Thursday, March 20, 2008

Toras Purim 5768

Toras Purim

(This can be confused at times with Purim Torah)

Introduction in lieu of a prelude

Well, once again we face the daunting task of writing Toras Purim, the only authentic Divrei Torah on Purim. How can this be, you wonder? Is all the Divrei Torah that we read regarding Purim not genuine? To answer that question, we have to explore the concept of copyright. We all know that when someone puts something into print, that automatically renders the work copyright. So, how can anyone then ever write anything unless….. he creates it himself? That, then, is the resolution to understanding why this work is the only authentic Divrei Torah on Purim. The following Divrei Torah have been created yesh meayin, i.e. ex nihilo, and for those who don’t know Latin, it means something from nothing. Yet, please do not view this as a negative, as even what we call “nothing” is referred to by the Kabbalists as something. It is said (Iyov 28:12) vihachachma meayin timatzei, [but as for] wisdom, where can it be found? The word meayin is defined as a place high up, and alludes to the idea that one can only acquire wisdom if he negates himself. Thus, although the Divrei Torah contained within this publication are truly original, they are hopefully derived from an attempt by the author to negate himself before HaShem, the Master of the world. Without further ado, let us embark on an odyssey of Toras Purim, where we will explore various hints and insights into the Purim miracle and the words of our Holy Sages.

The Gemara (Megillah 2b) states that we derive from a gezeirah shavah of the words perazi perazi that cities that have a wall from the time of Yehoshua ben Nun read the Megillah on the fifteenth of Adar. It is noteworthy that Haman’s opening complaint regarding the Jewish People was (Esther 3:8) yehsno am echod mifuzar umiforad bein haamim, there is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples. The word mifuzar and perazi are similar, as they both contain the letters pay, zayin and reish. Thus, to demonstrate to Haman and his cohorts their mistake, we specifically derive from the word perazi that we are all united in our celebration of Haman’s downfall. (The Yerushalmi states that the reason why cities in Eretz Yisroel read on a different day is to pay respect to Eretz Yisroel).

It is said regarding the continuous battle against Amalek (Shemos 17:16) vayomer ki yad al keis kah milchama laHaShem baAmalek midor dor, and he said, “for the hand is on the throne of G-d: HaShem maintains a war against Amalek, from generation to generation. We know that Haman is a direct descendant of Amalek (check out his family “tree”). The Medrash (Tanchumah end of Ki Seitzei) states that the words keis kah refer to HaShem’s Throne and Name, and His Throne and Name are not complete until Amalek is eradicated. It is noteworthy that the words keis kah equal 95, and the word Haman also equals 95. One still must wonder why Haman was awarded an allusion with even the half of HaShem’s Name, but that may have something to do with his descendants who studied Torah in Binei Brak (See Gemara Gittin 57b).

It is said regarding the battle that King Shaul wages against Amalek (Shmuel I 15:6) vayomer Shaul el haKeini lichu suru ridu mitoch Amaleiki pen osifcha imo viatah asisa chesed im kol binei yisroel baalosam mimitzrayim vayasar Keini mitoch Amalek, Shaul said to the Kenite, “Go, withdraw, descend from among the Amalekite, lest I destroy you with them; for you acted kindly to all the Children of Israel when they went up from Egypt.” So the Kenite withdrew from among Amalek. It is noteworthy that the word that Shaul used for destroying Amalek was osifcha. The Gemara (Chullin 27b) states that fish are deemed to be slaughtered with asifah, gathering them in. Perhaps Shaul was alluding to the idea that in the future Haman would plot to destroy the Jewish People in the month of Adar, whose mazal is dagim, fish. Thus, Shaul was intimating to the Kenite that akin to the slaughtering of a fish, he would destroy Amalek whose descendant would attempt to destroy the Jewish People in the month of Adar. Reb Tzadok HaKohen from Lublin writes (Resisei Laylah §58) that the month of Adar is a propitious time to bear children. Subsequently, Reb Tzadok writes, when the Jewish People are on the rise, Amalek is on the decline, so it follows that the month of Adar is the time that is conducive for the destruction of Amalek.

