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Haftarah: Shemuel I 15:1-34

MARCH 18-19, 2016 9 ADAR II 5776


"That [Amalek] happened upon you on the way." (Debarim 25:18)

This week, the week before Purim, we read Parashat Zachor . On the above pasuk, Rashi comments that the word "karcha" derives from the root meaning "mikreh" - chance - indicating that Amalek's attack was totally unexpected, a surprise attack. Besides this, there is a destructive concept that things just happen by chance. When we believe that events in our daily lives are coincidental, we are entertaining a philosophy foreign to the Torah.

Often we experience an event, a particular person "coincidentally" showing up after many years; a refund check arriving in the mail in the precise amount of a recent unexpected bill. When we think this is coincidental, this is the philosophy of Amalek, and we have not done the misvah of eradicating Amalek. We believe that everything is under direct control of Hashem.

The Purim story is full of instances of Divine Providence. In the Megillah, Ahashverosh couldn't sleep. They then read to him that Mordechai had saved his life and that no reward was given to him. Haman just "happened" to appear in the king's chamber ready to seek permission to hang Mordechai. Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro explains, had Haman come earlier that night before the king read about Mordechai, Haman's plan would have been approved. Had Haman come later after Mordechai had been rewarded, the king might have been persuaded to approve Haman's plot. But, Hashem made it happen that he came at that precise moment. Not only was Haman humiliated, but the gallows that Haman prepared for Mordechai became the instrument of Haman's death.

Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro tells an amazing story of Divine Providence. In Hollywood, Florida, lived an extraordinary couple, Dr. & Mrs. Rosenblatt. The doctor is a renowned oncologist. One day the doctor's wife was driving on the highway. She noticed a car on her side that had a for sale sign with a phone number. She doesn't know why she did this, but she dialed the number. She didn't need a used car. They both had new cars. She asked him why he was selling his car. He said they are from out of town and his wife is sick and he doesn't have enough money. He was told that the doctor that could help her is Dr. Rosenblatt. So he has to sell his car for cash to help pay the doctor. She was shocked. She told him that the doctor is her husband, and he doesn't have to sell his car. He should pick up his wife and she will call her husband. He will take her for a patient and treat her immediately. And that's exactly what happened.

Our daily lives are full of these instances. May we always be cognizant of the Divine Providence of Hashem in our lives. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

The Gemara tells us that the Jewish people accepted the Torah under duress in the wilderness, and at the time of Purim, they re-accepted it willingly. How do we reconcile this with the fact that the Jews said, "gnabu vagb - We will do and we will listen," which symbolizes an acceptance of the Torah which is purely voluntary, without coercion?

The Midrash answers by saying that indeed the Jewish nation willingly accepted the Written Torah, but the Oral Torah was not accepted wholeheartedly until the story of Purim. The reason is fairly simple. If it says in the Torah that I have to do this, fine, that's the law. But if the Rabbis tell me this is good for me and this isn't, this I may do and this I cannot do, this is difficult to swallow. Who says the Sages know everything? Who says that I have to follow them? When the Jewish people saw that Mordechai was right for not bowing down to Haman, and he was also right when he said not to go to the party years back, they realized that Hashem was teaching a fundamental lesson. The salvation came through Mordechai and Esther because they are our spiritual leaders and listening to them is listening to Hashem. As we celebrate Purim, let us rededicate ourselves to the acceptance of the Oral Law and the guidance of our Sages so that we may merit salvation and redemption. Happy Holiday. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"He called to Moshe." (Vayikra 1:1)

The summons to Moshe Rabenu, Vayikra, is spelled with a diminutive aleph, which allows the word to be read as Vayikar, which means "and he chanced upon." When Hashem called out to Moshe, Moshe asked Hashem to use the word, Vayikar, which would indicate subtlety and a chance meeting. Hashem acquiesced - partially - by having Moshe write Vayikra with a miniature aleph, to imply a dual meaning.

In an alternative exposition concerning the diminution of the aleph of Vayikra to create Vayikar, the Likutei Batar Likutei explains that Hashem is constantly calling out to us via the medium of Vayikar, incidents, which should catch our attention. At first, Hashem begins with a simple incident. If we are spiritually cognizant that life has purpose and that absolutely nothing "just happens," we will immediately take the matter to heart and change whatever needs to be corrected in our life. If, however, our spiritual cognition is more on the obtuse level, we will require less subtle and more blatant occurrences to awaken us. The bottom line is that we may not look at any occurrence - regardless of how small - as being a chance incident. A great person takes notes from the most simple Vayikar; he understands that this Vayikar is actually a Vayikra.

