MARCH 2-3, 2006 13 ADAR 5767
"And Mordechai would not bow down nor prostrate himself." (Esther 3:2)
Purim is almost here, the most joyous day on the Jewish calendar. Let us study the story of Mordechai and Esther, and learn the profound lesson of this story, as told by Rabbi Abraham Pam z"l. After the appointment of Haman to the most powerful position in King Ahashverosh's government, "all the king's servants at the king's gate would bow down and prostrate themselves before Haman, for this was a command of the king concerning him. But Mordechai would not bow nor prostrate himself" (3:2). The Ohr Hahayim, in his commentary Rishon Lesion, notes that Mordechai refused to do anything that even remotely resembled an act of obedience to Haman. If, for some reason, Mordechai happened to be in a bent-over position when Haman approached, he would quickly pick himself up and stand erect. This was to avoid giving even the appearance of complying with the royal edict to bow before Haman. This open defiance aroused the wrath of Haman who thereafter decided that he would destroy the entire nation of this insolent Jew.
Why did Mordechai do this? If he didn't want to bow, he should have avoided a confrontation altogether. In fact, the Gemara says that the Jews of that era blamed Mordechai for their troubles with Haman because they felt he had needlessly provoked Haman by defying him. Did Mordechai have a right to do what he did? The Gemara says that Haman had declared himself a deity. Although the people who bowed to him did so out of fear rather that worship, Mordechai held that this was forbidden. He felt that a person must sacrifice his life rather than engage in anything associated with idolatry. Additionally, Mordechai knew that the true cause of Haman's rise to power was due to Hashem's anger at the Jews for bowing out of fear to a statue of the wicked Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. He felt that the way to rectify that sin was to make a kiddush Hashem by publicly refusing to bow to Haman, even though others were doing it out of fear of him.
Imagine how the people looked at Mordechai for what they perceived was his irresponsible act of defiance, which endangered the entire nation. "That old Rabbi is a curse to all of us with his extreme religiosity…" The people's frustration must have been compounded by the strange way Esther later prepared for her unsolicited visit to Ahashverosh. Esther told Mordechai to tell the Jews of Shushan to fast three days and nights, and she will fast as well. Was this the proper way to prepare for this all-important meeting with the king? Logically, she should have eaten well and spent time at the beauty parlor to make sure she looked her best. How good could she look after three days of fasting, crying and prayer? The Jews must have cringed in horror upon hearing of her "preparations." Yet Esther's preparations were what was necessary to bring about the salvation. "When the king noticed Esther standing in the courtyard, she found favor in his eyes" (5:2), and this was the beginning of the end for Haman and his threat against the Jews. Where did Esther learn this lesson in "diplomacy"? Megilat Setarim explains she learned it from Mordechai. Mordechai understood that the way to overturn the deadly decree was not by appeasing the enemies of the Jews. He had to direct his appeasement to Hashem, the true source of Haman's threat. The way to do this is through tearful prayers, teshubah and fasting. After Haman's downfall, the Jews realized that Mordechai's obstinacy was not the cause of the problems. On the contrary, that was what brought about the ultimate salvation.
The Purim miracle taught the Jews a lesson in emunat hachamim, the need to trust in the Sages of the people, even when the Sages do things that seem to defy logic. Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
The holiday of Purim gets its name from the pur, the lottery which Haman used to determine the day on which to destroy the Jews. This seems to be a very minor detail in the whole scheme of the Purim story. Why choose this aspect to give us the name of the holiday?
The answer is that Haman comes from Amalek, who believes everything in this world is random happenings. Amalek was willing to buck the Creator Himself as the cause of everything that takes place and Haman followed in his grandfather's footsteps. There is nothing more symbolic of chance than a lottery. This was the method that Haman chose to decide the fate of the Jews. The entire story of Purim shows how all random events are linked up to bring about the great miracle of Purim. Therefore, the name Purim is meant to bring home to us that our destiny is carefully planned with precision and detail. Just as a lottery is really the will of Hashem, so too are our every day happenings, from the greatest events to the smallest detail.
When we read the story of Purim, we should strengthen our faith in Hashem, thereby meriting to have miracles and salvation speedily in our days. Amen. Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
1. What is black when you buy it, red when you use it and gray when you throw it away?
2. What English word is singular, becomes plural when you add an "s", and becomes singular again when you add another "s"?
3. A pet shop owner had a parrot with a sign on its cage that said "Parrot repeats everything it hears". David bought the parrot and for two weeks he spoke to it and it didn't say a word. He returned the parrot but the shopkeeper said he never lied about the parrot. How can this be?
4. To paint white lines dividing a road into three lanes costs $150.00. What will it cost to paint lines dividing a road into six lanes?
"The fourth row of stones (in the breastplate) was chrysolite, onyx and jasper" (Shemot 28:20)
The Talmud Yerushalmi (Pe'ah 1:1) says that we can learn a lesson in kibud ab - honoring one's father - from a non-Jew by the name of Dama ben Netina.
Once, the yashpeh (jasper) stone of the breastplate got lost, and he happened to have one. When the Jews came to him, he refused to sell it, even at a very large profit, because the key to his safe was under the pillow upon which his father was sleeping.
Why was a lesson in kibud ab conveyed particularly through the stone yashpeh?
On each of the twelve stones of the breastplate was written the name of one of the twelve tribes. The stone yashpeh had on it the name "Binyamin." The numerical value of "yashpeh," counting the word itself as one, is 396, which is the same numerical value as "Binyamin ben Ya'akob."
The brothers, by plotting against Yosef and selling him, caused much agony to Ya'akob. Thus, their performance of the misvah of kibud ab was lacking. Binyamin was the only one who had absolutely no part in his brothers' thoughts or activities against Yosef. Consequently, he surpassed his brothers in the observance of the misvah of kibud ab, and it is therefore most appropriate that a lesson in kibud ab should be learned from the stone which bore his name. (Vedibarta Bam)
"Make a forehead plate of pure gold, and engrave on it the same manner as a signet ring, 'Holy to G-d.' Attach a twist of sky-blue wool to it, so that it can be [worn] right near the front of the turban" (Shemot 28:36-7)
The turban, which is on top of the priest's head, atoned for arrogance and conceit. But there is a time and place for pride and that is when a person is proud to do the will of Hashem. That is alluded to in our verse. When pride is "holy to Hashem" then it can be on top of a person's head.
When you are proud of your Torah values, you will not be ashamed to fulfill the commandments even if others who do not appreciate them will mock or insult you. Arrogance is a trait that is detrimental to one's spiritual development and causes many difficulties when dealing with other people. But when you are proud of doing good deeds you will be motivated to continue to do good. (Growth through Torah)
Answers to Purim Riddles:
3. The parrot was deaf
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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