Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Haman's Secret Plan
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)

The Megilah relates how Mordechai told Hasach (Esther's personal messenger, whom some say was Daniel) about the terrible plot to kill all the Jews, and about the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the right to destroy them.

Now having passed on the information about the evil decree to destroy the entire Jewish nation, of what significance was the sum of money? In face of a disaster of such magnitude, what point was there in taking this solitary detail (the only one mentioned) and blowing it up to place it on a par with the terrible decree, by mentioning them in one and the same breath?

And if that is not puzzling enough, how will we explain Achashverosh's strange reply to Esther's accusation of Haman 'Who is it' ... , he asked in response, 'who dared to do such a thing?'

What, did Achashverosh not know that he had permitted Haman to wipe out, kill and destroy all the Jews? Had he already forgotten how, but a week or so before, he had removed his signet ring and handed it to Haman to do just that?

If indeed, the king was merely putting on an act for the sake of Esther, so that she should judge him innocently, the Ba'alei Megilah should not have let it pass, without some sort of comment about his hypocrisy?

And to cap it all, what on earth did Esther mean when, in her plea with the king, she said to him "Because we have been sold, I and my people"? Did we not read earlier in the Megilah, that Achashverosh declined Haman's 'kind' offer of ten thousand silver Kikar, telling him that the people were his, free of charge. In that case, Esther and her people had not been sold, but given away? Indeed, the Gemara in Megilah, compares the deal reached between Achashverosh and Haman to a man who got rid of his excessive mound of earth by giving it free of charge to the man who had a large pit in his field, which needed filling in. So the interests of both parties were well served.

Come to think of it, the very same problem pertains to the sum of money that Mordechai described to Hasach. Which sum of money?


In order to answer all these questions, let us first examine Haman and his motives. Then we will be able to better understand what was going on behind the scenes.

It is evident from the various Medrashim connected with the Megilah, that from the moment Haman was appointed as senior minister, his insatiable appetite for Kavod did not rest. Chazal have taught us that someone who has one thousand, wants two and upon attaining that goal, he immediately wants four. And Haman (always one to go in the ways of Chazal) was no exception. Having reached the pinnacle of success, and above all, of honor and glory, he craved for the next position in line, the throne!

And his plot began with the deposing and killing of Vashti (in the hope that his daughter would become the next queen). It caused him to ask to wear the royal crown when the opportunity arose, and it even prompted him to go for Queen Esther (not to kill her, but to marry her, it seems, though that plan sort of misfired).

Haman in his wickedness and cunning, thought that, as he got rid of K'lal Yisrael, what was there to lose if he gave Achashverosh a rotten name in the process. This of course, would make him highly unpopular, and once that happened, one way or another, it would be but a short step to his assassination. He could already envisage himself, the mighty Haman, sitting on the throne.

For you see, when Haman offered Achashverosh the ten thousand silver Kikar (thirty million Dinrim!), he was hoping with that to portray to the world (over which Achashveirosh ruled) the king's callousness, in that he was willing to sell nations for a fee. And to that end, Haman intended to insert the sum of money alongside the decree to destroy the Jewish people, in the letters that he would send to all the communities across the length and breadth of the land . It wasn't just a secondary detail at all, but one of Haman's major objectives. Because Haman knew that nothing would stir up the people against the king more than this juicy piece of information. After all, if Achashverosh sold the Jews for a fee today, who's to know whom he would sell down the drain tomorrow?

Yes, those letters contained the seeds of the revolution that Haman was hoping would break out.

But Achashverosh was no fool (at least, he was not that stupid), to fall into Haman's trap. He realized that accepting Haman's offer would boomerang on himself, causing his own downfall, so he declined. O.K. Maybe he was sufficiently foolish not to read Haman's intentions, but he did see the danger to himself, so he told Haman to return the money to his own bank account and to do with people as he saw fit.

But don't for a moment believe that Haman shelved his plan. It would take more, a lot more, than a mere king's refusal to deter a wily man like Haman. So, Haman, in his state of power-drunkenness, and perhaps encouraged by the green light (not to speak of the signet ring) given him by King Achashverosh, decided to insert the offensive clause in the letters (which all non-Jews in the kingdom - except the King - would read) anyway. And quite certain that the King would never discover the contents of the letters, that is precisely what he did.

One person knew already in advance the exact details of what the letters contained. Mordechai knew, because the Ba'al ha'Chalom (the Angel of Dreams) told him, and that is hinted in the words "And Mordechai knew all that was done" (not just 'all that was decreed'). And Mordechai read Haman's intentions at first glance.

Mordechai knew it immediately. Achashverosh discovered it soon enough. And now we know it too!

"So may Your enemies perish, Hashem!"

