדוֹ לָ ה לִ ְהיוֹ ת‬ ּ ְ “It is a great mitzvah to ‫ש ְמ ָחה ָּת ִמיד‬ ׂ ִ ‫ב‬, always be happy.” Surely, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov can’t literally mean always! Does he mean I should be beSimcha when a loved one dies? When I’m mourning on Tisha B’Av? When I’m suffering during COVID? This year, many will be unable to hear Megillah, many will be forced to have seudah alone or just with family and not distribute mishloach manot to more than one or two people. So much of our usual simcha will seemingly be prohibited. No driving around the streets in fancy dress, no dancing in and out of houses, no drowning Haman’s name out with hisses and boos and no multiple guests for seudah. Not this year.

So where is the simcha? The answer is that we tend to think of simcha as happiness or joy, and yes, the predominant display of simcha relates very much to times of happiness and joy. However, according to Rabbi Nachman, true simcha relates to our fulfilment of the Divine Will. If what I am doing at this exact moment is what G-d desires, then even if tears are streaming down my face – I am be’simcha. This Purim, Rabbi Nachman would tell us very clearly that the usual simcha is not the simcha that G-d requires now. Our simcha this year is from hearing the Megillah in a socially-distanced, safe manner, with no booing for Haman. Our simcha this year is having a small seudah just for the family and our simcha this year is giving just that one mishloach manot.1 And therein lies our challenge – this year we have to work to create the simcha. However, underlying all of this is our knowledge that, unlike last year, when Purim hailed the beginning of this dreadful pandemic, we hope and pray that this Purim signals the beginning of the end of the nightmare. And with vaccines being distributed, we can truly hope that not only the Jews but the whole world will experience ‫אוֹ ָרה‬ ‫שן וִ ָיקר‬ ֹׂ ‫ש‬ ׂ ָ ְ‫ש ְמ ָחה ו‬ ׂ ִ ְ‫ו‬. 1

Our matanot la’evyonim will also be affected, because there are likely to be fewer people – if any – knocking at our doors. Nevertheless, one can still give through various organizations.

Rabbi Andrew Shaw is Chief Executive of ‎Mizrachi UK.


TO R AT M I Z R AC H I Rabbi Doron Perez

Persia and Purim, Iran and Israel

M O R D E C H A I A N D TH E N E E D FO R M O R A L CL A R IT Y

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bsolute evil has existed for millennia. It constitutes a single-minded, systematic focus to destroy all good in the world. According to Torah tradition, it has a name. Amalek. The Torah commands us to always remember and never forget what Amalek represents.1 This is the essence of Parashat Zachor. Our Sages instituted an annual public Torah reading on the Shabbat preceding Purim, lest we forget Amalek’s role in world affairs. The saga of the most infamous Amalekite, Haman, at the heart of the Megillah, is a sobering reminder of the existence of absolute evil and our obligation to confront it. Final Solutions Having mentioned absolute evil, most situations in life are not so black or white. Certainly in ethical terms, little is absolutely good or absolutely bad, but rather nuanced with many shades of moral grey. Nevertheless, world and Jewish history are testament to the undeniable existence of destructive ideologies of significant evil. Haman’s intention was to kill every last Jew in all 127 countries of Achashverosh’s global empire in one day. His Final Solution was on the brink of implementation. It was only through the grace of G-d and the actions of Mordechai and

Esther that his plan was thwarted at the last minute. Thousands of years later, Hitler declared the same intentions. Tragically, he succeeded in murdering one third of the Jewish people, and if not for the hand of Providence guiding the actions of the Allied Forces, he would have gone much further. Unstopped and unchecked, this type of evil would, G-d forbid, destroy every last Jew wherever they are. The Perennial Battle Even though Amalek no longer exists as a nation, it most certainly exists as an ideology. Its goal is to eradicate everything good in the world – first the Jewish people, and all those who stand for morality and justice. Remarkably, only two nations are called ‫אשית‬ ִ ׁ ‫ר‬,ֵ the first of nations – the Jewish people, and Amalek.2 The point is clear. These two nations are pitted against each other in the perennial battle of good versus evil. Just as on an individual level we battle constantly between our good and evil impulses, so too these forces struggle with one another on a cosmic level – the collective mission of the Jewish people as opposed to that of Amalek. It was not by chance that Amalek was the first nation to attack Israel, as soon

as we came out of Egypt. This can be sourced from Parashat Zachor. Here are two remarkable points which highlight Amalek’s pursuit of evil: “How he happened upon you on the way and cut off all the stragglers at your rear, when you were faint and weary, and he did not fear G-d” (Deuteronomy 25:17–19). Firstly, there is no stated motive for this attack. Amalek was not motivated by any normative political or military reasoning. Theirs was not a battle over land or religion nor a war of defense, deterrence or display of regional power. They chose to attack for no reason other than to commit evil for its own sake. To sow darkness at the very dawn of Israel’s aspirations to be “a light unto the nations.” Secondly, Amalek always intentionally targets innocent civilians. Theirs is not a regular military confrontation but rather a purposeful and systematic attack on those lagging behind: the elderly, the young, the weak and the infirm. They attacked the most vulnerable and defenseless in society. Amalek Today Amalek-type evil has taken on a new name. Terrorism. The aim of Continued on page 4

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TO R AT M I Z R AC H I

Continued from page 3

international terrorism is to do exactly what its name implies: to terrorize anywhere and everywhere. The acceptable international norm in military interaction is that one army confronts another, and only combatants in uniform fight against their counterparts. Civilians are beyond the pale of ideological and military conflict. An Amalek mindset operates differently. It is specifically the civilians, the non-combatants, who are the aim of their terror. Hamas and Hezbollah have terrorized Israeli civilians just trying to get on with their lives. Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the like have done the same in cities around the world. Iran today, ancient Persia of yesteryear, is the greatest supporter of international terror and has its own diabolical aspirations for nuclear hegemony. 9/11 showed us just what warped minds of terror could conjure up. There seems to be no limit to the immoral perversion and distortion of heart and mind. Terrorism, as fitting for an Amalek-type ideology, exists outside the moral consensus and international convention of normative political, military and societal living. Yet if one thing is clear, understandable and proven about Amalekite antisemitism it is this – it begins with the Jews but never ends with them. One can be sure it will spill over to all fair-minded, good people around the world. Buildings and planes in New York, trains in Madrid, buses in London, night clubs in Bali, schools in Toulouse, stores in Paris and coffee shops in Sydney are all fair game. Radical Islamic terror is the latest incarnation of Amalek’s global mission.

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The Leaders’ Crucial Role Therefore, it is incumbent on statesmen and leaders to comprehend the challenge of dealing with Amalek.3 It was Mordechai who had this clarity of moral vision and courageous temerity to stand up to Haman. It was his and Esther’s heroic leadership, with assistance from Above, that prevented the total annihilation of the Jewish people. What would have happened to Europe, and beyond, if not for the heroic leadership of Winston Churchill in the 1940s? Charles Krauthammer, America’s sorely missed preeminent columnist, argued that Churchill’s role in confronting Nazism was so indispensable that it made him the most important person of the 20th century.4 What enabled Churchill to be the right statesman at the right time was his absolute clarity of vision of what Nazism stood for and aspired to achieve and what the right response was to that evil. From countless articles in the 30s, it is evident that he, more than anyone else, understood and articulated the looming threat. In 1935, many branded him as an extremist sowing panic and viewing the world in simplistic, black-and-white terms. By 1940, none of his critics could doubt him. In our nuclear age, Churchill’s brand of leadership, courage and clarity of vision is more critical than ever. Yes, life is very nuanced and complex and must be viewed with great sophistication. And yes, this Amalek-type hatred is rooted in a small minority with the majority being good, peace-loving people. Nevertheless, we have to be very mindful that our own nuanced sophistication does not cloud our vision

in dealing with this scourge of evil. The great advantage of open, pluralistic and democratic “live and let live” society must not become our greatest weakness. The forces of good cannot prevail if we are not armed with robust moral clarity. Parashat Zachor is the perennial reminder of this need. Purim is the primer of how to contend with this evil and how each player has their part to play. The Hamans of the world will always attempt to win over the Achashveroshes – to isolate, delegitimize, punish and persecute the Jews and the Jewish State. The Mordechais and Esthers must display clarity and courageousness in confronting this evil in the face of fierce opposition and impossible odds. And the ultimate role is played by the Almighty, behind the scenes, masking the indispensable face of Providence in the drama of human and Jewish destiny. 1

The Netziv (HaEmek Davar, Exodus 17:14), distinguishes between the nation of Amalek which no longer exists and the ideology of Amalek which persists to this day.

2

Regarding Israel: “Israel is holy to G-d, the first of His grain…” (Yirmiyahu 2:3). Regarding Amalek, in Bilaam’s prophecy: “When he saw Amalek, he took up his parable and said, “Amalek was the first of the nations, and his fate shall be everlasting destruction” (Bamidbar 24:20).

3

Rambam (Laws of Kings and Their Wars 1,1). Based on the Talmud (Sanhedrin 20b), the mitzvah of remembering and confronting Amalek is a mitzvah on ‫ – כלל ישראל‬the Jewish people as a collective – and is to be implemented by the king.

4

Charles Krauthammer, Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics (2018), p. 22.

Rabbi Doron Perez is Executive Chairman of the Mizrachi World Movement.


TO R AT M I Z R AC H I Ben Baruch

The Joy of

A

Sharing

long with dressing up and drinking a little bit more than we’re used to, sending mishloach manot is one of my favourite Purim mitzvot. The customary sending of gifts each year allows us all to express a bit of creativity in our mitzvah observance. (Remember last year when people thought including a bottle of Corona beer was funny?)

The Megillah records1 Mordechai’s institution of the sending of gifts as part of the mitzvot of Purim, but is silent about the reasoning. Several different reasons for the mitzvah have been suggested over the generations. The 15th century halachist, Rabbi Yisrael Isserlein, in his Terumat HaDeshen, suggests2 that the purpose is simple; to ensure that everyone is provided with enough food to enjoy a lavish Purim seudah. Support for this view can be found in the aforementioned verse, where the mitzvah of mishloach manot is sandwiched between the connected mitzvot of having a seudah and giving gifts to the poor. Alternatively, the 16th century kabbalist and author of Lecha Dodi, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, states3 the reasoning as not just being to provide food for others, but to encourage feelings of camaraderie and friendship. It is less directly connected to the other mitzvot of having a seudah and giving gifts to the poor, and more about the good feelings and fraternal bonds that gift-giving can encourage. This view also finds support in the Megillah, because the gift giving is supposed to be specifically ‫ֵ ּבין‬ ‫א ׁיש לְ ֵר ֵעה ּו‬,ִ between a person and their friend. The 19th century Rabbi Moshe Sofer (the Chatam Sofer)4 notes a practical

difference between these two reasons. The Rema5 records a ruling that even if one sends mishloach manot to a friend who turns them down, one has fulfilled his obligation. The Pri Chadash6 takes issue with this ruling. The Chatam Sofer explains that if mishloach manot is for the purpose of providing others with food, then it stands to reason that one has not fulfilled their obligation until one actually provides another person with food. However, if the reason is in order to increase camaraderie, it is conceivable that one increases camaraderie even if the intended recipient ends up (politely) declining the gift.

When discussing the laws of Seudat Purim,7 the Rambam speaks about the obligation to send mishloach manot using the connecting word ‫וְ ֵכן‬, “and so”. This, along with the context in which the Rambam speaks of mishloach manot, could perhaps indicate a third purpose;8 not as an obligation to provide for other people’s seudot, but rather as an extension of our own seudot. This would fit very well with another statement of the Rambam when speaking about seudat Yom Tov in general. In a powerful passage, he speaks9 of the obligation we have to ensure the poor and needy are fed on Yom Tov. Someone who has a joyous meal on Yom Tov but does not invite and provide for those less fortunate than themselves is not taking part in the “joy of the mitzvah” of Yom Tov, but rather in the “joy of the stomach.” For the Rambam, it is not simply a matter of ensuring that others are fed, but it’s also a moral and ethical lesson to us, to remember that our joy and good fortune is only deserved and valid when we share it with others. The point of giving mishloach manot is an

expression and statement to ourselves, that our own meal, joy and good fortune is lacking when we are not actively sharing it with other people. When performing mitzvot, it’s easy to focus purely on the effect they are supposed to have on the world. Especially with mitzvot such as mishloach manot, matanot laEvyonim and tzedakah, it is easy to only think about the results we are trying to achieve. But it is equally important to remember that mitzvot are supposed to influence us. They are supposed to transform us into better people. Taking these three different explanations of mishloach manot into Purim with us, I hope we can think about how we can provide for others, help increase camaraderie, and, crucially, realise how the good deeds we do are not purely for the purpose of achieving the desired result, but should also effect change in us, by making us into more caring, sensitive, and G-dly people. Purim Sameach! 1

9:19-22.

2

Siman 111.

3

Manot HaLevi on Megillat Esther.

4

Responsa Orach Chaim 196.

5

Orach Chaim 695:4.

6

Ad loc.

7

Hilchot Megilla 2:15.

8

I saw this point in an article by Rav David Silverberg quoting Rav Avraham Yosef Schwartz.

9

Hilchot Shvitat Yom Tov 6:19.

Ben Baruch is a Mizrachi Fellow studying for Semicha in Jerusalem.


TO R AT M I Z R AC H I

M I Z R AC H I E D U C ATO R S Rabbi Reuven Taragin

P

A Corona Purim

urim has special meaning for us this year, and not just because we have prepared for it by wearing masks all year. It marks a year since Corona began to affect our lives. ‫העיר שושן נבוכה‬ Confusion and Bewilderment More significantly, our new reality reminds us of the Purim story. Megillat Esther (3:15) tells us that when Haman’s plan became public knowledge, the city of Shushan was bewildered and confused. The Jewish people had become used to a reality they assumed would continue. Suddenly, their survival was threatened. The security they felt in Shushan and throughout Achashverosh’s empire turned out to be a mere facade. Our lives and our basic assumptions have also been turned upside down. So many things we took for granted have changed dramatically. We have lost world and community leaders and many of us have lost loved ones and friends. Others have suffered with sickness, employment issues, and professional and personal challenges. What lesson can Purim – the holiday that celebrates the happy resolution of such confusion – teach us? What chizuk can Purim offer to us in these difficult times? ‫ונהפוך הוא‬ Megillat Esther describes the Purim miracles as ‫וְ נַ ֲהפוֹ ְך הוּא‬. Why is this particular salvation described this way? The Jewish people were threatened many times by enemies they ended up vanquishing. For example, why not describe the drowning of the Egyptians

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in the water they hoped to drown the Jews in as ‫?וְ נַ ֲהפוֹ ְך הוּא‬ ‫ וְ נַ ֲהפוֹ ְך הוּא‬applies uniquely to the Purim miracle, not just because the Jews were saved, but because it was the very system Haman constructed to murder the Jews that ended up being used by the Jews against him and their enemies. Chapter 8’s description of how Mordechai and Esther got permission for and notified the kingdom of the Jewish people’s right to defend themselves is parallel to chapter 3’s description of what Haman had initially done to threaten the Jews. After receiving the king’s signet ring (3:10 / 8:2) and confirming the king’s agreement (3:9–11 / 8:5–8.), the plan is read by the king’s scribes and then sent to the officers and all the provinces in their diffference languages (3:12 / 8:9) through an elaborate postal system (3:13–15 / 8:10–11,14). The Megillah accentuates the parallel between attack and salvation by contrasting Mordechai’s clothing and the atmosphere in the capital Shushan and around the empire after Mordechai and Esther’s reversal with those described in the wake of Haman’s decree. Chapters 3 and 4 describe Mordechai donning mourners clothing (4:1), the city of Shushan confused (3:15), and the Jews throughout the empire mourning, fasting and crying (4:3). Chapter 8 concludes by describing Mordechai wearing royal garments (15), and the Jews in Shushan (15) and throughout the empire celebrating (17). Chazal1 describe this phenomenon as Hashem “using the wound as the bandage.” Because only the One who orchestrates reality can coordinate such a miraculous process. Hashem does this

to help us appreciate the involvement of His hidden hand.2 As opposed to the miracles of Yetziat Mitzrayim and many others, the Purim miracles were hidden ones – Hashem acted behind the scenes.3 Purim teaches us the importance of seeing Hashem’s hand even in natural occurrences4 by appreciating extraordinary phenomena like reversals. Our Corona Reality We all pray that the pandemic ends in the near future. When it does, it will be critical that we appreciate Hashem’s hand in it and what He wants us to learn from the process. Not only in His ending the pandemic, but also in His having driven it. The more we appreciate the lessons He intends for us to learn from these times and the aspects of salvation we have experienced, the more we will grow from this difficult period. 1

Shemot Rabbah 23:3. We use the phrase in the Selichot we say on Ta’anit Esther.

2

See Shalah, Pesachim Bi’ur Aggada 1.

3

See Chullin 139b.

4

See Ramban, Shemot 13:16.

Scan here to join Rabbi Taragin’s WhatsApp group with daily Divrei Torah Rabbi Reuven Taragin is Educational Director of Mizrachi and Dean of the Yeshivat HaKotel Overseas Program. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


M I Z R AC H I E D U C ATO R S

TO R AT M I Z R AC H I

Rabbanit Shani Taragin

M

Repairing Rivalry & Jewish Brotherhood

egillat Esther, one of the last works of Ketuvim to be written and canonized, employs numerous allusions to earlier stories in Tanach. Many of the analogies serve the ideological purpose of ‘redeeming’ the lineage of Binyamin from the shortcomings of Shaul haMelech, particularly in fighting Amalek and not adhering to the Divine commandment of complete annihilation. The Book of Esther highlights Esther’s “success in overcoming the drawbacks of a reticent personality [and] offsets the pivotal failure of Saul to do the same.”1 She does so not only by ‘fixing’ the faults of Shaul in properly eradicating our enemies and declining to take the spoils even when permitted to do so (Esther 9:5–16), but in contrast to Shaul, who sought to kill his innocent young rival, David, at a second-day royal feast, Esther prepares parallel feasts to bravely save her Jewish brethren, descendants of David. In redeeming Shaul, Esther rises above tribal affiliation and unifies the Binyaminites and Yehudim (Judeans) who were exiled together in 597 BCE (2:6). How did she succeed in overcoming rifts and creating solidarity between the descendants of Yehuda and Binyamin (without four rounds of elections in two years)?

Esther stands before Achashverosh at her second banquet, pleading for the survival of her nation, she remembers the sale of Yosef proposed by his brother Yehuda: “And Yehuda said unto his brethren: ‘What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother, our flesh’” (Bereishit 37:26–7).

The answer lies in Esther’s recollection not only of the Shaul/David feud, but of the earliest story of rivalry between the children of Leah and Rachel, manifested in the desire to kill and sell Yosef as a slave. Though there are many allusions and parallels between the monarchical success of Esther and Mordechai in Persia to the rise of Yosef in Egypt, Rabbi David Fohrman2 notes another phenomenon of intertextuality. As

And she echoes his anguish before the king: “For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people ּ ָ Or how can (‫?)ב ָר ָעה ֲא ׁ ֶשר יִ ְמ ָצא ֶאת ַע ִּמי‬ I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?” (Esther 8:6).

Esther revisits his argument of betrayal – “for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my peace, for the adversary is not worthy that the king be damaged” (7:4). Haman is hanged as a result of her accusations, but the survival of the Yehudim is still in severe jeopardy until Esther recalls not only the rift and rivalry of Yehuda (children of Leah) vs. the children of Rachel, but his repair and repentance as well. She revisits how Yehuda risked his life for his brother Binyamin and pleaded for his salvation before the viceroy: “For how shall I go up to my father, if the lad be not with me? Lest I look upon the evil that shall come on my father (‫ָב ָרע ֲא ׁ ֶשר יִ ְמ ָצא ֶאת‬ ‫”)א ִבי‬ ָ (Bereishit 44:34).

Esther recalled the bitter animosity between siblings, the sale of a brother as slave and the resentment that follows. But inspired by Mordechai “HaYehudi”

(from the fallen kingdom of Judea), an “Ish Yemini” (from tribe of Binyamin), who implores her to link her familial and tribal affiliation to the survival of all her Jewish brethren, she remembered the repentance of Yehuda, who risked his life for his brother Binyamin and pledged himself as a slave in his stead. Esther took advantage of the opportunity to “repay” Yehuda and achieve lasting brotherhood as a descendant of Binyamin who could and would risk her life for her brothers from Yehuda. Recognizing how fragile the balance of brotherhood is to maintain throughout history, Mordechai and Esther incorporated the mitzvot of mishloach manot and matanot la’evyonim as annual remedies for ‘sibling’ rivalry. Remembering the stories of Binyamin, Yehuda and Esther, as we celebrate together and recall our mutual responsibilities to care for and defend one another, help assure a lasting legacy of Jewish brotherhood, solidarity and survival.

1

Yitzchak Berger, “Esther and Benjamite Royalty: A Study in Inner-Biblical Allusion” (JBL, 2010).

2

Rabbi David Fohrman, “Family Feud: The Ominous Background to Esther’s Story” (AlephBeta).

