V'asisa bigdei Kodesh l'Aharon
achicha l'kavod ul'tifares (28:2)
Rav Yitzchok Hutner once related that while studying in the Slabodka yeshiva in
Europe, he often heard America referred to as the “Goldeneh Medinah,” but living
in the poverty that was rampant in Eastern Europe at that time, he couldn’t even
begin to imagine the wealth and excess being referred to. Even upon arriving on
America’s shores, he and all of the immigrants with whom he associated continued
living under very simple and modest conditions. Hearing those around him
complain about the difficulty involved in finding a job that paid a reasonable
salary and allowed a person to observe his religious traditions, Rav Hutner
remained cynical about the reports that America was a country where money was
the most precious commodity and dollars rolled down the streets.
One day that all changed. It was the week of Parshas Tetzaveh. Rav Hutner was
walking outside when he observed two young Jewish boys playing ball in front of
their house. The older of the two was regaling his younger brother with all that
he had learned in yeshiva about the lofty position of the Kohen Gadol: his
special garments designed to invoke glory and splendor, the offerings he was
able to bring daily in the Beis HaMikdash, and his unique role in effecting
atonement for the entire nation on an annual basis. The younger boy listened
with interest and fascination, envisioning the action transpiring before his
very eyes. He paused to take it all in and digest it before asking, “Tell me,
how much was his annual salary?” Sadly, Rav Hutner realized that he had finally
been welcomed to the Goldeneh Medinah, where the emphasis on the pursuit of the
mighty dollar takes precedence over spiritual goals and aspirations.
Va'ta'as ha'ra b'einei Hashem (Shmuel 1 15:19 - Haftorah)
The Haftorah for Parshas Zachor records Shmuel's instructions to Shaul to kill
all of the Amalekites and their animals. When Shaul did not follow orders,
Shmuel came to rebuke him and informed him that he had done evil in the eyes of
Hashem. The Chofetz Chaim points out that Shaul's primary sin was seemingly
passive in nature, meaning that he was commanded to fulfill the Biblical
commandment of destroying Amalek, and he neglected to do so when he decided not
to kill Agag and some of the animals. If so, Shmuel's word choice seems
inaccurate, as he said that Shaul's sin was actively doing something evil in the
eyes of Hashem.
The Chofetz Chaim explains that Shaul was commanded to kill all of the
Amalekites, and if he had followed Shmuel's instructions and done so, it would
have been considered a mitzvah. However, since he did not adhere to Shmuel's
orders, he demonstrated that everything he had done was not to fulfill Hashem's
command, because if that was his motivation he would have killed all of them.
Therefore, now that Shaul wasn't acting to fulfill the mitzvah, he was
considered guilty of murder for every Amalekite who was killed, and these
countless acts of murder were the active sin to which Shmuel was referring when
he said that Shaul had done evil in Hashem's eyes.
V'ha'na'arah yefas to'ar v'tovas mareh (Esther 2:7)
The Gemora in Megillah (13a) quotes the opinion of Rav Yehoshua ben Karcha, who
maintains that Esther was not inherently beautiful. In fact, she was a
yerakrokes – she had a green complexion – but Hashem miraculously caused to find
favor in the eyes of everybody who saw her. The Gemora does not provide a source
for Rav Yehoshua ben Karcha's opinion, and it seems difficult to understand. If
the Megillah explicitly testifies that Esther was physically attractive, for
what reason did he denigrate her?
The Vilna Gaon explains that specifically Rav Yehoshua ben Karcha had no choice
but to reinterpret the Megillah's statement about Esther's appearance. The
Gemora in Bava Basra (15b) records a dispute regarding when Iyov lived, and it
quotes several opinions. One of them is that of Rav Yehoshua ben Karcha, who
maintains that he lived in the times of Achashverosh. His source for this is a
verse in Iyov (42:15) which states V'lo nimtza nashim yafos kib'nos Iyov b'chol
ha'aretz – Iyov’s daughters were the most beautiful women in the world. When was
there a time in world history that the entire world was searched and examined
for beautiful women? In the times of Achashverosh.