Tefillah Twinkles

The Amidah
(based mainly on the Siddur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
(Part XXXVI)

Al ha'Nisim

The Anaf Yosef presents the correct text as 've'al ha'nisim', seeing as it refers to 'nodeh lecho u'nesaper tehilosecho (we thank You and tell Your praises)' mentioned earlier, and is simply another clause that follows 've'al nifle'osecho ve'tovosecho she'be'chol eis ... '. In other words, besides thanking Hashem for His ongoing miracles day in, day out, we also thank Him for the special miracles that occurred at this time many years ago. In that case, without the 'Vav', it doesn't really make much sense.


ve'Al ha'Milchamos

Having added the 'Vav' to 'Al ha'Nisim', the Anaf Yosef does just the opposite to the 'Vav' in 've'al', which he claims does not belong there. Citing the Chazal on the Pasuk "and no sword will pass through your land", he explains that wars belong to the realm of curses, rather to that of blessings. Consequently, the gist of these words is 'and for the acts of salvation from the wars, that You did for our fathers ... '.

It seems to me however, that it would then have been preferable to omit the words 've'al ha'milchamos', and to have thanked G-d for His salvation, period. And this would have been preferable, as regards both meaning and grammar.

As for the Eitz Yosef's proof from Chazal, granted we are better off without wars. Nevertheless, when they become necessary, then we are duty bound to express our gratitude to the 'Master of Wars' for the way He manipulates them in our favour, as indeed we find by the battle at the Yam-Suf. And that is what we are doing here. Certainly, in our private Tefilos, it would be a good idea to pray for the abolition of wars.


She'Asisa la'Avoseinu ...

The Rambam's text reads 'ke'sheim she'asisa la'avoseinu ... ', transforming the sentence into a prayer (that Hashem should perform miracles with us today in the manner that He did then).

Tosfos in Megilah however, disagrees, not because of the prohibition of adding prayers in the first and the last three B'rachos (since that pertains specifically to individual prayers), but because we have a principle that Chazal did not to tend to mix the past and the future in one text. In other words, this B'rachah is addressed to the past, and is therefore unlikely to contain any requests that pertain to the future. The Poskim rule that both opinions are acceptable and that either text is correct (Eitz Yosef).


Ba'Yamim ha'Heim ba'Z'man ha'Zeh

The Eitz Yosef cites the Levush, who adds a 'Vav' to 'ba'z'man ha'zeh', to read 'u'ba'z'man ha'zeh. In his opinion, we are thanking Hashem here for miracles that He performs nowadays, which are of the same nature as those that He performed in the days of Chanukah and Purim.

Some Poskim, he says, prefer to omit the 'Vav', in which case, we are thanking Hashem for the miracles that He performed in those days, at this time. However, he opts for the first opinion, because it is the done thing to incorporate in our prayers, the specifics together with the more general.

Others however, maintain that 'ba'z'man ha'zeh' (even without the 'Vav') has connotations of the general miracles anyway.


ke'she'Omad Aleihem Haman ha'Rasha

It is unclear, says the Iyun Tefilah, as to whether 'aleihem' refers to 'our fathers' mentioned in 'Al ha'nisim' ('which you performed with our fathers'), or to Mordechai and Esther, referred to a few words earlier ('In the days of Mordechai and Esther'). Although in the latter instance, Haman made no direct attempt to kill Esther, nevertheless, he explains, killing Mordechai, who, besides being her husband, was also her spiritual guide, would have been a deathblow for Esther too. Consequently, killing Mordechai constituted killing Esther, whether Haman meant to or not.


Bikesh le'Hashmid, la'Harog u'le'Abeid

First "le'Hashmid", the Eitz Yosef explains, which refers to killing the children; then "la'Harog", to kill the grown-ups; and finally "u'le'Abeid", to destroy their bodies, without allowing them to be buried.

Perhaps "le'abed" could also mean to blot out their memory (which Haman would have planned measure for measure for the Torah's command "eradicate the memory of Amalek"). In any event, that may well have been on Haman's mind when he decreed on "the youths and the old, the children and the women".


Es Kol ha'Yehudim be'Yom Echad

All on one day, says the Eitz Yosef, because the lot fell on the thirteenth of Adar, and he had no guarantee that the good luck which was assured on that day would extend to the next.

The Achris Shalom explains it quite differently. According to him, Haman knew that Yisrael's strength lay in their unity, which reached its climax at Har Sinai, when they announced 'Na'aseh ve'Nishma', but which sank to its lowest ebb at the time of the Churban. That is why, when negotiating Yisrael's destruction with Achashverosh, he described them as 'scattered and divided among the nations'. By that, he was referring not only to their physical division, but also to their spiritual disunity, which, he knew, would work against them. That is why Haman insisted on killing them all on one day, playing on the unity that was their's, but that they had now lost (in a form of reverse logic).

And that explains why the first thing Esther did when she heard of Haman's evil plot, was to ask Mordechai to gather them all together - to fast and pray together - in unison.

It also explains the Mitzvah of 'Matanos lo'Evyonim' and the unusual Mitzvah of Mishlo'ach Manos, both of which are powerful unifiers. And it also explains why the Megilah writes (9:3, in connection with accepting the laws of Purim) "ve'kibel ha'Yehudim" ('and the Jews accepted' - in the singular, because they reached the level attained at Har Sinai 'like one man, with one heart').


u'Shelolom lo'Voz

The evil Haman made sure that his plan of genocide would be accomplished to the last letter. How did he do that?

