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8 Adar 5762 - February 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Remember Amolek: The Connection To Purim

by Paysach Freedman

Based on an address by Rabbi Zev Leff at Aish HaTorah, 5 Adar 5761

Why were the Jews worthy of destruction at the time of Purim? The gemora offers two possibilities: Either because they had bowed to the avoda zora of Nevuchadnetzer, or because "nehenu miseudas Achashverosh" -- they took pleasure from the party of Achashverosh.

The incident with Nevuchadnetzer occurred many years before the Purim story, in the aftermath of the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdosh. The Jews at the time were a defeated nation. They secretly remained faithful to Hashem. In their hearts, they paid no allegiance to the idol of Nevuchadnetzer. Still, they were now subjects of Nevuchadnetzer and as such they deemed it politically expedient to pay respects to his god.

They were anxious for Nevuchadnetzer to favor them. Had they truly believed that G-d was controlling their destiny, they never would have made this calculation. They certainly would have preferred to be favored by Him!

This led to their second sin some years later. The Jews were certainly not faulted for participating in Achashverosh's party. Attendance was not optional. Even tzadikim such as Mordechai were in attendance. But the Jews went -- and had a good time! They are faulted for nehenu -- for enjoying themselves at that festival of gluttony.

Their enjoyment was particularly galling, since Achashverosh was specifically celebrating the downfall of the Jews! Achashverosh had calculated -- wrongly -- that seventy years had passed without the Beis Hamikdosh being rebuilt, as the novi had said that it would. As a result, Achashverosh donned the garments of the Kohen Godol, took out the vessels of the Beis Hamikdosh, and celebrated the demise of the Jewish People -- and the Jews rejoiced with him!

How could they do this? Only a people with absolutely no self- respect could have done such a thing. In proportion to how much Jews feel that G-d is not controlling the world, they'll feel that the Jewish Nation is unimportant and they will have no self- respect. The Jews are significant only in their destiny of being Hashem's Chosen People. When they rejected this, they fell to the abysmal level of actually celebrating their own downfall.

Because of this, they became vulnerable to the manifestation of Amolek known as Homon. Homon said, "I will show you that there is no Divine Providence and no Divine Protection. I'm the one with the money. I'm the one with the might. And I control the world!"

The Megilla states, "Hippil poor hu hagorol" (3:7). Normally, this verse is translated: "He threw a poor, which is lots." There is uncertainty as to whether poor is a Persian word or a Hebrew word.

If it is a Hebrew word, the final phrase is obviously redundant. Why write poor, and then say that poor is synonymous with gorol? The Megilla could have simply utilized the more common term gorol. It would be more understandable if poor is a Persian word. Then the Megilla is translating the unknown Persian word poor as the Hebrew word gorol. However, this too is problematic, for the Megilla says again in the ninth perek (v. 24) that poor is gorol.

The answer is that it is not a translation. The verse says, "Hippil poor," meaning that Homon threw lots, and then Homon said, "hu hagorol" -- these lots are your destiny.

Homon told the Jews: your destiny is determined solely by blind fate, like this lottery. There is no Divine Protection as you claim. You are not guided by G-d. Your fortunes are controlled by impersonal "natural" forces and whoever has the most money and the most power -- and that is now me, Homon -- is in control of those forces.

Homon's intent was "Lehashmid laharoge uele'abeid" -- to destroy, to slay and to exterminate. This is an excessive use of words. It sounds literally like overkill!

What is the intent of lehashmid? It means more than "to destroy." It comes from the term shmad, to make a person feel that he has been abandoned; to make a person hefker. Homon did not even feel pressured to carry out his plans immediately. He planned to wait nearly a year and for eleven months the Jewish People were to be in a situation of massive despair. The Jews were purposely made to feel that there was absolutely nothing protecting them, and that there was nothing that they could do to save themselves. This was total negation of the Jews. Then, he would kill them, and he would wipe out any memory of the Jewish People.


This brought the Jews to teshuva. The Jews were plunged into "tzom ubechi umispeid' -- fasting, weeping, and hesped, eulogies. Why were there eulogies? No one had died yet.

Once they fasted and cried, they repented. They found Hashem again and they realized that He is always there. Then, they realized that the Jewish People are important. They started saying eulogies -- for themselves! They began to see -- and then to say -- how they are important, how they are G- d's People, and what a shame it would be if they were destroyed.

This is why the holiday is called Purim. Homon said that the entire world is one huge coincidence. He claimed that the fortunes of every nation are merely happenstance. The Jews discovered that there is no such thing as happenstance. The Hebrew word for happenstance is mikreh. The letters of this word can be rearranged to read, "Rak meiHashem" -- only from Hashem.

The outcome of the Purim miracle was "Divrei sholom ve'emes" -- words of peace and truth (9:31). Rabbi Yaakov of Lissa points out that sholom and emes are both names of Hashem.

Emes is the truth that G-d is involved in the world. The Jews learned that no matter what things look like, all affairs are really controlled by Hashem. They learned not to be like the dog that bites the stick that hits it, failing to realize that someone is wielding it. When this emes becomes clear, naturally there is sholom, peace between the Jews, since they have a reason to unite as a nation -- a common destiny.


Hence, the mitzvos of Purim.

We are commanded to read the Megilla. The Megilla demonstrates how G-d is involved in every aspect of "nature." The events of the Megilla, if viewed on their own, appear as normal occurrences in history. But when considered all together, the confluence of so many happenings is more than uncanny. It is miraculous. It is yad Hashem, the Hand of G- d.

