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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Mordechai’

Yoram Ettinger: Purim Guide for the Perplexed 2012

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

1. Purim’s historical background according to the late historian, Prof. Israel Eldad:

*Xerxes the Great – Achashverosh in Hebrew – succeeded Darius the Great and ruled the Persian Empire during 465-486 BCE, 150 years before the rise of Greek’s Alexander the Great.

*Greece was Persia’s key opponent in its expansion towards the Mediterranean and Europe, hence the alliance between Persia and Carthage, a rival of Greece.

*Greece supported Egypt’s revolt against Persian rule, which was subdued by Persia with the help of the Jewish warriors of Yeb (in Egypt) and Carthage, which had a significant Jewish-Hebrew connection (Hanibal and Barca were a derivative of the Hebrew names, Hananyah and Barak).

*Xerxes was defeated by Greece at the 480 BCE Salamis Battle, but challenged Greece again in 470 BCE.

*According to a Greek translation of the Scroll of Esther, Haman (the Agagi) was a Macedonian by orientation or by birth. Agagi could refer to Agag, the Amalekite King (who intended to annihilate the Jews) or to the Aegean Islands. Haman aspired to annihilate the Jews of Persia and opposed improved relations between Xerxes and the Jews Yeb. He led the pro-Greece and anti-Carthage orientation in Persia. Mordechai was a chief advocate of the pro-Carthage orientation.

2. Purim is celebrated on the 14th/15th days of the Jewish month of Adar.

*Adar (אדר) is the root of the Hebrew adjective Adir (אדיר glorious, awesome, exalted, magnificent). It is, also, a derivative of the Akkadian word Adura (heroism).

*Jewish tradition (Babylonian Talmud) highlights Adar as a month of happiness, singing and dancing.

*The zodiac of Adar is Pisces (fish), which is a symbol of demographic multiplication. Hence, Adar is the only Jewish month, which doubles itself during the 7 leap years, during each 19 year cycle.

*Purim is celebrated on the 14th (in non-walled towns) and on the 15th day of Adar (in Jerusalem), commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish People from the jaws of a holocaust in Persia and the 161 BCE victory of Judah the Maccabee over Nikanor, the Assyrian commander.

*Moses – who delivered the Jewish People from a holocaust in Egypt and whose burial site is unknown – was born, and died (1273 BCE) on the 7th day of Adar, which is Israel’s Memorial Day for soldiers, whose burial site is unknown.

*The events of Purim occurred following the destruction of the 1st Temple by Nebuchadnezzar (586 BCE) and the exile from Zion, during the leadership of Ezra who returned to Jerusalem, and the inauguration of the Second Temple (3rd of Adar, 515 BCE) by Ezra and Nehemiah.

*Nebuchadnezzar died in Adar 561 BCE (Jeremiah 52:31).

*Einstein published the theory of General Relativity in Adar 1916.

3. Purim’s Hebrew root is fate/destiny (פור), as well as “lottery” (to commemorate Haman’s lottery which determined the designated day for the planned annihilation of the Jewish People) “to frustrate”, “to annul”(להפר), “to crumble” and “to shutter” (לפורר), reflecting the demise of Haman.

4. Purim commemorates a Clash of Civilizations between Mordechai the Jew and Haman the Iranian-Amalekite. It constitutes an early edition of the war between Right vs. Wrong, Liberty vs. Tyranny, Justice vs. Evil, Truth vs. Lies, as were/are Adam/Eve vs. the Snake, Abel vs. Cain, Abraham vs. Sodom and Gomorrah, Jacob vs. Esau (grandfather of Amalek), Maccabees vs. Assyrians, Allies vs. Nazis, Western democracies vs. Communist Bloc, and Western democracies vs. Islamic terrorism.

5. Purim is the holiday of contradictions and tenacity-driven-optimism: Grief replaced by joy; Esther’s concealment replaced by the disclosure of her national/religious identity; Haman’s intended genocide of the Jews replaced by redemption; Haman replaced by Mordechai; national and personal pessimism replaced by optimism. A Purim lesson: Life is complex, full of contradictions, ups and downs and difficult dilemmas and worthy of principled-determination.

