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Vol. 13 No. 20
ha'Rav ha'Ga'on R. Aharon ben Ybdlcha R. Ya'akov n.y.
R. Aryeh Leibush ben ha'Rav Yosef Akiva ha'Levi ztl.
A Chip Off the Old Block
It is interesting to note that Amalek was the son of relatively righteous parents. His mother Timnah was so impressed with Avraham Avinu, that she was determined to marry into his family, says the Gemara in Sanhedrin. And it was only after Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov rejected her that she became a concubine of Elifaz, the son of Eisav. Better to become a concubine in this family, she said, than to be a wife in another. Whilst Amalek's father Elifaz the prophet, one of Iyov's close friends, spared Ya'akov's life, because, as Rashi explains in Vayeitzei (29:11), he had grown up on Yitzchak's lap, and possessed a spark of decency.
Yes indeed, whereas Elifaz was brought up by his grandfather Yitzchak, Amalek, says the Medrash, was brought up and deeply influenced by, his grandfather Eisav. Little wonder that Amalek would later grow up to be a real 'chip off the old block', as the old saying goes - a trouble-maker and a Jew-hater, just like his grandfather.
So let us begin with an insight into Eisav's character, as presented by the Medrash Tanchumah. Here is what the Medrash has to say about the effect that Eisav had on his surroundings, when it describes the deep pain and suffering that he caused to those who were nearest and dearest to him, not to speak of the ongoing feud that he fought with Ya'akov his brother.
The Medrash Tanchuma explains how, even as he was in the process of being born, he struck his mother's womb, making her barren, and causing her to lose the remaining ten sons that she was destined to bear from Yitzchak. And he was also responsible for her humiliation, by causing her to be buried in the middle of the night, since there was nobody other than Eisav to walk before her coffin, and this would have caused people to curse the woman from whose breasts he had suckled. Better, G-d decided, to deprive Rivkah of the Kavod of an honorable burial, and bury her discreetly in the middle of the night.
He caused his grandfather Avraham to die fifteen years before his time, so that he should not to see his grandson committing the most serious crimes, as a Tzadik would prefer to die early and not see his children going off the track. Imagine, fifteen years of Avraham Avinu's life!
And he caused his father to go blind (so that he would not suffer the anguish of seeing his son's evil deeds). And these are the people he loved. Imagine the havoc he caused among those that he didn't!
The Medrash describes how Amalek asked his father Elifaz as to who would inherit this world and the next, and how his father replied that Yisrael was destined to inherit both worlds. But, he advised him, 'If you wish to receive at least a little of that inheritance, you are well advised to dig wells and to prepare roads on their behalf' ('If you can't beat 'em … '). But Amalek did not follow his father's advice. He set out to destroy them instead, attacking them the moment the time was ripe. Biding his time, he deliberately waited for Galus Mitzrayim to come to an end. He was afraid that, should he attack and annihilate them earlier, the onus of the decree of Galus would fall on Yitzchak's next of kin - namely himself.
And that is because, as we explained, Amalek preferred to take his cue from his grandfather. Indeed, according to one Medrash, he settled close to the southern border of Eretz Yisrael upon his father's instructions, anticipating that Yisrael would pass by there on their way to inherit Eretz Yisrael, and he (Amalek) would be able to attack them from there.
Moreover, his grandfather, complaining to him of his many failed plans to kill his brother Ya'akov, exhorted him to make it his business to avenge his honour and finish the job.
Sure enough, Amalek became a constant thorn in Yisrael's side. It was Amalek who informed Lavan that Ya'akov had fled, says the Ba'al ha'Turim in ki Savo, and he was the one who informed Paroh that Yisrael had fled. And it was Amalek who attacked Yisrael just after they left Egypt, when, following the miracles of Egypt, the rest of the world stood in awe of G-d's might, and whom the Torah brands as "One who does not fear G-d". It is hardly surprising therefore that the acronym of his name reads 'Am lak' (he laps up the blood of the nation [Yisrael]). This trait he inherited directly from Eisav, and the Medrash equates the two in many ways. Here is a fascinating example of that equation which also stresses the lack of Yir'as Shamayim that the two shared.
