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This Torah Attitude is dedicated with much love by Michael, Robyn, Jamie, Adam and David to our wonderful wife and mother, Sally, in honour of her birthday. Mazel tov!

Torah Attitude: Parashas Tetzaveh-Purim: Accepting Torah leadership

Summary

The great sage Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai was careful always to be the first one to greet Jew and gentile alike. Mordechai was not ready to bow down and prostrate himself, since Haman had adorned himself with idolatrous images. Mordechai's obstinate approach to Haman had enraged him. Although Mordechai was able to arrange that the food and drinks were all kosher, the immorality of the entertainment and the nature of Ahashvarous' party were in no way kosher. Mordechai informed his fellow Jews of his Divine dream, and instead of blaming Mordechai, the Jews accepted their spiritual leader and started to repent. The Talmud describes this as a renewed acceptance of the Torah. In every generation the Torah leaders have a "spark" of Moses' soul, and this is how Moses is with us forever. Our acceptance of our Torah leadership is part and parcel of our acceptance of the Torah. This time the acceptance of Torah was whole-hearted, without any coercion. May we also be saved from our enemies like in the story of Purim, and experience the total salvation of the Jewish people very soon.

Greet everyone

In last week's Torah Attitude, we mentioned how the Talmud (Berachos 17a) encourages that everyone shall emulate the great sage Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai who was careful always to be the first one to greet Jew and gentile alike. The Talmud does not make any difference whether the gentile is friendly to the Jewish people or anti-Semitic. Rashi (Gittin 62a) explains that in order to live in peace with the non-Jewish population, one should greet everyone.

Mordechai not bow to Haman

With this in mind, we need to understand why Mordechai did not bow down to Haman. The Yalkut Shimoni (Ester 1054) relates that the Jews told Mordechai that he was bringing them all down by transgressing the royal decree. The truth is that Mordechai may have greeted Haman when they met. However, he was not ready to bow down and prostrate himself, since Haman had adorned himself with idolatrous images.

Mordechai enraged Haman

We would expect that the Jews of Shushan would blame Mordechai when it became known that Haman had convinced Ahashvarous to annihilate the entire Jewish people. It seemed obvious that Mordechai's obstinate approach to Haman had enraged him, and this was the direct cause of the terrible decree.

Immoral party

However, an amazing thing happened. Mordechai had initially instructed the Jews not to attend Ahashvarous' lavish party. The political leadership at the time felt that it was most important to participate, as the purpose of the party was to determine who was loyal to the new monarch. Mordechai, on the other hand, told them that the festivities were not appropriate for them. Although Mordechai was able to arrange that the food and drinks were all kosher, the immorality of the entertainment and the nature of such a drinking party were in no way kosher. This would be comparable nowadays to someone going on a cruise, or to a club, where the food was kosher but the environment in general did not meet the standard of Halacha.

Jews repent

Now, when they were all in mortal danger, Mordechai was Divinely informed in a dream that this was a Heavenly decree, because the Jews had participated in Ahashvarous' immoral party, and years earlier had bowed down to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar (see Rashi Ester 4:1). Mordechai informed his fellow Jews of his Divine dream, and instead of blaming Mordechai, the Jews accepted their spiritual leader and started to repent. The Shuls and study halls filled to capacity, and when Ester requested that they should fast for three days, everyone joined.

Renewed acceptance of Torah

The Talmud (Shabbos 88a) describes this as a renewed acceptance of the Torah. Till then the Jewish people had observed the Torah commandments, but when it came to a political question, such as participating in Ahashvarous' party, they thought that such decisions should be made by the political lay leaders, rather than by the spiritual Torah leaders.

Trust Moses forever

However, before G'd gave us the Torah at Mount Sinai, He said to Moses (Shemos 19:9): "Behold I shall come to you in the thickness of the cloud, in order that the people shall hear when I speak to you, and they shall also trust you forever." Moses passed away before the Jewish people entered the land of Israel, so what does it mean that we shall trust him forever? The Kabbalists explain that in every generation the Torah leaders have a "spark" of Moses' soul, and this is how he is with us forever.

Acceptance of Torah leadership

Our acceptance of our Torah leadership is part and parcel of our acceptance of the Torah. When the Jews in Shushan failed to listen to Mordechai, even though they were otherwise observant, they lost their connection to Mount Sinai. However, when they listened to Mordechai, they reconnected and accepted the Torah anew.

Accept Torah without coercion

The Talmud (Shabbos 88a) points out that this time the acceptance of Torah was whole-hearted, without any coercion. As we mentioned recently (see Torah Attitude: Parashas Yithro: Why G'd chose the Jewish people), at Mount Sinai G'd had raised the mountain over the Jewish people to warn them that if they would not go through with accepting the Torah, that would be their end. After the turn of events, with the downfall of Haman and the salvation of the Jewish people, they lovingly accepted anew to observe the Torah and listen to their Torah leaders. This, says the Talmud, is hinted at in the Book of Ester (9:26-27): "Because of all that is written in this letter the Jews confirmed and accepted upon themselves and their offspring " Although the simple meaning refers just to Purim, the deeper meaning is that with accepting Purim they accepted the message of Purim, and how they must always follow the Torah leaders of the generation.

Saved from our enemies

As we are going to celebrate Purim, we must remember to internalize this important message. In this merit, may we also be saved from our enemies like in the story of Purim, and experience the total salvation of the Jewish people very soon.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

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