6. Mordechai, the hero of Purim and one of Ezra’s deputies, was a role model of principle-driven optimism in defiance of colossal odds, in the face of a global power and in spite of the Jewish establishment. He fought Jewish assimilation and urged Jews to return to their Homeland. He was endowed with the bravery of faith-driven individuals, such as Nachshon – who was the first to walk into the Red Sea before it was parted. Mordechai was a politically-incorrect statesman and a retired military leader, who practiced “disproportionate pre-emption” instead of defense, deterrence or retaliation.

*The first three Hebrew letters of Mordechai (מרדכי) spell the Hebrew word Rebellion (מרד), which is consistent with the motto/legacy of the American Founding Fathers: “Rebellion against Tyrants is Obedience to G-D.”

*Mordechai did not bow to Haman, the second most powerful person in the Persian Empire. He was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, the only son of Jacob who did not bow to Esau.

*The name Mordechai is also a derivative of Mordouch, the chief Babylonian god.

*Mordechai was a descendant of King Saul, who defied a clear commandment (to eradicate the Amalekites) and spared the life of Agag, the Amalekite king, thus precipitating further calamities upon the Jewish People. Consequently, Saul lost his royal position and life. Mordechai learned from Saul’s error. He destroyed Haman, a descendant of Agag the Amalekite, and Haman’s entire power base, thus sparing the Jewish People a major disaster.

The Megillah: How-To Manual on Defeating Anti-Semites

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Throughout the entire Scroll of ESTHER, God’s Name does not appear even once. Upon a casual reading, it would seem that Haman, Ahashverosh, Mordechai, and Esther are fully responsible for the events taking place within the narrative. Intrigue, human jealousies, and political machinations all account for the twists and turns within the Megillah as events of great significance to the Jewish Nation unfold.

After completing the story, however, it becomes clear that the juxtaposition of all the coincidences is nothing short of miraculous as God’s Hand becomes visible through the thin veil of history. It is important to note that the events described in ESTHER took place over a period spanning roughly ten years. Ahashverosh’s party took place in 3395, Haman drew the lots in 3404 and Israel won our victory in 3405 (dates according to Seder HaDorot). Living through that period, one would probably not have noticed anything extraordinary taking place as everything was unfolding according to the laws of nature. There was nothing especially supernatural about the process that we retroactively understand as having been miraculous.

Our Sages teach in the Jerusalem Talmud (Brachot 1:1) that we must look at the Purim story as a model to understand the final Redemption process. Through the epic story of mankind, HaShem weaves the Redemption of Israel. When making the effort to closely examine our own times, we can see God orchestrating the historic events – large and small – that have brought Israel back to our borders and are bringing the world ever closer to perfection.

We celebrate Purim today with great joy because we are familiar with the story’s victorious ending. The Hebrews of ancient Persia, however, had clearly found themselves in a very frightening situation. Persia’s Jews were faced with the threat of complete annihilation. And Mordechai – who Israel today praises as a national hero – may have been much less appreciated in his own generation. A superficial reading of ESTHER can even lead one to attribute Mordechai blame for placing his people in such a terrifying position.

“All the king’s servants at the king’s gate would bow down and prostrate themselves before Haman, for so had the king commanded concerning him. But Mordechai would not bow and would not prostrate himself.” (ESTHER 3:2)

The rabbinic leadership of Shushan at the time strongly condemned Mordechai’s refusal to bow before Haman. Comfortable with life outside of their homeland, they feared Mordechai might provoke Persian Jew-hatred and spoil their enjoyable Diaspora existence. But according to our commentators, Haman either engraved the image of an idol on his robes (Ibn Ezra) or attributed to himself the powers of a deity (Rashi). Because it is well known that the Torah commands one to die rather than bow before a false god, the condemnation of Mordechai seems somewhat unjustified.

The Maharal of Prague clarifies the rabbinic position in Ohr Hadash by explaining that Mordechai went out of his way to appear before Haman in order to purposefully demonstrate that he would not bow, thus creating an otherwise avoidable confrontation. The Sages record how the Jews of Persia reacted.