By permitting the Persians (no, by ordering them) to take Yisrael's booty. He knew the power of greed, and that if the people's hatred of the Jews was insufficient to force them to go about killing the Jews, then the promise of war-spoils would do the trick. And just in case, there were those whose appetite would be satiated after one or two hauls, he ordered them to take the loot only after all the Jews had been killed, as is evident from the current phraseology. This would ensure that the people would not leave one Jew alive. (Alshich).

Interestingly, when the tables were turned, and the Jews were permitted (even ordered) to defend themselves and to kill all their enemies ('le'hashmid la'harog u'le'abed', just as had been decreed upon them), the new letters also contained the words 'u'shelolom lo'voz'. This was of course, in order that the 've'nahafoch hu' (the reversal) should be complete. Yet when it came to the crunch, the Pasuk stresses that not one Jew took a cent from the loot (a miracle in itself, seeing as, not only was this was contrary to their instructions, but it was also totally spontaneous, a powerful testimony to the level unity that they had achieved [see previous piece]).

This demonstrates one of the major distinctions between Am Yisrael and the nations of the world. A gentile will only perform 'a good deed' if there is something in it for him. A Jew on the other hand, performs Mitzvos for the sake of the Mitzvah, not for personal gain. Yisrael demonstrated to the world, how unlike their Persian counterparts, they did not kill the Persians for personal gain, but in order to perform the Mitzvah of 'blotting out Amalek' and that of self-preservation.


Bi'Sheloshah-Asar le'Chodesh Sh'neim-Asar

Since Haman's lots fell out in the month of Adar, asks the Eitz Yosef, why did he wait for the thirteenth? Why did he not pick Rosh Chodesh or the seventh (Moshe Rabeini's Yohrzeit [the cause of Haman's immediate satisfaction as to the choice of month])?

And he cites the Avudraham, who explains that Haman deliberately waited until the seventh day of mourning, when the mourning period reached its peak.


Va'Hashevoso Lo Gemulo be'Rosho

Haman's initial hatred was aimed at Mordechai, and it was only a matter of strategy that he decided to kill all the Jews at the same time. So G-d paid him back on both fronts - measure for measure, says the Avudraham. a). Haman was not only hanged, but he was hanged on the very same gallows on which he planned to hang Mordechai, and b). the Jews enjoyed a swift victory, killing their enemies on one single day, just as Haman had intended their enemies to do to them.


(Translated from the Mitzvos of Eretz Yisrael and Its Minhagim by ha'Rav Kalman Kahana z.l.)

1. In the days of Mordechai, at the time that the miracle took place, the Jews fought on the thirteenth of Adar and rested on the fourteenth, which they designated as one of festivity and rejoicing. In Shushan the capital however, where they fought their enemies on the fourteenth too, they rested only on the fifteenth, and celebrated their victory only on the fifteenth.

And it was because the celebrations were divided into two days then, that Mordechai and Esther, who, with the sanction of the Anshei Keneses ha'Gedolah, established Purim for future generations, fixed two days of Purim.

Now what they ought to have done was to establish the fifteenth for every town which, like Shushan, was surrounded with a wall in the days of Achashverosh.

However, due to the fact that Eretz Yisrael was lying in ruins, with no walled towns intact, this would have entailed attaching more importance to walled towns in Chutz la'Aretz than to the towns of Eretz Yisrael. Consequently, in honour of Eretz Yisrael, so that also its towns should share in the special status of the walled towns, they instituted that towns that were walled in the days of Yehoshua bin Nun, should be included in the category of walled towns.


2. Yerushalayim is known to have been walled in the days of Yehoshua. Therefore, its inhabitants celebrate Purim on the fifteenth. And this incorporates districts that were built outside its walls, as long as the houses that are closest to the wall of Yerushalayim are within a Mil (one kilometer) of the wall.


3. If the fifteenth of Adar falls on Shabbos, then, due to Chazal's decree that one may come to carry the Megilah in the street, even Yerushalayim reads the Megilah on the fourteenth. The Mitzvos of Matanos la'Evyonim (gifts for the poor) and of Mishlo'ach Manos, are also performed then.

One does not however, recite 'Al ha'Nisim' then, but on Shabbos (since that is the day that the miracle took place). On Shabbos too, one takes out an extra Seifer-Torah, in which one reads "va'Yovo Amalek", and reads the Haftarah of "Pakadti" (the same Haftarah that one read for Parshas Zachor, the week before).

And it is on Sunday that one eats the Se'udas Purim. According to others, that is also when one performs the Mitzvah of Mishlo'ach Manos.

(This phenomenon is known as 'Purim Meshulash' [a triple Purim]).


4. There are some towns in Eretz Yisrael that are Safek Mukafos Chomah (whose status as walled towns in the time of Yehoshua bin Nun is in doubt). They tend to follow the Minhag of the majority of towns, that are not considered 'Mukafos Chomah' and they read on the fourteenth. It is customary however, for them to read the Megilah again on the fifteenth, but without the B'rachos.


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