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Weekly Chizuk


Based on "Sifsei Chaim" vol. II pg. 186 by Rav Chaim Friedlander, zt"l, Mashgiach Ruchani of the Ponevich Yeshiva.

Purim is called "Purim" because of the "Pur" (lots) which Haman used to determine the date upon which to destroy the Jews. (Esther 3:7 and 9:26) The name Purim expressed and delineates the root of all the lessons that are to be learned from the holiday of Purim.

How does "Purim" express anything special about this holiday? Haman threw lots, and his lots turned to our favor. Wasn't this simply a minor detail? Haman merely wanted to determine the right date to authorize the annihilation of the Jews. Haman didn't want to randomly choose a date to kill the Jews; instead, he threw lots to determine the date. This was just one detail of the many occurrences of that time. Why was it designated to be the name of the holiday? Secondly, if the name of the holiday is based on the lottery, it should be in the singular "Pur" and not "Purim" (lots - plural).

The answer to our questions lies in studying the difference between chance versus plan.

Normally a person plans his actions. He uses his intellect and his brain to determine a course of action. However, sometimes an individual finds it difficult to make up his mind. For whatever reason it is, he can't decide on his own. Then he decides to choose without deliberation, like flipping a coin. This decision is not based on the person's own choice. Rather he is leaving it up to "luck". "Luck" will decide.

We also find the concept of a lottery in the Torah. There was a special mitzvah to choose among the two goat offerings of Yom Kippur by a lottery (Yoma Chap. 6 Mishna 1). Both goats were equal in all respects. The lottery determined which was offered to G-d and which goat was sent to Azazel. The inheritance of Eretz Yisroel was also done by a lottery. ("And you shall inherit the land by a lottery to each of your families." (Bamidbar 33:24) How are we to understand this process of lottery? Is the Torah telling us to leave things up to "blind chance"?

There are two ways to relate to a lottery. We, who follow the Torah, look at it from a perspective of emuna. The lottery shows us G-d's will. It is a decision which is not in Man's hand. This was the lottery of Yom Kippur. Heaven determined the fate of each goat, if it was to be offered as a sacrifice to G-d, or to be sent to Azazel. So too, the division of Eretz Yisroel: Heaven determined which section of land went to each tribe.

The nonbeliever, however, views the lottery from an atheistic view point. When he doesn't want to decide on his own, when he doesn't want to make a rational decision, he leaves the decision up to "Luck": "Luck" will decide!

When Haman gave over his decision to the whims of the "lots" obviously it was not out of a deep belief that the result would be the revelation of the will of G-d. Rather his intent was that "chance" should make the decision for him. This was the deep conviction behind Haman's every action - everything is merely chance. There is no Divine will. The "power" of chance will decide.

And Mordechai told him (Hasoch) everything that had קרהו "happened" to him. [Mordechai related to Hasoch) the whole chain of events that had occurred.] He said to him, Go tell Esther that the grandson of "it happened by chance" ((קרהו has come against us (Esther Raba 7:5). Mordechai read into the word קרהו - "happened" as referring to Amalek. The possuk relates: אשר קרך בדרך "Who happened (chanced) upon you on the way." Haman was a descendant of Agag, king of Amalek, the nation of "chance."

Mordechai summed up the whole essence of Haman - the descendant of "it happened by chance." Amalek observed all the miracles and wonders that had occurred during the Exodus from Mitzrayim and the splitting of the Sea. All of the surrounding nations saw the events and heard of the miracles. As the news penetrated, their hearts melted. They stood in awe of all the Divine justice. But Amalek stood up and waged war with Yisroel. How could they have the audacity to do such a thing after seeing all the miracles? The answer lies in the possuk, "who chanced upon you on the way." Amalek saw the same chain of events: the Exodus, the splitting of the Sea, as merely a sequence of chance events; simple natural occurrences. They denied hashgacha pratis.

Haman was following in Amalek's footsteps. This was Mordechai's profound description of Haman's essence - the grandson of "it was mere chance." He saw everything as plain accident. Nothing moved him. He was impervious to noticing a miracle. He absolutely denied any Divine supervision in the world. Throughout the Megilla we see Haman's attitude. His counselors advised him to hang Mordechai. Haman immediately went to Achashverosh to request to hang Mordechai on the gallows he had specially prepared for him. That very night the Hashgacha arranged that the king couldn't sleep, and Achashverosh requested to have the chronicles read before him. The servants "by chance" opened up to the very spot where Mordechai is mentioned as having uncovered the plot by Bigsan and Seresh to poison the king. The Yalkut explains that since Mordechai was mentioned favorably in the chronicles, the reader tried to skip this section, but the letters kept jumping back to the incident of Mordechai: It is not written "and they read..." Rather it is written, "and it was read." The chronicles read themselves. And some say that Eliyahu came and wrote it in."

Precisely at that moment Haman walked into the courtyard of the king to ask him to hang Mordechai. The king called him in and asked him what honor should be done to the one whom the king wishes to honor and glory. Haman, in his conceit, thought the king meant himself. So he told the king to heap honor upon him. Then the king ordered Haman (now the most esteemed officer in the king's inner cabinet) to bestow these honors upon Mordechai (Haman's arch enemy): to sit him upon the king's horse and lead him through the streets of the city. Fantastic. How marvelously the hashgacha arranged the whole chain of events. And what was Haman's response to all this? "And Haman related to his wife Zeresh and to all his friends everything that chanced to happen to him" (6:13). It was mere chance. He wasn't moved one iota by this hashgacha pratis. He failed to see any Divine punishment for his wickedness. Only a chain of unrelated incidents. One incident upon another which were out of the realm of his control.

