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Torah Attitude: Parashas Tzav-Purim: G'd's proxy always gives credit
Why is it that Jewish speakers often quote themselves? "And Esther said to the King in the name of Mordechai." When G'd saves the Jewish people from any danger He wants that it should be known that this was an act of G'd. Esther had such a sterling character, and her integrity was on such a high level, that she did not look for any personal benefit. We find the same character trait by Moses at the time when he saved the daughters of Yithro from the other shepherds. The name of the person who G'd chose to save the Jewish people was "Esther", the hidden, because the whole salvation was performed shrouded in concealment. Only an "Esther" who is ready to hide herself and is not looking for any personal aggrandizement is suited and worthy to be the proxy for G'd's salvation. The seal of G'd is truth. When one says a Torah lesson in the name of another person, it is a merit for both the one quoting the lesson and the one who originally said it. .Whenever he was praised for his success, Rabbi Gifter's student would modestly defer and say that the praise should go to Rabbi Gifter. At the time of Purim, the Jewish people accepted the Torah anew.
Badchan, Rabbi Yacov Miller
As we are approaching Purim, we will discuss the last of the forty eight things needed to acquire to Torah as it has a connection with the Book of Esther. On a lighter note, we will start with a question asked by the famous Badchan, Rabbi Yacov Miller, who often entertains at Jewish weddings. He asks, why is it that Jewish speakers often quote themselves and remark, "As I once said on so and so occasion"? He answers that in this way they fulfill the forty eighth thing needed to acquire Torah, as they say "something in the name of the one who originally said it."
Esther credited Mordechai
The Mishnah (Pirkei Avos 6:6) continues and says that "whoever says over something in the name of the one who originally said it brings redemption to the world, as it says (Esther 2:22): 'And Esther said to the King in the name of Mordechai.'" The Maharal asks, how does the Mishnah know that Esther merited to be instrumental in saving the Jewish people because of what she said in the name of Mordechai. She was very righteous so maybe she was chosen for a different reason.
Story of Purim
If we analyze the events in the story of Purim, we do find that there is a connection between the final salvation of the Jewish people and Esther's original remarks to the king in the name of Mordechai. Shortly after she had been appointed queen, Mordechai overheard how Bigsan and Seresh, two of the royal guards plotted to assassinate King Ahashvarous. Mordechai told Esther who informed the king in Mordechai's name. Later (Esther 6:1-11) it is related how Ahashvarous could not sleep and requested that the royal records be read to him. That is how he was reminded about the plot of the two guards and how Mordechai had saved the king's life. The king asked what reward had been bestowed upon Mordechai? Just as he was told that Mordechai had not received any reward, Haman entered the court. Ahashvarous requested that Haman be brought into his inner chamber. Their ensuing conversation ended with Ahashvarous ordering Haman to dress Mordechai in the royal robes and lead him through the city of Shushan on the royal horse proclaiming "This is what is done for the man whom the king wants to honour." Obviously, had Esther not originally given credit to Mordechai, all of this would never had happened. But, says the Maharal, we know that G'd always pays "measure for measure." So why did G'd choose Esther specifically in the merit of what she had said in the name of Mordechai? There must be a deeper connection between Esther's merit to be instrumental in her saving the Jewish people and her quoting Mordechai to Ahashvarous.
Act of G'd
The Maharal explains that when G'd saves the Jewish people from any danger He wants that it should be known that this was an act of G'd. As it says by the exodus from Egypt (Shemos 7:4-5): "And I shall take out my legions, my people, the children of Israel, from the land of Egypt, with great judgments. And Egypt shall know that I am G'd."
Esther's sterling character
Only an individual who gives credit where it is due is worthy to be G'd's messenger in saving the Jewish people. When Esther informed Ahashvarous about the plot of Bigsan and Seresh she could have told him that one of her agents had picked up some information. In this way it would sound like this was her own initiative, and no doubt she would have risen in the eyes of the king and would have strengthened her position at court. But Esther had such a sterling character, and her integrity was on such a high level, that she did not look for any personal benefit. Instead, she made sure that it was brought to the attention of the king the he had been saved by Mordechai.
Moses' sterling character
We find the same character trait by Moses at the time when he saved the daughters of Yithro from the other shepherds. When the daughter's thanked Moses for saving them, he went to the extreme of self-neglect and explained that their salvation had come about by the Egyptian who wanted to kill a Jewish person in Egypt. For if not for that, Moses would never have ended up in Midian (see Torah Attitude: Parashas Shemos: An Attitude of Gratitude). It is this character trait that made both Moses and Esther worthy to save the Jewish people. G'd had full confidence that Moses would never suggest that it was his personal leadership qualities that enabled him to take the Jewish people out of Egypt.