It is said regarding the first battle against Amalek (Shemos 17:9) vayomer Moshe el Yehoshua bechar lanu anashim vitzei hilcahem baAmalek machar onochi nitzav al rosh hagivah umateh haElokim biyadi, Moshe said to Yehoshua, “Choose people for us and go do battle with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of G-d in my hand. The Gemara (Yoma 52a-b) states that the word machar is one of five verses in the Torah whose grammatical structure cannot be determined. It is not clear whether the word machar, tomorrow, is a part of the previous clause or the following one. Moshe could have meant that Yehoshua should wage a war against Amalek tomorrow when Moshe would be standing at the top of the hill and praying. Alternatively, Moshe could have meant that Yehoshua should battle today and tomorrow Moshe would stand on top of the hill and pray. One must wonder if there is a deeper meaning in this ambiguity. In the past I have suggested that Moshe was inferring to Yehoshua that although he would be victorious today, the battle against Amalek would continue until the End of Days, as it is said (Shemos 17:16) milchama laHaShem baAmalek midor dor, HaShem maintains a war against Amalek, from generation to generation. Thus, the word machar connotes a tomorrow later on (See Rashi Shemos 13:14). This year I discovered a fascinating insight into the entire battle of Shaul against Amalek. Shmuel instructed Shaul (Shmuel I 15:2) ko amar HaShem tzivakos pakadti es asher asah Amalek liYisroel asher sam lo baderech baaloso mimitzrayim atah leich vihikisa es Amalek vihacharamtem es kol asher lo vilo sachmol alav viheimata meiish viad isha meiolel viad yonek mishor viad seh migamal viad chamor, so said HaShem, Master of Legions: ‘I have remembered what Amalek did to Israel – [the ambush] he emplaced against him on the way, as he went up from Egypt. Now go and strike down Amalek and destroy everything he has. Have no pity on him – kill man and woman alike, infant and suckling alike, ox and sheep alike, camel and donkey alike. Thus, Shmuel explicitly instructed Shaul to destroy everything Amalek had and not to have pity on him. The word for destruction is cherem and the word for pity is racheim. Shaul was to make Amalek cherem, i.e. destroyed, and as the Medrash (Koheles Zuta §7) states, because Shaul had pity on the cruel ones, i.e. Amalek, he ended up showing cruelty on those for whom he should have had compassion, i.e. the Givonim. The word machar contains the letters mem, ches, and reish, and these same letters are contained within the words cherem and racheim. Thus, the Torah is hinting that in the future, Shaul will have to choose between cherem, destruction, and racheim, compassion.

It is also interesting that the word machar, racheim, and cherem also equal the same gematria as Avraham (248). A possible association between Amalek and Avraham is that the Gemara (Bava Basra 91a) states that Avraham and Haman’s mothers had the same name, Amsalai.

King Shaul ignored the instructions that Shmuel gave him regarding the destruction of Amalek. It is said (Shmuel I 15:9) vayachmol Shaul vihaam al Agag vial meitav hatzon vihabakar vihamishnim vial hakarim vial kol hatov vilo avu hacharimam vichol hamelacha nimivzah vinameis osah hecherimu, Shaul, as well as the people, took pity on Agag, on the best of sheep, the cattle, the fatted bulls, the fatted sheep, and on all that was good; and they were not willing to destroy them; but the inferior and wretched livestock, that they did destroy. My good friend Rabbi Nachman Levine pointed out to me that there are numerous instances in this chapter where the word tov or a similar word meaning good appears. It is noteworthy that in this verse it is said that Shaul had pity on all that was good. What is all that was good referring to? Perhaps we can suggest that the Gemara (Megillah 14a) states that the removing of the signet ring was greater than all the prophets and prophetesses that arose in Israel. This is because all the prophets’ exhortations could not move the Jewish People to repentance and Achashveirosh proffering his signet ring to Haman for the annihilation of the Jewish People led the Jewish People to their repentance. The expression the Gemara uses is that the removal of the signet ring hecheziram lamutav, brought them back to good. Thus, Shaul had pity on all the good, i.e. by leaving Agag alive, he allowed for Haman to be born who ultimately would be the vehicle for the Jewish People’s repentance.

