Dvar Torah for Purim


Some comments about last week's dvar Torah:

Some found it hard to accept that 'there is any group of people who are the Ôsworn enemies of God.'Ó Some were disturbed by the 'identificationÓ problem– is every enemy of the Jews Amalek and deserving of death? Finally, some people were perturbed by the fact that Amalekites, whoever they may be, have no tikun and are deserving of death.

On the first point, I did refer to Exodus 17:16. '...The Hand [of God] is on God's throne [to take an oath]. God will be at war with Amalek for all generations.Ó

The identification problem is a problem. Not everyone has a prophet like Shmuel at hand to tell him who is and who isn't an Amalekite. I was not advocating that any of us establish himself as an authority to make this decision. Less than .0001% of mankind has this ability.

On Shabbat I spoke to Rabbi Yehoshua Starrett who wrote the commentary for Esther: A Breslov Commentary on the Megillah (Breslov Research Institute, 1992) about the third point. It was raised by the following question:

Why is it that the demise of the Egyptians drowned at the Reed Sea is reason enough for us to not say the full Hallel after the first day of Pesach (Orach Chaim 490:4), but the death of 75,000 Amalekites (Esther 9:16) does not inhibit our celebration of the Purim miracle in any way?!

In brief, iz nisht azoi pashut (it's not so simple/clear). On the one hand we have a number of statements from our Sages which lead us to the conclusion that Amalekites are not ipso facto incorrigible (see below). On the other hand, we have a number of statements that lead us to the conclusion that they are incorrigible (Yalkut Shimoni, 2 Samuel 1; Tanchuma, Ki Teitzei 11; Peskita d'Rav Kahana 12). See also Rashi on Isaiah 44:4. Tzarikh iyun - it needs further study.

Here are some excerpts from the Breslov Research Esther (p. 91) relevant to last week's dvar Torah:


  • Why did Mordekhai HaYehudi (the Jew) want Haman to be his slave? He wanted him to convert and have a Jewish soul (Yaarot Dvash I, 17)...
  • Had Haman really wanted to, he could have become a pious Jew, a great tzaddik (Netiv Mitzvotekha II, 5:3). But Haman couldn't free himself of his Amalek nature. He 'couldn'tÓ because he didn't really want to...
  • Still Mordekhai's efforts were not in vain and Haman's brush with Judaism had some positive effects. Stripped of power, money and prestige Haman's descendants returned to God through the Doors of Repentance opened by Mordekhai. In fact, some of Haman's offspring learn Torah in Bnei Brak (Gitin 57b). Haman's hanging (Esther 7:10) extracted a spark of Jewishness that was buried in Haman's soul (Tiferet Shlomo, Purim 86c).

Let's consider one aspect of what Haman attempted and why it gives us cause to celebrate.

In order to determine when it would be best to annihilate the Jews, Haman had lots cast (Esther 3:7). That lottery was meant to counter the lottery that took place in the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple). Every Yom Kippur two perfectly identical goats were brought before the kohein gadol (High Priest). Lots would be cast. One would be chosen 'for GodÓ and offered on the Altar. The other would be chosen 'for AzazelÓ and sent outside Jerusalem to be pushed off a cliff. (See Leviticus 16:7ø9.)

On Purim we are enjoined to attain a level of drunken enlightenment so great that our Sages called it, 'ad d'lo yada bein Ôarur Haman' l'–Ôbarukh Mordekhai'Ó (he does not know the difference between ÔHaman is accursed' and ÔMordekhai is blessed'). In the highest roots of Creation there is no difference. Only at a later stage, when the concept of good and evil was created, did God assign the 'MordekhaisÓ and 'HamansÓ to their respective places. Haman wanted to subvert the Divine decision and have Amalek assume the mantle of chosen people.

Why God has assigned some to play the role of 'JewÓ and others to play the role of 'AmalekÓ in the unfolding of history is something that we can never comprehend. It is only something that we, as Jews, can celebrate. As we imagine our mortal enemies being executed, it is not only their removal from the stage of history nor the end of their preventing us and the rest of mankind from perceiving and worshiping God as He desires, that brings us cheer. It is the realization that: 'There, but for the grace of God, go I.Ó

Again, a freilekhen (mirthful) Purim. Please remember–it's a mitzvah to drink and get drunk on Purim day, but there's no mitzvah to drive, even if only slightly inebriated. Sleep it off or leave the driving to someone else. Thank you. Have an easy and meaningful fast.