The Yalkut Meam Loez, quoted by Harav Shlomo Levinstein offers a powerful analogy that underscores this idea. A group of hunters were successful in surrounding their intended target: a fox. A cunning animal, the fox understood that it was over. He had essentially been caught. His head would soon adorn someone's fireplace. He felt that the only way to avoid certain death was to feign death. The hunters might believe that they had succeeded, so that they would continue on about their business and seek out some other hapless animal.

All was going well until one of the hunters declared that he would like the fox's tail as a souvenir. Hearing this, the fox knew that the process of obtaining his tail would incur excruciating pain, during which the fox could not reveal that he was alive. He suffered immense pain - in silence - as the hunter separated him from his tail. Better to be a tailless fox than a dead fox. Another hunter wanted the fox's tooth as a good-luck souvenir. Removing the tooth without novocain was difficult for the fox, but he was not going to let the hunters know that he was still alive. He would suffer in silence. Even this was better than death. Little by little, each hunter wanted a "piece" of the fox. Each time, the broken and torn fox kept his silence and feigned death. Finally, one of the hunters said that he wanted the fox's head for his mantle. This was going too far. This meant death.

The fox decided to jump up and frighten the hunters. During the initial moments of fear, he would escape. His plan worked, and he escaped - a broken, blind, limping, bloodied fox - but he was alive. The fox now realized that had he taken the offensive right from the beginning, he might have circumvented all of the pain.

This is the story of life. Hashem sends us subtle messages in the guise of various incidents, which take their toll on us financially, emotionally and physically. If we would wake up early enough and realize that these are not simply isolated occurrences, but rather, messages from Hashem, we would spare ourselves much pain and anguish. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And if one soul from among the people of the land shall sin unintentionally" (Vayikra 4:27)

The word "ahat - one" seems redundant?

Once, when a Rabbi noticed that a person who attended the shul regularly was absent for a few weeks, he decided to pay him a visit. Entering the living room, he noticed the man sitting by the fireplace, seemingly in good health, and sat down next to him. The Rabbi politely inquired as to the reason for his recent absence and the man replied that shul was crowded and noisy. He had decided that his prayers would be more meaningful if he were alone and undisturbed. The Rabbi did not respond but stared at the fireplace which was filled with glowing coals. Then he rose from his seat, removed one coal from the fire with the tongs, and placed it on the floor in front of the fireplace saying, "I hope to see you back in shul shortly."

At first, the man was puzzled by the Rabbi's actions, but soon the meaning became clear to him: The Rabbi was showing him that in unity there is strength. When the coals are together, one keeps the other glowing. When one coal is taken out and separated, it quickly becomes extinguished.

The Torah is alluding to this message: When a Jew is united with Klal Yisrael, he partakes of a collective identity which prevents him from violating the will of Hashem. But if the person wants to be "ahat - alone and solitary," then it is very possible that he will, G-d forbid, violate the Torah. (Vedibarta Bam)


Pride can prevent you from following the correct course of action. Forgiving someone who hurt you financially or emotionally is often prevented by ego. "Why should I give in to him? He was the one who hurt me!"

Some people may own up to a wrong and request forgiveness, and it still might be difficult to grant it. Then there are others who, although they are to blame, will not apologize because it will hurt their pride, or because they simply lack the courage to do so. In such instances, you should initiate the conversation.

Our Sages teach that whoever forgives is forgiven. Keep that in mind when you get the urge to be tough in order to "prove" that you are right. Also, according to the Heavenly scales, the harder something is to accomplish, the more Heavenly reward is dished out for success. Since "giving in" is one of the most difficult human accomplishments - because it is contrary to nature - the reward is immeasurable.

When you get the urge to harden your position - because, of course, you are right! - change your course and give in! It only hurts for a minute, but it will get you forgiveness that you might not deserve.

Do good unto others, and the good you do will be done unto you. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

PuRiM Special Edition

1. When asked how old she was, Shushana replied, "In two years I will be twice as old as I was five years ago." How old is she?

!tI diaS uoY

"Let there go forth a royal edict from him…that every man dominate in his own home" (Megillat Esther 1:19-22)

The King asked Haman only what to do with Vashti; why did Haman offer this additional advice?

It was the custom in Persia that the King would not decide any issue of law on his own; instead he would gather his advisors and seek their opinion. Haman desired that this should be changed. Therefore, in addition to advising the King that Vashti should be killed, he suggested that from then on Ahashverosh should make all decisions on his own, without leaving room for appeal. Additionally, from then on every man should be the ruler of his home.

Everything recorded in the Megillah is connected to the miracle of Purim. Were it not for these two recommendations made by Haman, Esther would not have become queen, and Haman himself would not have been hanged.