“They said to Mordechai, `Know that you are putting us at the mercy of that evil man’s sword!’” (Agadat Esther 3:2; Megillah 12:2, commentary of the Radvaz)

“So the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordechai, `Why do you disobey the king’s command?’ Finally, when they said this to him day after day and he did not heed them, they told Haman, to see whether Mordechai’s words would avail; for he had told them that he was a Jew.” (ESTHER 3:3-4)

A close reading of the Megillah reveals that Mordechai’s refusal to bow before Haman was not an isolated incident. Rather, he had gone out of his way several times in order to walk near the minister and publicly antagonize him. Because Mordechai could have easily avoided the situation but instead engaged in actions that were deliberately confrontational, Shushan’s Jewish leaders seem justified in their condemnation.

Even when Mordechai saw that “Haman was filled with wrath” (ESTHER 3:5), he continued to intentionally provoke the viceroy. Based on his actions and the Talmud’s teaching (Pesachim 64b) that a person is forbidden from relying on miracles, one could easily argue that Mordechai behaved irresponsibly with the lives of his people. The Maharal, however, defends Mordechai (in Ohr Hadsash), asserting that challenging Israel’s enemies ultimately leads to the sanctification of God’s Name.

The Midrash recounts that Mordechai explained to Haman that the reason he would not bow was that he was born of kings from the tribe of Binyamin. Haman countered, “But Yaakov, Binyamin’s father, bowed before Esav, my ancestor.” Mordechai answered him in turn, “Yes, but that was before Binyamin was born. He was born in Eretz Yisrael, and his soul, therefore, was an elevated soul. He would not bow down before others.” (Esther Rabbah 7:9)

Inside Purim: Even More Fascinating And Intriguing Insights On Purim And The Megillah

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Click for more Inside Purim.

Ever wonder?

Why is Purim not celebrated on the 13th of Adar when the Jewish people were victorious over their enemies, but instead on the 14th of Adar when they rested? Jews do not rejoice at another’s demise, even if that person is a rasha or an enemy. Instead, we celebrate our salvation and our being uplifted. Based on this idea, our simchas Purim is not about the revenge against Haman and his cronies, but rather about our survival against all odds. As such, Purim was established on the 14th, the day we rested from fighting and realized our salvation, not on the 13th when we defeated our enemies. (Manos HaLevi)

 

Why are Hamantaschen eaten on Purim? One of the main themes of Purim is that of V’nahafoch hu, the “turnabout.” The story represents not only salvation from our enemies, but a complete reversal and interchanging of situations for the parties involved. The Jews switched from being completely dominated by their enemies to completely dominating them. There are many avenues through which Hashem could have caused His plan to come about. On Purim, Hashem used Haman, the very person who desired to destroy Hashem’s people, to actually bring about their salvation. Haman’s decree to annihilate the Jews caused a massive teshuvah movement and recommitment to the Torah; culminating in the hanging of Haman on the same gallows he had built to execute Mordechai. We eat Hamantaschen on Purim, a sweet cookie named after the bitter Haman, to symbolize the V’nahafoch hu of Haman and his evil actions turning into the source of sweetness and nourishment for Jewish survival. (Rabbi David Aaron)

 

How is Mordechai a hero, when it was his refusal to bow to Haman that led to Haman’s desire to annihilate the Jewish people? In general, one is not only permitted, but required to transgress mitzvos and Torah obligations in a situation where life is at risk (see Sanhedrin 74a). However, with the severe sins of murder, idolatry and immorality, one is required to give his life rather than transgress. The Chofetz Chaim explains that although it might seem as if Mordechai should have bowed to Haman because Haman was known to be a big anti-Semite, and, as such, refusing to bow would severely threaten Jewish lives, that is not the case. Haman carried an idol on his person, making bowing to him the equivalent of bowing to an idol, one of the three transgressions that may not be transgressed even under threat of death. Therefore, even though Mordechai realized the danger, he could not bow in this situation. He continued to hold his ground for this same reason even when his fellow Jews begged him to appease Haman after the evil plan was made known.

The Chofetz Chaim explains that one should never, chas v’shalom, think that keeping the Torah can result in suffering, because it cannot. Nothing can be more illustrative of this point than the Purim story. In the end, not only did nothing happen to Klal Yisrael, but Mordechai’s steadfast adherence to the Torah resulted in a tremendous salvation in which Haman and his sons were killed, 75,000 Amalekim and many more of the enemies of the Jews were wiped out, and the Jews were able to live in joy and tranquility. The Midrash teaches that when Hashem created the world He looked into the Torah and used it as a blueprint (Bereishis Rabbah 1:1). In other words, knowing all that would occur in the future, Hashem created the world with the Torah in mind. He considered all future scenarios, so that adherence to the Torah would not only never cause suffering in any situation that would arise (big or small), but would in actuality cause goodness and salvation on every personal, national and global level.

