Purim Vol.9 No.23
Date of issue: 14 Adar2 5760 -- March 21, 2000
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Rabbi Yosef Adler
by Rabbi Yosef Adler
The Yom Tov of Purim is intended to be a festive celebration highlighting the miraculous delivery of Bnai Yisrael from the hands of Haman. As is the case with all other holidays, the Halacha itself provides the format as to how to celebrate and sets the tone for the particular day. Purim, in this regard, is no different. The Halacha mandates the reading of the Megila and the distribution of Mishloach Manot and Matanot Le'evyonim. A well known aspect of Purim finds its origins in the Gemara (Megila 7b), where the Gemara states in the name of Rava, Chayav Inish Lebisumei Ad Delo Yada. The most common interpretation is that one should drink a sufficient quantity of alcoholic beverages so that he becomes intoxicated and can no longer recognize the difference between Baruch Mordechai and Arur Haman. Rambam interprets this to mean that one should drink more than one is generally accustomed to drinking and subsequently fall asleep. In such a state one can not differentiate between Baruch Mordechai and Arur Haman. Rambam apparently does not require one to get drunk. Yet the normative ruling in Shulchan Aruch is to accept the simple reading, mandating, in effect, that one drink until he is drunk.
An interesting commentary is offered by the Rabbeinu Ephraim. Immediately after recording this rule, the Gemara relates a story whereby Rava invited Rav Zeira to join him for the Purim meal. As the feast progressed, Rava got drunk, took a knife, and beheaded Rav Zeira. When Rava awoke from his stupor, he realized what he had done and prayed to Hashem to restore Rav Zeira's life. Hashem performed Techiat Hameitim and Rav Zeira's life was restored. The next year, Rava again invited Rav Zeira to join him for Purim. Rav Zeira responded thanks, but no thanks, and said, "I don't know if I can rely upon miracles every time." Why was this story quoted after the introduction of the Mitzva? Suggests Rabbeinu Ephraim that it is to demonstrate how dangerous this Mitzva is; consequently, it should be avoided and is not required for Purim.
In our day and age, we are all too familiar with the disastrous results of intoxication. Encouraging young men and women to participate in this activity only encourages them to experiment with it further during the rest of the year. Rabbinic leaders must be courageous and publicly state that there are other acceptable observances of Ad Delo Yada. Rabbinic authority has never hesitated to enact legislation as a Siyag to override even a Mitzva Deoraita, a biblical commandment. So too, no hesitancy should be expressed to state unequivocally that getting drunk is always inappropriate. Let the Yom Tov of Purim signal a renewed commitment to Torah and Mitzvot, as we read in the Megila, Layehudim Hayta Ora Vesimcha Vesason Viykar.
It's 10 O'clock, Do You Know Where Your Parents Are?
by Rabbi Herschel Solnica
We are used to giving rebuke (Mussar) concerning the whereabouts of our children. A major television station, before the news, reminds parents that where their children are is very important for the growth and success of their progeny.
The Torah says Emor...Ve'amarta... (Vayikra 21:1) Rashi, quoting Yevamot 88 statesLehazhir Gedolim Al Haketanim, "So that the elders forward the younger ones." This could not be the commandment for education because that commandment stems from the words Velamadtem Et Bineichem and Veshinanam Levanecha. The point of this statement in the Torah is to charge the people with the responsibility of teaching, directing and leading our children into adulthood and Torah responsibility.
How can this be accomplished when the parents are absent? How can they check on their children in bed when they are not home and are not positive role models themselves? How can we place a value on clean language or wholesome dress habits when parents use foul language and allow their children to dress inappropriately? Would they allow their child to go to their place of business or to an office dressed in such a way?
A common answer given to me is that school is not a business. What is it then? The Rebbe is charged with inspiring our children in Torah, Midot, and Tefila. How can these values be taught when, on Sunday, a child does not have to go to Shul? What backup do teachers and Rabbeim get when a child does not even Daven with his father on Shabbat?