Citing a tradition that Eisav will fall into the hands of Rachel's descendants, the Medrash points out how, whilst Yosef is referred to in Vayeishev as "Na'ar" (because he [and Binyamin] are the youngest of the tribes), Eisav is referred to by the Navi (Ovadyah) as "Katan". The latter grew up among two Tzadikim (Yitzchak and Ya'akov), but failed to learn from their deeds, whilst the former grew up among two Resha'im (Paroh and Potifera) and declined to learn from theirs. That is why, the Medrash concludes, the one in connection with whom it is written "and he did not fear G-d" (Amalek) will ultimately fall into the hand of the one by whom the Pasuk writes "I fear G-d" (Yosef).
It is easy to pinpoint the source of Amalek arrogance, and it is also clear why the numerical value of Amalek is equivalent to that of 'Ram' (haughty).
G-d Himself refers to Amalek as His staff of punishment. Little wonder that the numerical number of his name also spells 'Mar' (bitter). In fact, so evil is he, that G-d's Name and His Throne cannot attain completion as long as a remnant of Amalek remains, and that is why G-d ordered us to destroy his every vestige, every tree, every camel and every sheep. When we do that, He will complete the job and destroy Amalek's guardian Angel from above.
And that is why the Mitzvah of destroying Amalek must precede the building of the Beis-Hamikdash, may first the one, then the other, take place speedily in our days.
* * *
(Adapted mainly from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)
Who Made the Bigdei Kehunah?
"And you shall make the holy garments for Aharon your brother ... And you shall speak to all the wise-hearted men ... and they shall make Aharon's garments ... " (28:2/3).
So who did make the holy garments, Moshe (as the first Pasuk suggests) or the wise-hearted men (as is stated in the second Pasuk)?
In truth, says the No'am Megadim, only Moshe was initially able to manufacture the Bigdei Kehunah, to instill in them the appropriate Kedushah. But when the wise-hearted men, who had merited Ru'ach ha'Kodesh, came to Moshe to participate in the work, with the intention of learning from Moshe how to do it, G-d commanded Moshe to assist them in every way, based on the dictum 'Someone who comes to purify himself receives Divine assistance', and to transfer some of his own ability on to the wise-hearted men, until they too, were able to assist in manufacturing the holy garments .
What Rashi's Heart Told Him
"And these are the garments which they shall make, the Choshen and the Eifod ... " (28:4).
After informing us that he has no tradition as to how the Eifod was made, Rashi continues 'And my heart tells me that it (the Eifod) resembled a sort of apron worn by princesses riding on horseback'. What prompted Rashi to give such an analogy, and what does he mean by 'my heart tells me'?
The story is told that when Rashi once left the Beis-Hamedrash, he was confronted by an aristocratic woman riding a horse, wearing a sort of apron which covered the back of her (presumably to keep her clothes clean). This sight disturbed Rashi, as he was particular to guard his eyes from seeing what one should not see, and, as the Gemara in Pesachim (2b), points out, a woman riding a horse has connotations of 'P'ritzus'. He therefore wondered why he was made to see something that was inappropriate, until he arrived at Parshas Terumah, and learned the current Pasuk. As mentioned earlier, he had no traditional explanation as to how the Eifod looked, and he realized that what he had seen was a Heaven-sent sign to help him resolve his dilemma.
Half a Name Here,
Half a Name There
"Six of their names on the one stone ... " (28:10).
According to the Yerushalmi in Sotah, says the Meshech Chochmah, Binyamin's name was divided into two parts, 'Bin' was written on one stone, and 'yamin' on the other. This is what prompts Targum Yonasan to write 'six of some of the names were on one stone'.
And it also explains the Pasuk in 've'Zos ha'B'rachah (33:12) "and He (the Shechinah) dwells between the shoulders"
The Three Keys
" ... an engraved seal, Holy to G-d" (28:36).
Chazal list three keys that have not been handed over to man, because G-d retains full jurisdiction over them: The key of child-birth, the key of Techiyas ha'Meisim and the key of rain. And they are hinted, most appropriately, in the word "chosom" ('seal'), whose letters 'Ches', 'Sof' and 'Mem' are equivalent to the first letters of 'Chayah', 'Techi'as ha'Meisim' and 'Motor' (P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro).