Therefore, Mordechai was in fact a very great Jewish hero. He not only brought about the destruction of our enemies and the salvation of the Jews through his unshakable commitment to the Torah, but he also effected a tremendous Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of Hashem’s Name, by demonstrating to the Jews, and making them realize, that one can never ever go wrong by following the Torah. This new perception on the part of the Jews resulted in tremendous simcha, and prompted their voluntary reacceptance of the Torah on Purim with love. (Shalmei Todah)

 

Why did Haman want to kill all the Jews in response to Mordechai’s refusal? The Meggilah says וּמָרְדֳּכַי לֹא יִכְרַע, which literally translates as “and Mordechai will not bow,” in the future tense (Esther 3:2). This comes to hint that in every generation there will be one person in Klal Yisrael who will refuse to bow in this way. Haman understood this, and realized that even if he killed Mordechai there would always be some other Jew who would defy him. So he decided to not only kill Mordechai, but to also destroy the entire עַם מָרְדֳּכָי- nation of Mordechai (Esther 3:6), so that the defiance would end. (Sfas Emes)

Bully To You, Haman

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Purim is just a few days away, and Jews young and old are gearing up to celebrate this most festive of holidays, during which all will eat, drink and nosh merrily and in great relief over our come-up-from-behind triumph against a vicious Jew hater whose goal was to annihilate the Jewish people, but who instead had the tables turned against him in a dramatic and unforeseen manner.

But there is another albeit unheralded aspect to Purim, one that is not so obvious, but nonetheless teaches a timeless lesson – that of standing up to and defying the bullies who try to intimidate you into subjugating your will to theirs. Often bullies are physically stronger than their victims; others can make your life miserable because they wield financial or political clout. Some bully out of a misguided belief that they are doing you a favor by imposing their agenda on you; some are so beset with low self-esteem that they need to push another down, so as to elevate themselves; others are just plain nasty and evil and get a perverse pleasure in seeing others suffer.

Haman’s descendants, the Nazis, are the undisputed poster boys for bullies. No person of goodwill can come away unmoved at the image of white bearded, refined rabbis scrubbing city sidewalks – with a rifle pointed at their head by a sneering, gloating SS guard.

Haman himself was a self-loving narcissist with a very high opinion of himself, who insisted that all inhabitants of the empire who crossed his path bow to him. Mordechai, the hero of the Purim story, refused to do so; he would not succumb to the whims of a bully whose extreme hubris dictated that he, a Jew, desecrate his religion. Jews only bow down to Hashem.

Mordechai, as the Maccabees of the Chanukah saga, was defiant of the pressure, both physical and social, to conform and submit to the demands of the gentile “machers” who were in control. This simple Yid could have taken the path of least resistance, the easy way out – simply by complying. What would be the big deal, after all, to bending your back? Mordechai could have even justified doing so by saying he was obligated to obey the law of the land – or could have even viewed doing so as pikuach nefesh.

But he instead refused to be bullied into doing what he did not want to do – and would not budge from his stance, despite the very likely dire consequences. Instead he fought back with the best weapon he had available to him, communal prayer, and his niece, Esther.

Mordechai, as we all know, ultimately triumphed and came out on top, thereby imparting the heartening message that going against the stronger, the richer, the more connected, is not necessarily a lost cause. Even if you fail to remove the bully from your orbit, you might make him/her think twice before he/she starts up with you.

My twin brother and I were quite small for our age, and often we were hit or pushed and shoved by classmates, the kids on the street, and the ones who endured the same long, boring bus ride to and from our distant day school. I very quickly learned that being picked on, teased (I had a very noticeable lisp) and even punched several days a week was inevitable – but it did not have to be a one way street. I gave back almost as good as I got, and I am sure that there are several paunchy, graying rascals with faded, fine scars caused by my fingernails, my most accessible weapon.

To this day however, I deeply regret that I only addressed the bullies who were my peers. We were a generation raised to respect our elders – it was unthinkable to stand up to adults. You had to be polite, quiet and never defiant, even if they insulted you or hurt your feelings by saying something derogatory, like calling you ‘fatty’. Even if they physically hurt you, a child had to pretty much grin and bear it.

