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 Parshas Tetzaveh/Purim - Vol. 7, Issue 20
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Víhaya al Aharon líshares vínishma kolo bívoío el HaKodesh lifnei Hashem uvítzeiso vílo yamus (28:35)

            The Gemora in Pesachim (112a) records that Rabbi Akiva gave seven commands to his son Rabbi Yehoshua. One of them was that he shouldnít enter his house suddenly. In his commentary on the Gemora, the Rashbam quotes a Medrash which relates that whenever he approached his home, Rabbi Yochanan would intentionally make noise to alert anybody who may be inside to his imminent arrival.

            Rabbi Yochanan explained his actions by quoting our verse, which requires the Kohen Gadol to have bells on the hem of his Meíil (Robe) so that they will make noise to announce his approach whenever he enters Hashemís Sanctuary. How could an individual person, even one as great as Rabbi Yochanan or Rabbi Akiva, derive guidelines for proper conduct from the Torahís laws for the Kohen Gadol, who was subject to special stringencies due to the sanctity of the Temple in which he served?

            Rav Shmaryahu Arieli answers based on a Gemora in Sotah (17a), which teaches that if a husband and wife dwell together in harmony, the Divine Presence will rest between them and fill their home with an atmosphere of holiness. In light of this teaching, we can understand that any man with a successful marriage must recognize that the Shechina resides in his home, and conduct appropriate for the Kohen Gadol is required. Lest one think that these lofty levels were only for previous generations, a contemporary example of such behavior can be found in a story involving Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.

            Somebody was once discussing an important issue with him on his way home. As they walked through the streets of Jerusalem, Rav Shlomo Zalman suddenly paused to straighten and clean his clothes. As his clothing didnít appear disheveled, the man inquired about the cause of the Ravís actions. The saintly Rav replied that he had been blessed for decades to live in peace and tranquility with his wonderful wife. They were fortunate to feel Hashem as a regular Presence in their home. As he turned the block to approach his house, Rav Shlomo Zalman felt compelled to ensure that his appearance was appropriate for the important Guest that he was about to greet.

            In light of such daily behavior, it shouldnít be surprising to note that at his wifeís funeral, Rav Shlomo Zalman announced that at the funeral of oneís spouse it is customary to ask forgiveness from the deceased for anything he may have done or said that caused pain. However, he continued, ďI have no need to do so, for I can say with complete confidence that in almost 54 years of marriage, I never once upset or hurt her in any way, and there is nothing for which I need to ask her forgiveness.Ē

            Although marriage brings its daily challenges for even the most compatible of spouses, we can begin to overcome them by viewing our efforts to keep the peace as bringing the Divine presence into our homes, where it will dwell amidst an atmosphere of happiness and harmony.


Lih'yos kol ish soreir b'beiso u'medabeir kil'shon amo (Esther 1:22)

            As a result of Vashtiís disrespectful behavior toward him, Achashverosh had her killed. In order to ensure that nobody in his empire would emulate her, Achashverosh sent out a royal proclamation decreeing that every man should be in charge of his house. This part of the edict makes logical sense, as it seems to be a direct consequence of the incident with Vashti.

            However, Achashverosh appended a second component to his decree - that every husband should speak in the language of his nation - which appears to be completely unrelated to Vashti's conduct. The problem with her behavior was that she spoke to him in an insolent manner, which seems to be irrelevant to the language in which they conversed. Indeed, the Ibn Ezra writes that this second part of Achashverosh's declaration had nothing to do with Vashtiís actions and was included precisely to distract people from focusing on her disgrace of the king and the decree which resulted from it.

            The Chasam Sofer suggests that the issue of language was in fact quite connected to the humiliation that Achashverosh suffered at the hands of Vashti. He explains by posing a different question: even if Vashti was willing to relate her embarrassing message to Achashveroshís servants, why were they willing to repeat it to him? Werenít they afraid for their own lives to speak to the king in such a manner?

