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I am not sure I would write what follows if the Gemara (Megillah 14a) had not already observed that Haman was more successful at getting the Jews to improve their ways than all of the prophets of Israel. In other words, there can be great good that comes out of even the most evil man in Tanach.

Our journey, however, begins with this week’s parsha. As we look one more time at the priestly garments, we will see that they present a model that only one human was able to replicate, a model that actually begins much earlier, in Gan Eden.


The midrash (Bemidbar Rabbah 4:8) claims that the garments made for Aharon were the same as the one God made for Adam and Chava, the kotenot or (literally, skin clothes). That connection is strengthened by Rabbenu Bachya and the Baal HaTurim’s (on Bereshit 3:21) observation that we only find this exact word usage of placing clothes upon people in these two situations. They also note that the verse in Bereshit has eight words, just like the number of garments of the Kohen Gadol.

Whether they are the same clothes or not (and I personally would not take the midrash literally), both situations represent perfect clothing that accordingly need never be changed. Indeed, the number eight is associated with that which is beyond us, the perfect realm of God. Hence the locations where these clothes are given, in the Mishkan/Mikdash and in Gan Eden, should not surprise us. Moreover, God not only designs these clothes, but places them (directly or indirectly) upon the bearer. With complete knowledge of the people in question and their situation, God is the only being who really has the right to impose clothing on others in this way.

Yet others tried to imitate Him in situations where they felt confident that they knew someone else’s identity so well as to literally clothe them. The two examples in the Torah are Rivkah dressing Yaakov and Pharaoh dressing Yosef. Both protagonists had reason to impose the identity that came with the clothes that they bestowed upon their charges. That said, the clothes were not a perfect fit. They were helpful, but only up to a point, leading to problems and confusion as well. (I expand on this in Redeeming Relevance on Exodus).

It may thus strike us as particularly surprising that Haman seems to be able to pull off what our Rivkah could not. But first a little background: When Mordechai hears about the decree to annihilate the Jews, he puts on sackcloth. At that point, it is Esther who believes she knows best what clothes are appropriate for him and sends clothes to be placed upon him. But here we have a new twist. For the first time, someone refuses to go along. As with his earlier refusal to bow down to Haman, Mordechai is not one to be told what to do. Curious then that a few days later under almost exactly the same conditions of impending doom, he does accept a different set of clothes, clothes ultimately dictated by Haman.

Blinded about whom the clothes would be for, Haman nevertheless seems to succeed in doing what only God had been able to do – impose perfect clothes on someone else. Haman understood that whoever carries the type of favor with the Persian king that Ahashverosh described actually takes the place of that king and should wear his clothing. Haman may have been evil, but we have no reason to think he was stupid. In fact, the default of his position in the court is that he was very intelligent. No wonder that the Talmud (Gittin 57b) says that his descendants would study Torah in Bnei Brak.

So when the royal Persian clothes are placed on Mordechai, he puts up no resistance whatsoever. The indication of how well Mordekhai’s clothes fit him, however, comes only later when he is seen by the Jews. The Jews’ first response is orah, light (Esther 8:16). Though we translated kotenot or above as skin-clothes, it should now be noted that Rabbi Meir translated them as clothes of light. Perfect clothes elicit light. (And to sweeten the connection further, R. Abba Wagensberg points out that Mordechai’s royal clothes in the previous verse are described in 8 words!)

That Haman should be the one to accomplish this should not really surprise us if we understand the Megillah’s underlying message, that God moves the world in all sorts of subtle and unexpected ways to take it where He wants it to go. When we impose our own expectations on God, we can only partially emulate his ways, like Rivkah. It is only when we allow God to run the world how He sees fit that we allow Him to use us (and all sorts of others) to do His will. May we merit to see the light that comes out of this ‘in those days [of Purim] in our time!’


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Rabbi Francis Nataf ( is a veteran Tanach educator who has written an acclaimed contemporary commentary on the Torah entitled “Redeeming Relevance.” He teaches Tanach at Midreshet Rachel v'Chaya and is Associate Editor of the Jewish Bible Quarterly. He is also Translations and Research Specialist at Sefaria, where he has authored most of Sefaria's in-house translations, including such classics as Sefer HaChinuch, Shaarei Teshuva, Derech Hashem, Chovat HaTalmidim and many others. He is a prolific writer and his articles on parsha, current events and Jewish thought appear regularly in many Jewish publications such as The Jewish Press, Tradition, Hakira, the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Action and Haaretz.