I had and still have big bekalach (Yiddish for round cheeks) and for many years endured having them pinched and twisted until I could barely contain my sobs. (You couldn’t embarrass THE GROWNUPS, by letting on they were hurting you.) I don’t know why it was considered ok back then for men to grab a piece of your face with their thumb and index fingers and twist it as hard as they could. The more “discomfort” you showed, the harder they twisted, seemingly getting much enjoyment out of doing so.

How I wish I had thrust my kneecap in a way that would have immediately brought to their attention just how unpleasant pain can be. Perhaps that would have motivated them to keep their bullying hands to themselves. You could kickback a kid who kicked you, but you never defended yourself against a grownup in those days.

Understanding The Mitzvah Of Megillah

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Why is the megillah read in Jerusalem on the l5th day of Adar, in New York on the 14th day of Adar and in Safed and Hebron on the 14th and the 15th of Adar? On what day does an American tourist read the megillah in Jerusalem and when does an Israeli tourist read the megillah in New York? Why is the megillah read twice during the same day, once at night and once during the day? If one can only attend one reading of the megillah, which should one choose? Why does Purim outside of Israel never occur on Shabbat? When Purim in Israel occurs on Shabbat, why is the megillah read on Friday? Can the megillah be recited in English? Can the mitzvah of listening to the megillah be fulfilled over the telephone or the radio? Can a loudspeaker be used?

Those who reside in a city, such as Jerusalem, which was surrounded by a wall in the days of Joshua, recite the megillah on the 15th day of Adar. Those who reside in cities – such as Safed and Hebron – about which there is uncertainty as to whether they were surrounded by a wall in the days of Joshua, are required to read the megillah both on the 14th and the 15th days of Adar. Residents of all other cities recite the megillah on the l4th day of Adar. The reason for this distinction is that in Shushan itself the battle continued on through the 14th day and Purim was celebrated on the 15th. Because Shushan was a walled city in Mordechai’s day, all other walled cities celebrate Purim on the 15th day of Adar. But out of deference to the cities of Israel, most of which had been destroyed before Mordechai’s time, the relevant time chosen by the Sages to determine whether a city was surrounded by a wall was the time of Joshua.

A tourist in Jerusalem who originally planned to leave Jerusalem prior to the 15th day of Adar recites the megillah in Jerusalem on the 14th day of Adar even if, contrary to his original plans, he still finds himself in Jerusalem on the 15th of Adar. If, however, such a person originally intended to be in Jerusalem on the 15th of Adar, he recites the megillah in Jerusalem on the 15th. Conversely, a resident of Jerusalem visiting New York who originally planned to return to Jerusalem prior to the 14th day of Adar recites the megillah in New York on the 15th day of Adar, even if, contrary to his plans, he still finds himself in New York on the 14th day of Adar. If, however, such a person originally intended to be in New York on the 14th of Adar, he recites the megillah in New York on the 14th of Adar.

Reciting the megillah on the day of the fifteenth has greater significance than reciting the megillah at night on the eve of the fifteenth. This is because the daytime reading was instituted by Mordechai and Esther whereas the nighttime reading was subsequently instituted by the rabbis. Accordingly, if circumstances force one to choose one reading over the other, most authorities agree that one should attend the daytime reading. Others argue that rule of ein ma’avirim al hamitzvot, (do not offend a mitzvah by postponing it) requires that one choose the nighttime reading.

Because Yom Kippur can never occur on a Friday, the 14th day of Adar can never occur on a Shabbat. If the 15th day of Adar occurs on a Shabbat, the megillah is read in Jerusalem on a Friday. This is out of the dual concern that people would carry the megillah in the streets and would not be able to give money to the poor on Shabbat.

One can fulfill the mitzvah of listening to the megillah as long as one hears the voice of the person reciting the megillah on one’s behalf. Most poskim agree, therefore, that listening to a live broadcast of the megillah over the radio or the telephone is unacceptable because you are listening to an electronic transmission of the reader’s voice rather the voice itself. According to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a microphone is unacceptable. This is because, according to his understanding, the membrane of the microphone absorbs the human voice and then emits an electronic version of it.