After Vashti was killed, a search began for a new queen. Had it not been the rule of the land that each man rule in his home, when agents arrived at Mordechai's home searching for Esther, he would have told them, I don't know where Esther is. She left without my permission and did not say when she would return." Thanks to Haman's advice, Mordechai was unable to hide Esther, and thus she was forced to come to Ahashverosh and eventually become the queen.

When Ahashverosh heard from Harbonah that Haman had prepared the gallows to hang Mordechai, the King angrily said, "Hang him [Haman] on it!" (7:9) Haman began to demand, "Before you hang me, there must be a trial with a jury deciding if I am guilty." Ahashverosh told Haman, "Sorry! It was you who advised me some time ago that 'yesse debar malchut milefanav - the King should make decisions on his own' - and no one can appeal them." Thus, Haman was hanged immediately. (Vedibarta Bam)

2. Chester Gourt, the court jester, claimed to be able to throw a ping-pong ball so that it would go a short distance, come to a dead stop, and then reverse itself. He also added that he would not bounce the ball against any object or tie anything to it. How could he perform this feat?

owt-ytnewT hctaC

"Letters were sent…to destroy, kill and exterminate all the Jews" (Esther 3:13)

The Gemara (Megillah 12a) says that the decree was issued against the Jews because 1) in the days of Nebuchadnessar they prostrated themselves to an idol, and 2) they partook in Ahashverosh's festivity. A long time transpired between these two episodes. Why were the Jews now being punished for these two things together?

According to the Midrash, when Nebuchadnessar set up the idol he put the tzeetz on it, a golden plate which the Kohen Gadol wore on his forehead on which was engraved Hashem's holy four lettered Name. If so, the Jews could justify their actions by claiming that in reality they were not bowing to the idol, but to the holy tzeetz; and despite the fact that it was in the hands of the gentiles, it retained its holiness. They could rationalize that they did not accept the way the Gemara interprets the pasuk, "And lawless people will enter it and profane it" (Yehezkel 7:22) - that once the lawless people took it, it became profaned.

When the Jews partook of Ahashverosh's meal, although death is not the punishment for eating non-Kosher, death was decreed because the food was served in the vessels of the Bet Hamikdash, and according to Rebbe, "If one intentionally uses the property of the Bet Hamikdash for personal benefit, he is put to death" (Sanhedrin 83a). In truth, however, they could have justified themselves by arguing that since the vessels were no longer in the Bet Hamikdash but in the hands of gentiles, they were no longer consecrated, and hence there was no me'ilah (inappropriate use of holy objects).

However, in light of both episodes together, either way the punishment would be death: The claim that they did nothing wrong in the days of Ahashverosh since the vessels were not holy would mean that the tzeetz was also not holy, and thus they had bowed to an idol in the days of Nebuchadnessar. The claim that they did nothing wrong in the days of Nebuchadnessar since they were actually bowing to the tzeetz, which was holy, would mean that the vessels too were holy and that by blatantly using them for personal needs at the feast of Ahashverosh they incurred the death penalty. (Vedibarta Bam)

. Six glasses are in a row. The first three are filled with wine, and the last three are empty. By moving only one glass, can you arrange them so that the full and the empty glasses alternate?

sniaG latipaC

"When King Ahashverosh was sitting on his throne which was in Shushan, the capital." (Megillat Esther 1:2)

The Vilna Gaon points out that prior to the rule of Ahashverosh, Shushan was not the capital of the Babylonian or Persian empires. Why then did Ahashverosh choose Shushan as his capital?

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Levenson, the son-in-law of the Hafess Hayim, explains that Ahashverosh wanted very much to sit in the royal throne of King Shelomo. He gave the command to have it transported to him, but on the way, as it was passing through Shushan, the throne broke. It could not be transported any further. So Ahashverosh moved the capital to Shushan so that he could use the throne that he desired so much.

Why did Hashem arrange for all this to happen? Because "there was a Jewish man in the capital of Shushan, and his name was Mordechai." Mordechai had been there even before Shushan was made the capital. In order not to trouble Mordechai, the sadik, to travel to Ahashverosh to try to annul the decree, Hashem arranged that it would all take place in Mordechai's home town. (Tal'lei Orot)

4. Mr. and Mrs. Grogger have five children. Half of them are boys. How is this possible?


Although it is a misvah to drink on Purim, please remember that it is forbidden to endanger one's own life and the lives of others. Please do not drive if you have been drinking.


1. Shushana is twelve.

2. Chester threw the ball straight up in the air. Naturally, the ball went a short distance, came to a dead stop, and then reversed itself.

3. Pour the wine from the second glass into the fifth glass.

4. The other half are also boys.

* * * * *

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.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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