            The Chasam Sofer explains that Achashverosh and his servants spoke a language called Sursi, while Vashti spoke a different language called Kasdi. When the servants heard Vashti's message, they didn't understand it because they didnít speak her language. Due to the language barrier, all they understood was that Vashti was refusing to come with them as Achashverosh had requested, and they assumed that the message was an explanation of her decision, so they returned to Achashverosh and innocently repeated her words, oblivious to their true meaning.

            In reality, the Gemora (Megillah 12b) teaches that not only did Vashti refuse to come, but she sent back a message saying that Achashverosh was a lowly stable boy for her father, who was able to drink a large amount of wine without becoming intoxicated, while Achashverosh had consumed only a small amount of wine but had clearly gotten drunk, as evidenced by the ridiculous request that he made of her to appear naked at his royal party.

            When Achashverosh heard the message, he was humiliated in front of the noblemen, many of whom also spoke and understood the Kasdi language. In other words, the entire embarrassing situation only came about because Vashti spoke her own language, which the servants didnít understand and naively repeated. In order to prevent this from happening again in the future, Achashverosh decreed that all wives must speak their husbandís language.


U'Mordechai yada es kol asher na'aseh (4:1)

            The Medrash (Esther Rabbah 7:13) relates that when the letters containing Hamanís decree were sent out to be delivered, Mordechai saw three young boys coming out of school. He asked each of them to tell him the verse that they were studying. The first boy said, "Al tira mi'pachad pis'om u'mi'sho'as resha'im ki savo" - you will not fear sudden terror, nor the ruin of the wicked when it comes (Mishlei 3:25), the second one said, "Utzu eitzah v'sufar dabru davar v'lo yakum ki imanu K-el" - plan a conspiracy and it shall be annulled; speak your piece and it shall not stand, for Hashem is with us (Yeshayahu 8:10), and the third student said, "V'ad ziknah ani hu, v'ad seivah ani esbol, ani asisi v'ani esa v'ani esbol v'emaleit" - until old age I am unchanged, and until hoary years I will carry you; I made you, and I will bear you, and I will rescue you (Yeshayahu 46:4).

            When Mordechai heard this, he rejoiced and felt optimistic. When Haman saw Mordechai so happy precisely at the time that he thought he had just sealed the fate of the Jewish people, he asked him for an explanation. Mordechai responded that the children had just informed him that he need not be afraid of Hamanís decree. This Medrash needs clarification. Why did Hashem specifically convey these three verses to Mordechai to reassure him, and why did they give him such confidence?

            The Vilna Gaon explains that there were three episodes in Tanach when Amalek attacked the Jewish people. The first time was in Parshas Beshalach, when they came to attack in Refidim (Shemos 17:8). The second time was after the death of Aharon, at which time the verse (Bamidbar 21:1) says that the Canaanites came to do battle with the Jews. Rashi explains that it was really the Amalekites attacking, but they spoke in the language of the Canaanites to trick the Jews into praying for assistance in defeating the Canaanites. Because they were still wearing their Amalekite clothing, the Jews were confused and utter a general prayer to defeat whoever it was that was attacking them. The third time that Amalek attacked the Jewish people was when Hamanís decreed that they be killed and eradicated.

            The Vilna Gaon explains that the three verses that the children told Mordechai correspond to these three incidents. The first boy told Mordechai not to fear sudden terror, which refers to the time that Amalek abruptly and unexpectedly attacked the Jewish people as they were leaving Egypt, as the verse (Devorim 25:18) says "asher kar'cha ba'derech" - they happened upon you along the way. Even though the Jews were unprepared, the verse says that they didn't need to be afraid because Hashem saved them.

            The second verse discusses the annulment of a conspiracy, which corresponds to their cunning and devious plan in trying to trick the Jews into thinking that they were really Canaanites. The verse says that even though they came up with this scheme, the Jewish people still had nothing to worry about because Hashem undid their plans.

            The final boy invoked a verse that mentions being unchanged in old age, which corresponds to Haman, who told Achashverosh that now was the ideal time to destroy the Jews because their G-d had grown old and was no longer capable of saving them, just as He hadnít been able to prevent Nebuchadnezzar from destroying the Beis HaMikdash (Esther Rabbah 7:13). To this spurious claim, Hashem replied that even if people think that He is old, He is still the same Hashem Who is capable of miraculously saving the Jews, a message that gave Mordechai a sense of confidence and optimism.