According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, however, a microphone is halachically acceptable because the transmission is simultaneously activated by the human voice. Rav Yosef concedes that a microphone may be used to amplify the reader’s voice in a case where the reader’s voice would still be audible without it.

Drinking on Purim: Holy or Wholly Irresponsible?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Jewish Tradition has always stressed moderation, restraint, and personal responsibility. This is true even when we celebrate. In Hilchot Yom Tov (6:20), Rambam warns:

“When one eats, drinks and rejoices on a festival, he should not drink too much wine or engage in levity or lightheadedness and say, ‘all who add to this are increasing the mitzvah of simchah.’ For drunkenness, excessive laughter, and lightheadedness is not simchah, but rather debauchery and foolishness…” Yet the Gemara (Megillah 7b) records: “Rava said, ‘One is obligated to get drunk on Purim until he does not know the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai.’” Drinking on Purim is accepted by the Rif and Rosh and codified by the Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 695).

It’s hard to imagine how drunkenness, which Judaism abhors the entire year, is considered an “obligation” on Purim. The author of Kol Bo struggles with this very question and writes:

“One is obligated to drink on Purim – not to the point of drunkenness. Drunkenness is completely prohibited and there is no greater offense than it, for it leads to adultery, murder, and the like. Rather, one should drink more than he is accustomed to in order to increase his joy and make happy the poor and console them, speak to their hearts – for that is true joy.”

‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai’

Concerning drinking on Purim, Rambam writes that one should drink until he falls asleep (Hilchot Megillah 2:15). Once asleep, one cannot differentiate between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.’ Tosafot writes that one should drink until he cannot recite the phrase, based on the Talmud Yerushalmi, “Cursed is Haman, blessed is Mordechai, cursed is Zeresh, blessed is Esther, cursed are all the wicked, blessed are all the Jews.” Some explain that the requirement is to drink until one can no longer answer the proper refrain to a poem that was once customarily recited on Purim (Abudraham, Purim and Darchei Moshe, Orach Chayim 695:1, citing Sefer HaMinhagim of Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac of Tirna). Others rule that the Gemara only requires one to drink to the point that he can no longer calculate the gemmatria of ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai, which share an equal numerical value (Rabbeinu Yerucham, Toldot Adam V’Chavah, Netiv 10, Chelek 1; Abudraham, Purim; Maharil, Minhagim, Hilchot Purim 10, citing Mahari Segel; Sefer HaAgudah 1:7; Bach, Orach Chayim 695; Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim 695:3).

A moderate approach is taken by Rema (Orach Chayim 695:2), who synthesizes the positions of the Kol Bo, Rambam, and Maharil, and writes:

“There are those who say that one need not drink too much, rather drink more than he is accustomed and sleep. Through sleep one does not know the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.’ One might increase, another might minimize – as long as the intent of their heart is [for the sake] of Heaven.”

Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira

Strikingly, immediately after Rava’s instructions to drink, the Gemara (Megillah 7b) offers the following anecdote:

“Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira made the Purim feast together. They got drunk. Rabbah arose and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira. The next day, he prayed for mercy and revived him. The following year he [Rabbah] said, ‘let’s make the Purim meal together again.’ He [Rabbi Zeira] answered, ‘not every moment does a miracle occur.’”

Some suggest that the Gemara cites this anecdote in order to illustrate the point that the halacha is not in accordance with Rava, and one should not get drunk. The story, in a sense, serves as a warning. One of the Tosafists, Rabbeinu Ephraim, as cited by the Ba’al HaMaor, concludes:

“Rabbah said, ‘One should drink on Purim, etc.’ Rabbeinu Ephraim wrote that from the account of ‘Rabbah arose and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira,’ this comes to nullify the statement of Rabbah. The halacha is not like him and it is not good to do so [i.e. get drunk] (HaMaor Hakatan in the pages of the Rif, Megillah 3b).”

How ironic, that in his girsa of the Gemara, it is Rabbah who both teaches the obligation to get drunk and who slaughtered Rabbi Zeira! This certainly serves to amplify Rabbeinu Ephraim’s position.

Yet other poskim deduce the opposite from the Gemara’s use of this anecdote. They see the story of Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira as a proof positive of the obligation to become intoxicated (Sefer HaEshkol, Auerbach Edition, Hilchot Chanukah V’Purim; Pri Chadash, Orach Chayim 695:2).

