Thursday, March 5, 2009

Toras Purim 5769

Toras Purim and the rest of the
Jewish Calendar 5769
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
Bimei neuray ushetusai, uvimos shikrusai viholilusai, ad shetomru bisifsoseichem dai, viaz ani aaneh eschem kigmulaschem hatovah alai, sheain ritzoni ela lichtov machshevosai, vilo machshevosai machshivoseichem, vihaikar lihashiv machasheves Haman Ben Hamdasa HaAgagi, ubazeh heicheili lichtov es kol tokef Haman bichol yimos hashanah:

Here we are again, ready to celebrate Purim 5769, and in the midst of what everyone refers to as an economic crisis. Well, I think most people would agree that Haman’s decree was a lot worse than an economic crisis, but since Chazal have deemed an ani to be likened to a dead person, let us address this crisis head on and see what the result is. For starters, if a poor person is deemed to be dead, he can’t be worse than someone who becomes intoxicated on Purim, as the Seder HaYom writes that the ultimate goal of becoming intoxicated is to land up on the ground. The reason for this, writes the Seder HaYom, is because Haman sought to spill our blood to the ground, so we attempt to emulate this by allowing ourselves to end up on the ground.

Now, one must still wonder why it is important that someone be on the floor on Purim, especially when Purim is such an exalted day. It is noteworthy that the Gemara cites the verse that states (Tehillim 124:2) lulei HaShem shehayah lanu bikum aleinu adam, had not HaShem been with us when men rose up against us, and the Gemara (Megillah 11a) states, adam vilo melech, a man and not a king, and this refers to Haman. The Gemara is telling us that we are fortunate that a man arose against the Jewish People and not a king. Why is Haman referred to as an adam? Perhaps he is thus called because the word adam is associated with the word adamah, land. The Gemara (Chulin 139b) states hamin min HaTorah minayin, where do we find an allusion to Haman in the Torah? The Gemara answers that it is said (Bereishis 3:11) hamin haeitz asher tzivischo livilti achal mimenu achalta, have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat. The word hamin contain the same letters as the word Haman. Yet, we know that the Gemara is not merely attempting to find the letters Haman in the Torah. Rather, the context of the verse also alludes to Haman. How is the story of Haman alluded to in this verse?

The answer to this question is that the Gemara (Sanhedrin 56b) derives from a verse the seven Noahide laws. It is said (Ibid 2:16) vayitzav HaShem Elokim al haadam leimor mikol eitz hagan achol tocheil, and HaShem commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.” The Gemara states that according to one opinion the word vayitzav alludes to idolatry. The conclusion of the Gemara (Megillah 12a) is that the reason the Jewish People were sentenced to death by Haman was because they had bowed down to the idol of Nevuchadnezzar. When HaShem questioned Adam regarding eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, He asked Adam, hamin haeitz asher tzivisicho and the word tzivischo alludes to idolatry. The next segment of the verse is livilti achal mimenu achalta, which alludes to the supposition of the Gemara that the Jewish people were sentenced to death for eating at the feast of Achashveirosh.

Now we can understand why the Gemara in Chulin chose this verse to allude to Haman, as this verse alludes to the causes for the sentencing of the Jewish People to death by Haman. Additionally, it is said hamin haeitz, and Haman was hung on a tree. One must realize that even the word hamin is associated with Haman. This is because we find another allusion to Haman in the Torah, and this is with regard to the manna that the Jewish People received in the Wilderness. It is said (Yehoshua 5:12) vayishbos haman mimacharas, the manna was depleted the following day, which is literally translated to mean that the manna ceased to fall the next day. The Sefarim write that these words can be interpreted homiletically (whatever that means) as Haman ceased, i.e. died on the next day, which was the second day of Pesach. Thus, we see a direct connection between the manna and Haman.

Furthermore, regarding the manna it is said (Shemos 16:5) viheichinu es asher yaviu, when they prepare what they bring, and regarding Haman it is said (Esther 7:10) vayislu es Haman al haeitz asher heichin liMordechai¸ so they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordechai. Additionally, regarding the manna it is said (Shemos Ibid) vihayah mishneh al asher yilkitu yom yom, it will be double what they pick every day, and we can assume from what it is said regarding Mordechai (Esther 10:3) that Haman was also a mishneh limelech, viceroy to the king. Most significant, though, is the fact that the manna fell from heaven to the ground, and Haman started his career in a very high position and ended up pretty low to the ground.