However, this explanation presented Rav Yehoshua ben Karcha with a difficulty.
If Achashverosh set up a royal beauty pageant to seek out the most beautiful
woman to be his wife, why didn’t he choose one of Iyov’s daughters if the verse
testifies that they were the most attractive women in the world at that time,
and why did he choose Esther if she was less beautiful? In order to resolve this
question, Rav Yehoshua ben Karcha concluded that Esther's selection had nothing
to do with her true appearance, as she was in fact naturally unattractive, but
Hashem miraculously caused her to find favor in the eyes of everyone who saw
her, which caused Achashverosh to select her over Iyov’s daughters.
Vayomer Haman af lo heivi'ah (5:12)
The Medrash teaches that there were four individuals who began speaking using
the word "af," and each of them was punished and destroyed. The serpent said to
Chava (Bereishis 3:1) Af ki amar Elokim lo soch'lu mikol eitz ha'gan - Did
Hashem perhaps say that you may not eat from any of the trees in the garden.
Pharaoh's chief baker said to Yosef (Bereishis 40:16) Af ani ba'chalomi v'hinei
shlosha salei chori al roshi - I also (had a dream); in my dream, behold, three
wicker baskets were on my head. Korach’s followers said to Moshe (Bamidbar
16:14) Af lo el eretz zavas chalav u'devash heviosanu - Moreover, you didn't
bring us to a land flowing with milk and honey. Finally, Haman told Zeresh and
his friends Af lo heivi'ah - Moreover, Queen Esther brought nobody (to her royal
banquet other than me).
When our Sages group multiple episodes together to point out that they are
similar, they are not merely making a superficial observation, such as the fact
that these individuals began their sentences with the same word. There must be
some deeper common thread. In this case, the Kli Yakar explains that each of
them sinned as a result of strong feelings of kinah - jealousy.
The serpent was jealous of Chava, the baker was envious of the positive
interpretation that Yosef provided the cupbearer for his dream, Korach’s
followers coveted the leadership of Moshe and Aharon, and Haman was jealous of
Mordechai's refusal to bow down to him. The Kli Yakar adds that this explanation
is beautifully alluded to by the fact that the letters in the word kinah stand
for Korach, nachash (serpent), ofeh (baker), and Haman.
Aseres b'nei Haman (9:10)
When the person reading the Megillah gets up to the names of Haman's ten sons
who were hanged, he pauses while the congregation reads them quickly before he
reads them out loud. The Rogatchover Gaon gives a brilliant explanation for this
custom. Even though most people don’t read the Megillah, they fulfill their
obligation to hear it through the concept of shomei'ah k'oneh, which means that
somebody who listens to something is considered to have said it himself.
However, while this principle works for fulfilling our primary obligation to
read the Megillah, in this case, there’s a problem. The Gemora (Megillah 16b)
teaches that there is an obligation to read the names of Haman's ten sons in one
breath to commemorate the fact that they all took their last breaths together at
the same time. Ideally, we would say all of their names simultaneously, but
since that isn’t humanly possible, we read them quickly in one breath.
The Rogatchover explains that although the rule of shomei'ah k'oneh makes it
legally considered that the listener said something himself, it’s not enough to
make it viewed as if he said it in one breath, which leaves the listener no
choice but to say the names of Haman's ten sons himself in one breath, as that
requirement cannot be fulfilled by listening to somebody else do it.
V'hayamim ha'eileh nizkarim v'na'asim b'chol dor va'dor (9:28)
The Mishnah in Megillah (17a) rules that a person who reads the Megillah
backward does not fulfill his obligation. The Ostrovtzer Rebbe questions why a
person would ever consider reading the Megillah backward. He suggests that
although most of us are familiar with the plot of the storyline from a young
age, somebody who is encountering the narrative for the first time may quickly
become frightened by the rise to power of the inimical Haman and his diabolical
scheme to exterminate the Jews.