'ke'Niskoh' or 'ke'Nisko'?
"Like the morning Minchah and its Nesech (u'che'niskoh) you shall make it (with reference to the oil that was brought together with the afternoon Tamid)" (29:41).
Why, asks the T'rumas Zahav, does the Torah write "u'cheniskoh" (in the feminine) here, but "uche'nisko' (in the masculine) in Parshas Pinchas?
According to the Gemara in Menachos (89b), he answers, it appears that the oil of the Minchah, which the Kohen poured into the flour, is considered to be its Nesech (the drink-offering) of the Minchah, just as the wine is the Nesech of the lamb.
Consequently, the Pasuk here is comparing the oil of the Minchah of the evening Tamid to the oil of the Minchah of the morning, which it refers to as "Niskoh" (the 'Nesech of the Minchah' [which is feminine]); Whereas the Pasuk in Pinchas is comparing the quantity of oil used by the evening Tamid to the quantity of oil used by the morning Tamid, which it refers to as "Nisko" (the Nesech of the 'morning lamb', which is masculine).
When the Midas ha'Din
Becomes an Advantage
"And I will dwell among B'nei Yisrael, and I will be for them a G-d (Elokim)" (29:45).
Why does the Torah see fit to mention 'Elokim' (Midas ha'Din) in such a favorable Pasuk, to boot?
A father who truly loves his son, says the Maggid from Mezritch, will not only provide him with all his needs, but he will also protect him from all those who would do him harm and punish those who actually do.
That is what the Torah means here. Hashem will not only provide them with all their needs, but He will also guard them against their enemies and punish those who harm them, with the Midas ha'Din.
And this explanation will serve to answer what we say in Z'miros (in 'Kol mekadesh Shevi'i') 'Extend Your kindness to those who 'know you', zealous and avenging G-d', a strange combination indeed, unless one explains it like the Mezritcher Maggid, (i.e. that it is written with reference to those who attempt to do them harm).
Sacrificing the Ketores
on the Floor
"And you shall make a Mizbei'ach on which you burn Ketores" (30:1).
The I'bn Ezra asks why the Mizbei'ach ha'Ketores is mentioned here, and not in Terumah, together with all the other Keilim (see Ramban).
All other Keilim, says the Korban Minchah, are vital to the Avodah: No Mizbei'ach ha'Olah, no Korbanos; No Aron, no(where to place the) Luchos; No Bigdei Kehunah, no Avodah. The one exception is the Ketores, as the Gemara says in Zevachim (59) 'If the Mizbei'ach ha'Ketores is moved from its place, one brings the Ketores in the location where it ought to be'.
All the Keilim listed in Terumah, he concludes, are needed for the completion of the Mishkan, and as such, they play a major role in the Hashra'as ha'Shechinah. And it is only after the Parshah of Milu'im, where the Shechinah actually descended, that the Torah inserts the Parshah of the Mizbei'ach ha'Ketores, to demonstrate that the Mishkan was complete without it and the Shechinah was able to descend anyway.
* * *
(Adapted from the Mo'adim ba'Halachah)
Once a Year
The Seifer Miynei Targima ascribes the Din of reading Parshas Zachor annually to the Gemara in B'rachos (58b), which states that a deceased relative is only forgotten after twelve months. And it derives this from the Pasuk in Tehilim "I was forgotten like a deceased person from the heart, I was like a lost article" (which becomes permitted if found after twelve months, since the owner is certain to have forgotten about it and given up hope of re-possessing it).
This creates problems in a leap-year, when thirteen months pass between one Parshas Zachor and another, and it is advisable to have in mind to be Yotzei with the Maftir of Parshas ki Seitzei.
Reading From a Seifer
A hint for this Minhag is to be found in the Torah itself, which writes in Parshas Zachor "Write this in a Seifer", which the Seifer Amudei Or explains as follows: Since the Torah exhorted the generation of the Desert to remember what Amalek did to them, and as we just explained, after twelve months, one's memory tends to fade, they must have read Parshas Zachor in the desert each year, in order to fulfill the Mitzvah. And seeing that the Torah in its entirety was still in the process of being written, the Torah saw fit to issue the command "Write this in a Seifer (i.e. a scroll) as a remembrance" to ensure that they would read it in a way that was Halachically correct).