Even his counselors were unable to see any Divine Hand in these "accidents." They couldn't understand that G-d's will was not to hang Mordechai. They merely answered him with the same outlook. "And his wise-men and Zeresh his wife said to him, If Mordechai, before whom you have started to fall, is from the seed of the Jews, you can do nothing to him, because you will certainly fall before him." (6:14). Pure accident. "If he is from the seed of the Jews..." if fortune shines upon one who provokes Jews, then he will see the light of good luck. But if not, it was merely bad luck, and the wheel of fortune will continue spinning against him until he finally falls before it.

The Denier Sees Only Mere Chance

This was Mordechai's description of Haman: the grandson of chance. Nothing was able to enlighten his eyes to see G d's hashgacha; he sees in everything mere chance. If he succeeds, it is his good luck, and if he fails, it was all just a matter of bad luck beyond his control.

It was with this heretical attitude that Haman lived, the "grandson of chance." He was the greatest heretic: his attitude toward everything that happened was that they were only a combination of accidents. Haman lived in the world of "luck." When something happened which was possible to explain, it was a normal sequence of chance events. It happened that the king got drunk in the middle of a party. It happened that he wanted to show off his wife to all the people. And it happened that he got so angry at his wife that he executed her. It even happened that he chose an unknown woman to be his new queen, in spite of her refusal to disclose her nationality or birth place. Regarding each of the individual events of the Megilla, we could say, it happened. But when we see the events unfurling before us in an orderly chain, from beginning to end, we see a marvelous design hiding within nature: hashgacha pratis.

Haman also saw all the entire chain of events. But each time he saw only a Pur - a chance happening with no connection to the other events. When he succeeded in utilizing chance for his own benefit and will, it was as if he had succeeded in overpowering "the powers that be." But when he couldn't succeed, he didn't take it personally at all. His response was, "And Haman retold... all that had chanced upon him." This was the grandson of "it chanced." Haman's Mazal Was Transformed To Our Mazal

Now we can understand why we call the holiday "Purim" (plural) as the expression of the essence of the day. Yes the lottery which Haman threw, and which is the name of the holiday, was merely one detail among all the occurrences in the Megilla. But from this one detail it becomes very apparent Haman's heretical thinking. How he wanted to force the power of "blind luck" to acquiesce to his own desires. This took concrete expression not only in his throwing the lots. All of his actions were calculated to use fate for his own personal whims. He thought that he had the ability to manipulate and subjugate the power of fortune for his own gain.

However, Heavenly mercy shown down upon us and in the end all his plans were like the Pur - mere mazal, which turned into our mazal. Hashem Yisborach turned Haman's desires into the conduit through which the Divine Plan would be realized. For example: Haman wanted to control the heavenly powers and threw lots in order to pick the right day to kill all the Jews. He wanted to use "chance" for his personal desire. In the end these lots turned into our lots and as this day turned out to be the day of Yisroel's success. "On the day when the enemies of the Jews chose to overpower them, and it was turned around that the Jews overpowered their enemies" (Esther 9:1). Chance had it that he even chose the most auspicious month for the Jews, as the gemara states in Taanis (29b), "Who has a lawsuit with a gentile should go to court during Adar." This means to say that Hashem Yisborach used Haman's Pur to eventually benefit Klal Yisroel. The plan of Haman to kill Vashti eventually turned against him: Esther was taken to the king's palace to ultimately bring about his downfall. The tree on which he prepared to hang Mordechai in the end turned into his own gallows. The advice he gave to the king in order to inflate his own esteem, to be honored with sitting on the king's horse and led around the city, was turned against him. He had the degrading job of being the servant boy to put his mortal enemy, Mordechai, on the horse and lead him through the city.

Haman, however, saw all of this as mere bad luck and accident - he was the grandson of chance. Sometimes he succeeded, and sometimes fortune just wasn't within his control. HaKodosh Baruch Hu, however, was really arranging everything according to His pre-planned hashgacha; all of Haman's lots (Purim) would in the end be turned to our lots. And through all this would come out a stupendous sanctification of Hashem's name and the salvation of Klal Yisroel. Now we can understand why the name Purim was chosen, signifying the drawing of lots, in the plural form, and not Pur, in the singular. There are really two sides to the drawing of lots. There was, on one hand, the Pur that Haman wanted to use to accomplish his own goals. On the other hand, this Pur was in reality our Pur. Hashem Yisborach manipulated Haman's desires to bring about the Heavenly plan, and in the end Haman was the conduit to create a marvelous Kiddush Hashem. Therefore there were really two lots: 1) the Pur which Haman wanted, 2) the Pur which was ultimately our fortune.

The lesson to be derived from all this is how HaKodosh Baruch Hu orchestrates the entire chain of individual and various seemingly unrelated events. Our role is to take an active part to fulfill HaKodosh Baruch Hu's plan. However, the achievement is really only possible if the person matches his will to the hashgacha pratis, and not, Heaven forbid, to try to adjust the hashgacha pratis to suit his personal desire.

We also learn from all this a very important principal in Avodas Hashem - on one hand there is the Heavenly decree on the person. On the other side, there is our free will. There is no contradiction or paradox between these two opposites. Even what we do freely and according to our personal understanding has been preplanned in Heaven. HaKodosh Baruch Hu orchestrates things through our actions, both good and bad, to bring about in the end His will. Not only does HaKodosh Baruch Hu predetermine the framework of our Avodas Hashem. But in the end result, even those things which are within the realm of our free will and free choice, are used by HaKodosh Baruch Hu to achieve His will. As long as we have the desire to bring about Hashem Yisborach's plan, HaKodosh Baruch Hu will accordingly help us to be the conduit of public Sanctification of His name.

Wishing Everyone a Freilachen Purim!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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