Why Drink?

According to Rashi, the obligation is to get drunk on wine. Abudraham and Chayei Adam explain that drinking wine reminds us that the miracle of Purim was carried out through wine. Feasting and drunkenness is a major theme in Megillat Esther and it allowed the easily pliable Ahashverosh to be manipulated. Drinking allows us to express our joy and gratitude to Hashem for His salvation (Magen David, Orach Chayim 695:1).

Leftovers Exchange Program

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Welcome to “You’re Asking Me?” where we answer any and all questions — not necessarily in the hopes that we can make your issues go away by waving a newspaper at them, but more in the hopes that if we make enough jokes, you’ll forget what your problem was, unless you reread the beginning of the article, where we helpfully put your problems in bold face.

But you might as well write in, because everyone else who has all the answers is busy driving cabs and cutting hair.  Often at the same time.

 

Dear Mordechai,

Last month, my wife made food for nine days of Yom Tov, plus guests, not all of whom ate.  (Why on Earth are you coming to our house FOR A MEAL if you’re not going to eat?  Why not just come for Yom Kippur?)  And now we’re inundated with leftovers to the point where we have to prop a chair up against the fridge to hold it all in.  Every day the same foods come out of the fridge, and the same foods go back in.  I love my wife, but I’m so sick of leftovers that I’m considering moving back out to the sukkah.  What should I do?

DH, Passaic

 

Dear D.,

You can come to my house if you want.  We’re eating leftovers too, but they’re new to you.  The more you eat, the less I have to.

But the truth is that won’t help.  The real issue with leftovers isn’t that you’ve eaten this food before, it’s that no cookbook ever says, “Cook at 350 degrees for two hours, and then again at 275 four days later.”  And they all show this gorgeous picture that doesn’t look anything like the food you pull out of the fridge a week later.

Of course, there is something to be said for, instead of figuring out what to make after all those days of five-course meals, just taking something out of the fridge and heating it for the eighth time and trying to figure out what it is, based on various clues such as the fork that someone left in there, and whether that fork is milchig or fleishig.  Personally, I eat leftovers mainly to make room in the fridge.

But leftovers are definitely a huge issue for everybody.  What did they do in Europe when they had this problem?  None of the stories about gedolim ever say.

 

 

Dear Mordechai,

I’m a 15-year-old girl with a crazy family.  Every time we go out or someone comes to visit, I’m embarrassed to no end and make it a point to say, “I’m not related.”  How can I make my family more normal?

Red-faced in Monsey Dear Red,

You might not think it’s fair that people judge you based on how embarrassing your parents are, but there’s an expression: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  I’m not sure who came up with that expression.  I think it was Sir Isaac Newton.

 

Of course, saying that people are like apples is like comparing apples to… well… oranges, I guess.  That expression is also from a different time, when most people were home schooled, and they were born and died in the same little town, and there was no outside culture or phones or even texting.  (OMG, right?)  And if you spend your entire life in a perfume factory, you come out smelling like perfume.

But teenagers have always been embarrassed by their parents, because let’s face it – parents of teenagers are embarrassing.  They’ve been living on zero sleep for almost twenty years, and most of their time has been split between trying to put a roof over your head and using that roof as an argument to get you to follow their rules.  The last time they were in contact with anything cool or fun was two decades ago, and the reason your father is still wearing the same shirt that he bought in 1992 is that he hasn’t been able to treat himself to a shirt since then.

‘Getting’ Purim This Year

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Although most of us are now focused on Pesach and rolling up our sleeves – both physically and mentally – we need to keep close to our hearts a wrenching message that was brought to the fore this particular Purim. For me and many other Jews, Purim was not “business as usual” in terms of having great fun, merrymaking and partying. Our joy was deeply tempered by the haunting images of the murdered Fogel family – a young mother, father, and three of their six children, including a three-month old infant girl – who were ruthlessly slaughtered as they slept, by Palestinian descendants of Amalek.

How could we boisterously celebrate the timely foiling of our planned annihilation by Haman, when the Fogel’s personal “megillah” had a brutally violent ending?

The merciless (who could stab an infant in her crib) murder of this peaceful family crystallized what Purim is truly all about – Amalek’s obsession to do the very same to hundreds of thousands of men, women, children and babies.