Children at risk is an urgent issue in the Chassidic and Centrist Orthodox community. They are at risk because parents are busy going to Shiurim, going to parties, not caring where their "grown up" (sure!) teenagers are after 10:00 PM.
I think we may interpret Emor Ve'amarta, Lehizaher Bnai Torah Al Hagedolim Ve'al Haketanim. To urge Torah role models to preach and direct adults first, and then they can be a model for the new generation.
A Drunkard's Awareness
by David Gertler
The famous Gemara (Megila 7b) says, Mechayev Inish Libesumei Bepuraya Ad Delo Yada Bein Arr Haman Lebaruch Mordechai, "A man is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between, 'Cursed be Haman,' and 'Blessed be Mordechai.' " While many people argue with the parameters of this Halacha, I would like to raise the following two questions: First, what is the purpose of such a Halacha? Second, why is the common practice that only men should drink?
The root of the name Ester is Seiter, which means hidden. Esther had to conceal her identity because people were constantly trying to discover the background of their new queen. I would like to suggest a Gematria that may solve the question as to why women do not have the Mitzva to drink: The gematria of Yayin, wine, is 70. Sode, secret, is 70 as well. We learn that when one is drunk he reveals his secrets. Knowing this, we can say that Esther, who represents the women, could not drink because otherwise her secret of being Jewish would be revealed. While the above answer may explain why Esther could not drink, it does not really answer why modern day women, or even those in the time of the Gemara, did not have a Mitzva to drink.
The Midrashim teach us of several occurrences during Maaseh Bereishit. The first was the light of the first day being put aside for the Tzaddikim to enjoy in the times of Mashiach. We are also told that the Livyatan, a giant fish that endangered the entire world, was cut up by Hashem and salted for the Tzaddikim to enjoy in the days of Mashiach. What is the common denominator between these two? They both are in hiding, in secret, until the days of Mashiach. What is the secret? The Geula itself! Since the time that Yaakov forgot when the Geula was, nobody has known.
On Pesach we recount the story of Yetziat Mitzraim, and we know that before Moshe arrived, Bnai Yisrael did not have any sight of the coming Geula. Because people did not know when the Geula would be, some men had no desire to have children because they assumed that their children would suffer as well. The women, who would have to suffer through pregnancy for no apparent purpose, did not give up hope. They had to convince the men to have children! How does this relate to our discussion? The reason that men have to drink and women are not obligated is because men have a hard time, in hard times, seeing a future good time. Men have to drink so the secret of the Geula becomes clear to them. Women, on the other hand, feel the need to live because they know that no matter how long it takes, the Geula will come and there need to be people to be redeemed.
I believe that we all have much to learn from the women around us.
Walk Like a Woman
by Meir Dashevsky
Esther is one of the most puzzling women featured in Tanach because of her peculiar actions and inactions. Why, in some instances, did she follow the directives of Mordechai and other authority figures while in others she acted independently? If one looks at Megilat Esther carefully, one will notice that at the beginning of the Megila, Esther usually followed the instructions of those around her. However, by the end, she seizes the initiative. Is there a reason for this change in personality? A careful examination of the Pesukim featuring Esther's adherence to authority and her taking initiative will shed light on the situation.
The Megila opens with a portrayal of Esther that is similar to that of a child. In the following Pesukim of Chapter Two Esther is mentioned as a subordinate to other figures:
1) 2:7 - Mordechai adopted Esther as his daughter.
2) 2:8 - Esther is forcibly taken to Achashverosh.
3) 2:10 - Mordechai instructs Esther not to reveal her religion to Achashverosh or to anyone else in the palace.
4) 2:12-15 - Esther is bathed, oiled and perfumed for one year.
5) 2:15 - Hagai picked out Esther's clothing for her.
6) 2:20 - Esther still refrains from revealing her religion because of Mordechai's instructions.