It is noteworthy that prior to the first time that Amalek attacked the Jewish People, it is said (Shemos 17:2) vayarev haam im Moshe vayomru tinu lanu mayim vinishteh vayomer aleihem Moshe mah tirivun imadi mah tinasun es HaShem, the people contended with Moshe and they said, “give us water that we may drink!” Moshe said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you test HaShem?” The word for contention is riv. Subsequently, it is said (Ibid verse 8) vayavo Amalek vayilachem im Yisroel birfidim, Amalek came and battled Israel in Rephidim. The Medrash (Mechilta Beshalach) states that Amalek came because rafu yideihem baTorah, their hands were weakened in Torah. The word riv and the word raf are similar, in that the veis and the letter pay are interchangeable. It is noteworthy that when Shaul went to battle against Amalek, it is said (Shmuel I 15:5) vayavo Shaul ad ir Amalek vayarev banachal, Shaul came to the city of Amalek, and he fought them in the valley. The Gemara (Yoma 22b) understands the words vayarev banachal to mean that Shaul made a kal vachomer to justify leaving the animals of Amalek alive. This rationale of Shaul was obviously faulty. We can suggest that Shaul’s weak rationale was deemed to be a weakness in Torah, and this explains why the Navi uses the word vayarev, which is similar to raf, a weakening.

The Gemara (Megillah 11a) interprets the chapter in Tehillim 124 to be alluding to Haman and his decree of annihilation upon world Jewry. It is noteworthy that the following allusions can be found in the chapter. It is said (Ibid verse 4) azai hamayim shitafunu nachalah avar al nafsheinu, then the waters would have inundated us; the current would have surged across our soul. The word hamayim, the waters, is in gematria 95, and the word Haman is in gematria 95. Furthermore, it is said (Ibid verse 6) baruch HaShem shelo nisananu teref lishineihem, blessed is HaShem, Who did not present us as prey for their teeth. The word lishineihem forms the words Haman and layish, which means a lion. The Gemara (Megillah 15b) compares Achashveirosh to a lion, so we are declaring our thanks to HaShem for saving us from the “teeth” of Haman and Achashveirosh. Further on (verse 7) it is said nafsheinu kitzipor nimlitah mipach yokshim hapach nishbar vaanachnu nimlatnu, our soul escaped like a bird from the hunter’s snare; the snare broke and we escaped. The word nimlitah, escaped, contains the word Haman and the word lat, which in Aramaic means cursed. Thus, by escaping Haman’s evil schemes, we merited salvation and the declaration of arur Haman, cursed is Haman.