The concealed "Esther"
And, says the Maharal, once Esther had proven that she did not take credit for saving Ahashvarous' life, G'd knew that she would be worthy to appear before Ahashvarous and save the Jewish people from annihilation. She no doubt would understand that if she was successful it was not due to her personal wisdom but everything was guided by the hand of G'd. This lesson, says the Maharal, is especially important in the story of Purim. The Talmud (Chulin 139b) asks where is Esther hinted in the Torah? The Talmud answers with a quote from Parashas Vayeilech (Devarim 31:18) where it says, "And I will surely conceal My face." The Hebrew word for "conceal" is "astir", the same letters as "Esther". There is a deeper significance in this, says the Maharal. The name of the person who G'd chose to save the Jewish people was "Esther", the hidden, because the whole salvation was performed shrouded in concealment. The Jewish people at the time were not even aware that they were in danger, as Haman's evil intention had not yet been publicized. Only Mordechai was Divinely informed of the danger lurking over the Jewish people. As it says (Esther 4:1): "And Mordechai got to know all that had been done and Mordechai tore his clothes and dressed in sack cloth and ashes." Just as the danger was hidden so did the salvation come about in a concealed way without any open miracles or wonders. This, says the Maharal, is why we do not find the name of G'd in the Book of Esther, for G'd's involvement was concealed.
Worthy to be G'd's proxy
Only an "Esther" who is ready to hide herself and is not looking for any personal aggrandizement is suited and worthy to be the proxy for G'd's salvation. For only she can be trusted not to ascribe to herself any part of the salvation but to refer it totally to G'd's hidden hand.
However, an obvious question arises here. Many people quote their sources so why has it not yet brought about the final redemption of the Jewish people? The Maharal explains that when the Mishnah says that one who says over something in the name of the one who originally said it brings salvation to the world, it does not mean that this causes salvation. It means, says the Maharal, that when G'd wants to save the Jewish people a person of such sterling quality will be chosen to be G'd's proxy. And G'd saves us all the time. We are constantly in danger. As we say in the Haggadah on Seder night: "In every generation they rise against us to annihilate us. And the Holy One, Blessed be He, rescues us from their hand." Often we are not even aware of the danger and how G'd saves us through His worthy servants.
G'd's seal is truth
The Talmud (Shabbos 55a) teaches that the seal of G'd is truth. The Torah, its stories and lessons, are all the words of G'd, and as such are true to the minutest detail. The commentaries point out that the last letter of the first three words of the Torah "Bereishis bara Elokim" form the Hebrew word for truth "emet". The person who wants to acquire Torah must be of high integrity and a person of truth. If one relates a Torah teaching without quoting the one who originally said it, it lacks in the truth of the Torah. Such a person is like a thief who stole what belongs to others and is not worthy of acquiring Torah.
Merit for both
The Talmud constantly quotes the source of every opinion, and sometimes traces it for several generations. The Talmud (Yevamos 97a) teaches that when one says a Torah lesson in the name of another person, it is a merit for both the one quoting the lesson and the one who originally said it. Even if the original author has passed away, the Talmud explains that his lips are moving in his grave. The Maharal and other commentators explain that this is not a physical movement. Rather, it refers to the person's soul in Heaven who has a benefit by being quoted.
I recently heard an amazing story that happened to a student of the late Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland Ohio, Rabbi Mordechai Gifter. The student had a position as a rabbi in the United States but he wanted very much to go to Israel. He managed to take a sabbatical from his American congregation; however, at the end of the year, he had a strong urge to make aliyah and settle there. He discussed his plans with several colleagues and they all told him that he had a moral obligation to return to his congregation in the United States. Shortly before he had to return, Rabbi Gifter came on a visit to Israel and the student went to his Rosh Yeshiva to discuss his predicament. Rabbi Gifter said to him that if he felt so strongly about it, it would be okay for him to settle in Israel and disseminate Torah there. The student followed his mentor's advice and opened a yeshiva in Israel and became very successful. .Whenever he was praised for his success, he would modestly defer and say that the praise should go to Rabbi Gifter. This went on for years and continued even after Rabbi Gifter passed away. One night, Rabbi Gifter appeared to his student in a dream to thank him. The deceased rabbi told his student that he should know that whenever he gave him credit, Rabbi Gifter's soul had an elevation in Heaven. If this is true for just giving credit for one's success to another individual, how much more is it so when one gives over a Torah teaching in another individual's name.
Accept Torah anew
The Talmud (Shabbos 88a) teaches that, at the time of Purim, the Jewish people accepted the Torah anew. As it says (Esther 9:27): "The Jews confirmed and took upon themselves …" As we approach this special day in the Jewish calendar, may we also merit to accept the Torah with integrity and truthfulness, and may that bring us closer to the day of the final redemption with the coming of Mashiach. Amen.
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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