7) 2:22 - Mordechai informs Esther about a plot against the king's life, which she repeats to Achashverosh in the name of Mordechai. This is an act that she could have easily taken credit for, but she told Achashverosh that the credit belonged to Mordechai.
In Chapter Four, there is a marked difference in Esther's behavior; she no longer submits to the command of others, but she takes the initiative and gives the orders:
1) 4:4 - Esther sent Mordechai clothes because he had torn his in response to the king's declaration.
2) 4:5 - Esther ordered one of her servants to go to Mordechai to find out what was happening.
3) 4:11 - Esther, in response to Mordechai's command to speak to the king on his behalf, refuses and tells Mordechai that if she did so she would be killed.
4) 4:16 - Esther tells Mordechai to assemble all the Jews to pray for her.
What caused this change? Why did Esther bend to the will of others in the second Perek but not in the fourth?
One answer is that the second chapter depicts Esther as a subordinate figure. As a child, she was adopted by Mordechai, and from the language in the Megila it is clear that she gave him the respect of the parental figure he was. However, later, when she moved into the king's palace, she no longer had to follow the instructions of Mordechai because she no longer lived in his house.
This answer is not satisfying because it neglects her lack of protest when Achashveroshs men dragged her off to the palace. Furthermore, why did she allowed Hagai to pick the clothing that she would wear in front of the king? Her silence, is extremely peculiar because most people given the opportunity to wear any garment in the world would definitely take the opportunity to wear their favorite clothing. Esther did not, but simply allowed Hagai to choose for her. Her subordination to Mordechai is expected because of his role as her surrogate father, but why does she not make her own decision about the clothing she would wear?
Perhaps it would be prudent to examine the area of Esther's change in attitude, which occurs at the beginning of the third chapter, after Haman comes to power. For the first time in the Megila, Esther begins to take the initiative. It was only after Mordechai told her in 4:13 not to imagine that she will be able to escape the king's palace any more than the rest of the Jews that she takes the initiative.
Esther eventually takes Mordechai's advice, but she first issues a directive of her own, namely that Mordechai assemble the Jews and that they fast for her. At the same time, she begins preparations to visit the king. It seems that when Esther did eventually go to the king it was not because Mordechai commanded her to, but because she realized that it was the only possible course of action. This seems to be the final showdown between Esther and Mordechai and she seems to win decisively because in 4:17 the Megila says: "Mordechai then left and did exactly as Esther had commanded him." Indeed, Esther had taken control.
It is clear that somewhere in the middle of this chapter Esther took control of her life and destiny and stopped taking orders from anyone (even Achashverosh - she defied his law and went to speak to him without being called). It also seems that the final step of her maturation process took place in Pesukim 4:13-14. This, however, still does not explain what caused her to finally grow up, to stop being a child, and to take on the responsibilities of an adult member and adult of the Jewish community.
One suggestion is that her rise to power gave her control that she had never possessed before, and when someone is given power he or she will inevitably learn to use it. Her initial hesitation to go before the king without permission may have been the result of fear of losing her position in the palace and being cast out like Vashti had been. Another suggestion is that seeing Mordechai in sack-cloth was to much for her. To see her "father" dressed in rags must have elicited great emotion. This reality check may have given her the necessary maturity and strength to save the Jews.
Or she could have simply pose to the occasion in the face of adversity, met it, and conquered it. However, it seems to this author that one of the following two reasons is more likely. First, that Esther took action on behalf of the Jews because of a sense of self preservation, either on the personal or national level. She may have heeded Mordechai's warning and decided to help the Jews because she feared for her own life, or perhaps she just could not bare to see the Jews annihilated.
Most compelling, however, is Esther's disgust with herself. In Megilat Esther two personalities share very similar characteristics: Esther and Achashverosh. Both allowed individuals close to them to make all their decisions. Achashverosh did not decide to cast out Vashti on his own - his advisor suggested it - nor did he suggest the search for a new wife. After living with Achashverosh, Esther recognized this trait that they shared and was repulsed by it. In effect, she saw an aspect of herself in the mirror, and this realization caused her to wake up and take control of her life. It is clear from the Megila, however, that Achashverosh never did.