Parshas Zachor on Purim?
The Magein Avraham permits anyone who, for some reason, did not hear Parshas Zachor the previous week, to be Yotzei with the reading on Purim, when one Leins "Vayovo Amalek".
The Mishnah Berurah queries this however, on the grounds that the Mitzvah of Parshas Zachor is to remember the miracles that took place at that time, and then to tell the next generation all about them. This latter motive exists in Parshas ki-Seitzei, but not in Parshas Beshalach.
An Individual Obligation
R. Shlomoh ha'Kohen from Vilna teaches that, unlike Parshas Shekalim, Parshas Parah and Parshas ha'Chodesh (which are purely communal obligations), Parshas Zachor is an individual one. Each member of the community is obligated to hear it, failing which, he is obligated to read it from a Chumash. Indeed, he adds, it is said of the G'ro that he would make a point of personally Leining both Parshas Zachor and the Megilah (presumably, on behalf of the Tzibur). Why?
Because of the principle 'Mitzvah bo yoser mi'bi'Shelucho' (it is preferable for a person to fulfill the Mitzvah personally than to rely on a Sheli'ach). He did this with Parshas Zachor, but not with the other three Parshiyos, precisely because, unlike them, it alone is a personal obligation. They are not, as we explained.
In former years, we have discussed the dispute among the Poskim as to whether a woman is obligated to hear Parshas Zachor or not. The Seifer ha'Chinuch exempts women on the grounds that they are not obligated to go to war, and the Mitzvah of Parshas Zachor, he maintains, is linked to that of wiping out Amalek.
The commentaries take him to task however, on three scores: firstly from a Mishnah in Sotah (44b), which states (with regard to those who are sent home from the battle-front) that this exemption is confined to voluntary wars, but not to a Milchemes Mitzvah (which incorporates that of destroying Amalek). When it comes to a Milchemes Mitzvah, says the Mishnah, everybody is obligated to go, even 'a Chasan from his room and a Kallah from her Chupah'.
Secondly, who says that the Mitzvah of remembering Amalek is directly connected with that of destroying him?
And thirdly, the Mitzvah of remembering is accompanied by a La'av ("Lo tishkach"), from which women are not exempt, in which case they ought not to be exempt from that of "Zochor" either?
* * *
Speishel Poorim Supplement
Phew, Just Made It
It's Never Too Late
- or simply
The popular Purim song 'Shoshanas Ya'akov' ends with the words "and also Charvonah is remembered for the good". Exactly who was Charvonah, and what did he do, to merit being 'also' remembered for the good?
The Pasuk informs us that, after Achashveirosh returned fuming from his garden, where the men whom he had caught chopping down his trees had informed him that they were acting on Haman's instructions, only to discover the same Haman lying on the couch on which Esther was reclining (and on to which the angel had pushed him), Charvonah volunteered the news of the large tree, fifty Amos tall, which was standing in Haman's house, waiting to hang
Mordechai, who had spoken good about the king (Long sentence to match size of the tree).
Rashi adds that Charvonah was actually stressing the intensity of Haman's evil, that he had the audacity to build a gallows on which to hang the very man who had saved the king's life.
Let us take a look what the Gemara in Megilah (16a) has to say about Charvonah. This gentleman, it seems, was a courtier, as the Pasuk itself describes him, but who was involved in Haman's plot to kill Mordechai. Otherwise, how would he have known about it in the first place, and besides, the Torah Temimah observes, how did he know with such certainty, that it was fifty Amos tall? He must have been there together with Haman on that fateful night, helping to construct the gallows. He also seems to have known about the passage that Shamshai the scribe (one of Haman's sons) had read out to the king about Mordechai having saved his life. Perhaps he spent half the night with Haman, and returned to the Palace in time to perform his duties.
To get back to the point, the Gemara describes Charvonah as a Rasha, who participated in Haman's plot to hang Mordechai. However, when he saw on which side the bread was buttered, he made an about turn and changed sides.
According to this explanation, there seems to be no reason as to why this Charvonah should not be synonymous with one of the seven courtiers mentioned in chapter 1 (Pasuk 9), notwithstanding the fact that the former is spelt with an 'Alef' and the latter with a 'Hey' (See also Ibn Ezra in both places).