Now this leads us to a more difficult question, and that is, why did Haman deserve to be hung? After all, if we want to obliterate the memory of Amalek as the Torah commands us, Haman and his sons should have been swallowed up by the earth as had occurred to Korach and his sons (lihavdil). The Sfas Emes actually poses this question in a different manner. The Sfas Emes wonders why the Torah commands us to obliterate the memory of Amalek, when Amalek is not deserving of a memory. Perhaps the answer to these questions is based on a famous Rambam (Hilchos Chametz Umatzah 7:1) who writes that we are commanded to remember the day of the exodus from Egypt as it is said (Shemos 13:3) zachor es hayom hazeh asher yitzasem miMitzrayim mibeis avadim, remember this day on which you departed from Egypt, from the house of bondage. Similarly, writes the Rambam, it is said (Shemos 20:8) zachor es yom haShabbos likadisho, remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it.

Much ink has been spilled to explain why the Rambam associates the mitzvah of remembering the Exodus with the mitzvah of remembering the Shabbos. Since Haman’s blood was already spilled, we will leave this discussion for a different venue. However, a cursory explanation for the Rambam would be that Haman was hung On Pesach, and it is said (Yehoshua 5:12) vayishbos haman mimacharas, the manna was depleted the following day, and we mentioned that this is interpreted to mean that Haman ceases to exist on the second day of Pesach, and the word vayishbos alludes to Shabbos. Now we see that Amalek, Shabbos and Pesach are all connected, but what does that have to do with Haman being hung above the ground and with remembering the memory of Amalek while simultaneously attempting to obliterate them?

The answer to these questions is that we have to understand why we are instructed to remember anything. The Sfas Emes writes that Amalek caused the sin of the Golden Calf. You may wonder how this was so, especially if Amalek fought the Jewish People in the month of Iyar and the Jewish People received the Torah in the month of Sivan. The answer is that Amalek caused the Jewish People to forget their Torah learning. The Gemara (Eiruvin 54a) states that had the Jewish People not worshipped the Golden Calf, they never would have forgotten their Torah studies. Thus, Amalek, who sought to cause the Jewish People to forget about HaShem’s Providence in the world, ultimately caused the sin of the Golden Calf. One has to remember (pun intended) that although the gentiles and wicked people attempt to cause us to sin, we are ultimately responsible for our actions (perhaps not when we are intoxicated but we will discuss that a different time). Thus, Amalek was the catalyst for causing us to forget our Torah studies and it is for this reason that we are instructed to remember Amalek. Hence, the antidote for Amalek’s invasion is to remember. We are not so much focused on remembering Amalek as we are on remembering that he caused us to forget. That is why the Torah commences the instruction with the words (Devarim 25:17) zachor es asher asah lecho Amalek, remember what Amalek did to you. The Torah finishes with the words (Ibid verse 19) lo sishkach, you shall not forget. Is it not obvious that if you just remember than you should not forget? The Sifri (Ibid) understands this to be a positive commandment and a negative commandment. In explanation of the simple meaning of the verse, however, we can suggest that the Torah is teaching us to remember Amalek because it was Amalek who caused us to forget. Now after reading this, do you remember how we began this discussion?

Ok, so Haman is a big player in the Megillah. Would you believe that Haman shows up just about everywhere in the Jewish calendar? Purim we know he is in the mix, but where is he, say, on Rosh HaShanah? And how about Tisha Baav? Can Haman really be everywhere at once? Let us examine some verses in Tanach and we will see how they connect to Haman. It is said (Nechemiah 8:10-11) vayomer lahem lichu ichlu mashmanim ushisu mamsakim vishilchu manos liein nachon lo ki kadosh hayom laadoneinu vial teiatzeivu, he said to them, “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet beverages, and send portions to those who have nothing prepared, for today is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad; the enjoyment of HaShem is our strength!”