Rabbanit Shani Taragin is Educational Director of Mizrachi and the Director of the Mizrachi Matan Lapidot Educators' Program. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

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TO R AT M I Z R AC H I Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon

T

Hilchot Purim Meshulash

his year, the 14th of Adar – Purim – falls out on Friday, and the 15th of Adar – Shushan Purim – falls out on Shabbat. Such a Purim is called Purim Meshulash (“Triple Purim”) because the mitzvot of Purim in Yerushalayim are spread over three days. Megillah Reading Chazal enacted that when Purim falls on Shabbat, Megillah is not read on Shabbat (due to the concern that someone might accidentally carry the Megillah in a place without an eiruv); instead, Megillah reading is pushed forward to Friday. When reciting shehechiyanu on the Megillah reading, one should have in mind all the mitzvot of Purim to be performed in the following days. Matanot La’evyonim The Gemara teaches that matanot la’evyonim must be on the day when Megillah is read, so matanot la’evyonim are given on Friday. Seudah The Talmud Yerushalmi writes that one may not arrange a Seudat Purim on Shabbat because “the joy of Shabbat comes from Above,” and it is not an appropriate time for the joy of Purim, which was instituted by man from below. Therefore, the seudah should be pushed off to Sunday. Another reason for doing so is that on Purim there is a mitzvah to drink ‫( ַעד דְּ לָ א יָ ַדע‬until one cannot distinguish between Haman and Mordechai), while on Shabbat there is a mitzvah of zechira (remembering the Shabbat day). Since these two mitzvot contradict each other, we cannot fulfill the obligation of seudah on Shabbat and we do so instead on Sunday. Despite this, it is customary to add a special dish

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to the Shabbat meal, thus marking the Purim spirit. Mishloach Manot There are those who say the reason for mishloach manot is to ensure the receiver has what to eat for his or her Purim seudah. Accordingly, the time for performing the mitzvah of mishloach manot is adjacent to the time for the seudah, and therefore mishloach manot should be given on Sunday. However, there are those who say the reason is to increase brotherhood and friendship, and accordingly mishloach manot should always be performed on Purim itself – Shabbat. In practice, according to most poskim, we don’t give mishloach manot on Shabbat (for fear of carrying), so the halacha is to give mishloach manot on Sunday, the day of the seudah. Al HaNissim Al HaNissim is said on Shabbat and not on Friday. On Sunday, it is not said in davening or in Birkat HaMazon, not even at the Purim seudah itself. If one said it accidentally, one need not repeat the Amidah. In fact, it is a good custom to say Al HaNissim on Sunday in ‫ ָה ַר ֲח ָמן‬at the end of Birkat HaMazon. Shabbat and Purim Torah reading: It is customary to read the parasha of ‫ וַ ָ ּיבֹא ֲע ָמלֵ ק‬as maftir on Shabbat (and not Friday) in Yerushalayim. The haftarah for Shabbat Zachor, ‫שה ֲע ָמלֵ ק‬ ׂ ָ ‫פ ַק ְד ִּתי ֵאת ֲא ׁ ֶשר ָע‬, ָ ּ is also read,

despite having been read the previous Shabbat as well. In unwalled cities, the maftir is read from the regular parashat haShavua, and the regular haftarah of that week’s parasha is read. Purim derashot: The Gemara says that when Purim falls on Shabbat, ‫ׁשוֹ ֲאלִ ין‬ ‫ – וְ דוֹ ְר ׁ ִשין ְ ּב ִענְ יָ נוֹ ׁ ֶשל יוֹ ם‬we discuss the topic of the day (i.e. Purim), to publicize the miracle or to learn the halachot of Purim Meshulash. Divrei Torah on Shabbat should focus on Purim. Non-Walled Cities In general, the halachot of Purim for non-walled cities this year are kept as normal. But when making the Purim seudah on Friday, it must be eaten in the morning (until chatzot) or until mincha ketana at the latest, because of kavod Shabbat, so that we will enter Shabbat hungry and prepare properly for Shabbat. Walled cities do not recite tachanun on Sunday, since in practice this is the day on which they perform the mitzvot of seudah and simcha. Nonwalled cities customarily do not say tachanun on Sunday either. Adapted from Rav Rimon’s new book, “Erev Pesach SheChal B’Shabbat”. Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon is Rosh Yeshiva of JCT–Machon Lev and Head of Mizrachi’s Educational Advisory Board. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

PURIM MESHULASH IN JERUSALEM AND OTHER WALLED CITIES FRIDAY Megillah

SHABBAT

SUNDAY

Al HaNissim

Mishloach Manot

No Al HaNissim

Torah Reading and Haftarah for Shabbat Zachor

Matanot La’evyonim

Purim Divrei Torah

Purim Seudah No Al HaNissim


TO R AT M I Z R AC H I Rabbanit Sharon Rimon

T

Revealing the Internal Jewish Spark

he mitzvot of Purim are characterized by the joyful atmosphere they create, and the commandment for these mitzvot repeats itself in Megillat Esther multiple times in chapter 9. What is the reason for these great celebrations and for the repeated emphasis not to forget this holiday? The simple reason is that the Jews were saved from destruction. Haman’s decree placed the Jews in Achashverosh’s kingdom in great danger, seemingly leaving them no chance of survival. In unexpected fashion, the decree was reversed and the Jews were saved from genocide. It is thus very appropriate to celebrate such a turnaround and the significant salvation of the Jews from their enemies’ hands. Adding another level – the fact that Mordechai and Esther do not institute a day for a victory parade, but a day of performing mitzvot, reminds every Jew in every generation that the salvation was not human or by chance, but Divine and miraculous. Thus, the miracle of Purim joins the miracles of every generation and strengthens the mindset of ‫ׁ ֶש ְ ּבכָ ל דּ וֹ ר וָ דוֹ ר עוֹ ְמ ִדים ָעלֵ ינ ּו לְ כַ ּלוֹ ֵתנ ּו וְ ַה ָ ּקדוֹ ׁש‬ ּ ָ “in every generation ‫ברו ְּך הוּא ַמ ִ ּצילֵ נ ּו ִמ ָ ּי ָדם‬, they stand against us to wipe us out, but HaKadosh Baruch Hu saves us from their hands.” We can also see within the Purim story an additional, deeper point. At the beginning of the Megillah, the Jews dwell throughout the Persian empire, even assimilating, as the Gemara says (Megillah 12a): “Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students asked him: ‘Why did the Jews deserve destruction in the generation [of Mordechai and Esther]?’... ‘Because they took part in the feast of the evil [Achashverosh].’”

It seems that assimilation ignited the Divine decree, leading to the course of events described in the Megillah. Mordechai, as opposed to the other Jews around him, does not hide his Jewish identity, and is not prepared to bow to Haman. By doing so, he emphasizes his inner Jewish spark. Haman sees in Mordechai not just a personal threat, but a national and theological one, and therefore is not only interested in harming Mordechai, but all the Jews. In the end, Haman (like many antisemites throughout the generations) is the one who reminds the Jews of their Judaism and of the fact that ‫יהם ׁשֹנוֹ ת ִמ ָּכל‬ ֶ ‫וְ ָד ֵת‬ ‫עם‬,ָ “their religion is different from all other nations.” Haman is the one who turns all of the Jews into “Mordechais” who refuse to bow down to foreign influences. From the moment the decree was enacted, the Jews no longer attempt to assimilate; just the opposite. First, they join together to fast, as Mordechai and Esther command. Esther, whose name is reminiscent of hiding, and who until now, hid in the palace and hid her Judaism, reveals her identity to Achashverosh and openly and bravely acts on behalf of her nation. In the end, the Jews no longer hide before their enemies but stand up and defend themselves, even killing their enemies, something not at all obvious in galut.

Purim to Yom HaKippurim. On both of these days, the inner spark of the special connection between G-d and Am Yisrael is revealed. On Yom Kippur, the special connection between G-d and Am Yisrael is expressed through the Kohen Gadol’s entry into the holiest site, and every Jew sanctifies themselves through prayer and fasting, until their souls are cleansed and cling to their Creator. On Purim, the special connection between G-d and Am Yisrael is expressed through the willingness to sacrifice oneself for one’s emunah and for that connection between every Jew and G-d, through fighting for Am Yisrael’s existence. This is why Purim is such a happy day. It isn’t empty happiness, but happiness which expresses the deep connection between Am Yisrael and their Father in Heaven and the mutual covenantal bond: the great responsibility of Am Yisrael to emunah and mitzvot, and G-d’s responsibility to save them from the hands of their enemies in each and every generation.

If so, the denouement in the Megillah was not solely salvation from physical genocide, but the revalation of the inner Jewish spark, the willingness to deal with its meaning and consequences, and even to fight for it. Now we can understand what the Tikunei HaZohar (57) says, comparing

Rabbanit Sharon Rimon teaches Tanach and is Content Editor for the HaTanakh website.

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WORLD MIZRACHI PRESENTS

Purim with

ASHLEY BLAKER “a m u s t w at c h ! ” hamizrachi magazine

f r e e t o w at c h e x c l u s i v e ly o n

v i s i t m i z r a c h i .t v for our full purim schedule


t h i s p u r i m y o u w o n ’ t w a n t t o l e av e y o u r h o u s e (even if you are allowed to)

purim o n m i z r a c h i .t v Purim with Ashley Blaker Rabbanit Shani Taragin In Conversation With Michael Eisenberg and Rabbi David Fohrman Nachliel Selavan In The Days of Achashverosh: A Virtual Tour of Shushan and the Persian Empire rabbi Menachem Leibtag From ‘Fast Days’ to ‘Feast Days’: The deeper meaning of Esther’s ‘second letter’ Dr. Yael Ziegler Joseph and Esther: The Challenge of Beauty v i s i t m i z r a c h i .t v f o r o u r f u l l p u r i m s c h e d u l e


TO R AT M I Z R AC H I

M I Z R AC H I S C H O L A R S - I N - R E S I D E N C E

Sivan Rahav Meir and Yedidya Meir

1

Six Thoughts for Purim

Jewish-American psychologist Dr. Sol Herzig wrote a poignant article entitled: “Six Simple Strategies for Achieving Misery.” In his words, these are the most tried and tested strategies not to achieve happiness: 1. Cling to Entitlement: Always feel entitled, that life owes you, that you were born to receive. Always look for the injustice in others having something that you do not, and do not agree to any concession or compromise. 2. It’s all Personal: Always assume that everything was done with evil intentions. Always try to find malicious intent and seize every opportunity to see it as conclusive proof that you do not matter to others. 3. Focus on Problems: Keep careful track of all your problems and constantly review them. Nurture the attitude that you can’t really move on unless everything is resolved first. 4. Magnify Everything: Do not cheat yourself out of misery by maintaining perspective. Try to cultivate negative thinking in respect to every mistake or mishap and

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magnify it, without allowing for regret or forgiveness. 5. Expect Catastrophe: It’s important to remember that terrible, horrible things might happen any minute, and to let your imagination run wild. Diseases, disasters, terror attacks – don’t let anything surprise you. Be alert. 6. Just say “No thanks” to gratitude: Take everything you’ve received in life as a given, without thanking those who gave it to you. Try to focus on what you don’t have rather than what you do have. If we adopt (or rather, don’t adopt) these six tips – we’ll have a truly happy Purim!

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He’s at the top of the world, in a senior position, and he’s still unsatisfied. Haman HaRasha is an Amalekite. He comes from the nation the Torah tells us we must wipe out and obliterate their memory. What is Amalek-ism? One of its characteristics is revealed in the figure of Haman, in the beginning of Megillat Esther: “Yet all this means nothing to me every time I see that Jew Mordechai sitting at

the king’s palace gates” (Esther 5:13). Meaning, I have an ocean full of honor, but I’m still missing one more drop. Everyone bows to him, but he needs Mordechai to bow. If not – everything else is worthless. When we speak about a war with Amalek, we are also speaking of a war with these character traits. On focusing on the drop we’re missing and not on the cup mostly full. On nurturing our ego and chasing honor, without appreciating and rejoicing over what we have. These are Amalek-like traits. When we make noise when the name “Haman” is read, we should have intent to erase this worldview as well.

3

So how should we be happy? Here is a section from Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi’s book, Invitation to Joy:

“We live in a happiness-challenged society. In many cases, happiness is simply a decision, a choice. People need to choose to be happy. Instead, they give up on happiness while doing everything else, without even realizing it.


M I Z R AC H I S C H O L A R S - I N - R E S I D E N C E

Women today expect themselves to do everything – to work, to raise their children, to succeed at home and outside of it, to host guests, to be immaculate. A generation of perfectionism. I say: give in to yourself along the way, just don’t give up your happiness. Because what do you normally do? You demand to do everything; you don’t give up on anything – besides happiness. That’s the mistake. A messy bed can be tidied. A dirty counter can shine. A document for work can be written. But an unhappy woman – oh, that is much more serious than any of these. So, true, you didn’t tell a story before bedtime. You didn’t finish the list of what you needed to do. You got upset again. But you forgot to write on your to-do list to smile and enjoy the process. Choose your tasks wisely, decide what to give up and what not to, but one thing – your happiness today, right now – never give up on along the way.”

4

At the beginning of the Megillah, Achashverosh holds a banquet that is all an external show. A celebration of money, gold and alcohol. Faced with such an empty misconception of happiness, Esther eventually brings the nation to a state of

ora veSimcha, light and rejoicing. How does Esther express happiness? After a wasteful and egotistical feast, she teaches us to truly be happy through the mitzvot of Purim we still keep today. First, happiness in our inner circle: a meal with the whole family. Second, community: mishloach manot to strengthen our social bonds. Finally, helping the needy: matanot la’evyonim, caring for those who don’t have. That’s how we rejoice. The tables have turned – not accumulating wealth or fame, but going outside of one’s comfort zone to give to and share with others. Instead of thinking that the more we receive, the happier we’ll be, Esther teaches us that the more we give, the happier we’ll be.

5

Sometimes Purim celebrations are identified with breakdown and mess, but one educator shared with me the following idea: “Essentially, we are all boxed in. We decide things about ourselves: ‘I’m such and such,’ and that’s it, we can’t change it. But on Purim, everything shifts, and we can leave the box. It’s an opportunity for an internal revolution, veNahafoch hu, to break down the boundaries. Usually, when speaking of breaking down boundaries, we have a negative connotation. When we speak about the courage to do things we don’t do all year round, it implies bad things.

TO R AT M I Z R AC H I

But what’s the alternative? What about breaking down my own barriers – for a positive reason? What about being brave, daring – to do the good things I always wanted to do? On these days of Purim, we allow ourselves to go crazy. But who decided that doesn’t mean in a new, higher, more positive direction?”

6

Ostensibly, matanot la’evyonim is something given to the poor on Purim. A little tzedakah and we’re done. But Chazal write in the Gemara: “There is no real poverty but the poverty of knowledge.” Poverty is not only financial. There are people below the knowledge poverty line. And that’s not all. The Sefat Emet explains that really each one of us is both wealthy and poor. Every person is “poor of knowledge,” who has yet to learn, and what to learn, from others. And each one of us can give to others from his or her own knowledge. Torah, wisdom, knowledge are also a type of matanot la’evyonim that we need to give and receive, all year round! Purim Sameach! Sivan Rahav Meir and Yedidya Meir are popular Israeli media personalities and World Mizrachi’s Scholars-in-Residence. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

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G LO B A L R E L I G I O U S L E A D E R S Rabbi Hershel Schachter

T

Hidden and Revealed Miracles

he Mishnah in Avot (5:6) enumerates 10 things that were created on erev Shabbat at bein haShmashot (twilight), including the mouth of the earth that engulfed Korach, the mouth of the well that provided water in the Midbar, the mouth of the donkey that spoke to Bilaam, the man, and the staff with which Moshe performed the signs in Mitzrayim. All of nature had been created on the previous six days, but these future miracles, exceptions to G-d’s natural order, were provided for on erev Shabbat at bein haShmashot. Thus, the Rambam explains, it is not the case, as it may appear to an onlooker, that G-d altered the laws of nature at the time those miracles occurred. Instead, the ratzon Hashem that these innovations occur in the future was present at the time of Creation itself (see Rambam, Shemoneh Perakim, 8; Peirush HaMishnayot, Avot 5:6). The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 21:6) expounds on a pasuk describing kriyat Yam Suf along the same lines. The pasuk describes, ֹ‫יתנו‬ ָ ‫וַ ָ ּי ׁ ָשב ַה ָ ּים לִ ְפנוֹ ת ֹּב ֶקר לְ ֵא‬ – “and the water went back to its power toward morning” (Shemot 14:27), and the Midrash relates the word ֹ‫יתנו‬ ָ ‫לְ ֵא‬ to ֹ‫( לִ ְתנָ או‬to its stipulation). This indicates that the original creation of the Yam Suf was conditional, dependent

14 |

upon its splitting for the Jewish people when they left Mitzrayim. Thus, G-d implanted the Yam Suf ’s future transformation into its very nature. This was the case with the creation of all of the nissim geluyim (revealed miracles) that would occur throughout history as well (Bereishit Rabbah 5:5). Nissim nistarim (hidden miracles), however, are of a completely different nature. The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:17) explains that although G-d does not adjust the laws of nature He established during Creation, He does, at times, exercise hashgacha pratit to suspend man’s free will. In other words, free will is the only aspect of world events not governed by the laws of nature. The Rambam presents a mashal of a ship that capsizes at sea. G-d desires that this accident should occur and therefore He may suspend the ship manufacturer’s free will, so the ship is less sturdy than usual. Furthermore, G-d may see to it that a rasha decides to travel on the ship, even though he is unaccustomed to doing so, and that a tzaddik avoids traveling on the ship. G-d similarly adjusts the choices that people make in order to arrange for nissim nistarim. It emerges from this explanation that a nes nigleh, though it appears to the

observer it has been created presently, is not a new miracle. It is, in fact, the nes of Creation, and it occurs only because it was so stipulated well in advance. On the other hand, a nes nistar is not the nes of Creation. It is a present-day nes that G-d orchestrates through hashgacha pratit, by suspending free will to achieve a given result. Some explain (see Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, LeTorah UlaMoadim, Purim 1) that this is why we drink wine on Purim to a greater extent than on other Yamim Tovim, to the point of ‫“ – ַעד דְּ לָ א יָ ַדע‬until one does not know [the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai]” (Megillah 7b). Contrary to the common impression that a nes nigleh is of a higher caliber, a nes nistar such as the nes Purim deserves greater celebration. After all, it was a nes that G-d performed at the time of Mordechai and Esther, not an ancient nes that is really part of the nes of the Creation itself. Adapted from Rav Schachter on the Parsha II. Rabbi Hershel Schachter is Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University.

A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


G LO B A L R E L I G I O U S L E A D E R S Rabbi David Stav

Wearing Our Masks T

he most well-known symbol of Purim is the mask. There is no kindergarten or school in the Jewish world in which children and parents don’t know that you celebrate Purim by putting on a costume. Even those who don’t remember exactly what happened on Purim and why we celebrate know it’s a must to dress up, and I’m sure you all have fond memories of Purim in your childhood. The source of this minhag is in the Mahari Mintz, who describes how his fellow Rabbis would dress up in costumes. After him, the Rema writes in the Shulchan Aruch about the “custom to wear masks on Purim.” For one looking from outside, it seems foreign and strange to the spirit of Jewish tradition. Some even claimed that the source of this custom was from similar events that happened in Germany and Italy in the Middle Ages. The Sages suggested different reasons for this custom. Among them, the fact that Mordechai changed his clothing from regular clothing to torn sackcloth and then to royal attire. However this year, I think we can add another idea. Nowadays, this custom seems understandable and familiar. We all wear masks – young and old, men and women, Jews and non-Jews. What does this tell us? What should we be thinking when we wear masks

on Purim? The Talmud asks, “Where can we find Esther in the Torah?” What is the source of Megillat Esther in the Torah? The answer is surprising: “And I will certainly hide (‫)ה ְס ֵּתר ַא ְס ִּתיר‬ ַ My Face on that day.” What is the connection between Queen Esther and the words “I will certainly hide My Face”? There are times in Jewish history when Divine Providence is apparent and clear. Yetziat Mitzrayim, for example. Anyone who saw kriyat Yam Suf and the Egyptians drowning in the sea while Israel walked on dry land saw the extended Hand of G-d in the world. But there are other times in our history when everything seems dark; the world seems like a great, bubbling pot left on the fire without supervision or purpose. This is the ‫ ֶה ְס ֵּתר ּ ָפנִ ים‬the Torah hints to in these words. This is what the Jews experienced at the time of Mordechai and Esther. What did G-d want from us? Why did Haman issue a decree to wipe out the Jewish nation? How many questions would we have asked in those times, as in many other periods in which we were persecuted by murderous, antisemitic nations? ‫ – ֶה ְס ֵּתר ּ ָפנִ ים‬G-d ‘hiding’ Himself, is the mask. Hence we wear masks on Purim to express that this is a holiday of ‫ֶה ְס ֵּתר‬ ‫פנִ ים‬.ָ ּ That we don’t understand one iota

of how G-d runs the world, and with total faith and bitachon we rely on Him to never abandon His nation. The truth is, this is how we should feel every year. I remember Purim in the year of the Gulf War, when we were constantly running to the sealed rooms for fear of chemical attacks; then too, we wore masks. On Purim that year, we came back out to our lives, without masks. Divine Providence was revealed to us in that despite dozens of missile attacks, less than a handful of Jews in the entire country were directly harmed. That Purim, the Jews had ora, light (to borrow a term from the Megillah). This year, the ‫ ֶה ְס ֵּתר ּ ָפנִ ים‬is much greater. We will wear our masks knowing we still live in that Divinely-orchestrated hidden reality, and wait as patiently as we can for healing and comfort. Most of all, we want to see the faces of our friends and loved ones. We want to see who hides behind the masks. Deep down, we also want to see G-d behind His mask, and imbue our lives with profound meaning and significance. We ָ ֶ‫ַאל ַּת ְס ֵּתר ּ ָפנ‬ want to see G-d’s light – ‫יך‬ ‫מ ֶּמ ִנּי‬, ִ don’t hide Your Face from us. Rabbi David Stav is Chief Rabbi of Shoham. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

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G LO B A L R E L I G I O U S L E A D E R S Chief Rabbi David Lau

Purim Q&A

I SR AE L’ S C H I E F R A B B I A N SW ERS SO M E O F O UR PURI M Q UESTION S

What exactly is the source of dressing up on Purim, and are there boundaries regarding which costumes are appropriate? The Rema mentions this minhag and writes that the custom of wearing masks on Purim, and for men to dress up as women and women to dress up as men, contains no prohibition, since the intention is only for the purpose of merriment (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 5296:67). The Bach discusses the kashrut of this minhag, but concludes ‫ה ַּנח לָ ֶהם לְ יִ שְׂ ָר ֵאל‬,ַ do not admonish the Jews for this custom, for it is better they sin inadvertently than purposefully. However, anyone with ‫ יִ ְר ַאת ׁ ָש ַמיִ ם‬should caution his household and those who will listen to him not to violate a prohibition on Purim (Yoreh Deah, end of 182). Olelot Ephraim (309), writes sharply about those who behave in an inappropriate way, and concludes, “is this how a day of feasting and a day of ’‫ְרצוֹ ן ה‬ should look? Where is the source for

16 |

these destructive customs?” (See also Mishna Berura, 5296:8) If one knows the proper boundaries, this day can be a day of true joy. How can a person in quarantine perform the mitzvah of mishloach manot and matanot la’evyonim? According to the halacha, one can appoint an emissary to perform a mitzvah for oneself. Therefore, when a person’s emissary gives the mishloach manot, it is as if the sender himself performed that action. The emissary can also receive mishloach manot on behalf of the person who appointed him, and can also perform the mitzvah of gifts to the poor on behalf of his sender. The emissary can be a family member, a man, woman or even a child, a neighbor or a friend. The important thing is the outcome – the moment he gives the mishloach manot or

the money to the poor person in the name of the sender, the sender has performed the mitzvah. What should people who are in quarantine and who live on a high floor do if there is no one to read the Megillah for them? In such a case it is possible to bring the Megillah to a person in quarantine, wrapped in plastic, so that he can read it himself, even without the cantillation. As opposed to Torah reading, Megillah can be read when there is a separation of plastic between the reader and the scroll. In such a way, after the Megillah is removed from the quarantine room, the plastic can be sterilized without harming the parchment.