Such a person may quickly flip a few pages to see if the story, as Hollywood has
taught us to expect, ends happily ever after. Upon discovering that the Jews
were indeed saved, Haman and his sons were hanged, and Mordechai and Esther
inherited Haman’s estate, he then turns back to the beginning to continue with
the narrative to discover how the suspenseful plot unfolds.
Every person’s life is full of struggles and challenges. The lesson of the
Megillah is that a Jew must face them with a deeply-rooted conviction that an
all-powerful and loving Hashem is watching over him and will orchestrate the
unfolding events in a way which is for his ultimate good. The Ostrovtzer Rebbe
writes that the Mishnah is hinting that a person who reads the Megillah
“backward,” only willing to relive the difficult and frightening events after he
is already assured of the happy ending, has missed the point entirely and
therefore failed to fulfill his Purim obligation.
L'kayem es y'mei haPurim ha'eileh bizmaneihem (9:31)
The Megillah records that Esther and Mordechai instructed the Jews of their
generation to establish the observance of the days of Purim in their proper
times. The Gemora in Megillah (2a) derives from the plural reference to “times”
of celebration that the day on which walled cities observe their Purim
festivities (15 Adar) must differ from the day on which unwalled cities do so
Rav Zev Leff notes that Purim is known as the Yom Tov of achdus (unity), as we
focus on joining together to hear the Megillah and eat the festive Purim meal,
sending packages of food to friends and family, and remembering to help our poor
brethren so that they may also enjoy their meals. If so, wouldn’t it have made
for more of a sense of community for the Sages to insist that all Jews should
specifically observe Purim together at the same time?
Rav Leff answers that if everybody is acting in the exact same manner at
precisely the same time in an identical fashion, this can hardly be called true
togetherness. The reason they would feel united wouldn’t be because of any
genuine, deep-rooted sense of identification with other Jews, but merely because
they all happen to be doing the same thing at the moment.
True achdus is when one Jew is able to tolerate and accept that another Jew is
conducting himself differently than he is, and to nevertheless recognize that
each in his own unique way is equally fulfilling the will of Hashem. The Sages
further obligated us to send Mishloach Manos, which represent the concept that
one Jew sends food from his personal kitchen, prepared according to his customs
and preferences, to his friend, who in a demonstration of genuine unity happily
partakes of it. In order to teach us this lesson about the definition of
authentic achdus, Esther and Mordechai specifically mandated that Purim be
observed on different days.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at email@example.com.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) If female Kohanim would be permitted to serve in the Beis HaMikdash, would
they be allowed to wear the garments of the Kohanim, or would doing so violate
the prohibition (Devorim 22:5) against wearing men’s clothing? (Gilyonei HaShas
and Ha’aros Al Kiddushin 36b)
2) Of all of the items that Hashem created during twilight on Erev Shabbos at
the end of the week of Creation, which of them was needed for the garments of
the Kohanim? (Avos 5:6, Sotah 48b)
3) Rashi writes (Devorim 25:19) that in order to completely blot out the memory
of Amalek, we must also destroy the possessions of the Amalekites so that their
name shouldn’t be mentioned in conjunction with them. How was Esther permitted
to accept the house of Haman (Esther 8:1), who was descended from Amalek? (Shu”t
Oneg Yom Tov Introduction, Shem MiShmuel Purim, Imrei Emes, Nesivos Rabboseinu,
Taima D’Kra Esther, Ma’adanei Asher 5769)
4) If Purim falls on Motzei Shabbos, may one practice reading the Megillah on
Shabbos, or is this forbidden as an act of preparation for after Shabbos? (Shemiras
Shabbos K’Hilchaso 28:fn169)
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