Immediately we focus on the idea of sending manos, which is parallel to the mitzvah that we perform on Purim of sending mishloach manos, gifts of food to friends. The first thing we see in this verse is the idea of eating rich foods and drinking sweet beverages, which is definitely reminiscent of Purim. Now, we said that we will demonstrate how this verse connects to Haman. There are two words in this verse that are associated with Haman. Did you figure them out yet? They are the words manos, which is very similar to Haman, and the word nachon, prepared. Is it not amazing that Haman was also called Memuchan, which means prepared? The only difference between the word nachon here and Memuchan is that here people were not prepared and it was no fault of their own, whereas Haman was prepared to make trouble, fully aware of what he was doing. Once we are on the subject of Memuchan, it is worth noting that the word Memuchan (156) is equal in gematria to the word haeitz, the tree (155). Yes, Haman was actually prepared for the tree. If you are wondering why the gematria is off by 1, let us suffice with the idea that Haman’s head was cut off (See Tosfos Bava Basra 100b s.v. vihakuchin) so that would account for the missing 1. So that is the connection between Haman and Rosh Hashanah, as this incident in the Book of Nechemiah occurred on Rosh Hashanah.

Regarding Yom Kippur, it is well known that the Arizal stated that Yom Kippurim is Yom Ki-Purim, a day like Purim, i.e. Purim is a greater day than Yom Kippur. How, though, does Yom Kippur relate to Haman? In a simple sense we can suggest that the Satan is eliminated on Yom Kippur and Amalek and the Satan are one and the same. On a deeper level, however, we know that on Yom Kippur, two goats were chosen as sacrifices in the Bais HaMikdash. One goat that was chosen by lottery (see the connection to Haman and Purim already?) was brought as a sacrifice, and the other goat that was chosen was sent off the cliff. So let us take a look in the Megillah and see how this idea was manifest. Achashveirosh asks his servants who is in the courtyard and they announce the arrival of Haman. Upon asking Haman what should be done for the man whom the king desires to honor, Haman responds that he should have them bring royal attire that the king has worn, a horse upon which the king has ridden, one with a royal crown placed on his head. Then let the attire and the horse be given to one of the king’s most noble officers and let them dress the man whom the king desires to honor, and have him ride on the horse through the city square, and let them proclaim before him, ‘this is what shall be done for the man whom the king desires to honor.’ Achashveirosh then instructs Haman to carry out as Haman had said of Mordechai the Jew. Hama is forced to parade Mordechai throughout the city square proclaiming, ‘this is what shall be done for the man who the king desires to honor.’ Mordechai then returns to the king’s gate, but Haman hurried home, despondent and with his head covered. We see that Mordechai is likened to the goat that is chosen for HaShem, and Haman is like the goat that is sent off the cliff. Admittedly, even the goat that is sent off the cliff is serving HaShem, so we can safely assume that Haman also functioned as a vehicle in serving HaShem, albeit without his knowledge.

Moving on to Sukkos, it is interesting to note that Sukkos means a covering and the name Haman equals in gematria the word yichaseh, he will be covered (91). We find that Haman is covered with garbage by his daughter, and after he is killed his face is covered. Thus, Haman definitely connects to Sukkos. Just as an aside, the Bieir Heietev (Orach Chaim 669:2) cites the Maadanei Yom Tov who writes that he found a manuscript from Rabbeinu Bachye who writes that one should protest against those who throw fruits to the children (apparently on Simchas Torah) but there is a Medrash that states that Haman told Achashveirosh that this was one of the customs of the Jews. Thus, this is an accepted custom amongst the Jewish People, (he ends off that perhaps Rabbeinu Bachye saw in his time that they were engaging in frivolity and that is why he protested this custom).

Regarding Chanukah, the Gemara (Shabbos 21b) states that Shammai is of the opinion that we light the Chanukah candles starting the first night with eight candles and then we descend in order every night. One reason for this ruling is that the parei hachag, the bulls sacrificed on Sukkos, also were brought in descending order. It is noteworthy that the word parei is very similar to the word Purim but what is even more interesting is that 70 bulls were sacrificed on Sukkos. The Gemara (Eiruvin 65a) states that nichnas yayin yatza sod, wine enters and the secret exits. The words yayin and sod both equal 70 in gematria, and there is a mitzvah to drink wine on Purim. Furthermore, according to one opinion in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 70a) the tree that Adam and Chava ate from was a vine, and thus we see a connection between Haman and the tree, regarding which it is said (Bereishis 3:11) hamin haeitz.