Rabbi David Lau is the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel.


G LO B A L R E L I G I O U S L E A D E R S Rabbi Yehuda Sarna

Approaching the Throne

W

hat is it really like to approach the throne when you are not called?

I shudder to think about the terror which must have gripped Esther as she stepped outside the bounds of court protocol. I can imagine the times throughout Jewish history when our ancestors took similar risks, following in Esther’s path, only to meet with a devastatingly different outcome. Protocol in a royal court is not about being rude or polite, but can be a matter of life or death. Having lived most of my life in democratic countries, I have experienced only one comparable moment. In February of 2019, I was invited to serve as the inaugural Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE), the first new Jewish community to be established on the Arabian Peninsula in centuries. Families had been privately celebrating Jewish life together for over a decade before then, but the theme of 2019, “The Year of Tolerance”, shone a spotlight on diverse religious communities in the country, including the Jews. It was for this reason that the growing number of Jewish individuals and families in the UAE decided to formalize a constitution, elect officers, and tell their own story. The surreal nature of events in that year were not lost on us. We heard the announcement of the building of the Abrahamic Family House complex in Abu Dhabi, which would include a state-of-the-art synagogue. We saw the inclusion of a chapter on Judaism in a government-commissioned book entitled “Celebrating Tolerance.” Leaders

of the local Jewish community were invited to participate as such in greeting Pope Francis during his historic visit to Abu Dhabi. We felt intensely that we could not remain silent – ‫ישי‬ ִ ׁ ‫אם ַה ֲח ֵר ׁש ַּת ֲח ִר‬.ִ We advanced a unique proposal: to dedicate a Sefer Torah in memory of the Founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, and gift it to his son, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. We suggested that the honor of writing the last letter with the sofer go to a member of the royal family. There have been Sifrei Torah presented to kings, czars and presidents, but never to an Arab ruler.

To our amazement, the proposal was accepted. As we began to prepare for the ceremony, we became aware of all of the protocols of the Court: what time to arrive, where to stand, and in which order. However, one overriding protocol principle was made clear to us: do not compromise on a single Jewish law or custom in order to accommodate the Court. The Torah ceremony on November 25, 2019, was not large or public, but

intimate and modest. We sat in U format, as is the design of an Arabic majlis (court). I decided to open with the blessing on meeting a sovereign, ‫שר וָ ָדם‬ ׂ ָ ‫ש ָנ ַּתן ִמ ְְּכבוֹ דוֹ לְְ ָב‬, ֶ ׁ a blessing to G-d for having imparted of His Honor to human beings. We completed the Torah scroll, and recited the Prayer for the Welfare of the United Arab Emirates, its Rulers and its Armed Forces. For my remarks, I had been counseled in advance not to speak of gratitude alone, but of partnership and shared vision. Thus, the Torah represented not only a gift, but a symbol of mutual trust, kinship and respect. In fact, the agreement we made that day was that this Torah would come to the Jewish community annually for the High Holidays and Simchat Torah on loan, and then return to the authorities. And, on Simchat Torah of 2020/5781, we actually danced with the Sheikh Zayed Torah. Esther lived through a time when if she would have remained silent and not approached the throne, the Jewish people may have been obliterated. Had we, the Jewish community in the Emirates, remained silent, no danger would have ensued. And yet the duty not to remain silent, rather to affirm and celebrate the good that others have done to us, is no less of an obligation. We must not let the values of gratitude, trust and partnership be engulfed by the silence of entitlement. We must not decline to say our lines simply because it is not in the script. We must embrace the firsts that come with our moment in history. Rabbi Yehuda Sarna serves as the Executive Director of the Bronfman Center at New York University and as the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE).

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G LO B A L R E L I G I O U S L E A D E R S Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks ‫זצ“ל‬

The Face of Evil

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he Israelites had escaped the seemingly inexorable danger of the chariots of the Egyptian army, the military high-tech of its day. Miraculously the sea divided, the Israelites crossed, the Egyptians, their chariot wheels caught in the mud, were unable either to advance or retreat and were caught by the returning tide. The Israelites sang a song and finally seemed to be free, when something untoward and unexpected happened. They were attacked by a new enemy, the Amalekites, a nomadic group living in the desert. Moses instructed Joshua to lead the people in battle. They fought and won. But the Torah makes it clear that this was no ordinary battle: “Then the L-rd said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under the Heaven.’ Moses built an altar and called it The L-rd is my Banner. He said, ‘The hand is on the L-rd’s throne. The L-rd will be at war with Amalek for all generations” (Shemot 17:14–16). This is a very strange statement, and it stands in marked contrast to the way the Torah speaks about the Egyptians. The Amalekites attacked Israel during the lifetime of Moshe just once. The Egyptians oppressed the Israelites over an extended period, oppressing and enslaving them and starting a slow genocide by killing every male Israelite child. The whole thrust of the narrative would suggest that if any nation would become the symbol of evil, it would be Egypt. But the opposite turns out to be true. In Devarim the Torah states, “Do not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a stranger in his land” (Devarim 23:8).

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Shortly after, Moshe repeats the command about the Amalekites, adding a significant detail: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of G-d … You shall blot out the name of Amalek from under the Heaven. Do not forget” (Devarim 25:17–19). We are commanded not to hate Egypt, but never to forget Amalek. Why the difference? The simplest answer is to recall the Rabbis’ statement in Pirkei Avot: “If love depends on a specific cause, when the cause ends, so does the love. If love does not depend on a specific cause, it never ends.”1 The same applies to hate. When hate depends on a specific cause, it ends once the cause disappears. Causeless, baseless hatred lasts forever. The Egyptians oppressed the Israelites because, in Pharaoh’s words, “The Israelites are becoming too numerous and strong for us” (Shemot 1:9). In other words, their hate came from fear. It was not irrational. The Egyptians had been attacked and conquered before by a foreign group known as the Hyksos, and the memory of that period was still acute and painful. The Amalekites, however, were not being threatened by the Israelites. They attacked a people who were “weary and worn out,” specifically those who were “lagging behind.” In short: the Egyptians feared the Israelites because they were strong. The Amalekites attacked the Israelites because they were weak. In today’s terminology, the Egyptians were rational actors, the Amalekites were not. With rational actors there can


G LO B A L R E L I G I O U S L E A D E R S

be negotiated peace. People engaged in conflict eventually realise they are not only destroying their enemies: they are destroying themselves. That is what Pharaoh’s advisers said to him after seven plagues: “Do you not yet realise that Egypt is ruined?” (Shemot 10:7). There comes a point at which rational actors understand that the pursuit of self-interest has become self-destructive, and they learn to cooperate. It is not so with non-rational actors. Emil Fackenheim, one of the great post-Holocaust theologians, noted that towards the end of the Second World War, the Germans diverted trains carrying supplies to their own army to transport Jews to the extermination camps. So driven were they by hate that they were prepared to put their own victory at risk in order to carry out the systematic murder of the Jews of Europe. This was, he said, evil for evil’s sake.2 In Jewish memory, the Amalekites function as “the enemy” in Lee Harris’s sense.3 Jewish law, however, specifies two completely different forms of action in relation to the Amalekites. First is the physical command to wage war against them. That is what Samuel told Saul to do, a command he failed fully to fulfil. Does this command still apply today? The unequivocal answer given by Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch is: No.4 Maimonides ruled that the command to destroy the Amalekites only applied if they refused to make peace and accept the seven Noahide laws. He further stated that the command was no longer applicable since Sancheriv, the Assyrian, had transported and resettled the nations he conquered so it was no longer possible to identify the ethnicity of any of the original nations against whom the

Israelites were commanded to fight. He also said, in The Guide for the Perplexed, that the command only applied to people of specific biological descent. It is not to be applied in general to enemies or haters of the Jewish people. So the command to wage war against the Amalekites no longer applies. However, there is a quite different command, to “remember” and “not forget” Amalek, which we fulfil annually by reading the passage about the Amalekites command as it appears in Devarim on the Shabbat before Purim, Shabbat Zachor. Here Amalek has become a symbol rather than a reality. By dividing the response in this way, Judaism marks a clear distinction between an ancient enemy who no longer exists, and the evil that enemy embodied, which can break out again at any time in any place. At times of peace, it is easy to forget the evil that lies just beneath the surface of the human heart. Never was this truer than in the past three centuries. The birth of Enlightenment, toleration, emancipation, liberalism and human rights persuaded many, Jews among them, that collective evil was as extinct as the Amalekites. Evil was then, not now. That age eventually begat nationalism, fascism, communism, two World Wars, some of the most brutal tyrannies ever known, and the worst crime of man against man. Evil never dies, and like liberty it demands constant vigilance. We are commanded to remember, not for the sake of the past but for the sake of the future, and not for revenge but the opposite: a world free of revenge and other forms of violence.

Lee Harris began Civilization and its Enemies with the words, “The subject of this book is forgetfulness,” and ends with a question: “Can the West overcome the forgetfulness that is the nemesis of every successful civilization?” That is why we are commanded to remember and never forget Amalek, not because the historic people still exists, but because a society of rational actors can sometimes believe that the world is full of rational actors with whom one can negotiate peace. It is not always so. Rarely was a Biblical message so relevant to the future of the West and of freedom itself. Peace is possible, implies Moses, even with an Egypt that enslaved and tried to destroy us. But peace is not possible with those who attack people they see as weak and who deny their own people the freedom for which they claim to be fighting. Freedom depends on our ability to remember and whenever necessary to confront “the eternal gang of ruthless men,” the face of Amalek throughout history. 1

Avot 5:16.

2

Fackenheim, Emil L., and Michael L. Morgan. The Jewish Thought of Emil Fackenheim: A Reader. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1987, 126.

3

Lee Harris, Civilization and its Enemies: The Next Stage of History, New York, Free Press, 2004.

4

Rabbi N. L. Rabinovitch, Responsa Melomdei Milchamah, Ma’ale Adumim, Ma’aliyot, 1993, 22–25.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks ‫ זצ“ל‬was a global religious leader, philosopher, and award-winning author who served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013.

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G LO B A L R E L I G I O U S L E A D E R S Omer Yankelevich

Our Time to Come Together

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t’s a striking moment in the Purim story when Mordechai, scared and dressed in sackcloth, calls on Esther to make a choice: “If you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish; and who knows whether you have not come to your royal position for a time such as this?” (Esther 4:14).

common language with shared goals. With these tools, we will have the ability to engage where there are differences of opinion.

Esther, forced to quickly grapple with the gravity of Haman’s wicked plot to annihilate the Jewish people, is given a choice. She can continue to focus inwards and fall back on the excuse of not yet being “called to come to the king” (4:11), or she can use her vital position in the service of her people.

While the Jews of the Purim story were spread across 127 different provinces, they were unified “in their own script and language” (8:9), and connected by a common goal. Each and every one of us today is called upon to revitalize the mutual responsibility, solidarity and respectful dialogue that unified the Jewish people throughout the generations. By reaching out and building bridges, we forge a stronger, more connected people bonded by a collective purpose.

In the end, Esther chooses the bold path, courageously confronting King Achashverosh and Haman. Her initiative ultimately enables the Jewish people to unify and prevail. Esther’s brave leadership has continued to inspire the Jewish people in the most trying of times. Faced with Hamans of our own, the Purim story teaches us to come together as a community in the face of adversity. Today, in the backdrop of external threats, we, the Jewish people, face internal challenges as tensions and disagreements threaten to tear us apart. This is best personified in the ongoing discourse regarding the growing gap between Israel and world Jewry, a people meant to be one but separated by geography, culture and beliefs. Let us heed Esther’s call, “Go gather all the Jews” (4:16). Our responsibility is to overcome this divide and build a

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The eternal bond of history, text and tradition that links the Jewish people must return to the forefront. Ultimately, we are connected by our fundamental mission to be a light unto the nations and to provide a vision of a better tomorrow.

Our Common Destiny, a declaration published a few months ago, is a joint initiative of the President of Israel, the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and the Genesis Philanthropy Group. It provides a valuable foundation to build upon. Written and signed by Jewish leaders and thinkers from around

the world, it lays out our shared story and principles to guide our actions. This living mandate can advance us as we tell a new narrative of the Jewish people; one rooted in our shared past and inspired by our shared future. Today, the Jewish people face a dilemma, similar to Esther’s. We can choose to turn inwards, or we can proactively – and perhaps uncomfortably – reach out. This bold movement requires the collective participation of rabbis, leaders, communities small and large, and every individual to effectuate Our Common Destiny. As Mordechai challenged Esther, “Who knows whether we have not come to our position for a time such as this?” Omer Yankelevitch is Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs.


G LO B A L R E L I G I O U S L E A D E R S Mrs. Shira Smiles

Enhancing Exuberance ‫ש ְמ ָחה‬ ׂ ִ ‫ִמ ׁ ּ ֶש ִ ּנכְ נַ ס ַא ָ ּדר ַמ ְר ִ ּבין ְ ּב‬ “From the arrival of the month of Adar we increase joy.”

T

his well-known saying of Chazal seems to be the linchpin for all our Purim festivities. What is the essence of this joy, and how can we keep it going? The simcha of Jews is inherently different from the simcha of the rest of the world. When other nationalities celebrate, a business success or victory for example, eating and drinking pretty much completes their celebration. For Jews, however, celebration means understanding G-d’s role in the victory, and instituting rituals and laws that will cement this understanding and joy for all generations. While every one of our holidays includes specific mitzvot, there is a difference between the mitzvot of Purim and those of other holidays. Yes, we are required to take a lulav and etrog on Sukkot, and we are required to eat matzah on Pesach, but these mitzvot do not define the day. And although we are commanded to rejoice on our holidays, that rejoicing does not connote their essence. In contrast, Purim is defined by rejoicing. We are commanded to make the day itself a day of rejoicing. In that respect, we are to make it a day of rejoicing for all, not just for ourselves. We are to embrace members of our community, especially those on the fringes who may feel downtrodden or lonely, by including them in our mishloach manot. We are to give joy to the poor, the orphan, the widow who may not have the wherewithal to buy

delicacies on Purim, or perhaps even to pay for necessities, by giving them gifts and dignity. We create more joy by giving to the poor than by creating very elaborate mishloach manot baskets to share our friendship with others. Simcha is about making other people happy.

“”

We are to embrace members of our community, especially those on the fringes who may feel downtrodden or lonely, by including them in our mishloach manot

There are actually two parallel motifs in the Purim tapestry. We certainly have the motif of reestablishing our relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu as we accepted the Torah anew. But we also have the motif of establishing and cementing relationships between each other, and the Rambam maintains the interpersonal motif is primary. When one rejoices, one does it with others. When one brought the chagigah offering to the Mikdash on yom tov, he was enjoined from eating it alone. He was commanded to invite the poor and the orphans to share the meal with him. In this way, he would emulate HaKadosh Baruch Hu Who brings life to the downtrodden and unfortunate. How is Purim meant to be a day on

which we should resemble the Shechina? Further, how can we compare Purim to Yom KiPur(im)? On Yom Kippur we resemble angels who neither eat nor drink, but on Purim we are even greater than angels since we are acting in ways similar to G-d’s presence and bringing simcha to others. Since we are created in the image of G-d and are told to emulate G-d, we, like G-d, will want to give. Giving fills one with happiness as it fills others with happiness and fulfills our mission here on earth. Nevertheless, we are physical bodies as well as spiritual beings. There is a constant conflict between one’s egocentricity and one’s care for others. The body is about me, while the soul is about giving to others. But on Purim, the body and soul work together, as the body also recognizes that the greatest joy is in giving to others. On Purim we chose to accept the Torah out of love, we chose to emulate HaKadosh Baruch Hu and be like Him, to be givers and to make others happy. On Purim, we should be filled with and reflect joy both when we give and when we receive mishloach manot. Our focus should be on making others happy. Which is largely true the rest of the year as well.

Mrs. Shira Smiles is a sought-after international lecturer, a popular seminary teacher, and an experienced curriculum developer. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

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Lend Me Your Ears

The History of Hamentaschen

W

hat would Purim be without our beloved hamentaschen? They’re an age-old tradition, but what exactly is the origin of these delicious Purim treats? Why do we eat them on Purim, and what do they represent? As their name implies, it seems they are connected to the defeated villain of the Purim story, Haman. One of the oldest mentions of a Purim treat referred to as oznei Haman, Haman’s ears, is from Italy in the 1500s, in a skit written by Yehudah Sommo. Although oznei Haman in Modern Hebrew are synonymous with hamentaschen, this may have been a reference to another, lesser-known Purim pastry, hamenohren, literally “Haman’s ears.” Unlike their triangular cousins, hamen-ohren have no filling, and are actually shaped like ears. Although there is a myth that Haman’s ears were cut off before he was hanged, there is no documentation to verify this. Merely hearsay...

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In Yiddish, hamentaschen means “Haman’s pockets.” (Although the correct singular form of the word is hamentasch, most English speakers use the plural form interchangeably; i.e., “I ate a chocolate hamentaschen” presumably to allow themselves to actually consume more than one.) The word hamentaschen may be symbolic of the money Haman gave to Achashverosh in exchange for permission to kill the Jews, taken from his own “pockets” or “pouches.” Perhaps it is also a reference to the Hebrew, ‫תש‬, to weaken, symbolizing the weakening of Haman. Alternatively, the original name may have been man-taschen, literally, “poppy-seed pockets,” with the ha being added on later. Ha ha! Why the three-sided shape though? A simple explanation is that folding and baking dough around a filling to form a pouch, such as dumplings, was a common form of Ashkenazi baking. A well-known legend brought by the Sefer HaMoadim explains that Haman had a three-cornered hat. The Midrash says that when Haman recognized the merit of the three Avot, his strength


immediately weakened. Perhaps these three corners are a reference to our Patriarchs. Archeological documentarian Simcha Jacobovici claims that the shape of the hamentaschen is similar to the shape of the die used in an ancient Babylonian game, suggesting they represent the die that Haman cast to determine the date of extermination of the Jews. What about the filling? Although chocolate, jam – and in Israel, date spread – are some of the most popular fillings today, hamentaschen were originally filled with poppy seeds. The Beit Yosef wrote that “Some say one should eat a food made out of seeds on Purim in memory of the seeds that Daniel and his friends ate in the house of the king of Babylon.” The Midrash explains that, just like Daniel, Esther refrained from eating the non-kosher delicacies in the royal

palace, and instead ate only seeds and legumes. In commemoration, hamentaschen are filled with poppy seeds. Of course, we all know that Purim is all about revealing what is hidden beneath. The sweet-filled hamentaschen may represent the sweetness hidden beneath the surface. Another traditional Ashkenazi Purim food is kreplach, meat-filled dumplings often served in soup. Ashkenazim customarily ate kreplach on Purim and on erev Yom Kippur, showing the deep connection between the two holidays (Yom Kippur is also known as Yom haKippurim, which can also be read as “the day which is like Purim”). The custom of eating kreplach on Purim is mentioned in the 1400s by the Leket Yosher and later by the Bach, the Taz, and the Shelah. But back to hamentaschen – Ashkenazi Jews are not the only ones to

make Haman-related foods for Purim. Morrocan Jews also have a traditional Purim food – a bread called boyosa, also known as “Haman’s eyes.” Two hardboiled eggs in their shells are baked into the middle of the dough, giving the appearance of eyes. Bulgarians traditionally ate a pasta dish on Purim called caveos di aman – “Haman’s hair.” Nanbrangi, poppy seed-coated cookies eaten on Purim in many Persian communities, are also known as “Haman’s fleas.” Syrians have their own version of “Haman’s fleas,” called simsemiyeh, using sesame instead of poppy. Turkish and Greek Jews had a custom of eating long, thin biscuits known as “Haman’s fingers.” There may be evidence of other communities eating some of Haman’s other body parts, but I think we have enough baking to do for Purim! Bon Appetit! 