Vayi'matzei chasuv asher higid Mordechai al Bigsana va'Seresh ... asher bikshu lishloach yad b'Melech Achashverosh (6:2)

            When Achashverosh's sleep was disturbed, he ordered his servants to bring his book of records and read it to him. He found recorded there that Mordechai had saved him from the plot of Bigsana and Seresh to assassinate him, at which point he proceeded to inquire whether Mordechai had ever been properly rewarded for his actions. The obvious difficulty with this incident is that the Megillah earlier recorded (2:21) that Mordechai saved Achashverosh from the assassination plot of Bigsan and Seresh. Why did Bigsan's name suddenly change to Bigsana?

            The Medrash Talpios explains that Achashveroshís scribe was one of Hamanís sons, who didnít want Mordechai to be rewarded for his actions. When he recorded the episode in the kingís official chronicles, he wrote that Mordechai discovered that "Bigsana o Seresh" - Bigsan or Seresh - was plotting to kill Achashverosh. In other words, one of them was planning to assassinate the king, and because it wasn't clear which one it was, there was no choice but to kill both of them in order to protect the king.

            However, this also would have meant that Mordechai didnít deserve a substantial reward for his actions, because at the same time that he saved Achashverosh, he was also indirectly responsible for the death of an innocent man. Hashem wanted Mordechai to receive his proper reward, so He split the word "o" by attaching the letter "aleph" zo Bigsanís name, and the "vav" to the beginning of Seresh's name. As a result, Achashverosh's official book of records now read that Mordechai saved him from "Bigsana v'Seresh." This is alluded to by the fact that the verse says "Vayi'matzei chasuv" - and they found that it was written - alluding to the fact that this was not the version that was originally written and was miraculously changed at this time.


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     Rashi writes (27:21) that the Sages determined the amount of oil needed for the Menorah to burn from the night until the morning even during the lengthy winter nights. This amount of oil was placed in the Menorah every night of the year even though there would be leftover oil on the shorter nights, as extra oil didnít pose any problem. Why would the Rabbis design the process for lighting the Menorah in a manner which would produce so much unnecessary waste? (Daas Zíkeinim, Paneiach Raza, Rashi Shabbos 22b and Zevachim 11b, Ayeles HaShachar)

2)     Rashi writes (28:30) that the Kohen Gadol was able to ask questions to Hashem via the Urim VíTumim inside of the Choshen. The letters forming the answer to his question either lit up or protruded. Did they do so simultaneously, requiring his knowledge to properly arrange them, or did they sequentially spell out the answer for him? (Ramban, Maharsha Yoma 73b, Shiras Dovid)

3)     Why is the golden Altar upon which incense was offered (30:1) referred to as a Mizbe'ach, which comes from the word "zevach" (animal sacrifice), when no animals were ever offered on this altar as sacrifices? (Zohar HaKadosh Parshas Vayakhel 219a, Shaarei Aharon)

4)     How was Shmuel permitted to kill Agag (Shmuel 1 15:33), the king of the Amalekites, when the Gemora in Nazir (66a) teaches that Shmuel was a nazir who was forbidden to become impure through contact with a dead body (Bamidbar 6:6)? (Radak Shmuel 2 23:20, Derush LíTzion 5, Tiferes Yisroel Nazir 9:5, Chavatzeles HaSharon Shemos 17:13, Mírafsin Igri Inyanim Vol. 2)

5)     Achashverosh showed off his wealth by making elaborate feasts full of delicious food and drink (1:3-8). Why wasnít there any musical entertainment at these parties? (Derashos Maharam Schiff)

6)     Esther told Mordechai (4:11) that there is a well-known law that anybody who attempts to enter and approach the king without being called in to see him will be put to death, yet we find later (6:4) that Haman was on his way to speak to Achashverosh about his plan to hang Mordechai on the gallows that he had built when Achashverosh called him in to discuss a different subject. How was Haman planning to approach the king if he hadnít been requested to do so? (Shiras Dovid)

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