Moving on to Tu Bishvat, the association between Haman and Tu Bishvat is so obvious, as Tu Bishvat is the holiday of the trees, and Haman was hung on a tree. Furthermore, the Binei Yissachar writes that one should pray on Tu Bishvat that he should merit owning a nice Esrog on Sukkos, and according to one opinion in the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 15:7) the tree that Adam and Chava ate from was an Esrog tree.

The next holiday is Purim and we all know the connection between Haman and Purim, especially considering that it is thanks to Haman that we celebrate the holiday of Purim.

We have already mentioned that Haman was hung on Pesach, but there is more to the connection of Haman and Pesach. On Pesach we drink four cups of wine, and it was through the feasts that Esther hosted for Achashveirosh and Haman where she served wine that the miracle of Purim occurred. Additionally, the Gemara (Megillah 13b) states that Haman, in his complaints to Achashveirosh about the Jewish people, said that the Jews always say shin hey yud and pey hey yud, which Rashi explains to mean that Haman was saying that the Jews are always saying Shabbos hayom, Pesach hayom, it is Shabbos today and Pesach today. The Pinei Menachem explains that Haman was intimating that the Jews are always preparing for Shabbos and Pesach, so Haman specifically chose these two times of the year. We can suggest that Haman was also alluding to his own downfall, which would occur on Pesach, which is referred to in the Torah as Shabbos.

As an aside, we mentioned earlier that Haman’s demise is alluded to in the words vayishbos haman mimacharas. The word mimacharas (please do not try this elsewhere in Tanach) when the letters are rearranged, can read meis machar, dead tomorrow. What does that have to do with Haman? The answer to this question is that we find that Amalek is alluded to in the word machar, tomorrow. It is said (Shemos 17:9) vitzei hilacheim baAmalek machar, and go do battle with Amalek; tomorrow.... It is also said (Esther 5:8) yavo hamelech vihaman el hamishteh asher eeseh lahem umachar eeseh kidvar hamelech, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and tomorrow I shall fulfill the king’s word. It is also said (Ibid 9:13) yinasein gam machar layehduim asher biShushan, let tomorrow also be given to the Jews who are in Shushan. Thus, we see that the destruction of Amalek is referred to as machar, tomorrow. It is for this reason that the word mimacharas, spelled out machar meis, alludes to the death of Haman.

Shavuos and Haman are uniquely connected, as the Gemara (Shabbos 88a) states that at Sinai, HaShem raised the mountain above the heads of the Jewish People like a beer vat, and declared, “accept the Torah or you will be buried here.” One must wonder why HaShem had to lift the mountain over their heads. Was it not sufficient to inform the Jewish People that they must accept the Torah or they would die? One answer to this question is that Mount Sinai symbolized humility, and HaShem was hinting to the Jewish People that one who humbles himself can easily accept the Torah, whereas one who is arrogant will find it difficult to accept the Torah. It is noteworthy that it was Haman’s arrogance that ultimately caused his demise. It is also noteworthy that HaShem held the mountain over their heads like a beer vat. The Gemara states that this coercion would allow the Jewish People to say that they accepted the Torah under duress and that they were not really responsible for their actions. Nonetheless, after the miracle of Purim they accepted the Torah out of love. The catalyst in their accepting the Torah was Haman, who, according to the Gemara (Megillah 14a) was able to effect the repentance of the Jewish People, something which forty-eight prophets and seven prophetesses could not effect for the Jewish People. Additionally, Haman was the catalyst for the mitzvah of drinking on Purim, and although the mitzvah is best performed with wine, beer is definitely from the same family of alcohol.

That pretty much sums up the year. We will not discuss the fast days that we have because Haman already caused us enough grief. All that is left is the gematriyos and remazim that can be found in the Megillah and elsewhere.