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THE PEOPLE AND THE LAND

R AV KO O K ’ S T E AC H I N G S Rabbi Dr. Yosef Bronstein

Solidarity and Spirituality

Background illustration of Rav Kook courtesy of www.gedolimcanvas.com

R

av Kook describes Purim as a time for powerful spiritual experiences. Throughout the year, our souls are hidden beneath layers of our shallower, surface personalities. On Purim though, “wine enters, and secrets emerge” (Sanhedrin 38a), which Rav Kook interprets as referring to the revelation of the usually concealed soul. In addition, we don masks and costumes to conceal our surface personalities, creating the space for a focus on our inner and more essential identity – a Divine soul (Ma’amarei HaReiyah, 153). Generally, we think of soul revelations and spiritual experiences as intensely personal events. Each soul is unique and therefore one person’s experience is incommensurate with anyone else’s. Accordingly, spirituality is often thought of as optimally accessible when set apart from regular society, such as in a monastery or an ashram. However, Purim, despite its strong spiritual qualities, is celebrated in a communal setting. Large meals, parties and revelry are part and parcel of the day. Similarly, when Rav Kook describes the revelation of the soul which can occur on Purim, he highlights that this can only transpire if one cultivates feelings of community and solidarity with other Jews. It is only through Esther’s dictum of “Go and gather all the Jews” (Esther 4:16) that “the inner Jewish consciousness can break through” from its place of concealment (Ma’amarei HaReiyah, 154). On Purim, our spiritual connection with G-d is dependent upon the extent to which we connect with other people. This links to a broader theme in Rav Kook’s thought. Throughout his

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writings, he argues for the intertwinement of the “vertical” line towards G-d with the “horizontal” line towards others. For example, in one passage he writes that “the soul of individuals is drawn from the Source of the Worlds that exists within the collective; the collective gives the soul to the individual” (Orot Yisrael 2:3). In other words, G-d’s presence resides most brightly in the collective of the Jewish people. The only path to access Divinity is through deep and meaningful connections with the Jewish people. For Rav Kook, this enmeshment of interpersonal unity with our spiritual connection to G-d is part of the eternal message of Purim. It takes on new significance though, as the Jewish people return to the Land of Israel. When we are living an exilic reality dispersed amongst the nations, the notion of Jewish unity can, for the most part, only be realized within the confines of one’s local community. While in theory Jews always espoused a connection to the nation as a whole, this was practically difficult to actualize as they had little or no contact with Jews beyond their land.

accustomed to living alongside Jews of different stripes or risk the escalation of intra-group quarrelling. Simultaneously though, this potential pitfall also presents a tremendous opportunity. The ingathering of the exiles sets the stage for true national unity, the likes of which have not been seen in thousands of years. The creation of the Jewish collective – not just as an abstract theoretical entity but as a real people living side by side – can make the Divine light shine more brightly in this world. In turn, this feeling of “amongst my nation I dwell” can enhance each Jew’s personal spiritual experiences, on Purim and throughout the year. Let us reveal this Purim Letter with all its wondrousness, which transcends all our meager [human] knowledge. [Let us] declare the power of a unified Jewish people which brings together all the strands of G-d’s nation. [This unity] is the secret of the eternality of the Jewish people… When wine enters, secrets emerge (Ma’amarei HaReiyah, 155).

In Rav Kook’s time, however, Esther’s call of “Go and gather all of the Jews,” became a literal imperative. Jews left their homes in the Diaspora and returned to the Land of Israel. As Jews from multiple locales and cultures, each with its own unique lifestyle and approach, began to live together once again, the need and importance of Jewish unity became even more central (Ma’amarei HaReiyah, 156). On the one hand, this new reality creates a very real danger of discontent and disarray. Each group needs to become

Rabbi Dr. Yosef Bronstein is a faculty member of Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim and Yeshiva University.


ZIONIST LEADERS

THE PEOPLE AND THE LAND

OUR SERIES ON LEADERS WHO HAVE SHAPED ZIONISM CONTINUES WITH SOME OF ZIONISM’S EARLIEST INFLUENCERS

Rabbi Levi Ibn Chaviv

B

Defender of Yerushalayim

orn in Spain in 1483, Rabbi Levi Ibn Chaviv (also known as the Maharal Chaviv or by his acronym, the Maharlbach) was the son of Rabbi Ya’akov Ibn Chaviv, author of the aggadic commentary Ein Ya’akov. From the age of nine, Rabbi Levi led a rather nomadic life. His family was expelled from Spain in 1492 and they fled to Portugal, from where they were expelled once more in 1498. They then moved to Saloniki, where Rabbi Levi studied under his father’s auspices and learned to become a sofer stam. It was there that Rabbi Ya’akov passed away and Rabbi Levi completed his father’s unfinished manuscript of the Ein Ya’akov. In 1513, Rabbi Levi moved to Israel for a short period. Unable to earn a living, he returned to Saloniki, then moved to Damascus, and Aleppo, all the while determined to return to the Holy Land. In 1525, Rabbi Levi moved to Tzfat, where he spent a short amount of time before finally settling in Yerushalayim, where it didn’t take long before he was appointed chief rabbi of the city. He had a burning passion for Yerushalayim and spent his life building and defending the holy city. After the Spanish expulsion, many Jews came directly or indirectly to settle in

Israel. Most of them settled in Tzfat, away from the Muslim and Christian threat in Yerushalayim. The Jews of Yerushalayim were few and impoverished, while Tzfat was flourishing spiritually and financially in the height of its “Golden Era.” Although he could have stayed in Tzfat, a breeding ground for the greatest rabbis and leaders of the time, Rabbi Levi chose to move to Yerushalayim, despite the difficult conditions, decrying the abandonment of the Holy City. He wrote at length encouraging Jews to live there and criticizing the Jews of Tzfat for forgetting the holy city. When a plague broke out in Yerushalayim, spreading quickly because of cramped conditions, Rabbi Levi remained in the city while many families fled. One of his most famous rulings is his opposition to renewing semicha, halachic rabbinic ordination. According to the Rambam, if all of the rabbis and leaders of Israel agree to it, semicha as was performed in the times of the Mikdash can be renewed. In 1538, when the rabbis of Tzfat got together to renew the semicha, Rabbi Levi was not consulted. Outraged they could consider such a thing without taking counsel with the Rabbi of Yerushalayim, Rabbi Levi wrote to them to declare his objection, claiming semicha needed to come first

and foremost from Yerushalayim. The project was halted. Rabbi Levi also wrote extensively on the rejuvenated Mitzvot HaTluyot BaAretz, mitzvot which were not kept in exile but were suddenly relevant in Israel. His halachic responsa were compiled into the Maharlbach Responsa, a fundamental source in Mitzvot HaTluyot BaAretz. Another famous responsa of his addresses the halachot of Purim Meshulash, a rare occurrence when Shushan Purim falls out on Shabbat (like this year). Such a Purim occurred when Rabbi Levi served as Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim. At the time, the Jews didn’t know what to do. Having returned from exile, they had no tradition regarding when the mitzvot of Purim should be performed in such a circumstance. Rabbi Levi taught them the answers. He also wrote a commentary on the Rambam’s laws of Kiddush HaChodesh. Rabbi Levi Ibn Chaviv passed away in Yerushalayim in 1545. After his passing, the Jewish community in Yerushalayim, which he had worked so hard to cultivate, dwindled, and many moved away. Nevertheless, his legacy as a defender of Yerushalayim as the center of Torah and Jewish life, and his mesirut toward the holy city, remains. 

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THE PEOPLE AND THE LAND

ISRAEL ELECTIONS Gil Hoffman

Israel’s Quest for Stability

T

he happy ending of the Purim story is that instead of the wicked Haman, King Achashverosh’s new viceroy was Mordechai HaYehudi. But even then, after Haman and his sons are dead and the Jews are no longer at risk, the last verse of the Megillah recounts how Mordechai still did not please everyone: “For Mordecai the Jew was viceroy to King Achashverosh, and great among the Jews and accepted by most of his brethren, seeking the good of his people and interceding for the welfare of all his kindred.” One can look at this verse with frustration and think how ungrateful the Jewish people were to Mordechai, who kept them alive in exile. Much like the complaints of the Israelites to Moshe after their liberation and the parting of the Red Sea, the Jews of Persia appear petty. Nevertheless, the fact that Mordechai was even accepted by most of his brethren is impressive by today’s standards. Amid hyperpolarization, on March 23, Israel is going to its fourth election in under two years, because no leader has obtained the support of a majority of Israel’s nine million citizens. Like Moshe, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is from the tribe of Levi, and like Mordechai, he boasts of his successes in saving the Jewish people from enemies in present-day Iran. Netanyahu is the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history after winning elections in 1996, 2009, 2013 and 2015 and remaining in power after the three inconclusive elections of 2019-20. The current race is yet another referendum

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on his leadership, in which he faces four disadvantages he did not have in the previous three. 1. He lost part of his political bloc when he left the right-wing Yamina Party out of his current governing coalition. Yamina leader Naftali Bennett now says he is running against him for prime minister. That leaves Netanyahu’s bloc with only his own Likud, Haredi parties and the Religious Zionist Party, which may not cross the 3.25% electoral threshold. Unless those parties obtain a majority of the Knesset’s 120 seats, Netanyahu would need the support of the angry Bennett to form another government. Netanyahu also faces New Hope, a new party led by former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar. Unlike past alternatives to his leadership, Netanyahu cannot disparage either New Hope or Yamina by calling their leaders leftist. 2. Netanyahu cannot campaign by warning about dangers from Israeli Arabs, as he has successfully in previous races. In a gamble, Netanyahu instead built an alliance with United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas, placed Arab educator Nael Zoabi on the Likud list, and promised he would appoint Zoabi a minister. 3. Netanyahu’s trial on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust is in full swing. Having to face the charges in court shortly before the election could either harm him politically or boomerang and strengthen him among his political base that views this trial as a witch-hunt. 4. The final disadvantage is that Netanyahu no longer has Donald Trump as US President. Ahead of recent Israeli

elections, Trump took steps that helped Netanyahu politically. Despite these disadvantages, Netanyahu also has three new advantages: 1. He can celebrate his peace agreements with Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. The agreements reinforce the Likud’s message that Netanyahu is by far Israel’s most experienced and worldly leader. 2. His success in making Israel the “Vaccination Nation.” The Jewish State has vaccinated a much higher percentage of its people than any other country, helping ease the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus. 3. The final advantage is that his challengers are more divided than ever. The “anyone but Bibi” camp has parties in the right, left and center of the political map. The leader of the largest party running against him, Yair Lapid, has been ruled out by the Haredi parties, so he would have to unite a very wide spectrum of parties to build a coalition, which could prove very difficult. If Netanyahu, Lapid, Sa’ar and Bennett cannot form a government, Israelis would have to endure yet another election in the fall. This instability will continue until Israel finally has a leader who – like Mordechai – is accepted by most of his brethren. Gil Hoffman is the chief political correspondent and analyst of The Jerusalem Post, and the only speaker in history to have lectured about Israel in all 50 states. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


P L AC E S I N I S R A E L

THE PEOPLE AND THE LAND Eve Harow

Bar’am and Purim

J

ust three kilometers from Lebanon on Israel’s northern border lie the remains of the ancient Jewish village of Kfar Bar’am. Founded in all likelihood during the Second Temple period, the town remained Jewish for centuries until some time between the early Muslim conquest in the seventh century and the Ayyubids in the late 12th/early 13th century when it was abandoned and occupied by Muslims. Maronite Christians lived there till 1948, and in 1949 the secular Hashomer HaTzair established Kibbutz Bar’am on the land where they now cultivate orchards of plums, nectarines, apples and pears. After the destruction of Bayit Sheini (70 CE) and the demolishing of Judean towns as punishment for the Bar Kochba Revolt (132-135/6 CE), the Galilee and Golan became the center of Jewish life in Israel under the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Many synagogues in the area were built from the third century and are mentioned in Mishnaic and Talmudic literature. There are a few in the southern Chevron Hills (Eshtamoa, Sussya, Maon, Carmel) and some in the Jordan Valley Rift (Ein Gedi, Jericho) but the vast majority are in the eastern Galilee and Golan. These are some of the earliest synagogues we know and there has been much debate about the time of their building. Of the two synagogues in Kfar Bar’am, one has been preserved and restored and is the subject of scholarly investigation. The synagogue itself has been dated to the third century based on a relief and other evidence, however the archaeological survey of the area around it has remains only from the fifth century. Much has been discussed about this discrepancy between the building and the grounds

and this is also the case in other Galilean Talmudic towns where the synagogues are older than the signs of settlement around them. How can this be explained? The latest theory is the buildings are put together from stones in secondary use, meaning they were carved earlier for other buildings elsewhere and reused in these new sites. It’s clear, for example, that the lintel of the Bar’am synagogue is not the original. What possible reason would there be for this taking apart and rebuilding?

Remember that quarrying, carving and moving stones in the ancient world was an expensive, time-consuming and difficult endeavor, so there was much secondary and even tertiary use of stones. It’s likely the Romans didn’t allow the Jews to have monumental buildings for worship and they could only do it at a later time. Perhaps they weren’t allowed to carve anything new and could just recycle what had already been built. It’s also more than possible that the very early original synagogues mentioned by the Sages were very simple affairs, more like a beit midrash, and these impressive buildings were constructed later, perhaps commensurate with the

fifth century building of churches and Samaritan synagogues around the Land. One of the interesting traditions connected to Bar’am is of it being the burial place of Mordechai and Esther, in a tomb in the National Park near the synagogue. On Purim in 1949, Jews from Tzfat read the Megillah there, reviving a Middle Ages tradition to celebrate Shushan Purim at the site. We have evidence from as early as 1215 of travellers and explorers writing that Queen Esther had instructed ‘her son Cyrus’ to bury her there and it soon became a site of pilgrimage. It’s unclear though what the source of the tradition is and the more accepted version is that they are buried in Hamadan, Iran, possibly ancient Shushan. But still… In another Tzfat-Bar’am connection, there’s a tradition that the facade of the Tiferet Yisrael synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem was inspired by the arches of the ancient synagogue of… Bar’am. As the story goes, after the devastating earthquake of 1837, survivors from Tzfat came to live in Jerusalem and in a desire to remember their beloved Galilee, designed the synagogue to look like the one in Bar’am. Traditions, conjecture, history, holidays. We may never know the ‘truth,’ but we’ve come home and can once again celebrate, in the Land of Israel, the Purim miracle that happened in the galut. Eve Harow is a licensed tour guide, podcaster and public speaker. eveharow.com • eve.harow@gmail.com `

A member of the Mizrachi Tour Guides Bureau mizrachi.org/tour-guides

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THE PEOPLE AND THE LAND

ISRAEL INSIGHT David M. Weinberg

Peace with the Gulf States is Genuine

J

ews and Israelis have been conditioned to hear only bitterness from Israel’s Arab neighbors; a narrative of self-pity and anger marked by complaints, false allegations, vituperation and glorification of violence against Israel. Nevertheless, from extensive conversations I have conducted with Emirati intellectuals in Dubai, I am persuaded that the Emirati pursuit of peace with Israel is genuine. It is backed by a discourse of religious moderation and broad-mindedness that is admirable. The Emiratis are a distinctive type of Arab Muslim. They want to redefine the self-identity and global image of Arab Muslims in a way that blends enlightenment with tradition. Affiliating with Israel fits perfectly into this agenda, aside from the security and economic benefits that will devolve from the UAE-Israel partnership. Indeed, the Emiratis see themselves as a people and a country that successfully blends ancient tradition, culture and ethnic identity with modern progress and ambition. (That, by the way, is how they view Jews and Israel too.) The core problem in the Middle East, say Emiratis, is that religious hatred has become the main political currency, a very volatile and hypocritically exploited currency. Iran invests heavily in religious hatred; hatred of Israel, of America and the West, and of other Muslims who do not hew to the radical Shiite line. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps relies on religious hatred to mobilize young men to its ranks. So do Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The Abraham Accords are meant “to take religious hatred out of the

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equation,” and move Israel-Arab ties to the level of normal state-to-state relations, hopefully setting an example for other Arab countries in the region. In fact, the only way to stabilize the many areas of conflict throughout the Middle East, say the Emiratis, is to make “normal life” the central pursuit of all Arab governments. I was told, for example, that it is a “normal thing” to have a choice of fruits and vegetables from India, or from Israel, in Emirati grocery stores. More importantly, normal family life revolves around school schedules and the quality of education. At the directive of Emirati leadership, for almost two decades schools have taught religious and ethnic tolerance, and the value of scientific and critical humanistic thinking. Therefore, Emiratis speak excellent English, study voraciously at the best universities abroad, embrace all the latest technologies in developing their country, and speak the language of multiculturalism and non-discrimination. It is, apparently, why every Emirati businessman and cultural figure I have met, says: “We have been waiting for so long for an above-the-table relationship with Israel.” The Emiratis see themselves and other Sunni Arabs as “victims of decades of media brainwashing” in support of “narrow” agendas and “immature” thinking. These deleterious discourses always need an “enemy” to hate. “Hatred is not from G-d. It does not flow from logic. And hatred is not the future,” a very senior Emirati close to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed told me.

The Emiratis “have learned over the course of time” that boycotting Israel “makes no sense,” since Israel is clearly a force for stability and an engine for prosperity in the region. The Emiratis have “matured”; unfortunately the Palestinians have not, and the Emiratis “cannot wait endlessly for the Palestinians to do so.” Emiratis are not impressed by the term “Judeo-Christian values,” and they are quick to point out that in the 21st century a clearly identifiable (Orthodox) Jew can walk the streets of Dubai or Doha in much more safety and comfort than he/she can walk the streets of Berlin, London, Paris or New York. The Emiratis prefer to speak of “Abrahamic Family values,” which are less religiously divisive and more inclusive. Of course, this “Abrahamic narrative” is also meant to challenge the anti-Western and anti-Israeli agenda of Islamist extremists, as well as the mainly European and Christian hard right which sees all Muslims as inherently anti-Western, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and all-together threatening. Some Emiratis are even willing to say openly that Jews and Israelis should be allowed to pray on Har HaBayit in Jerusalem, and that prayer rights there should be extended to Christians too if they so wish. “Islam is not meant to deny others their deep connections to G-d,” I was told.

David M. Weinberg is vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, jiss.org.il. His personal site is davidmweinberg.com.


THE PEOPLE AND THE LAND

the lax family edition

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Clear and concise introductions and a modern English translation alongside the original Hebrew text r Rashi, Nidda 66b Because it causes the hair to harden –

r Rambam, Hilchot Mikva’ot 2:18

a

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 199:2

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Masechet Nidda 66a–66b

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A N I N T R O D U C T I O N TO T H E

HaMizrachi Megillah Companion

M

egillat Esther is, chronologically, one of the last of the books of the Tanach. A story which occurs exclusively in exile. A book in which G-d’s name is never mentioned. An intrinsic part of the Ketuvim which almost didn’t make it in.1 There is so much that is unique about Megillat Esther, so many precious gems of wisdom hidden within it. What is hiding behind this ancient text? The word ‫ ְמגִ ָ ּלה‬, scroll, shares a root with the Hebrew word ‫לְ גַ ּלוֹ ת‬, to reveal. Esther’s name comes from the Hebrew hester, what is hidden. Megillat Esther is the book of revealing what is hidden. Esther’s hidden Jewish identity becomes revealed, and her hidden strength and bravery is brought out into the light.

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Like Esther, on Purim we hide our faces with masks and reveal our hidden, inner selves. We recognize G-d “hiding” behind the mask of nature, and reveal Him even where His name is seemingly missing. Though the story of the Megillah seems like a coincidental sequence of natural occurrences, we realize that G-d is hiding behind the scenes the whole time. Here is the HaMizrachi Megillah Companion: an introduction to the Megillah and 10 pearls of hidden wisdom for each of the 10 chapters of the Megillah, revealed by some of the top educators and speakers in Israel today.

1

Megillah 7a.