(Based on a Shiur by Rabbi Mark Smilowitz.)
Reward and Punishment
by Simcha Haber
In Megilat Esther 6:3, the Megila talks about Mordechai saving Achashverosh, and in 6:4 Achashverosh asks who is in his courtyard. Some say that somewhere between these statements Achashverosh fell asleep, but when? In the beginning of the night, Achashverosh could not fall asleep so he told someone to read his book of chronicles to him. Abba Gurion says that upon hearing Mordechai's name, the king fell asleep and had a dream. The dream was that Haman was standing over him with a sword, ready to kill him, and removed the king's cloak and crown. Achashverosh woke up with a knock at the door to the courtyard, and when he asked who it was, the guards said it was Haman. Achashverosh thought that Haman came at a time that people are usually asleep in order to kill the king, so Achashverosh said to let him in. The king asked Haman what should be done with the person whom the king wants to honor. Haman thought that he was the most important person in the kingdom and Achashverosh wanted to honor him, so Haman said, "Let him wear the cloak and crown of the king and be led around on the king's horse." Haman basically was asking the king for the cloak and crown, but the king remembered the dream and said to do this for Mordechai instead.
Rav Arama says that Haman thought that the person who is leading the horse may forget that he is second to the person riding the horse. To make sure this did not happen, Haman told the king that the person leading the horse should yell out that the person on the horse was chosen by the king as the most honorable to the king.
In 6:10 it says Maher, "hurry." Yosef Lekach asks what the rush was? The Meam Loez answers that Achashverosh was supposed to meet Esther for a banquet that evening. He hurried Haman so that when he came she would not ask why Mordechai was not honored for saving the king's life. Haman gathered everything that Mordechai was supposed to have and told Mordechai to put on the clothes and get on the king's horse because the king wanted to honor him. Mordechai said, "I'm dirty and my hair is long; I should not get dressed like this!" Mordechai went to look for a bathhouse, cleaner, and barber but could not find one, so Haman scrubbed Mordechai until he was clean and cut Mordechai's hair. After this, Haman dressed Mordechai and told him to get on the horse. Mordechai said, "I'm weak from the fast." Haman bent down to let Mordechai step on his back to mount the horse. Haman sighed, and Mordechai asked why. Haman said, "Because the man who is second to the king is a bath attendant and a barber." Throughout the streets, Haman and 27,000 servants said, "This is what is done to the person who the king wishes to honor." As Mordechai was led through the streets, the Jews went to his side and said, "This is what is done to the man that God in heaven wishes to honor."
The Midrash says that when Haman's daughter saw her father leading the horse, she jumped from the rooftop and killed herself. A different Midrash explains further that Haman's daughter thought that her father was on the horse and Mordechai was leading him, so she dumped garbage on "Mordechai's" head. When Haman looked up and his daughter saw that she had dumped the garbage on her father's head, she jumped from the roof and killed herself.
Food for Thought
by The Little Engine that Could and Dani Gross
1) In Parshat Achrei Mot/ Reeh/ Iyov/ Bereishit/ (Circle One), it says Vayedaber Hashem El Moshe Laimor. What is the significance of this phrase? [Consider the fact that Rabbi Arthur Scroll says that this phrase shows that Hashem spoke to Moshe.]
2) Irrawaddy (irewcdi; irewadi) is Burma's main river and traffic route. It flows 1,350 miles from near the Tibetan border through the Mandalay plain and a vast Delta to the Bay of Bengal. It is navigable for 900 miles. Where in the Torah do we see a similar concept? [Hint: Look in The New Lexicon Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language Deluxe Edition.]
If you have a response to these questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Responses may be published upon agreement of the provider.
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