Purim maaseh

“Good Purim, Rebbe,” the meek voice said, but was altogether lost between the flint-grey beard and the moth-eaten scarf. The Kozhnitzer Maggid, the great Chassidic leader, looked up from his Purim celebration. “Was that a breeze I felt?” he said. “Did someone open a window?” “Good Purim, Rebbe,” the man said again, scarcely a decibel louder. The Maggid looked over. Standing there in a tattered, oversized coat, a battered black hat, with two pitiful eyes staring out from beneath, stood Pinchas the Shlepper, the Maggid’s most destitute Chassid. He was the town porter and local doormat, people could wipe their feet on him and not even notice. “Good Purim, Pinchas!” the Maggid cried. “Well, did you bring me a mishloach manos, - a Purim package?” Pinchas looked down at his cracking shoes. He did not even have food for his own family, from where would he bring the Maggid a gift? “Pinchas!” the Rebbe shouted. “How long will you remain a Shlepper? It’s Purim today. Vinahaphachu! Everything turns over! Go and stand at the front of the table.” Pinchas moved over obediently. “Now, in your loudest voice,” the Maggid said, “wish me a good Purim.” “Good Purim,” he repeated. Some mice in the corner squeaked in response. “Not like that. Louder, Pinchas!” “Good Purim!” “Louder, Pinchas!” The Rebbe’s Chassidim sitting around the Purim table joined in with words of encouragement. “GOOD PURIM! GOOD PURIM!” After about a half-hour of trying, Pinchas let out a string of really inspired “Good Purims.” The Rebbe’s eyes lit up. “Now, Pinchas. Go out and bring me mishloach manos. And I want you to wish “Good Purim” to every person you meet.” Pinchas strode down the main street of town. “Good Purim,” he called to all the passerby. “GOOD PURIM!” The townspeople were as dumbstruck as bowling pins. “Was that Pinchas the Shlepper?” they all asked one another. Pinchas marched into the shop of the local wine merchant. “Good Purim, Reb Shmuel!” he said. “Give me three bottles of your best wine and I will pay you tomorrow, and if not, well it’s Purim today!” Reb Shmuel was shocked, but he seized the opportunity to perform a mitzvah and ran to the wine shelf, as his bewildered wife looked on. From there, Pinchas went to the bakery. “Good Purim, Reb Meir! Give me five cakes and five loaves of bread and I will pay you tomorrow, and if not, well, it’s Purim today!” Again, he was met with the same enthusiastic response. Pinchas quickly ran back to the Maggid’s home to present him with his mishloach manos - cake and wine. “Good Purim, Rebbe!” he cried, as he ran back out again for his family. The butcher, the tailor, the cobbler - Pinchas wished each one of them a special Good Purim. Several hours later, in their little shack at the edge of town, Pinchas the Shlepper’s family heard several sharp kicks at the front door, which then burst open. Framed in the doorway was a man completely obscured by an armload of packages, except for his shiny new shoes, neatly pressed trousers and the top of a new felt hat -- their father! “GOOD PURIM, CHILDREN!” he shouted. His wife stared at him as if in a dream. Pinchas went over to her. “My dear, I have been a terrible husband and have made your and the children suffer for years. I promise, from now on things will be different. But first, set the table, it’s Purim today!” The table was quickly set - a meal fit for a king. “But children, before we begin . . . .” Pinchas stood them all at the front of the table. “Wish your father a Good Purim.” “Good Purim, Tatte.” “No, not like that. Louder!” “Good Purim, Tatte!” “No, louder!” Across the town, the Kozhnitzer Maggid leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and smiled. “Sha, Sha!” the Chassidim all cried, “the Rebbe sees something. what is it Rebbe? Tell us.” “Right now,” he replied, “Pinchas the Shlepper is teaching his whole family to say Good Purim, and all the angels in heaven are listening with joy. “From that Purim on, Pinchas’ life changed. His new found confidence inspired others, who lent him money and started him in business. After many years, he became quite wealthy, and his home became a refuge for all the troubled and needy people in the area. His life was spent helping others and all who knocked on his door found endless encouragement in his hearty and heartfelt welcome.

A Freilechen Purim tzum allemen, to all and to everyone’s family, mishpucha umishpuchah bichol ir vair, uvichol medinah umedinah, si de Goldeneh Medinah un si de andere Medinos shebemlachus haChesed vihatipshim vihlaitzanim vinizkeh kulanu yachad bimeheira lioro shel Moshiach Tzidkeinu bimeheira viyameinu Amen, kein yehi ratzon, oh yeah, yes sir, absolutely, right now, yetzt, in a gutte shuah bikarov mamesh, mit nachas fun allemen, Bobbes un Zedies, brider un shvester, Lipa and alle Zamranim, Rabbosai mir villen bentchen un shikiren un trinken un trinken mer biz addiloyada bimeheira shkoiach zei gezuent. Un gezuntheit.

The Toras Purim is graciously sponsored this year liluy nishmas Esther Hinda bas Shaul Yitzchak on the occasion of her sheloshim (Mrs. Esther Steinlauf from Chicago) sponsored by her children, grand-children, and great-children.

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