Purim

Why Particularly Amalek?

“Blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (Deuteronomy 25:19)

The Slonimer Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham, the author of “Beth Abraham” used to say that  supernatural providence is called in the Bible ‘above the heavens’, while natural developments are termed ‘under the heavens.’

G-d commands us: “Blot out the memory of Amalek” — who entices you to believe that the world is run by chance and random developments — “under the heavens.” You must internalize that everything is “above the heavens”, all being directed by Him, and then you will never forget your Creator.

* * *

It is mentioned in the name of the Belzer Rebbe, the Sar Shalom, that the feast of Purim is hinted to in the Torah. In the Torah section of B’shelach, it says that when the people tasted the bitter waters, they “complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” (Exodus 15:24). “The people” — refers to the admixture of gentiles who came with the Jews. They argued: On all the Jewish holidays, we celebrate with meat and wine, but the Torah laws say eating is more important than drinking. We want a special day for drinking like when we were gentiles and were used to drinking at a feast. When they asked “What shall we drink?”, they really meant “When will we drink already?”

G-d’s answer to Moses was, “G-d showed him a tree” — when Haman will be hung on a tree fifty cubits high — it will be a special time for drinking.

* * *

Where is it alluded to that when the word “Haman” is recited in the Megilla reading, one should make noise? Ya’avetz says this can be learned out from the words “and it shall be, if the guilty one has incurred [the penalty] to be beaten” וְהָיָה אִם בִּן הַכּוֹת הָרָשָׁע (Deut. 25:2) — the end of the first three words of this phrase spells Haman, implying that if you hear his name, you should follow it with “a beating.”

* * *

“And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his sycophants what had happened to him, and his wise men and Zeresh his wife said to him…” (Esther 6:13)

The Sar Shalom of Belz asks: Why are they first called “sycophants” and then called “wise men”?

After Haman predicted to them his downfall, they were no longer his sycophants, because their love was conditional on Haman’s position as Viceroy and his high position in the kingdom. After he fell from grace, they no longer had reason to love him and therefore they were called ‘wise men’ …

* * *

“For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish; now had we been sold for slaves and bondswomen, I would have kept silent, for the adversary has no consideration for the king’s loss… And the king arose in his fury from the wine feast” (7:4-6).

The Chida asks two questions (in his “Devorim Achadim“):

A. Why did Esther emphasize to the King that she is beseeching him solely because the Jews were sold to be killed. And if they were sold into slavery she wouldn’t try to abolish the evil decree?

B. Why, when Ahasuerus heard Esther’s words, did he get agitated as if a snake had bitten him: “And the king arose in his fury from the wine feast.” Did Ahasuerus forget that Haman had paid money to destroy the Jews?

The Chida explains that Esther approached the king and told him: “See, my master, us Jews will never perish. We do not get excited from any decree.

Our sages explained on the verse, “You will be sold into slavery to your enemies but there will be no buyer” (Deuteronomy 28:68). The punishment that was imposed on anyone who will try to sell the Jews to slavery or killing is that: If you will be sold for slavery, then “there will be no buyer” — i.e. the buyer will die. But if we will be sold for killing, G-d forbid killing, then “there will be no seller” — i.e. the seller will die. (There is no such explanation in the sources, this was just a tongue in cheek answer …).

Therefore, Esther continued, “If we were sold into slavery – I would have kept quiet”, because Haman, the buyer, will die. It would be good for the king, good for me and good for the Jews.

“But that villain asked you to sell the Jews for killing, and his intention is that the seller —  you, Ahasuerus — will die. This adversary has no consideration for the loss of the king!”

Ahasuerus had already seen that morning Haman’s ambition to wear the royal garments and the royal horse. Now his anger burned in him and he gave the order to hang Haman without delay.

* * *

“A Jewish man was in Shushan” (2:5)

R. Jonathan Eibeshitz would say: Come and see the greatness of Mordecai the Jew. He was a Jew not only in the study hall and his home, but also in Shushan the capital. In the place where all the world leaders and the tycoons consorted, he took pride in being a Jew.

* * *

“And all the king’s servants at the king’s gate would kneel and bow down to Haman, for so had the king ordered. Mordecai would not kneel nor bow for he told them that he was a Jew” (3:4)

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev explained on this: the king’s servants knelt and bowed down to Haman because of the king’s decree, but the King had also ordered Mordecai not to kneel nor bow to Haman – because he also was a distinguished minister. But when Mordechai was asked why he wasn’t bowing down, he answered it was because he was Jewish.

* * *

“Midrash Talpiot” (authored by Rabbi Eliyahu Hacohen of Izmir) brings a beautiful Midrash on the lot cast by Haman.

When Haman wanted to cast lots, he took three dice and threw them on the table. They showed 1,3,3 – which in gematriya (the numerical value of Hebrew letters) spells Agag. If the top of the dice showed Agag, then the bottoms of the dice showed 6,4,4 — which in gematriya spells David.

Haman was thrilled — “If Agag is up and David is down, it’s a sign I will defeat the Jews.”

“But,” says Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, the Ben Ish Chai, “He forgot one thing. It says about Purim ‘and it was reversed’. Therefore David was on top, and Agag was at the bottom, so therefore ‘the Jews overcame their enemies’.”

* * *

When Queen Esther wanted to go to Ahasuerus and tell him about Haman’s deeds, she asked the Jews, “fast for me three days, do not eat and drink.” How did Esther know that they had to fast to kill the Haman?

The Da’at Zekenim Baalei Tosfot explained: The Torah states: “And He afflicted you (=fast) and made you hungry, and He fed you Haman [the manna].” (Deut. 3:8) First one has to fast and then you can overcome Haman.

The Da’at Zekenim also asked: where is it alluded to in the Torah that Haman was hanged on 16 Nissan? It says: “Haman [the manna] stopped the day after Passover” (Joshua 5:12) — i.e. Haman was killed the day after the first day of Passover …

 

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