The Gemara in Avodah-Zarah records a number of cases of people who acquired their Olam ha'Ba in one moment, describing how they transformed from Resha'im one moment, into Tzadikim, the next.
Here we have a case of a man who was worthy of being included in 'Cursed are all the Resha'im', yet the moment the truth dawned on him, he made an about-turn, changing from a a 'baddie' into a 'goodie'.
There are Resha'im about whom Chazal say that even as they enter the gates of Gehinom, they refuse to relent. Charvonah was not among those. Neither did his change of heart quite earn him the distinction of going straight to Gan Eden.
Yet he was honest enough to realize at that he had erred and that Haman was a thoroughly evil man, and he had the guts to admit it and switch sides, albeit at the eleventh hour. He may only have done Teshuvah out of fear (of what the King would do to the plotters), but Teshuvah out of fear is considered Teshuvah too (as we know from the town of Ninveh, in the days of Yonah). In any event, Charvonah was instrumental in bringing about the demise of Haman, and for that he earned himself the public accolade, where all Jews sing about him each year 'And also Charvonah shall be remembered for the good!' (See also Megapearls 'Haman's Gallows').
"And Mordechai returned to the gate of the city" (6:12).
Back to his sack-cloth and ashes, comments Rashi.
How remarkable! Here is a man who has just gone through an experience that most other people would have paid a fortune for. The most extreme Kavod imaginable at the hand of his arch enemy!
Yet all he could think about was K'lal Yisrael's Tzaros.
Now contrast this with Haman, before whom every person in the kingdom prostrated themselves. Yet he could not live down the fact that one man refused to do so. Because all that Haman could think about was Haman!
A Change of Heart
"And King Achashverosh said, and he said to Esther the Queen, 'Who is this … ' " (7:5).
The Gemara in Megilah (16a) explains the repetition of the word "and he said" ('va'yomer') like this. At first, says the Gemara, not knowing who Esther was, he declined to speak with her directly, communicating with her through a translator. But now that at long last, Esther had revealed her identity, and he knew that she was descended from royalty, he began speaking to her directly. Hence the second "va'yomer".
The Medrash Rabah offers another interpretation. Achashverosh was asking Esther to identify the culprit who was threatening her people. After all the things that had just transpired, he hoped that she would name Haman, so that he could deal with him appropriately. So intense was his hatred towards him, that he implored Esther to name Haman, even if he wasn't the culprit.
Pride Before a Fall
One of the reasons given for Esther inviting Haman to her party with the King was based on the Pasuk in Mishlei (16:18) "Pride comes before a fall".
Haman was already Prime Minister, second only to the king in importance. And it had already gone to his head to such an extent that he ordered all who saw him to prostrate before him, and when his anger was aroused, to organize the total annihilation of K'lal Yisrael. Yet Esther was not satisfied. She wanted his immediate demise. So she boosted his ego still further, by leading him to believe that even the Queen held him in the highest esteem, on a par even with the King, and that she had perhaps fallen in love with him.
This strategy worked so well that he was unable to wait for Mordechai's demise the following year. It prompted him to have him killed immediately. To that end, he was emboldened to build a huge gallows on which to hang him, in anticipation of receiving the king's approval (though he had done nothing wrong to earn the death-sentence). No sooner said than done.
Things did not work out quite according to plan however. His plan backfired on him as we know, and all that he achieved was not Mordechai's immediately demise, but his own, exactly as Esther had anticipated.
"And Charvonah … said 'also there is the tree that Haman made for Mordechai'" (7:9).
To understand the significance of Charvonah's statement, we need to remember that Haman, after having built the gallows the night before, had approached the king to ask for permission to hang Mordechai on them. He neither got round to asking, nor did the King refer to his request. Yet, in no uncertain terms, Achashverosh made it abundantly clear that under no circumstances would he permit Mordechai to be hung by anyone, and what's more, based on the various Medrashim describing his current negative attitude towards Haman, the chances of the latter receiving any favour from the King were minimal.
And now, thanks to Charvonah, it came to light, that he (Haman) had already made plans to hang Mordechai, without the King's permission ('wicked servants, who act first, and ask afterwards'). This, as far as Achashverosh was concerned, was the last straw that broke the camel's back - and so his patience with Haman broke too.