PURIM READING

Megillah Overview

Rabbi Menachem Leibtag

Hide and Seek

A

nyone singing Az Yashir (Shemot 15:1–18) or reciting the Hallel (Tehillim 114) declares publicly and explicitly that G-d receives the credit for the miracles of the Exodus. In contrast, an audience listening to Megillat Esther has no idea if G-d is behind our salvation, for His Name is never mentioned, not even once! Nonetheless, the Talmud (Megillah 14a) considers the public reading of the Megillah equivalent to our recitation of Hallel and the Song of the Sea! Chazal seemingly understood the absence of G-d’s Name from the Megillah was not only intentional, but also its key message! The deliberate obfuscation of G-d’s Name begs the reader to find G-d “hiding” behind the dramatic narrative. This style of composition may reflect an eternal religious message, that throughout our history, we must constantly search for G-d, even though He appears to be hidden. (It may also explain the peculiar name change of Hadassah to Esther.1) If our assumption is correct, then possibly another key Biblical theme may also be intentionally ‘missing’ in the Megillah, i.e. the Land of Israel. Could the author of the Megillah want the reader to ask not only where is G-d, but also – where is His Land? If so, we would expect the Megillah to leave us with at least a few clues. The first clue may be “hiding” in its opening verse, as it highlights that Achashverosh is a Persian king. Considering that Cyrus (Koresh) is known to be the first Persian king, hence the story in Megillat Esther takes place after the Jews had an opportunity to

return to Jerusalem, just as the prophet Yirmiyahu had predicted (see Ezra 1:1–7). Could the fact that Am Yisrael remained scattered among the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire (see 3:8), even though they could/should have returned a generation or two earlier, not relate to the prophetic message of the Megillah? A second clue can be discerned from the opening words of Haman to Achashverosh: “There is a certain nation scattered among the nations whose laws are different than any other nation, but the laws of the King they do not keep, and it is not worthwhile for the King to leave them be...” (3:8). Chazal raise the possibility that at times “the King” in Megillat Esther may be “holy,” i.e. it may be alluding to G-d Himself, and not only to Achashverosh. If correct, this verse may be a subtle allusion to G-d’s disappointment with the fact Am Yisrael had not returned to their Land. After all, in Yirmiyahu’s prophecy of future redemption (29:10-14), he promised not only the opportunity of return from Exile, but also stated G-d’s expectation that Am Yisrael would be eager to return and re-establish themselves as His nation in the Land of Israel. Furthermore, the Cyrus Declaration had provided the Jews not only with the “right of return” but also the opportunity to rebuild their Temple. There may be a subtle allusion to this in the Megillah’s extravagant detail of the vessels at Achashverosh’s party in Shushan and in its description of his palace.2 Had the Jews chosen Shushan over Jerusalem? Finally, when we consider the prophecies of Zechariah, the very verse that

introduces Mordechai (2:5) may be the most ironic line in the entire Megillah! Note that the phrase ish Yehudi is mentioned only one other time in the entire Tanach – in Zechariah 8:23. There, the ish Yehudi describes a devout Jew in Jerusalem – leading a group of non-Jewish pilgrims who have come to the Temple in search of G-d. Furthermore, the word haBira, up until this time, had been used exclusively to describe the Temple (see Divrei HaYamim 29:1 & 29:19). Now it describes Shushan! Finally, the name Mordechai is most provocative for it stems from the name of the chief Babylonian deity – Marduk (see II Kings 25:27 & Yeshayahu 39:1). Might we conclude that the Jewish people had replaced their G-d with Achashverosh, and their Temple with Achashverosh’s palace? Had the bira in Yerushalayim become Shushan haBira? The Megillah’s primary message is surely for the reader to perceive the hidden hand of G-d behind our salvation. Yet its more subtle message may be that this entire crisis could have been averted had we only answered G-d’s earlier call to begin our redemption. A more detailed version of this essay can be found at tanach.org/purim.htm. 1

Lehastir = to hide. See Esther 2:7 and Chullin 139b.

2

See 1:7 & 5:1. Note also Megillah 12a.

Rabbi Menachem Leibtag is an internationally acclaimed Tanach scholar and online Jewish education pioneer. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

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PURIM READING

Esther, Chapter One

Rabbi Shalom Rosner

— ‫ פרק א‬,‫— מגילת אסתר‬

Take a Second Look

T

he Megillah begins with ‫וַ יְ ִה י‬ ּ ִ “it was in the ‫ימ י ֲא ַח ׁ ְש וֵ רוֹ ׁש‬ ֵ ‫ב‬, days of Achashverosh.” The first chapter describes in elaborate detail the 180-day celebration the king arranged for all of his subjects. Achashverosh plays a major role in the entire story, his name and position being mentioned countless times throughout the Megillah. But it doesn’t stop there. Even Chazal seem to say that Achashverosh defined the entire time period. The Gemara (Shabbat 88a) tells us that Am Yisrael re-accepted the Torah at the time of the Purim story. The language used by the Gemara is ‫ַהדוֹ ר‬ ‫ימי ֲא ַח ׁ ְשוֵ רוֹ ׁש‬ ֵ ‫ק ְ ּבלו ָּה ִ ּב‬,ַ “they re-accepted it in the days of Achashverosh.” Why do our Rabbis define those days as the days of Achashverosh, and not, for example, in the days of Mordechai and Esther? It seems as if Chazal are using him, or at least his personality, to hint to us the secret of this special day. The centerpiece of Purim day is, of course, the reading of Megillat Esther. There is a fascinating controversy as to the level of obligation regarding reading the Megillah. Some (Ran, Ta’anit 7a) assume it’s a purely rabbinic obligation, while others (Tosfot, Rid, Megillah 20a) suggest it might even be Biblical. Many others (Ramban, Rashba) assume it’s a strong rabbinic law, rooted in a pasuk in Tanach, while still others (Turei Even, Megillah 4a) suggest it’s somewhere in between a Biblical and a rabbinic law. After the dust settles, what are we to make of the discussion itself? Why is it so unclear to our great

32 |

leaders as to the categorization of this mitzvah? Moreover, let’s look at the Megillah itself as one of our kitvei hakodesh, holy writings in the Tanach. Shmuel (Megillah 7a) tells us that although Esther is included in our canon, it is not ‫מ ַט ֵּמא ֶאת ַה ָ ּי ַדיִ ם‬, ְ it does not have full sanctity as do all the other books of Tanach. Why such an exclusion? Shmuel explains, “since it was given to be read and not to be written.” What does that mean? Is it or isn’t it part of our kitvei hakodesh (see Tosfot and Pnei Yehoshua ibid.)? The Ritva suggests it is sanctified enough to be included in the Tanach, but it’s not exactly called Torah shebichtav. It’s somewhere in the middle. What does this mean, and what is its message? We have no other parallel among the other 23 books of Tanach. There seems to be a pattern here. The level of obligation of kriat Megillah is not clear, and the status of the sefer itself is surprisingly under discussion. What is the underlying message? The secret of Purim, as we know, is hester panim, G-d’s acting behind the scenes of world events: ‫ֶא ְס ֵּתר ִמן‬ ‫“ – ַה ּתוֹ ָרה ִמ ַּניִ ן? וְ ָאנֹכִ י ַה ְס ֵּתר ַא ְס ִּתיר‬From where in the Torah can one find an allusion to Esther? as the verse states: “And I (G-d) will hide (haster astir) My face...” (Gemara Chullin 139b). The Megillah seems like a natural, explainable story of a nation in distress, followed by a logical salvation. Yet we know and understand

that it’s so much deeper. The dozens of “coincidences” that happened to work out for the salvation to occur must be seen in the broad strokes of the Master Artist. The real Melech is pulling all the strings. The message of Purim, therefore, is that what you see is not always what it seems. It looks like a purely rabbinic obligation, but maybe it’s not so simple. It looks like kitvei hakodesh, but then again, there’s more than meets the eye. Achashverosh himself perhaps captures the essence of this entire idea. He appears at times foolish and at other times evil. At times whimsical and at times decisive, at times controlling and at times being controlled. We recognize that we always have to dig deep and view our own lives, and the world around us, with a discerning eye, one that recognizes there is always a ‫ַה ְס ֵּתר‬ ‫ ַא ְס ִּתיר‬element. Let it be G-d’s will that very soon, He will reveal Himself in all His glory, and we will be able to merit open closeness with the One Above.

Rabbi Shalom Rosner is a Rebbe at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and Rabbi of the Nofei HaShemesh community. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


PURIM READING

Esther, Chapter Two

Rabbi Yitzchak Blau

— ‫ פרק ב‬,‫— מגילת אסתר‬

Women in Persia and Egypt

A

chashverosh’s campaign to find a new wife exemplifies his corrupt value system. Utilizing his royal power, he commands every pretty virgin in the kingdom to spend the night with him so he can select a queen (2:3, 2:14). His deplorable attitude toward women was already manifest in the first chapter, when he calls for Vashti to show off her beauty to the men of his court (1:11). In this new endeavor, women spend six months in oil of myrrh and six months in sweet smelling spices (2:12), an outrageous amount of time, highlighting the absurd immorality of the Persian court. Women are objects to be displayed and discarded after use. Prof. Yonatan Grossman employs a good example of intertextuality bolstering this theme. Many note the abundance of parallels, both thematic and linguistic, between the Esther narrative and the story of Yosef in Egypt. Among the similarities, the phrase ‫ ִּכי ֵּכן יִ ְמלְ א ּו יְ ֵמי‬appears only in these two episodes. In Egypt, it describes the time it took to embalm the deceased (Bereishit 50:3). In Persia, it refers to the duration of time women were immersed in oil (2:12). According to Prof. Grossman, this equation emphasizes the dehumanization of women in the Persian court. They are treated like mummies. The king’s advisors seem quite frightened of female independence. During the Vashti episode, Memuchan expresses fear that ignoring Vashti’s insolence will embolden all women to ignore their husband’s will (1:17) and the royal decree they send out explicitly calls for male hegemony in the house (1:22). Thus, we have a culture

that objectifies women and wants them subservient to their husbands. If so, Esther’s heroism has an ironically appropriate component. Haman, a central part of the atmosphere of the Persian court that denigrates women, is ultimately defeated by a woman. If we accept the aggadah identifying Haman with Memuchan (Megillah 12b), then Haman himself expressed this fear of independent women. After Mordechai dramatically challenges Esther to risk her safety and save Am Yisrael, Esther takes charge and begins giving directions. She instructs Mordechai to initiate a three-day fast as she goes to Achashverosh without permission. She cleverly uses two parties to make Achashverosh suspicious and ensnare Haman. Those who tried to keep women down find themselves defeated by a woman. Interestingly enough, this generates another parallel to the Jews in Egypt. Pharaoh apparently does not consider Jewish females a threat, commanding that the boys be thrown in the Nile while the girls can remain alive. Perhaps the Egyptian men want a wider range of available marriage choices. However, in subsequent events, woman after woman subverts his plan. First, two midwives refuse to carry out the evil murder of innocent Jewish babies. Then a Jewish mother, against all odds, places her infant son in a teiva (sometimes translated as basket), holding out hope that he will somehow survive. Abarbanel suggests Moshe’s father had already despaired, but Yocheved retained her commitment, courage and optimism. Pharaoh’s very daughter sees the baby and decides to save and raise him.

Next, Moshe’s sister enables Yocheved to nurse the baby and maintain a relationship with him. Of course, it is this baby Moshe who ultimately brings about the downfall of Pharaoh and Egypt. The very women who did not frighten Pharaoh are responsible for his demise. I believe this Biblical pattern in Shemot’s first two chapters lies behind Chazal crediting righteous Jewish women with redemption from Egyptian bondage (Sotah 11b). In one story, a monarch did not see Jewish women as a danger. In the other, a king and his advisors viewed women as pretty objects who should be kept in their place. Both stories include heroic women who changed history and defeated evil tyrannical men. Chazal say women are obligated in the four cups of wine on Pesach night and in reading the Megillah on Purim because “women were also part of the miracle” (Pesachim 108b, Megillah 4a). While Tosafot understands that women were simply subject to the identical danger, Rashi and Rashbam interpret this source as indicating that women were the central players in the two stories. The story of Esther resembles the tale of the Jews in Egypt and the holiday of Purim emulates its older cousin Pesach in that both reveal the redemptive influence and exceptional abilities of valiant women. Rabbi Yitzchak Blau is a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Orayta. He is the author of Fresh Fruit and Vintage Wine: The Ethics and Wisdom of the Aggada.

A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

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PURIM READING

Esther, Chapter Three

Yael Leibowitz

— ‫ פרק ג‬,‫— מגילת אסתר‬

What’s in a Name?

T

he holiday of Purim has a somewhat surprising etymology. Its name derives from a minor episode in chapter 3 of the Megillah that, if the holiday were not named after it, many of us probably wouldn’t even remember: “In the first month... ‘the lot’ was cast before Haman concerning every day and every month, [until it fell on] the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar” (3:7). Later in the Megillah, the topic of lots is mentioned again as the source for the holiday’s name. “Haman son of Hammedatha the Aggagit, the foe of all the Jews, had plotted to destroy the Jews, had cast a pur – that is, the lot, with the intent to crush and exterminate them. But when [Esther] came before the king, he commanded, ‘With the promulgation of this decree, let the evil plot, which he devised against the Jews recoil on his own head!’ So they impaled him and his sons on the stake. For that reason these days were named Purim, after the pur.” The holiday of Purim celebrates a chain of events that led to the salvation of the Jewish people. How interesting then, that the author of the Megillah didn’t choose to name the holiday after the brave deeds of its heroes, or even after one of the more significant, climactic events of the story, but rather the relatively small act of lot casting performed by the villain of the story. In the Second Book of Maccabees, for example, the day is referred to as “Mordechai’s Day,” which at first blush, seems to make a lot more sense than

34 |

“Purim.” However, a close look at lot casting, and how it was understood in the ancient world, reveals the profound theological message embedded in the name.

“”

Today, when we talk about casting lots, or the rolling of dice, we are essentially speaking about random odds, and about leaving things up to chance

Today, when we talk about casting lots, or the rolling of dice, we are essentially speaking about random odds, and about leaving things up to chance. In the ancient world however, it was believed that Divine will was manifest in the process, and as such, lot casting was used to select one possibility from a variety of others. This practice was common throughout the near east, and in the Tanach as well, we see G-d communicating His preference through lots. Most famously, lots were used to decide which male goat would be sacrificed and which would go to Azazel on Yom Kippur. Along similar lines, we know that much of the Land of Israel was divided among the tribes by a lottery system. In Yehoshua, lots were used to identify Achan, the man who had violated a serious post-war taboo, and in Samuel I, lots were used to select Saul, Israel’s first king. Other Biblical examples abound, and Yishayahu HaNavi refers to lot casting when he

envisions how reward and punishment will be doled out by G-d at the end of time (Yishayahu 34:17). G-d does not appear explicitly in Megillat Esther, and the events it tells of are devoid of overt miracles. However, the author of the Megillah urges his readers to look for G-d even when there are no internal guarantees of His intervention. He does so by including serendipitous occurrences and perfectly ironic reversals throughout the Megillah, the cumulative effect of which makes us hyper-aware of the likelihood of Divine intervention. The irony of Haman’s impalement during the very month that “was chosen” for his plan, would not have escaped the attention of ancient Jewish readers. At the very least, it would have given them pause to reflect on whether, perhaps, G-d was working behind the scenes the entire time. Like those ancient readers, we experience the Megillah the way one stares at a perfectly drawn optical illusion. We look for what we think we see, or perhaps what we want to see, but we are never convinced that what we are seeing is the only reality. That very experience, intentionally cultivated by the author, remains the challenge, and the joy of Jewish history. As such, the holiday is named for everything Haman’s pur encompasses. Yael Leibowitz has taught Continuing Education courses and served as Resident Scholar in New York. She is currently teaching as she continues her studies at Bar-Ilan University. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


PURIM READING

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PURIM READING

Esther, Chapter Four

Rabbi Judah Dardik

— ‫ פרק ד‬,‫— מגילת אסתר‬

Joining the Jewish Journey

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pon hearing the news of the destructive royal decree against the Jews, Mordechai sends a personal message to Esther. “He [sent] the text of the law that had been proclaimed… for their destruction... [to] show it to Esther… and charge her to go to the king and to appeal to him and to plead with him for her people” (4:8). Esther demurs, citing the very real risk to her life if she dares to approach the king uninvited. “All the… people of the king’s provinces know that if any person, man or woman, enters the king’s presence in the inner court without having been summoned, there is but one law for him—that he be put to death” (4:11). It is at this moment that Mordechai speaks some of the most concurrently chilling and uplifting words ever spoken in Tanach: “Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from elsewhere, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis” (4:13-14). Esther takes Mordechai’s charge to heart, agrees to approach Achashverosh, and her actions save the lives of countless Jews in the kingdom. I shiver every time I read Mordechai’s words. To be a Jew is to be a part of the greatest and longest running story in history. We have deep roots in the past, have been through and accomplished an extraordinary amount, and have always carried a long-term vision towards the future. But the going has frequently been tough, and it is understandably tempting to think one could save oneself by hiding from this identity.

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Mordechai’s description of how G-d guides history casts these sorts of decisions in an unexpected light. There is a classic debate among the great medieval thinkers regarding how involved G-d is in the lives of most individuals. Some1 maintain that G-d’s hashgachah (Divine providence) appears in even the more minor details of all of our daily lives and events. Others2 contend that the lives of most people are governed by the laws of nature and normal cause and effect, with the exception of the particularly righteous. However, even those in the latter camp agree that G-d intervenes in matters that affect the fate of Am Yisrael as a whole. Even if it were possible to escape one’s identity, denying it would leave us on the sidelines of the forward march into a better future. Esther looks at the situation and makes the sensible initial decision. If she goes to Achashverosh of her own accord, she will likely be killed. That is the rule. But Mordechai directs her attention away from the decrees of this earthly Persian king, and towards the rules of the King of the Universe. G-d made a covenant with our earliest ancestors and promised that Am Yisrael will always survive even the most difficult times. The Jewish people have a role to play in the world and in history, and will live to see our mission to its successful conclusion. That long term destiny is guaranteed.

message to Esther is she should remember it is not her royal position that best assures her safety in the long-run, but rather her participation and membership in the eternal nation. On the day-to-day level, the theological issue of the extent to which G-d intervenes in our lives remains in question. But the message in this chapter, at the heart of the story of Esther, is one that looks to the bigger picture. We tend to think our role in tefillah is to daven for G-d to save the Jews, when perhaps in truth it is through our davening that we include ourselves in the Jewish people, who will ultimately be saved.

1

Chovot HaLevavot 3 (introduction), 4:3, 4:4, 8:3 (19th reason) and elsewhere, one reading of Ramban Shemot 13:16, etc.

2

Notably the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 3:17–18.

What is not guaranteed is the fate of the individual. The Jewish people will survive, even thrive. But what of the individual Jew? No particular person in history is necessary for G-d’s plan; someone else could come along and assume any role that needs to be played. Mordechai’s

Rabbi Judah Dardik is Assistant Dean of Yeshivat Orayta. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


PURIM READING

Esther, Chapter Five

— ‫ פרק ה‬,‫— מגילת אסתר‬

Lt. Colonel (res.) Rabbi Yedidya Atlas

The Eternal Message

C

hapter 5 of Megillat Esther is a key bridge in the storyline between chapters 4 and 6. In chapter 4, we read of Esther’s hesitancy to follow Mordechai’s instructions to go uninvited to the king, due to the inherent life-threatening danger should the king not acknowledge her with his golden scepter. At Mordechai’s behest, Esther prepares to carry out her mission. She understands the importance of Achdut Yisrael (the unity of the Jewish people) to her mission’s success and asks Mordechai to convene all the Jews to fast together with her for three days before she approaches the king.

This is also true of the process of our national salvation and redemption in our own times.

Chapter 5 then describes Esther coming before the king, who stretches out his scepter, understanding she would not take such a risk if it were not important. Esther invites King Achashverosh and Haman to feast with her. She then ducks Achashverosh’s request to tell him what she wants but sets the stage for a second feast the following day, also with Haman. Haman, filled with joy at his apparent further rise in stature, second only to the king, then spots Mordechai, who doesn’t bow to him in respect. Haman’s joy turns to fury and he returns home to consult with his wife Zeresh and his advisors. Zeresh advises him to get the king’s permission to immediately hang Mordechai on a 50-cubit-high gallows so he, Haman, can go to Queen Esther’s feast with the king in the proper joyous state of mind.

At the time of the Balfour Declaration (pictured) in 1917, some rabbinic leaders failed to see the redemptive process unfolding while others saw the future with clarity. Relating to the aforementioned verse in the Megillah, the renowned Admor, Rav Shmuel of Sochatchov, author of the seminal nine-volume work Shem MiShmuel, gathered his leading chassidim and quoted the commentary of the Ibn Ezra on this verse: “And tomorrow I shall do as the king asks” (in reference to Esther revealing her request). Rav Shmuel pointed out that on the first day, Esther held back because she did not yet see a sign from Above that it was time to reveal herself and her request, but on the second day, after King Achashverosh had ordered Haman to bestow the king’s supreme honors upon Mordechai, Esther’s heart was strengthened to go ahead. The Sochatchover Rebbe continued that the Balfour Declaration too was a sign from Heaven that we are in the period of atchalta deGeula, the “Beginning of the Redemption,” and one should not make light of it. The Chafetz Chaim (as

Chapters 6 and 7 deal with the Haman’s downfall and execution and the Jews’ subsequent salvation. Thus, the events in chapter 5 symbolize the beginning of Am Yisrael’s escape from the evil decree. Taken on its own, one could not know that such a process had begun.