We intellectually understand that thousands of years ago, a virulent anti-Semite tried to butcher us, but we don’t fully internalize what that means. It’s like the old joke regarding our holidays. “They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat!” Emotionally, the story of Purim (and of Pesach, which revolves around yitziyat Mitzrayim – our emancipation from Egypt), doesn’t have the impact it should – it doesn’t speak to our hearts. We are focused on the partying.

This year, this Purim I “got” it all too well: We escaped the fate of the Fogel family.

Yet, we wonder with sorrow, why didn’t they? Why were these particular sons of Amalek so successful in destroying this erlich, devout couple and their sweet babies?

No one mortal can answer this question – but I wonder if the last sentence of the Megillah possibly offers a clue.

The Megillah states that Mordechai was second to the king, was great among the Jews – and “ratzu l’rov achav” – accepted by the multitude of his brethren. It’s funny, I’ve read this line every year for decades, but never realized that something did not make sense. The word “rov” in nearly all translations means “most” or a majority. This final pasuk in the Megillah states that Mordechai was liked/accepted by a “multitude” (majority) of his people. How could it be that he was not embraced by “ALL” of them? You would think EVERY Jew – survivors of an aborted genocide – would be so grateful to Mordechai that the word “kol”, meaning ALL would have been the word used, not rov.

Mordechai was instrumental in stopping what would have been a horrific bloodbath. Yet obviously some people had an issue with the man who saved them, their wives, children and babies from being slaughtered by a crazed mob fortified by a governmental ” green light” to do so. Or else the word “kol” would have been the one in the megillah – not “rov.” What possible reason could any Jew have to complain about Mordechai?

I can only imagine that there were Jews infected with the two warped attributes that have ruined many individuals, families and nations – unmitigated jealousy/envy and arrogance – character traits that have caused overwhelming sinat chinum and hence acrimony and division within the community.

No doubt, due to mindless jealousy, some of Mordechai’s peers could not “fahgin” his incredible achievements and the honor that came out of it. The Yiddish word fahgin is unique in that it is used in the dual context of forgiving someone when they wronged you – and when they haven’t. It is applied when no actual hurt was done by the individual, yet the person doing the forgiving (or not) feels negatively impacted – for no real reason.

Point in case: A woman, one of hundreds, puts a ticket in a bin in the hope of winning an expensive sheitel at a Chinese auction – and hers is drawn. She wins the fancy wig everyone was salivating over. While some of her friends and acquaintances are thrilled for her, others don’t “fahgin” her good fortune. Though she did not wrong them in any way, they do not forgive her luck. It’s as if she took away something they felt belonged to them – or that they were more deserving of.

Maybe some of the Jews who were not fans of Mordechai felt that he was just lucky – that he was in the right place at the right time (he overheard the plot against the king) and that he had the right connections (being related to the queen) and that he was no “big deal” and therefore was not necessarily competent nor worthy to be the number two bigwig in the empire.

Some might have felt that they were better suited for the job; that they were smarter; more pious (after all, he let his adopted daughter/kinswoman marry a non-Jew); that they came from better yichus, were better educated, etc.

This unwarranted envy and haughtiness and conceit has led to rancorous, even malicious discord, division and dispute within our community, with tragic consequences. For the Jewish people, a lack of unity, an unwillingness or inability to be am achad, a unified people – embracing our differences and respecting one another (secular, religious, Litvish, Chassidish/Ashkenazi, Sephardic, etc.) is our Achilles heel, our collective kryptonite.

Without achdut, we are vulnerable to Amalek’s attempts to annihilate us – one family at a time or in a mass massacre. Our continuity depends on our solidarity – our unity.

In order to achieve this oneness with our fellow Jews, we have to destroy the Amalek lurking in our psyche -seething jealousy and preening snobbery. We must work at viewing another Jew’s good fortune as being our good fortune. That his “win” is our win also. Ironically, we actually are good at feeling another Jew’s sorrow – but somehow, many of us can’t fahgin his happiness or success.

We must work at giving unconditional support, protection and kavod (respect) to every Yid no matter his religious affiliation, economic or social status (except those tragic, twisted Jews who are anti-Semitic and pro-Amalek).

Then as one united people we will truly be able to shout out, “Am Yisrael Chai!”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/on-our-own/getting-purim-this-year-2/2011/03/30/

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