That being the case, Charvonah deserves credit for the Hanging of Haman. That's why we sing in Shoshanas Ya'akov 'and also Charvonah is remembered for the good'. (See also main article).
To Benefit from Amalek
"On that day King Achashverosh gave to Esther the Queen the house of Haman … . And the King removed the ring that he had taken from Haman and gave it to Mordechai" (8:1/2).
Somebody once asked me that, since Haman was a descendent of Amalek, how could Esther and Mordechai accept his belongings, seeing as the Torah has commanded us to destroy every vestige of property that belongs to Amalek, so that nothing of his shall remain?
I gave him the following two answers: Firstly, it was the King who confiscated Haman's property, and it was from him that Mordechai and Esther received it. Secondly, the Torah specifically confines the Mitzvah of destroying Amalek to Eretz Yisrael, for so it writes in ki'Seitzei "And it shall be when Hashem your G-d gives you relief from all your enemies that surround you, in the land that Hashem … gives you as an inheritance … wipe out the memory of Amalek … ".
Wot, No Booty!?
"And the Jews smote their enemies … but they did not stretch out their hands to take booty" (9:5-10).
But why not? The royal edict issued by Achashveirosh had specifically contained the clause "and to take the spoil"?
But Haman and his cohorts were from Amalek, about whom the Torah writes in ki Seitzei (25:19) "obliterate the memory of Amalek", which Rashi explains to mean 'Man and woman, tiny babies, oxen and lambs, so that not a vestige of Amalek shall remain, so that nobody will be able to point at an animal and say "this animal belongs to Amalek" '.
Why Is Poorim
Not a Yom-Tov
"To accept these days of Purim in their times, just as they accepted on themselves and on their children the words of the fasts and their cries". (9:31).
To explain the connection between Poorim and the fasts, the Chochmas Chayim, citing R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, first queries the latter part of the Pasuk, seeing as they never accepted the fasts (as the Gemara in Megilah (16b) extrapolate 'u'Ma'mar Esther Kiyam" ; 'they accepted the words of Esther (the writing of the Megilah), but not the fasts that preceded them'.
But first let us turn to another apparent discrepancy in the Megilah.
One Pasuk (9:19) refers to the fourteenth of Adar as a day of "rejoining, festivity and Yom-Tov"; whilst a mere three Pesukim later, it describes it as "days of festivity and rejoining", with no mention of Yom-Tov?
The Gemara in Megilah (16b) explains that although the Sanhedrin initially declared Purim a Yom-Tov (on which work is prohibited), the decision was later rescinded, so as not to add to existing Yamim-Tovim of the Torah ('bal Tosif').
Many years earlier, Sanhedrin had arrived at the same decision with regard to Tish'ah be'Av. They declined to forbid working on Tish'ah be'Av, so as not to add to the Torah law of Yom Kipur.
And that, R. Yosef Chayim explains, is what the Pasuk is coming to teach us here … "To accept these days of Purim in their times (but falling short of calling them a Yom-Tov), just as they accepted on themselves and on their children the words of the fasts and their cries" (which they did not call a Yom-Tov either [by prohibiting Melachah]), in order not to transgress the La'av of Bal Tosif.
Wood You Believe It!
The question is asked, as to how No'ach got into the Megilah - three times (see 9:16-18)?
The classical answer describes how Haman, looking for a sturdy piece of wood fifty Amos tall on which to hang Mordechai, approached No'ach (whose boat had been fifty Amos wide) and asked him to lend him a beam. No'ach however, who charged good money for cruises on his museum boat, was loathe to dismantle it, and bluntly refused.
Haman, who was determined to obtain his piece of wood, grabbed hold of a beam and proceeded to make off with it. But No'ach, equally determined, would have none of it. So he caught hold of the other end and a tug-of-war ensued. Haman pulled one way, No'ach the other. Unfortunately, Haman was the stronger of the two, and slowly but surely, he succeeded in pulling No'ach in his direction, inch by inch, until after a mighty struggle, he managed to pull him - right into the Megilah.
Please take my word when I tell you that this Vort is unbelievable.
Would You Believe It?
So where *did* the fifty-Amah beam come from?