Verse 5:8 reads: “If I have found favor in the eyes of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I shall prepare for them tomorrow, and I shall then do as the king asks (to reveal my request).” This event is the beginning of the end for Haman and the ‘moving up a gear’ in the salvation process. By itself, we cannot predict the outcome, but for perceptive people of faith, future developments can be clearly foreseen.

quoted by his son in his book HaChafetz Chaim, printed in 1937) also perceived the Balfour Declaration to be “a heavenly sign regarding the forthcoming redemption of Israel.” Therefore, reading chapter 5 is a reminder to us all to faithfully recognize G-d’s great miracles transpiring all around us as the Redemption gets ever closer.

Lt. Colonel (res.) Rabbi Yedidya Atlas is a veteran journalist specializing in geo-political and geo-strategic affairs in the Middle East. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

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PURIM READING

Esther, Chapter Six

Rabbanit Sally Mayer

— ‫ פרק ו‬,‫— מגילת אסתר‬

Esther, Yosef, and the First Gulf War

B

oth the language and the storyline of Megillat Esther are rich in parallels to the story of Yosef in Egypt. What are these parallels? And what is the message of these many connections? First, Yosef and Esther are both children of Rachel Imeinu, as Mordechai, Esther’s cousin, is described as an ish yemini – from the shevet of Binyamin. They are both described as beautiful: yefeh/yefat toar. Both are a Jew in disguise – Yosef’s brothers think he is an Egyptian viceroy, and Esther hides her Jewish identity from the royal court. In both cases, we find an inconsolable mourner – Ya’akov tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth, and refuses to be comforted by his children over the loss of Yosef; Mordechai too tears his clothing and puts on sackcloth when he hears of Haman’s evil decree, and he refuses to accept Esther’s offer of a change of clothing. Both Yosef and Esther are where they are for a reason – Yosef tells his brothers that G-d planned his descent to Egypt so that he could save everyone from famine, and Mordechai says to Esther: who knows, perhaps this (to save the Jews) is why you have become queen? When Ya’akov sends Binyamin down to Egypt to the ruler who asked to see him, he says to his son ‫ַּכ ֲא ׁ ֶשר ׁ ָשכֹלְ ִּתי ׁ ָשכָ לְ ִּתי‬ – and if I am bereft, so be it. Clearly parallel language describes Esther’s attitude to going to the king when she has not been called: ‫וְ ַכ ֲא ׁ ֶשר ָא ַב ְד ִּתי‬ ‫ – ָא ָב ְד ִּתי‬and if I am destroyed/killed, so be it. She also uses the words, ‫ֵאיכָ כָ ה‬

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‫יתי ָ ּב ָר ָעה ֲא ׁ ֶשר יִ ְמ ָצא ֶאת ַע ִּמי‬ ִ ‫ – אוּכַ ל וְ ָר ִא‬how can I stand by and see the evil that will befall my nation – the same words that Yehuda uses when begging the ruler to ְ ‫ֵא‬ let Binyamin go home: ‫יך ֶא ֱעלֶ ה ֶאל ָא ִבי‬ ּ ‫וְ ַה ַנ ַּער ֵאינֶ ּנ ּו ִא ִּתי ֶפן ֶא ְר ֶאה ָב ָרע ֲא ׁ ֶשר יִ ְמ ָצא ֶאת‬ ‫ – ָא ִבי‬how can I go back to my father, and the boy is not with me, lest I see the evil that will befall my father? What is the point of all of these similarities? What message did Esther and Mordechai intend to send by using language that clearly compares their story to that of Yosef in Mitzrayim? The story of Yosef is the story of a Jew in galut, exiled from his homeland. The Torah makes it abundantly clear that G-d is with Yosef every step of the way – we read that Potiphar saw that G-d blessed his house because of Yosef, that G-d was clearly with Yosef in jail – the name of G-d appears again and again throughout the story. The Megillah, on the other hand, is written without even one mention of the name of G-d, to symbolize that G-d is hidden from us. Mordechai and Esther intentionally evoke the Yosef story to teach us that even though we are in galut, and even when we cannot see G-d, He is with us, and, even more importantly, G-d will redeem us, as the Jews ultimately left Egypt to enter the Promised Land. This idea reminds me of my experience when I was in Israel for the year at Ohr Torah Stone’s Midreshet Lindenbaum during the first Gulf War, in 1991. I remember how scared everyone in Israel was, as Saddam Hussein attacked

Israel with Scud missiles, the air raid sirens that blared and the gas masks we wore. I remember how amazed we were that G-d protected us from terrible casualties in those attacks. And then the war ended on Purim, and it was clear to us all that it was Yad Hashem, that the leader of Persia (Iraq) was once again attacking us, and G-d saved us on Purim, just as He did in the time of the Megillah. Then it occurred to me that when the history books write about the Gulf War, they will not talk about G-d. They’ll talk about the date it began, the date it ended, the strategy Saddam employed in trying to bring Israel into the war. The story in the history books would actually read… just like the Megillah, with no mention of G-d. This is the message of Megillat Esther: That it is our job to see the Hand of G-d in history, and furthermore, to sense the presence of G-d in our very own lives.

Rabbanit Sally Mayer serves as Rosh Midrasha at Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Overseas Program and teaches Talmud and Halacha.

A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


PURIM READING

Esther, Chapter Seven

Rabbi Jesse Horn

— ‫ פרק ז‬,‫— מגילת אסתר‬

Esther’s Transformation

O

ne central theme of the Purim miracle is ‫וְ נַ ֲהפוֹ ְך הוּא‬, “And it was switched around” (Esther 9:1). Many things are switched around in the Megillah, most notably, the fate of Am Yisrael, but Chazal (Ptichta D’Esther Rabbah, Vilna Edition 9) stress one particular element about Achashverosh, ‫ׁ ֶש ָה ַרג ֶאת ִא ׁ ְש ּתוֹ ִמ ּ ְפנֵ י אוֹ ֲהבוֹ ו ַּפ ַעם ַא ֶח ֶרת ָה ַרג‬ ֹ‫את אוֹ ֲהבוֹ ִמ ּ ְפנֵ י ִא ׁ ְש ּתו‬,ֶ “He killed his wife because of his loved one and on another occasion killed his loved one because of his wife.” Achashverosh kills Vashti because of his advisors, and he kills Haman because of his wife, Esther, after she charges him with the mass-extermination of her people. Haman, in an effort to save his life, turns to Esther and begins to beg (7:7) but to no avail. This scene best captures Esther’s remarkable transformation, her own ‫וְ נַ ֲהפוֹ ְך הוּא‬.

The first three chapters of the Megillah portray Esther as beautiful, quiet, passive and obedient. This is undoubtedly expressed in Esther’s introduction, “She had no father or mother, and the girl was beautiful and pleasant to look at and when her father and mother died, Mordechai took her in as a daughter” (2:7), and reinforced throughout. The Megillah fortifies this image by noting that Esther obeys Mordechai’s command to remain utterly silent and not inform anyone of her religion or nationality (2:10–11). Esther is then taken into the palace for a special party (2:18). There, the people are deeply impressed with her beauty (2:16). The

Megillah reiterates how she remained quiet, not revealing her nationality, as Mordechai had instructed her (2:20). These descriptions reinforce our image of Esther as beautiful, quiet and obedient. However, Esther is not just quiet and passive; she is controlled by others. She almost blindly obeys Mordechai to keep her nationality secret (2:10, 20). Additionally, she is taken forcefully to the palace (2:8), first as a prospect to marry the king and ultimately, as his wife (2:17). None of these actions appear to be of her own volition. The verse stating “And Esther was taken” (2:16) is more than a mere description of her movements; it captures who she is. There is a stark contrast between Esther in the first (chapters 1–3) and second parts (chapters 4–10) of the Megillah. In the second segment, she is exceedingly active. Esther initiates and organizes three days to fast and mourn (4:15–16), enters Achashverosh’s inner courtyard unannounced (5:1–2), putting her life in peril (4:11), throws two parties for Achashverosh and Haman, and at the second one, accuses Haman of plotting the destruction of the Jewish people. In her newly active role, she exerts dominance over those who had previously controlled her. The Megillah unmistakably presents her as having the upper hand. She commands Mordechai to gather the Jews to fast (4:16), which he does, and Achashverosh can’t fulfill her needs

quickly enough (5:3, 5:6, 7:2, and 9:12). However, Esther’s accumulation of power is most unmistakably reinforced when Haman, pleading for his life, turns to her rather than to the king. Even Haman realizes Esther is now the one calling the shots. Haman begs Esther for his life because clearly she has the power. This visual illustration further reinforces Esther’s commanding role. What precipitates this change in Esther? What motivates her to behave so differently? The turning point in Esther’s behavior occurs immediately after a powerful conversation with Mordechai. At the climax in the narrative, Mordachai exclaims, “Do not be silent with your soul escaping from all the Jews, for if you are silent now, salvation will come to the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will be lost. And who knows if for this moment you became queen” (Esther 4:14). Upon hearing this challenge, Esther is deeply inspired and risks everything, including her life, to save her nation. Esther’s unparalleled commitment to Am Yisrael prompts a metamorphosis in her behavior. Simply put, Esther becomes who she needs to be because she has to save her people. Rabbi Jesse Horn is a Senior Ra”m (Rosh Metivta) at Yeshivat Hakotel and director of the Mizrachi/Yeshivat Hakotel Mechanchim program. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

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PURIM READING

Esther, Chapter Eight

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow

— ‫ פרק ח‬,‫— מגילת אסתר‬

The Right of Self-Defense

M

any readers breathe a sigh of relief when they reach this chapter – Haman and his sons have been hanged and it seems the story of the Megillah has reached its conclusion.

annulled. The decree is in place. In another few months, it will be permitted to kill the Jews. But according to the new letters sent out, the Jews will be permitted to congregate and defend themselves:

This is not a correct reading of the Megillah though. In our chapter we see that even though Haman is no longer in the picture, the decree to wipe out the Jews still stands. If nothing is done, the verdict will still be valid, and the future of the Jews is at risk. This stems from the laws of the Persian kingdom:

“To this effect: The king has permitted the Jews of every city to assemble and fight for their lives; if any people or province attacks them, they may destroy, massacre, and exterminate its armed force together with women and children, and plunder their possessions… So the king’s scribes were summoned at that time, on the twenty-third day of the third month, that is, the month of Sivan; and letters were written, at Mordechai’s dictation, to the Jews and to the satraps, the governors and the officials of the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia.”

“...for an edict that has been written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s signet may not be revoked.” Indeed, in our chapter we read about the actions Esther takes, with great courage, to try to annul the decree: “Esther spoke to the king again, falling at his feet and weeping, and beseeching him to avert the evil plotted by Haman the Agagite against the Jews.” True, Haman was the catalyst, but from the moment Achashverosh agreed, he became part of the hostility toward the Jews. Moreover, the first letters were still in place, due to a formal excuse. Achashverosh doesn’t care about justice or morality; he does as he wishes, even to Vashti, not to mention the actual decree to kill the Jews. Many times, the wanton hide behind the letter of the law, while their true motivation is not officialdom but the desire to wipe out the Jews entirely. To overcome this formal problem, and to force Achashverosh to give up the entire project, the following political solution is found: the law will not be

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Thus, before us are nine months of drawn-out suspense – what will happen when the month of Adar comes? Will the enemies of the Jews succeed in executing their plot, or will the Jews succeed in overcoming their enemies? Slowly, it became apparent that the victory would be at the hands of the Jews: “And in every province and in every city, when the king’s command and decree arrived, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many of the people of the land professed to be Jews, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.” What can we learn from our chapter? The ability to defend oneself is a great privilege. It is not self-evident. In Megillat Esther, the Jews lacked this ability until the new letters were issued, so

their reality was threatening and truly terrifying, bringing about fasting and mourning, and the trials and tribulations of this harsh decree (but also the great bravery of Esther). This has been true throughout Jewish history – lacking independence, dependent on the goodwill of foreign rulers, we found ourselves locked between discriminatory formality and outright hatred and hostility that didn’t even need to hide behind the hypocritical mask of regulation. Through G-d’s grace, in Megillat Esther we were privileged to come together and protect ourselves, to fight for our lives, and to be free to defend ourselves from harm. An essential part of reading Megillat Esther is to look at the reality in which we are privileged to live today: we are a nation which does not expect another country to save us from trouble, but which stands on its own two feet, with G-d’s grace. May we merit to realize the heroism, courage, confidence and bravery hidden within it, and to defend ourselves – united as a people – from our enemies.

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow is a Rosh Yeshiva and a founding member of an organization devoted to bridging the religious-secular divide in Israel. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


PURIM READING

Esther, Chapter Nine

Rabbi Dov Lipman

— ‫ פרק ט‬,‫— מגילת אסתר‬

The Joy of Jewish Unity

E

very Jew is obligated to perform four mitzvot on Purim, and all are learned from the ninth perek of Megillat Esther: “They were to observe them as days of feasting and gladness, and for sending delicacies to one another, and gifts to the poor” (9:22). 1. Feasting and gladness – seudat Purim. 2. Sending delicacies to one another – mishloach manot. 3. Gifts to the poor – matanot la’evyonim. The fourth mitzvah, reading the Megillah, is learned from the words, “These days should be remembered” (9:28). The obligation to hear the reading of the Megillah makes sense, since this teaches us the Purim story. The special feast is also logical since we express our thanks to G-d for saving us from Haman’s decree by celebrating with a meal of thanks and gratitude. But why are we obligated to send food to others and to give charity over and above the daily obligation to help the poor? What does this have to do with Purim? Let us first ask another question: why were the Jewish people deserving of Haman’s decree to annihilate them? Haman himself answers this question. When he speaks to Achashverosh to present his case for the decree to exterminate the Jewish people, he tells the king the Jews are “scattered and dispersed” (3:8). He says outright that the Jewish people are not unified. That was our flaw at the time. We were a polarized and divided nation. This is why Esther instructs Mordechai, “Go bring all the Jews together” (4:16). She understood the only way she could be

successful in convincing Achashverosh to spare the lives of the Jews was if they unite and rectify the flaw which led to the decree in the first place. Sure enough, the Jewish people respond. According to the Gemara in Shabbat (87a), the Jews reaccepted the Torah when they experienced G-d’s salvation – ‫ק ְ ּימ ּו וְ ִק ְ ּבל ּו‬.ִ But the word which we read as ‫ק ְ ּבל ּו‬,ִ which means “they accepted,” is written in the Megillah as ‫וקבל‬, “he accepted,” in the singular. The Sfat Emet explains that this ‫ק ִרי וּכְ ִתיב‬,ְ the written word in the singular as opposed to how we read it in the plural, comes to teach us that just like the Jews were unified at Sinai and camped together “as one people with one heart” (see Rashi to Shemot 19:2 on the singular language used there), the Jews in the Purim story unified as one to reaccept the Torah. That same singular language is used when the Megillah describes the Jews accepting to observe the obligations of Purim. Right after these mitzvot are mentioned, the Megillah says ‫וְ ִק ֵ ּבל ַה ְ ּיהו ִּדים‬, “And the Jews accepted” these laws upon themselves, using the singular – ‫וְ ִק ֵ ּבל‬. The Vilna Gaon says the singular language teaches that the Jews were unified in accepting the holiday of Purim and these mitzvot. The Sfat Emet explains that a clear underlying theme of Purim has emerged. The decree to annihilate the Jews came because the Jews were polarized. They learned the lesson and rectified that flaw, coming together to become one people again, thereby meriting salvation. This is why we have two mitzvot on Purim that relate to unity – sending

food to one another and a special concern to make sure everyone has money for a Purim feast. We want to replicate the lesson the Jews learned during the Purim story. Based on this, the ideal would not be to fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manot by sending food to a good friend or familiar neighbor but to seek out someone with whom you do not have a connection or perhaps, even better, to someone with whom you have a negative history. Purim is the time to break down barriers and bring more Jewish unity into our lives and communities. This also explains a word in the song ‫שוֹ ׁ ַשנַ ת יַ ֲעקֹב‬,ׁ which we sing after reading the Megillah. When describing the joy of the Jews upon seeing Mordechai in royal clothing, the song adds the word ‫“ – יַ ַחד‬together.” The joy was magnified because the Jews experienced it with unity. As we look to Heaven for help in these challenging times, let us learn this lesson from the mitzvot taught in the ninth chapter of Megillat Esther. Most of our struggles come because we are polarized. Unity is the key to our salvation.

Rabbi Dov Lipman is the author of seven books about Judaism and Israel. He also writes for various news outlets. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

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PURIM READING

Esther, Chapter Ten

Dr. Tova Ganzel

— ‫ פרק י‬,‫— מגילת אסתר‬

The Untold Story

A

study of chapter 10 raises the question of its importance and inclusion in the Megillah. It contains only three verses: “King Achashverosh imposed tax on the mainland and the islands. All his mighty and powerful acts, and a full account of the greatness to which the king advanced Mordechai, are recorded in the Annals of the Kings of Media and Persia. For Mordechai the Jew ranked next to King Achashverosh and was highly regarded by the Jews and popular among the multitude of his brethren; he sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his seed.” Despite its brevity, this chapter reveals something critical about the entire story of Megillat Esther. Maybe this is the ‘untold story’ of the relationship between the Jews in Persia and their brethren in Israel, who, during these very years, were trying to establish and strengthen the status of the second Beit HaMikdash in Yerushalayim. The events described in the Megillah happened during the reign of Achashverosh (Xerxes I, who ruled between 485-465 BCE). Mordechai’s family was exiled to Babylon in the same exile as the prophet Yechezkel. His great-grandfather was exiled from Yerushalayim “in the group carried into exile along with King Yechonya of Yehuda” (Esther 2:5-6), over 100 years before the events of Megillat Esther occurred. It seems the Megillah has something to teach us about the historical reality in which, on the one hand, these Jews in Persia had no connection with the people and the Mikdash in Israel,

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while on the other were very involved in the Persian court. How can we explain the fact that the Jews in Persia and throughout the kingdom, whose lives are in danger following Achashverosh’s decree, don’t see in the Mikdash and in the people living in Eretz Yisrael a natural and available solution? Wouldn’t we have expected a delegation of Persian Jews to travel to Eretz Yisrael, sacrifice korbanot in the Mikdash, and consult with the prophets and kohanim in Yerushalayim? Moreover, wouldn’t it have been obvious for Jews living throughout the Persian Empire to immigrate to Israel, unite, and see the Mikdash in Jerusalem as a center through which they could turn to G-d for a miracle and salvation? This perhaps is precisely the purpose of these concluding verses of the Megillah. The norm of the Jewish Persian reality – which we saw in the banquets at the start of the Megillah – and the physical and spiritual distance from the Mikdash in Yerushalayim are accentuated. The author of the Megillah concludes that sadly, at the end of these dramatic events, nothing had changed. King Achashverosh continued to demand taxes from all his subjects, and this story, like many other events during his reign, was recorded in the Annals of the Kings of Media and Persia. In other words, the Jews were – and still are – just another ethnic group the king had to deal with in the context of his kingship. Their Temple wasn’t special or different (to him or them) and their G-d made no particular impression upon him (or them).

And what about Mordechai? The Megillah’s concluding verse leaves us with conflicting emotions – Mordechai retains his Jewish identity (“Mordechai HaYehudi”), even as second to King Achashverosh, and “sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his seed.” But there was a group – and I suggest these were Jews who lived in Israel, far from Persia – who were not so enamored by his position. As the author emphasizes: “popular among the multitude of his brethren.” Yes, despite the disconnect between the two centers of Judaism, in Persia and in Israel, it seems that in the years the second Beit HaMikdash was standing, there were Jews from the Persian Empire who continued to come to Israel, even if not many, and contribute to the strengthening of the Holy Land. But Mordechai and what he represented disappointed those in Israel who hoped their brethren in the Diaspora would make aliyah – if not during normal times, at least during a crisis. We can perhaps conclude that the ‘untold story’ of Chapter 10 of the Megillah is the story of the rise of the second Beit HaMikdash, and a reminder to us that prayers for a better future don’t necessarily end with the prayer for its rebuilding in Yerushalayim. Dr. Tova Ganzel is a lecturer in Bible and Halacha at Bar-Ilan University and a certified women’s halachic advisor. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


PURIM READING Rabbi Judah Mischel

The Inner Light of Purim

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o hear the great tzaddik Rabbi Shalom Rockeach, the Sar Shalom1 of Belz, lein the Megillah, was an unforgettably uplifting experience. When he was a young man, still an unknown budding student of the Chozeh of Lublin, he was called upon to read the Megillah in the Chozeh’s Beit Midrash. Those assembled didn’t recognize the young scholar, but sensed they were experiencing something special. At the completion of the Megillah leining, the Chozeh remarked: “I have heard the Purim story many times, but I’ve never heard it told quite like this.” e Megillat Esther describes how we celebrated upon hearing of Haman’s downfall and the miraculous turnabout of Purim. ‫שן וִ ָיקר‬ ֹׂ ‫ש‬ ׂ ָ ְ‫ש ְמ ָחה ו‬ ׂ ִ ְ‫לַ ְ ּיהו ִּדים ָהיְ ָתה אוֹ ָרה ו‬, “The Jews experienced light, happiness, joy and honor” (8:16). The Gemara (Megillah 16b) explains the four terms in this verse: ‫אוֹ ָרה‬, “light,” alludes to Torah, ‫ש ְמ ָחה‬, ׂ ִ “happiness,” alludes to Yom Tov, ‫שן‬ ֹׂ ‫ש‬, ׂ ָ “joy,” alludes to brit mila, and ‫יָ ָקר‬, “honor,” alludes to tefillin. However, this explanation seems to miss a basic point in the narrative of the Megillah and the experience of the Jews of Shushan, namely that the decree of Achashverosh and Haman against Am Yisrael had nothing to do with the mitzvot described here! In the Purim story, the goal was clear: ‫לַ ֲהרֹג וּלְ ַא ֵ ּבד‬ – to annihilate us physically, regardless of religious observance or Jewish expression. 

