by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Purim 5767It is now Erev Purim, let us look at an insightful Midrash on the Megillah.
Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman and this upset Haman no end.
It was despicable in his eyes to assault Mordecai alone for they told him Mordecai's people, so Haman desired to destroy all the Jews throughout Achashveirosh's kingdom the people of Mordecai.
"The despised one (Hebrew: 'buzi') the son of the despised one ('ben buzi'). Has it not said (referring to his forefather, Esau) "And he despised the birthright" (Genesis 25:34) as it says here "It was despicable in his eyes…."
WHAT IS THE MIDRASH DOING?
The midrash makes use of one of it's most frequent interpretive tools, word-association, called a Gezeira Shavah. The Hebrew word "vayivez" occurs only in these two verses in the whole Tanach. The uncommon word shared by both verses is the basis for the drash.
Can you see more meaning in this than just the verbal similarity here. There is very profound lesson here.
UNDERSTANDING THE MIDRASH
An Answer: To begin analyzing this midrash we must ask: Why did Esau despise the birthright? We can understand that he preferred the instant pleasure of a satisfying meal, but why despise the birthright? Not want it, yes, but despise it, why?
The reason would seem to be that this was a psychological maneuver enabling Esau to protect himself from the inevitable pangs of guilt. He was throwing away a precious heritage of immeasurable value and of inestimable spiritual significance. In order to allow himself to slurp his porridge with abandon, he had to over react and despise the birthright. (Psychologists call this over-reaction "reaction formation.") Despising the birthright put him at such a distance from its true significance that he could voraciously sate his animalistic desires without the annoying pangs of conscience.
Let us now see what Haman did and how his need to despise was turned by him to good psychological use. Haman desired to do away with Mordecai because he had affronted his inflated ego by not bowing down to him. But killing Mordecai for his personal hurt, was too vicious and a too transparently self centered an act even for the self absorbed Haman. His conscience needed to cover its tracks. So he realized that killing a whole nation could be more easily justified than killing a lone individual. So Haman despised killing just Mordecai, he despised this because had he not rallied his emotional contempt for such a petty act, he would have had to face his own conscience and the murderous impulse he harbored. So instead he decided to justify his petty act of doing away with Mordecai by wiping out a whole nation. This, his conscience could justify! Strange but true. As the generation which spawned the holocaust has so graphically taught us.
Esau and Haman shared the common trait of striving to justify an immoral act by deceiving themselves by over reacting emotionally (and committing an even greater immorality) in order to quiet their conscience.
The Midrash's psychological acuity is breathtaking.
Sad to say, but today we live in a time of a similar - if not greater - threat to Am Yisrael as in the time of Mordecai and Esther. The rulers of Persia again strive today to destroy our People. May Hashem protect us as He did thgroughout our precarious history of survival.
Shabbat Shalom and Purim Somayach
More Rashi thoughts can be found in the Megillas Esther volume of What's Bothering Rashi? At your book stores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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