The Medrash Yalkut writes that Haman did indeed have difficulty in obtaining a beam of that length. Only it so happened that he actually had one built into his house. His son Parshandasa, who was a minister in Kardunya, a province in the mountains of Ararat, had apparently taken it from No'ach's boat (believe it or not).
So powerful was Haman's hatred of Mordechai, that he was quite happy to dismantle his house for the satisfaction of seeing Mordechai hanging on high (Ta'ama di'K'ro).
* * *
the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)
Before Purim, we take three coins thatknown as 'half' in that particular country, says the Remo, to commemorate the three times Terumah mentioned in Parshas ki Sissa, and give them for Tzedakah as Purim-Gelt for the poor. Pregnant women should also give on behalf of their babies, says the Mahariv, and this is hinted in the Pasuk there "Zeh yitnu, kol *ho'over* … " (which can be read as 'kol ho'ubar' [the fetus]).
And the reason that we give the half-Shekel on Erev Purim, just before the reading of the Megilah (or before Minchah, according to the Remo and the P'ri Megodim) and not on Rosh Chodesh Adar or on one of the subsequent days, is because that is when everybody goes to Shul Shul to hear the Megilah (even the villagers, who make the trip in order to hear it).
Why *Half* a Shekel?
The 'Ahavas Sholom' writes that the reason for the *half*-Shekel is to teach us unity, that a person should know that on one's own one is incomplete, and it is only when one combines together with one's fellow-Jew (it matters not which one) that one becomes a complete entity.
Why a *Whole* Shekel?
One of the Piyutim for Parshas Shekalom (which are said in most communities in Chutz la'Eretz) reads 'The light of Your Face is raised towards us, and a Shekel I will take in the House that is established and uplifted. A Shekel indeed? Surely the Mitzvah is to take half-a-Shekel, and not a whole one?
The 'Yalkut ha'Urim' answers the question based on the above vort of the 'Ahavas Sholom'.
In the time of the third Beis-Hamikdash, about which the Piyut is speaking, will follow that of the coming of Mashi'ach, when G-d will remove the Yeitzer-ha'Ra from the world. At that time, each man will dwell under his vine-tree, and there will be peace in the world, and every individual will be a complete entity unto himself. In that case, he will be able to give a complete Shekel.
It is only nowadays, when strife prevails that each person needs his neighbour, and that he heeds to pray for peace. That is why the Piyut concludes 'bless us with peace (in the interim) elevated and uplifted G-d'.
A Drop More than
The Mishnah in Shekalim rules that everyone is in fact obligated to give a little more than half-a-Shekel (a Kalbon, as the Tana calls the excess).
The reason for this is simple, says the 'Ma'aseh Rokei'ach'.
The Medrash connects the half-Shekel to the five silver pieces that the brothers received for the sale of Yosef, of which each brother took half a Shekel (because Binyamin was not there and Yosef would hardly have received a cut either). However, Reuven was not involved in the sale either, as the Torah explicitly states. Consequently, each brother would have taken an additional ninth of the tenth half-Shekel - the Kalbon.
The difficulty with this is of course, why the tribes of Yosef, Binyamin and Reuven are obligated to give a half-Shekel at all?
Can a Woman Lein
Women have exactly the same obligation as men to Lein the Megilah, and the reason that she cannot Lein on behalf of the community is the same as the one that forbids her to Lein from the Torah - namely, because it is not Kavod ha'Tzibur (Ba'er Heitev (675:3).
The Four Pesukim
The reason that the entire congregation reads the four Pesukim of redemption ("Ish Yehudi", "u'Mordechai Yotzo", "la'Yehudim Hoysoh" and "Ki Mordechai") loud, and the Chazan repeats them, says the Avudram a. in order to create an atmosphere of rejoicing, particularly for the children and b. to ensure that nobody falls asleep. And the reason that these four Pesukim were chosen is because they all concern Mordechai, whom we acclaim because the entire miracle came about through him.
Five Hundred Men
We all know why the Ba'al-Korei reads the names of the ten sons of Haman in one breath. But why does he include the three words "five hundred men" in the act?
The Taz explains that the ten sons of Haman were 'Sarei Chamishim' (officers of fifty) in charge of those five hundred men.
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