It was Antiochus, the villain of the Chanukah narrative, who outlawed mila, moed and Shabbat. And it was the Roman Era persecution which forced Jews into hiding to “illegally” study Torah. There is no indication in the Megillah that Haman or the Persian authorities interfered with our observance of mitzvot. Another drasha in the Gemara (Megillah 10b) explains Haman’s description of the Jews: ‫יֶ ׁ ְשנוֹ ַעם ְמ ֻפזָ ּר ו ְּמפ ָֹרד‬, “There is a people that is spread out and set apart….” ֹ‫ יֶ ׁ ְשנו‬can also be read as “they slept,” i.e., our Yiddishkeit was “sleepy;” our mitzvah observance had become stale, lacking chiyut, vitality. We were distracted, pulled in all sorts of directions away from what truly mattered.  Rav Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin offers a moving interpretation: we did learn Torah, but by rote, lifelessly turning pages as if studying a secular text. There was no ora, light, in our limmud. In the days of the Persian exile, Jews kept Shabbat and Yom Tov, but our experience of those exalted, holy days lacked the main ingredient: simcha. Even brit mila, circumcision, became just another lifecycle event, lacking sasson, the deep joy of appreciating what our covenant with G-d means. Wrapping tefillin day in and day out had become labor-intensive in our eyes, our daily prayers but a heavy obligation. The miraculous salvation and turnabout of Purim was a spiritual jolt that woke us out of this state of sleep (“ ֹ‫)”יֶ ׁ ְשנו‬. It put the ora back in Torah, restored

the simcha of the Yamim Tovim, and revealed the sasson of our Covenant and the honor of wearing tefillin. Mitzvot that were taken for granted and had become perfunctory observances were filled with life once again. May this Purim be one we experience with attunement to real inner growth and renewal. In the spirit of the Chozeh of Lublin, may we say, “It’s a celebration I’ve enjoyed many times, but never quite like this.” Wherever we may be, and from whomever we hear the Megillah, may we listen and internalize the story like never before – lishma. And may Purim and our mitzvah-observances all year round be drenched with this light, happiness, joy and honor!  1

Literally, “Prince of Peace”.

Rabbi Judah Mischel is Executive Director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He serves as an educational consultant to schools and synagogues in the United States and Israel. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


PURIM READING Rabbi David Aaron

Secrets Behind the Holiday Mask

I

n the Purim story, there are no miraculous interventions, no sea splitting. In fact, G-d’s name is not even mentioned. This is a tremendous revelation of G-d’s omnipotence: within the natural world, within the free choices of human beings, G-d’s plan is being completely fulfilled, step by step. G-d has written a script and we are the actors in that drama. The question isn’t whether we are going to play our parts, but how we will play our parts – whether consciously and willingly, or obliviously and with resistance. Whether we choose to work for G-d’s plan of growth, love and oneness, or against it. It is our choice. Again, we see this illustrated dramatically in the story of Esther. Through a strange set of circumstances, Esther, who is secretly Jewish, marries the King of Persia. (Sound like fate at work?) Soon after, Haman the Prime Minister begins to execute his plot to destroy the Jewish people. So Mordechai, Esther’s uncle, says to her: “We’ve got to save the Jewish people. Perhaps G-d has orchestrated things in this very manner so you could be queen and be in a position to save the Jewish people.” Esther isn’t convinced. She tells Mordechai, “You know the rules of the palace. If I go to the king without being invited, he could have me killed!”

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To that Mordechai says something bizarre: “If you don’t do this Esther, the salvation of the Jews will come from someplace else.” What kind of argument is that? Is that going to spur her into action? Mordechai should have said to her, “If you don’t do it, the Jewish people will be destroyed. This will be the end of Jewish history.” Instead he says, “If you don’t do it, the Jews will be saved anyway, but you’ll lose out on the starring role.” Mordechai was teaching Esther the secret of choice. In terms of G-d’s great plan, it doesn’t make a difference what you do. But in terms of your own life, it makes all the difference in the world. Do you want to actively, consciously participate in G-d’s plan, or not? If you don’t sign on, it will still happen. But you’ll lose out. You can be the star, or an extra on the set. That’s your choice.

Mordechai? They both serve the Divine plan. Haman, with all his foul machinations, initiated the process of repentance which saved the Jewish people from assimilation and eventually made them worthy to return to the Land of Israel and rebuild the Temple. That’s why the sweet treats of the holiday are “Haman’s ears.” Because that bitter, destructive man turned out to be the source of sweetness and nourishment for Jewish survival. That’s Haman’s greatest punishment: to realize he saved the Jewish people. The Talmud teaches that G-d’s praise comes out of Gehenom the same way it comes out of Gan Eden. In other words, the evil ones also end up serving G-d’s plan, albeit against their own will. On Purim, we’re celebrating that everything is going according to G-d’s plan. Whether we see it or not.

And Esther decides to do it. The Jewish people are saved, with Esther in the starring role, because she chose to play her part. On Purim, we try to reach a drunken state in which we don’t perceive a difference between “Blessed Mordechai” and “Cursed Haman.” In gematria, the numerical equivalent of each phrase is the same, 502. In what way is the evil Haman equal to the righteous

Rabbi David Aaron is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Orayta, founder of Isralight and an author. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


PURIM READING Rabbi Ari Enkin

Purim on a Friday

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his year we find ourselves observing Purim on Friday, and there is much discussion as to when one should hold the Purim Feast. As a general rule, one is not permitted to eat a large meal on Fridays. This is to ensure that one has a hearty appetite for the Shabbat evening meal. Although the Shulchan Aruch is mysteriously silent regarding the timing of the Purim seudah, the Rema rules that when Purim falls on a Friday, the Purim meal is to be held in the morning, to ensure one has an appetite for the Friday night meal.1 Most contemporary authorities seem to concur with the Rema.2 As such, it seems one should hold the Friday Purim seudah early in the day, preferably before noon. However, once one has begun the seudah in the permissible “time zone,” one is permitted to extend the seudah for the entire day. Indeed, those who conduct themselves in this manner are completely entitled to do so, even though they will likely have no appetite for the Shabbat meal.3 Nevertheless, even those who find themselves at a large meal on a Friday, such as at a brit, should make an effort not to overeat, to ensure an appetite for the Shabbat meal.4 One who for whatever reason is unable to begin one’s Purim seudah early in the day should endeavor to eat less at the seudah, especially the amount of bread, to leave room for the Shabbat meal.5 There is, however, an alternative approach to the timing of the Purim seudah, known as poress mappa. This is when one combines the Purim seudah and the Shabbat evening meal. One begins the Purim seudah late Friday

afternoon, after completing all the Shabbat preparations. Then, shortly before sunset, one covers all the bread6 on the table, and recites Kiddush, thereby inaugurating Shabbat. After reciting Kiddush, one simply continues with the seudah, which has now become the Shabbat evening meal.7 One must be sure to eat at least an ounce of bread after the recitation of Kiddush just as is required at every Shabbat evening meal. The blessing upon wine is not recited during Kiddush if it was previously recited during the earlier part of the meal. So too, the blessing upon bread is not recited after Kiddush since one is already in the middle of a meal. There is some discussion whether two whole loaves are required at this Shabbat meal.8 When reciting birkat hamazon at the conclusion of this Purim/Shabbat meal, one includes both retzei as well as al haNissim in their designated places.9 Some authorities, however, rule that one should only recite retzei in its designated place while al haNissim should be recited as a supplement to the haRachaman section of birkat haMazon.10

In fact, there are many authorities who don’t even consider the poress mappa method an acceptable option at all.14 Furthermore, according to the Arizal, one should never recite Kiddush before having recited Ma’ariv.15 There are also those who explain that the poress mappa method was only intended to be used in the event that one’s Purim seudah unexpectedly extended into Shabbat, but not that one should intentionally do so.

Nevertheless, a number of authorities oppose the poress mappa approach based on the halachic prohibition of “not bundling mitzvot together.”11 This is because the poress mappa method gives the problematic appearance that one is discharging both the Shabbat seudah and the Purim seudah with a single meal. There are additional logistical and halachic complications to the poress mappa method, such as when one should recite Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv.12 It seems the poress mappa method is essentially a minority opinion on when to hold a Friday Purim seudah.13

1

Rema, OC 695:2.

2

Mishna Berura 695:9,10, Mishna Berura 249:13, Aruch HaShulchan, OC 249:7, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 42:27, Yechave Da’at 3:55.

3

Aruch HaShulchan, OC 249:7. See also Berachot 11a,16a,19a, Pesachim 55a, Sukkah 10b,25a.

4

OC 249:2, Magen Avraham 249:4, Aruch HaShulchan, OC 249:7.

5

See Piskei Teshuvot 695:6.

6

According to some authorities, all “Mezonot” foods should be covered as well. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 47:n125.

7

Minhagei Eretz Yisrael (Gellis) 35:18.

8

See Purim Meshulash (Deblitzki) and HaElef Lecha Shlomo 1:113.

9

Chazon Ovadiah p.183. See Piskei Teshuvot 695:6 footnote 36.

10 Mishna Berura 695:15,16. 11 Pesachim 102b, Sota 8a. 12 Taz, OC 271:4, Magen Avraham 271:5, Mishna Berura 271:11. 13 Be’er Heitev, OC 695:6, Piskei Teshuvot 695:6 footnote 31. 14 Nitei Gavriel, among others. See also Devar Chevron 2:646. 15 Kaf HaChaim, OC 271:22.

Rabbi Ari Enkin is a researcher of and writer on contemporary halachic issues. He teaches halacha one-on-one online. He is also the author of the nine-volume “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series and Rabbinic Director of United with Israel.

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SP E CIAL F E AT UR E - OTHER PURIMS IN HISTORY

OTHER PURIMS IN HISTORY Did you know the Jewish calendar contains other “Purims”? Throughout history, when a Jewish community was saved from destruction, it marked the day with a Purim-like commemoration, in celebration of and giving thanks for their salvation. Although many of the facts surrounding these events have become lost or confused over the course of history, the legends of these Purims remain. Here are a few of the most well known and interesting of these Purims.

Purim Saragossa 17th Shevat

PURIM SARAGOSSA TOOK place in the early 1400’s in the capital of medieval Spain (the actual location is disputed, with some claiming it took place in Sicily). Whenever the King of Spain celebrated a special occasion with a royal parade, the Jews of Saragossa would go forth to greet him, carrying the beautiful cases of the Sifrei Torah. The actual Sifrei Torah were left in the synagogues. By chance, a servant of the king found this out and told the king. The king decided to arrange a parade for the very next day. He would demand that the Jews open the cases, and see if his servant’s claim was true. The Jews prepared for the parade as usual, by removing the Torah scrolls from their cases. That night though, the shamash of the main synagogue dreamt that an old, gray-bearded man came to him, telling him danger was imminent and that he must place all the Torah scrolls back in their cases. The shamash awoke trembling and immediately ran to do so. Unbeknownst to him, all the other shamashim of the other synagogues had the same dream. The next day, when the king ordered the Jews to open the Torah scroll cases, everyone was shocked to see the Torah scrolls sitting neatly inside each one. In appreciation, the king exempted the Jews from taxes for three years. In gratitude for their special miracle, the Jews of the city decided to commemorate this day as “Purim Saragossa,” and wrote a special “Megillah” describing the event.

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Purim Vintz 20th Adar

IN THE EARLY 1600’s, the powerful Vincent Fettmilch led an uprising against Frankfurt’s Jews, breaking into the ghetto and destroying Jewish homes and shops, desecrating the synagogue, looting and pillaging, and wounding and killing many Jews. The Jews who remained were ordered to flee for their lives. Fettmilch announced that any Christians helping or hiding Jews would be dealt with harshly. The Jewish community was destroyed. When news of the pogrom reached the Emperor, he was outraged. He ordered Fettmilch to be tried and killed, and welcomed back the Jews of Frankfurt, ordering the city to restore their homes and losses. On the 20th of Adar in 5376, 1616, Vincent Fettmilch was publicly executed, and the Jews returned to their homes. The Jews of Frankfurt celebrated this day as “Purim Vincent” or “Purim Vintz.” Like Ta’anit Esther, they also instituted a day of fasting and prayer on the 19th of Adar, to remember the victims of the pogrom. According to some accounts, the Chatam Sofer, who was born in Frankfurt, celebrated Purim Vintz even when he served as Rabbi of Pressburg.


Purim Chevron

(also known as Purim Taka – “Window Purim”) IN 1824, THE cruel Pasha who ruled over Chevron rounded up the rabbis of the community and announced he was imposing a tax of 50,000 grushim. They had three days to provide the sum. If they failed, the rabbis would pay with their lives and the Jews would be tortured.

The rabbis declared a three-day fast and everyone gathered in the synagogue to pray. They were a poor community and knew they could never raise such a sum of money.

Purim Fossano 18th Nissan

IN THE SPRING of 5556 (1796), the city of Fossano, in Northern Italy, was besieged by the advancing French army. In the midst of the siege, the Jews of Fossano celebrated Pesach. Seeing the Jews celebrate while the city was suffering made the townspeople suspicious and angry. A few days later, on the fourth day of Pesach, the French army opened fire, but no damage was done to the Jewish ghetto. Certain the Jews were sympathizing with the enemy, an angry mob soon rushed to the Jewish Quarter. The Jews huddled in the synagogue to pray and defend themselves. As the mob approached the synagogue, a shell from a French cannon tore through the wall of the synagogue and landed right in front of them. Terrified, the attackers ran for their lives. The hole the shell had made in the wall was turned into a window in commemoration of this great miracle.

The Jews decided to appeal to the Avot in Ma’arat HaMachpela to pray on their behalf. Since Jews were forbidden from entering the actual cave, they bribed an Arab guard to take the written appeal and throw it through a “window” into the cave where the Patriarchs are buried. It was midnight, a few hours before the third day. The Pasha was unable to fall asleep, so he began counting his money. Suddenly, he was startled to see three strong, large men, swords at their sides, standing in his room. “Give us the money!” they threatened. Terrified, the Pasha handed it over his bag of money and a golden necklace for good measure. The Pasha awoke, trembling. It was just a nightmare. The next morning, while the Pasha was on his way to the Jewish Quarter to demand his tax, the rabbis found a bag of money in the window of the synagogue – exactly 50,000 grushim and one gold necklace. The Pasha turned pale. “Your holy fathers – Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov – brought this money to you!” he exclaimed. “Forgive me, I will do you no harm.”

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GENERAL INTEREST

PA R E N T I N G Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Helping Your Challenging Teen

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woman called to discuss her concerns regarding her 17-year-old son. She described his downward slide throughout his high school years, the “bad friends,” the constant bickering with his parents over dozens of issues large or small, the tension and friction with his siblings, being asked to leave the four yeshivas that he had attended during those three years... Now he had hit rock bottom. He sleeps until noon, “hangs around the house” until suppertime, then, with a curt farewell, leaves the house. He returns in the early hours of the morning, goes to sleep, and begins the day in the same fashion as the previous ones. Any attempt by his parents to determine where or with whom he is spending his time is met with a disrespectful or downright rude retort.

to go. Each time she reminded him of this painful fact, she was inadvertently causing him needless anguish, and adding to the chasm that exists between them. His antisocial behavior just might be his clumsy response to his perception (real or imagined) that our society has rejected him. Some Pointers for Parents • Ein chavush matir atzmo mibeit asurim (a prisoner cannot extract himself from his bondage without the assistance of others). Consider finding a mentor for your child – an educator or layperson – to whom your child can confide. Few teenagers, even in the best of situations, can do this with their parents. •

I began by asking the woman how many times she had asked her son, that day, any of the following questions:

Establish an ongoing dialogue with him. That includes, but should not be limited to, serious discussions about present yeshiva and/or work possibilities, aspirations for the future, etc.

Never discuss serious issues during an argument.

“Why aren’t you going to yeshiva?”

Never, ever, engage in vicious, personal attacks on your son’s friends when their names come up during an argument. Firstly, despite your instructions to the contrary, every word you utter will unquestionably be repeated to that friend. You will have earned yourself a sworn enemy at a time when you need every ally you can get. Additionally, bear in mind that at this stage in your son’s life, he is more closely aligned with his friends than he is with you. By attacking his friends, you are positioning them – and him – on the opposing side of a very formidable fence.

“Rabbi Horowitz,” she cried, “What should I do?!”

“Why are you wasting your time?” “When are you finally going to do something with your life?” She hesitantly answered “About 10 or 15 times.” 15 x 6 (days) equals 90 comments per week. 90 x 6 weeks totals 540 hurtful attacks on her son’s self- confidence. I explained to the woman that although her son’s disrespectful behavior is inexcusable, she ought to keep in mind that he is in as much agony as she is, perhaps more so. He feels that no yeshiva actually wants him, and that he has nowhere

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Do not beat up on yourselves as parents (where did we go wrong?). This will accomplish nothing productive. The brutal reality is that these situations arise in every type of home and at every income level. More importantly, doing this in front of your son will only add to his feeling of inadequacy.

After some time has passed, and you have established a working relationship, collaboratively work with him on a set of house rules for him regarding his leaving and returning home at night. You might be pleasantly surprised by his response.

Explain to him that you are willing to make some accommodations to meet the needs of his current lifestyle. However, ask him to understand that you have other children, parents, etc., and that he should be considerate of that reality as well. If you are unhappy with the music he listens to, for example, ask him to close the door to his room, and insist that he wear headphones while the music is playing.

Finally, try to play the long game. The vast majority of these teens outgrow this temporary stage in their lives. Your son may not become everything you had originally hoped for him, but he will, with the help of G-d, grow to be a wonderful adult – a source of nachat to himself, to you and to Klal Yisrael.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is an educator, author, and child safety advocate. He conducts parenting workshops in Jewish communities around the world.


R E L AT I O N S H I P S

GENERAL INTEREST Rabbi Moshe Berliner

Purim and Marriage

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hazal chose to call this holiday Purim. Why? To gain insight into this choice, it is helpful to juxtapose the name “Purim” with the name of the central mitzvah of the holiday, the reading of the Megillah. Purim is named for the ‫פוּר‬,ּ the lottery Haman used to establish the day for the destruction of the Jewish people. What does choice by lottery represent? Pure chance, capriciousness, unpredictability, a world without purpose. It bespeaks a life without ultimate meaning or future goals, a world in which things simply happen. In the world of ‫ ּפוּר‬there are recognizable causes and consequences, patterns and structures. It is not a nonsensical world. Haman does want to destroy the Jewish people. He takes terrifying steps to do so. He knows what he is doing and plans carefully. But the ultimate capriciousness of it all is revealed by the way he chooses the date. He simply throws a ‫פוּר‬,ּ a lottery. The plan is nefarious but the underlying meaning is exposed by the absurd way he chooses the time of the attack. This idea stands in sharp contrast with a second central concept of Purim – the reading of the Megillah. The word ‫ְמגִ ָ ּלה‬ is derived from the word ‫לְ גַ ּלוֹ ת‬, to reveal, to bring to light, to make known. It signifies an understanding which brings to light the underlying principles, the deeper meaning of the things we experience in our lives. When we read the Purim story in the Megillah, the cursory external experience of life represented by the ‫ ּפוּר‬is revealed to be an illusion. Megillat Esther proclaims that all the events of the world are in fact an expression of G-d’s guiding Hand.

What is G-d’s purpose in creating a world in which His hidden Hand directs the force of history? He wanted a ‫דִּ ָירה‬ ּ ַ a dwelling place in His cre‫ב ַּת ְח ּתוֹ נִ ים‬, ation. He wanted a world in which His presence might not be recognized by the naked eye but could be revealed when one understands His guiding presence. What is the essence of that presence? What is it He desires for us to do when recognizing His hand as the essence of life? He wants us to live in this world in a way that expresses His middot. He wants the world, in all its darkness, to be illuminated by man who recognizes G-d’s Kingship and acts in a loving, caring, G-d-like way. That is the underlying message of the Megillah. In the face of the ostensible rule of the ‫פוּר‬,ּ the seeming lack of purpose to history, replete with evil and corruption, there is in fact a guiding hand whose ways and ultimate purpose are commands for us to build our lives reflecting His middot of love, concern and care. The message of the Megillah is relevant to all aspects of our lives. It is perhaps most relevant to our marriages. In our closest relationship, we can choose to live on a superficial level, allowing the day-to-day circumstances of our lives to dictate its meaning, flowing and reacting to whatever we meet along the way. Or we can view our marriages as an opportunity to connect with the deeper values which bespeak the guiding hand of G-d. We can view marriage as an opportunity to live in congruence with the spiritual underpinning which reflects G-d’s values of caring, loving and giving. We can understand that everything in life, including our marriages, has ups

and downs, times of joy and times of stress, times when G-d’s compassion is hidden. In every situation, we can choose to act and react either out of immediate response, without thought to the consequences, or we can consider our actions and respond by connecting to the values which reflect the deepest desire of G-d, i.e., that our lives, the lives of our marriages and our families, reflect His values of love, respect, compassion and caring. Chazal call this holiday Purim to express our immediate, often inchoate experience of everyday life. We are bidden to read the Megillah both at night, to symbolize the periods when darkness prevails, and again in the day, symbolizing the times when light prevails, revealing the truths of G-d’s guiding hand. We read the Megillah twice to emphasize our resolve that in all situations we strive to live our lives embracing the revealed truth of G-d’s benefice. Purim Sameach!