Here is an interesting one. The name Agag in at bash is taf reish reish, which spells out the word terror. (Hey, I tried).
It is said (Tehillim 33:10) HaShem heifir atzas goyim heini machshavos amim, HaShem annuls the counsel of nations, and He thwarts the designs of peoples. This verse alludes to Purim, as the word heifer has similar letters to the word Purim (pey and reish). Furthermore, the word atzas alludes to Haman being hung on a tree (eitz). The word heini alludes to the words we recite following the reading of the Megillah asher heini atzas goyim, Who balked the counsel of the nations. There we also recite the words vayafer machshavos arumim, and annulled the designs of the cunning (remember that the Primordial Snake was referred to as arum, cunning?), and the word vayafer also contains the letters of Pur.
Here is a great story I picked up online: (And reprinted with permission, of course, so all you attorneys keep quiet for once).

Chapter 3, verse 7: “Miyom liyom umeichodesh lichodesh” – From day to day and from month to month – The story is told of the Avnei Neizer’s being in Cracow right at the beginning of the month of Adar. Among the people who came to see him was the Cracow town drunk, and in an inebriated state to boot. The Avnei Neizer asked him why he jumped the gun and started his “bisumei” two weeks ahead of schedule. He responded that he not only began in earnest from Rosh Chodesh, but also extended his “hidur mitzvah” until the end of the month. He justified himself by asking the following: “Why did Haman decide upon having only one day set aside for chas vishalom slaughtering the bnei Yisroel? Surely some of them would hide and be saved. If the edict would be for a week or a month he could more realistically actualize his goal. It must be that Haman feared that things might turn against him, as indeed happened. If this were to happen the bnei Yisroel would in kind make the whole month be a festival. This made Haman see red! He would rather limit his diabolical plans to one day of slaughter so that if it wouldn’t work out the bnei Yisroel would have but one day of rejoicing. In theory he would really have preferred to have the slaughter last the complete month of Adar. Am I then to limit my drinking to but one day on Adar because Haman could not ‘fargeen,’ have the generosity, to have the bnei Yisroel celebrate a whole month?” The Avnei Neizer lauded this explanation and told it over in the name of the Cracow “shikur” to many people. Perhaps this explains why “day to day” is mentioned before “month to month,” as Haman first decided that the slaughter last but one day. As well, there is a theme of Adar being a month of redemption in this Purim story, as per the verse, “Vihachodesh asher nehpach lahem” (9:22). [Reprinted with permission from the Shema Yisrael Torah Network. For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisroel classes, send email to]
There is much more to say but to paraphrase the Megillah, halo heim kesuvim al sifrei divrei hayamim, they are already recorded in the book of chronicles. For those interested in more insights to Purim and the Megillah, please refer to the Megillah and the rest of the Torah. As the Mishna states (Avos 5:26) hafach bah vahafach bah dicholah bah, delve in it [the Torah] and continue to delve in it [the Torah ] for everything is in it. It is no wonder, then, that one of the theme songs of Purim is vinahafoch hu, and it was turned about, as ultimately, Purim was the reacceptance of the Torah. Hashem should allow us to become sober one day and then become intoxicated with the words of Torah and may we see the arrival of Moshiach speedily in our days, in our times and in a gutteh shaah, a mazeldige shaah, and a gutteh voch, a gutteh yohr, and zei git meshugeh, Amen viAmen, ken yehi ratzon, vinomar amen. Play Ball!
Oh, and one last thing: this Toras Puirm was sponsored in memory (Sorry, I was getting carried away with remembering Amalek again) I mean in honor of the birthday of the Adam HaChashuv, HaAdam Hagadol Baanakim, Gibor Baaretz, Yihyeh Zaro, HaRav Yoni Torgow, Shlita, Amush, Kivodo bimkomo munach, hanach lo, tein lo makom lihisgadeir bo (ok enough of this shprach already) So Mazel Tov, Yoni, on your Heilege twenty-eight birthday, a time of koach (Yes, Koach, strength, last time I checked equals perfectly in gematria 28.) May HaShem give you and your family koach viosher (aval lo kimo sheasah Haman im oshro) and you should be zoche to alleh gutteh berachos and shefa bracha vihatzlacha viharbei nachas mitzetzaecha umikol haam vigam lirabos acheirim and you should merit much intoxication this Purim ad dilo yada bein mizeh uvein mizeh vigam Charvonah zachur latov amen selah lanetzach visikvasam bichol dor vidor omdim aleinu lichaloseinu vaharikosi lachem beracha ad bli dai, Dayeinu now enough said. Zei gezuent, kol tuv.

And Most Important,


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