The gemora says that the Megilla scroll needs "Sirtut, ke'amito shel Torah." The Megilloh scroll must have sirtut -- faint lines which are etched into the parchment before the sofer writes the words. The gemora calls these lines amito shel Torah -- like the truth of Torah. Why are they called amito?

Generally, we may think that the events in the Torah happened by chance and that they were written in the Torah in the way that they happened. This is wrong! Before any of these events ever happened, there were already lines. They are almost invisible, but they are there. G-d had a plan for the world and the events aligned themselves in accordance with His plan. The nearly invisible lines on the Torah scroll, and on the Megilla as well, represent Hashem's unseen Hand in everything.

Therefore, the word derech is very significant in the entire Purim story and in the history of Amolek. "Asher korcho baderech" (Devorim 25:17). "Baderech betzeischem miMitzrayim" (v. 18). This is because the Jewish People know that there is a plan for this world. We acknowledge the existence of a derech. Amolek preaches that there is no derech, that everything is chance. We know that there is a Heavenly rhyme and reason for everything.

Another frequently used word is mochor, tomorrow. Moshe told Yehoshua, "We fight Amolek tomorrow" (Shemos 17:9). Esther said, "Let tomorrow be given to the Jews" (9:13). According to Amolek, there is no tomorrow! Every day is just a jumble of happenstance. If the whole world is simply a muddle of accidents, there may in fact be no tomorrow. The accident of any given moment could be the very last one. There is no guaranteed future.

If G-d is guiding the world, there is a plan, there is a derech. When there is derech, there's a future; there is a mochor!

When we understand that G-d is guiding the world and that He is in control of the world, we automatically realize that the Jewish People are important, since we have a relationship with Him. If we are important, we want to promote our existence. That's why we eat: to show that it's significant for us to be alive. So, we have a good meal -- the Purim seudah.

However, not only are we important, but our friends and neighbors are also important, since they are also Jews. Thus, we send M'shloach Monos to family and friends. And even the very poor Jew, the evyon who has nothing, is also important -- for he too is a Jew. And therefore, we also give to him -- but not tzedoko but matonos. He deserves it -- after all, he is a member of G-d's People. He is a descendant of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.


The simcha of Purim is ein simcha kehatoras hasefeikos. The greatest simchah is when one has no doubts. On Purim, the Jewish People saw clearly that G-d is with them. They saw clearly who they are and how much esteem G-d has for them. We relive this every Purim.

This explains the achdus, which comes from Purim. It comes from "Kiyemu vekiblu." The gemora says that the Jews experienced a new Kabolas haTorah. They received the Torah anew.

When the Jewish People received the Torah at Sinai, they did not truly appreciate its importance. But on Purim they recognized how important they are. Only then did they begin to realize how important the Torah is. If we appreciate who we really are, then what we do matters. If so, it is also important to know how to conduct our lives properly.

The gemora says that the miracle of Esther was like the crack of dawn. Why? Just like dawn is the end of the night, so too Esther was the end of the miracles that were written in Tanach. Dawn precedes day. If, following Esther there were no more miracles, it would seem that the situation became worse. So Esther should be compared to dusk, not to dawn.

Rabbi Yonoson Eibshitz answers with a parable. A man is walking through the dark night. He cannot see, but ever so often there is flash of lightning, which illuminates his way. Each time, he can see the terrain coming up in front of him. This continues throughout the night, until dawn. Once dawn arrives, he no longer needs the lightning; he can see clearly.

Throughout Jewish history, before the miracle of Purim, there were always low ebbs in belief in Hashem's control of the world. Every few hundred years, the Jews needed an open miracle to strengthen their knowledge of Hashem's control. They needed miracles to show us that G-d was really there. So every few hundred years, He sent us a reminder. But Purim taught us that Hashem is always here! We learned that even if we cannot see open miracles, He is always present, controlling all that happens. We no longer need flashes in the darkness; we have emerged into broad daylight.


In Shoshanas Yaakov we sing, "Teshu'osom hoyisoh lonetzach" -- You will forever be their salvation. The Hebrew is really in the past tense: hoyisoh actually means "You have been." This means that the salvation of the Jewish People is a given.

Ultimately, we will always be saved; it's guaranteed. But sadly we cannot always see that. There are generations in which the future of the Jews appears far from assured. Still we say, "vesikvosom bechol dor vodor" -- Hashem is the hope of every generation. We will always have hope.

In the worst of situations, we maintain our hope. We always know that there will be a tomorrow, and that His deliverance will arrive. Even though circumstances appear difficult -- or worse -- we know that they are all part of His "Grand Plan."

The corollary is "lehodi'a shekol kovecho lo yeivoshu." All those who have hope in G-d and who trust in G-d and who believe in G-d, will never be shamed. For, if G-d exists we are important since we are close to Him. We possess His Torah, so we have nothing to be ashamed of.

Purim (in regular cities) can fall on Sunday, Thursday or Friday. Sunday is yom Alef; Thursday -- yom Hei; and Friday -- yom Vov. With Amolek present, as it says at the end of parshas Beshalach, Hei and Vov are missing from G-d's Name, which is now only two letters instead of four. The letter Alef is missing from kisei, His Heavenly Throne. Purim puts these letters back into the world.

There is one more day upon which Purim can fall -- Tuesday, yom Gimmel. When the Gimmel is placed in front of the alef, vov, hei, it forms gaavoh -- pride.

That is the ultimate lesson of Purim. We believe that G- d is profoundly involved in the world, and this is our pride. This is what Purim is all about.

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