Rabbi Moshe Berliner is an author, M.S.W. and therapist specializing in family and marriage.

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GENERAL INTEREST Rabbi Hanoch Teller

A Purim Passing

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veryone knows there is no shortage of people collecting charity in Yerushalayim. There are also many gabbai tzedakah (officers to overlook charity distribution), but 50 years ago, Rabbi Yosef Binyamin Rubin z”l, was reputed to be the finest gabbai tzedakah Jerusalem had ever known. One cannot transcend overnight. His capacity for charity was partly indigenous, partly cultivated. The result was a paragon so exalted that he became a legend in his very own lifetime. From the time that he was a child he had an inner drive to give tzedakah which would afford him no rest.  Directly after his wedding, during the week of sheva brachot, adorned in a shtreimel and a bekishe and accompanied by a shomer (guard who accompanies a groom when he is not with his bride during the week of sheva brachot), he stood on the street corner collecting tzedakah. “Do the poor people have to suffer just because I have a simcha?” Rabbi Rubin revolutionized giving tzedakah by introducing radical concepts in the art of giving. He contended that one must give according to the poor person’s needs and not according to the giver’s means (with substantiation for this policy from a Mishna in Pirkei Avot). He borrowed terms from the inflation-plagued Israeli economy to help the indigent: poor people must also have wage increments, price increases, value added supplements etc., he reasoned.  To cover his budget of fund allocation to the needy, he borrowed staggering

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sums of money from a free-loan society every month. He borrowed because he felt he had a personal debt which had to be paid. He wasn’t doing the poor a favor, he was merely carrying out an obligation. Poor people are all the same, he reasoned, and he was color blind as to background: Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Chassid, Lithuanian, Mizrachi, whatever; all have the same needs of life’s necessities and dignity. Rabbi Rubin’s greatest joy, however, was to provide for a talmid chacham. An impoverished talmid chacham did not even have a proper jacket to wear. Rabbi Rubin purchased a wardrobe for him, and could not help boasting: “I have just bought a cover for a Sefer Torah.” He was an undercover detective of the highest order. No matter what the camouflage – he saw through it. He had an uncanny nose for detecting who was truly in need, and when he found a worthy recipient, nothing stood in his path. Some way or another the needy received, usually never realizing how, when, or from where. Jerusalemites will never forget Purim 1979. It was a Purim Meshulash – three consecutive days of celebration, bedecked with snow. Flurries began to fall early in the evening. Late into the night it still hadn’t stopped, and there was an eerie feeling that this was a sorrow-clouded harbinger. Everyone in the Rubin house was still awake. Rabbi Rubin was ill, but still threatened to go out the next day collecting for the poor. Despite a chorus of protests, Rabbi Rubin was adamant he

could not let down the needy as Purim was the holiday of the poor. Early the next morning, Rabbi Rubin was out celebrating Purim by collecting for the poor, trudging through the snow, battling his illness and fighting the weather. The fatigue was apparent and his knees gave way. Yerushalayim’s greatest gabbai tzedakah lay motionless on the freezing asphalt. Rabbi Rubin was rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment to help him regain consciousness. Nothing seemed to work. Not a move, not a twitch. His family gathered around his bedside day and night. Specialists tried every possible method to restore him to consciousness. Still nothing. Until his wife went over to his bedside and whispered, “Yossel, it’s almost time for kimcha d’pischa” (Passover help for the needy. Customarily, collections begin 30 days in advance of the holiday, the day after Purim.) Only then did Rabbi Rubin awaken.  Rabbi Rubin lived for tzedakah, and forever after his memory is commemorated through tzedakah through the Od Yosef Chai (Yosef Lives Yet) Fund. Rabbi Hanoch Teller, internationally-acclaimed storyteller extraordinaire, is an award-winning author and producer. Rabbi Teller’s new podcast is available at https:// link.chtbl.com/TellerfromJerusalem. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers


GENERAL INTEREST Rabbi Azarya Berzon

The Hidden Message of Ta’anit Esther

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.‫וְ כַ ֲא ׁ ֶשר ָא ַב ְד ִּתי ָא ָב ְד ִּתי‬ )‫טז‬:‫(אסתר ד‬

sther and her attendants fast before she enters the inner chamber to present herself to the king.

What feelings should we have today when we commemorate her fast? And what lesson are we to learn from the salvation channeled through Esther? Let us try to answer these questions based on a study of one mitzvah in the Torah, the mitzvah of returning a lost object, ‫ה ׁ ָש ַבת ֲא ֵב ָדה‬.ֲ Our analysis of this mitzvah is based upon a metaphoric rather than a literal understanding of ‫א ֵב ָדה‬.ֲ We will apply the methodology of ‫ ׁ ִש ְב ִעים ּ ָפנִ ים לַ ּתוֹ ָרה‬1 and suggest that this mitzvah – at the level of remez (lit. hint) – is more than a particular obligation engendered by a lost object, but rather a symbolic representation of all of our service to G-d. Every experience, every moment, every encounter in our lives generates both an opportunity and a challenge to fulfill G-d’s Will. Whether obligations – ‫ִמ ְצווֹ ת‬ ‫ – ֲעשֵׂ ה‬or prohibitions – ‫מ ְצווֹ ת ֹלא ַּת ֲעשֶׂ ה‬, ִ we must find within ourselves the spiritual energy necessary to overcome the formidable barriers created by the yetzer hara. No one can succeed all the time; even the tzaddik fails sometimes. The ‫א ֵב ָדה‬,ֲ conceptually, represents the wasted energy, the opportunity lost, and we are obligated to retrace our steps, seek and find our ‫א ֵבדוֹ ת‬,ֲ and transform them into a positive force. The Rambam (Hilchot Teshuva, 2:1) describes the situation of one who failed a test but now finds himself in the same situation, facing the same challenge. If he overcomes those passions that

brought him down the first time, he is considered a genuine ba’al teshuva. The story of Megillat Esther is the story of the Jewish nation facing its greatest ever threat, the terror of Amalek. On a spiritual level, what is Amalek’s agenda? Amalek seeks to find our ‫א ֵבדוֹ ת‬,ֲ and to prevent us from re-acquiring them and becoming ba’alei teshuva; to seize these ‫ ֲא ֵבדוֹ ת‬and prevent us forever from reclaiming them. If Amalek succeeds, Heaven forbid, we are lost. As Haman proclaims: ‫אם ַעל ַה ֶּמלֶ ְך טוֹ ב יִ ָּכ ֵתב לְ ַא ְ ּב ָדם‬,ִ “If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed (‫לְ ַא ְ ּב ָדם‬, which shares a root with the word ‫)א ֵב ָדה‬. ֲ ” Divine Providence chose a modest young woman to face the greatest challenge of Amalek in all of Jewish history. Why was such a pure soul selected to enter the palace of the king, a place of vulgarity and contamination, of immorality and idolatry? Why does Esther declare: ‫וְ כַ ֲא ׁ ֶשר ָא ַב ְד ִּתי ָא ָב ְד ִּתי‬, “and if I am to perish, I shall perish (‫א ָב ְד ִּתי‬,ָ literally, “I shall be lost”)”? Esther recognizes that so much spiritual energy was lost when the Jewish people were dazzled by the magic of the King’s banquet. The spiritual forces of our adversaries seized these ‫ ֲא ֵבדוֹ ת‬and now it was her challenge to free them and return them to their rightful owners. In His infinite wisdom, the Almighty knew that Esther and no one else could prevent Amalek from stealing the ‫א ֵב ָדה‬.ֲ With the support of Mordechai, she would demand that Klal Yisrael fast and repent and retrieve their lost ‫א ֵבדוֹ ת‬.ֲ She recognized the unique opportunity that Providence had offered her, to stop Amalek dead in his tracks. She accepted her responsibility to enter the king’s

chamber and risk losing not only her own life but the opportunity to save her people as well. She would pray for Divine assistance and recite Psalm 22, ‫א־ֵלִ י ֵא־לִ י לָ ָמה ֲעזַ ְב ָּתנִ י‬. In doing so, this great woman becomes the expediter of the redemption of Israel. On Ta’anit Esther, we are called upon to experience the emotions and the prayers of ‫ ֶא ְס ֵּתר ַה ַּמלְ ָּכה‬as she entered the chamber of the king. We must rededicate ourselves to search for our own ‫ ֲא ֵבדוֹ ת‬and recognize that if we do so, we will surely merit our own salvation and advance the final redemption, may it come speedily in our days! 1

Literally, 70 facets to Torah, meaning there is a broad variety of ways and approaches through which to interpret the Torah.

Rabbi Azarya Berzon has over 4,800 shiurim online and has served as a Scholar-in-Residence in many communities worldwide. A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/speakers

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GENERAL INTEREST

S O C I A L C O M M E N TA R Y Rabbi Chaim Navon

The Real Joy of Purim

O

n a July day in 1518, Mrs. Troffea went out into the streets of Strasbourg and began to dance. She danced for six days straight. In those six days, 34 people contracted her ‘fever’ and joined the ongoing dance. Within a month, there were hundreds of dancers on the streets of the country who had been dancing for days on end. To this day, no full explanation has been found for that dance fever. Some of the dancers writhed in pain and begged for mercy but could not stop dancing. Some explain the incident as an outbreak of mass hysteria. Many died from heart attacks, strokes or exhaustion. A less fatal case occurred in Tanzania in 1962. Three girls started laughing at school and could not stop. Most of the boarding school students were infected with the raging laughter. The principal was forced to close the school and send the students home. The result was that the residents of the nearby villages were also infected with the laughter epidemic. 14 schools in the area were closed for extended periods, and mass laughter ceased only after a year and a half. When the three original laughers were asked what was so funny to begin with, they were unable to answer. Dancing and laughter are not always joyous activities. Sometimes they are just a forced expression of social dynamics. It is imperative to remember this, especially during the month of Adar.

A few years ago, Israeli high school yeshiva students uploaded an offensive video as a promo for the upcoming Purim celebrations. Their Principal responded appropriately and canceled the celebrations. My wife asked me if, in my opinion, the punishment was not excessive. I told her I didn’t think it was excessive at all. On the contrary. In my opinion, all the revelry of Adar should be cancelled in the yeshivas, even in institutions where the students know better than to publicize vulgar videos. Yes, it is accepted in our tradition that on one day a year, for a few hours, the restraints are lifted a little. But even then it’s not good to exaggerate. The Gemara tells of a Sage who drank too much, and in his drunkenness, killed another Sage (then prayed for him and brought him back to life). The Nimukei Yosef writes that a person can drink on Purim, but “should not go crazy in his drunkenness and be drawn to jest and frivolity.” Despite this, many are very stringent about drunkenly letting go on Purim. This custom has been dressed in a cover of ideology. As if drunkenness and letting loose reveal one’s inner holiness. This is like saying we need to peel away a person’s skin to reveal his inner organs. Just as the skin is part of the body, not just a shell, self-control and restraint are intrinsic parts of ourselves. When we abandon self-control, we are less human, not more.

Still, when we drink and behave in moderation, this custom has taste and meaning, within the boundaries of Purim. Sadly, the revelry of Adar in Israeli yeshiva high schools often crosses the boundaries of halacha and of respectfulness, and it is difficult to find any educational value in such festivities. Tremendous effort and enormous resources are wasted on grandiose celebrations, which are sometimes replete with vanity and insults. Some teachers are hesitant to intervene, for fear they will just be ridiculed. The joy of youth is good and healthy. But it is good and healthy in Adar in the same framework and in the same context in which it is good in Cheshvan or Iyar. This is how the Rambam described the priorities of Purim: “It is better for a person to increase the gifts for the poor than to add to his meal and send mishloach manot, for there is no greater and more glorious joy than to gladden the hearts of the poor, orphaned, widowed and converts.” This is the joy the Rambam believed in: caring for others and actively demonstrating responsibility for the community.

Rabbi Chaim Navon is a renowned author and educator.


GENERAL INTEREST Rabbi Berel Wein

TETZAVEH AND THE MEGILLAH

The Hidden Author

I

n this year of 5781, here in Jerusalem, Parashat Tetzaveh coincides with the day of Purim itself. There seem to be great similarities between this Torah reading and Megillat Esther. After Moshe’s birth, until the end of the entire Torah, we find no parasha that does not contain his name. Apart from one. Moshe’s name never appears in Tetzaveh, even though we are aware that he is the one who wrote this portion and taught it to the Jewish people during his time and for all eternity. He is the hidden author, the director of events behind the scenes. There have been many suggestions over the ages to explain why this is so. But for our purposes here, it is sufficient simply to realize that Moshe is the teacher of the Torah par excellence who is hidden from us. As we will soon see, we are made aware of the value of people and ideas that remain hidden, not always exposed to the light of human inspection and society. The ability of Moshe to remain hidden – and the benefit of his anonymity – is one of the blessings of his noble character and humble greatness. In the same vein, we know that G-d’s Name does not appear in Megillat Esther. There is no reference whatsoever made of the intercession and interference of Heaven in the events described in the written record of the story and miracle of Purim. The book of Esther sounds like an exciting but completely rational and understandable story of political intrigue, psychologically-damaged individuals, unforeseen salvation and an example of the twists and turns that

make a mockery of human certainties and predictions. Once again though, there is an unseen and unmentioned director of events who is controlling the narrative of this story. Purim is the holiday that commemorates this concept. There is no flash of lightning nor roar of thunder. No volcanic eruptions or plagues of locusts that mark this miracle. Yet it is obvious that when we piece the whole story together as one whole, the miracle of the event becomes obvious and revealed, no matter how hidden it was while it was being enacted (read the words of the Rabbis in the Al HaNissim prayer recited on Purim). Perhaps this is the reason why Purim is such a day of unmitigated joy, because it represents the joy of thousands who have discovered and unraveled a mystery the solution of which was not originally obvious nor widely understood. It is the delight of discovery of the hidden Director that fills us with both merriment and joy. When a hidden treasure is revealed, humans are usually overcome with a feeling of great excitement, happiness and achievement. The great Chassidic master of Kotzk maintained that truth is always hidden from public view. He said that if it is revealed, it will be criticized, reviled and discounted, for we live in a “false world,” to use the phrase the Talmud chose to describe human existence. Ultimate truth can only be found within one’s own self, and it takes an enormous amount of effort and searching to do so. Only the hidden eventually proves to be true, accurate and eternal. Falsehoods

are about wherever we turn. It is not only fake news that confounds us, but also that we live in an era in which society is actually shaped by the opinions of others and human weaknesses. The Torah wishes to give us a direction as to where truth can actually be found. Hence it hid the name of Moshe in this week’s Torah reading, and the name of G-d in the book of Esther. If we wish to find G-d, we need to search within our own selves. The same is true of understanding and appreciating the Torah that Moshe wrote, gave and taught us. The Torah itself shows us that we are not that distant from truth. But it cannot be found on the surface, but only within our own souls and tongues.

Rabbi Berel Wein is Senior Rabbi of Beit Knesset HaNassi in Jerusalem and Director of the Destiny Foundation.

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GENERAL INTEREST

W H AT ’ S I N A W O R D David Curwin

Clothed in Meaning

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s part of the festivities on Purim, we wear masks and costumes. Let’s look at some of the words associated with those disguises. One word we’ve all become very familiar with this year is ‫“ – ַמ ֵּסכָ ה‬mask.” Originally it meant “covering” and took on the meaning “mask” in Modern Hebrew, influenced by the English word “mask” and the French word masque. Those words, while not deriving from the same root as ‫מ ֵּסכָ ה‬, ַ actually do have a Semitic origin, coming from the Arabic maskhara, meaning “clown” or “buffoon.” That word comes from the verb sahkira meaning “to ridicule,” and may be related to the Hebrew ‫“ – ׁ ֶש ֶקר‬a lie.” ‫ ַמ ֵּס ָכה‬comes from the root ‫“ – נֶ ֶס ְך‬to weave.” As such, it is cognate with the word ‫“ – ַמ ֶּסכֶ ת‬tractate (of the Talmud).” In the Bible, ‫ ַמ ֶּסכֶ ת‬meant “web of the loom” (Shoftim 16:14), and just as the loom collects the strings, a collection of teachings was called a ‫מ ֶּסכֶ ת‬. ַ English has a pair of related words with a similar connection – textile and text. There is actually another ‫ ַמ ֵּסכָ ה‬in the Bible, but with a different meaning and origin. It means “molten image,” (as in the ‫“– ֵעגֶ ל ַמ ֵּסכָ ה‬molten calf ” in Shemot 32:4). Its root is also ‫נֶ ֶס ְך‬, but meaning “to pour out” – not “to weave.” The Hebrew word for costume is ‫ת ְח ּפוֹ שֶׂ ת‬.ַּ It is actually related to the root ׂ‫“ – ַח ּ ֵפש‬to search.” How so? While in the piel form the verb means “to search,” in the reflexive hitpael form, ׂ‫ה ְת ַח ּ ֵפש‬,ִ it means “to disguise oneself.” For example, in Shmuel I 28:8, we read that King Shaul “disguised himself ( ׂ‫)ה ְת ַח ּ ֵפש‬ ִ and wore different clothes.” Yehuda Kiel, in his commentary Da’at Mikra, explains

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that the root is from ׂ‫ – ַח ּ ֵפש‬search: he made others search for him (the reflexive.) Beyond the words for mask and costume, quite a few words for clothing in Hebrew are related to deception and falsehood. For example, ‫“ – ֶ ּבגֶ ד‬garment” shares the same root as ‫“ – ְ ּבגִ ָידה‬betrayal.” In the same way a garment is used to cover the body, a traitor will cover up their disloyal behavior. Similarly, we have the pairs ‫“ – ְמ ִעיל‬coat” and ‫“ – ְמ ִעילָ ה‬treachery, embezzlement” and ‫“ – ַ ּבד‬linen” and ‫“ – ָ ּב ָדה‬to lie, concoct.” One other root with both meanings is ‫“ – ָחלַ ף‬to change.” From that root, ‫יפה‬ ָ ִ‫ֲחל‬ means a “change of clothes.” This is how it is used when Yosef gives clothing to his brothers – ‫ש ָמֹלת‬ ׂ ְ ‫( ֲחלִ פוֹ ת‬Bereishit 45:22). Today, based on that meaning, a ‫יפה‬ ָ ִ‫ ֲחל‬is a suit. Another meaning of ‫יפה‬ ָ ִ‫ ֲחל‬is “replacement, successor” as found in Iyov 14:14 – “All the time of my military service I wait / Until my replacement [‫יפ ִתי‬ ָ ִ‫]חל‬ ֲ comes”. That is the meaning in the Arabic cognate caliph, the one who succeeded the leader.

All of these words show the connection between clothing and deception, because at their core, clothing covers up who we really are. Not surprisingly, clothing plays a major role in deception stories throughout the Bible. For example, Adam and Chava covered up their sin with fig leaves, Ya’akov tricked Yitzchak by dressing up as Esav, Tamar deceived Yehuda with her clothing, and Yosef hid his identity from his brothers by dressing as an Egyptian. And while the custom of wearing masks and costumes on Purim first appears only in the Middle Ages, clothing plays a major role in Megillat Esther as well. Mordechai dresses in sackcloth after hearing of Haman’s decree, and as a response Esther tries sending him clothing to wear. Later, Haman asks to wear the king’s clothing but in the end it is Mordechai who dons the royal robes. In a story where everyone’s true intentions are masked, and even G-d’s involvement is concealed, costumes are a perfectly natural celebration!

In addition to a change of clothes (and people), it is also associated with deception. This is how Ya’akov uses it when he tells his wives that Lavan mistreated him: “As you know, I have served your father with all my might; but your father has cheated me, changing [‫]ה ֱחלִ ף‬ ֶ my wages time and again. G-d, however, would not let him do me harm” (Bereishit 31:6–7).

David Curwin is a writer living in Efrat, and the author of the Balashon blog. balashon.com • balashon1@gmail.com.


1. Achashverosh ruled over 127 countries. 2. He made a party for 180 days. 3. On the 7th day of the party, he called for Vashti. He also had 7 advisors, and he married Esther in the 7th year of his reign. 4. The prospective queens were given 6 months to adorn themselves in oils and another 6 months to adorn themselves in perfumes. 5. Esther was taken to Achashverosh’s palace in the 10th month, Tevet. 6. Haman cast his lot in the 1st month, Nissan. 7. Haman’s lot fell out on the 12th month, Adar, in the 12th year of Achashverosh’s reign. 8. The day set for the destruction of the Jews was the 13th of Adar. 9. Haman offered the king 10,000 talents of silver in exchange for the Jews’ destruction. 10. Esther hadn’t been summoned to the king for 30 days. 11. Esther orders the Jews to fast for 3 days and approaches the king on the 3rd day. 12. Haman builds a gallow 50 cubits high. 13. Esther makes 2 banquets, and reveals her secret at the 2nd banquet. 14. Haman had 10 sons. 15. Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar. 16. In Shushan, Purim was celebrated on the 15th of Adar. 17. In Shushan, the Jews killed 500 of their enemies. 18. In the rest of Persia, the Jews killed 75,000 of their enemies.

Answers

14 1 15 1 500 1 75,000 10,000 1 30 1 3 1 50 1 2 1 10 127 1 180 1 7 1 6 1 10 1 1 1 12 1 13

In what context are these numbers found in the Megillah? Family Page HaMizrachi GENERAL INTEREST


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