In this week’s Parsha, the Torah discusses the Halachot of the Korban Chatat. One of these Halachot is that if the Korban Chatat is cooked in an earthenware vessel, the vessel must be broken. This law is based upon the rule that after the allotted time for eating the Korban has elapsed, any remainder becomes “Notar,” “leftover,” and must be burned. The taste absorbed into the walls of the vessel is also Notar, and because taste cannot be purged from an earthenware vessel, the vessel must be broken. However, if the Korban Chatat is cooked in a copper vessel, then the taste of Notar can be purged merely by rinsing and cleaning the vessel, the same way it would be “Kashered” for Kashrut purposes.
Rashi comments that this law applies to all Korbanot, not just to the Korban Chatat. The Kli Yakar therefore wonders why the Torah chose to discuss the law of absorption of Notar specifically with regard to the Korban Chatat. If this law in fact applies to all Korbanot, why single out the Korban Chatat to teach this law? The Kli Yakar suggests that the Chatat is an appropriate choice because it is in the category of Kodshei Kodshim, the holiest Korbanot, which can only be eaten for one day and night. This teaches that even though the meat of the Korban only remains in the vessel for a short period of time, an earthenware vessel must nonetheless be broken and a copper vessel rinsed and cleaned. It goes without saying, then, that for Korbenot Shelamim or other Kodshim Kalim, less holy Korbanot, which can be eaten for a full two days, that one must certainly follow the above purging procedure.
Alternatively, the Kli Yakar suggests that the Chatat is the quintessential symbol of atonement. Just as the procedure of purging the taste of the Chatat varies depending on the vessel, so too the procedure of purging sin depends on the type of person who has transgressed. Certain individuals are so involved with sin that a mere rinsing and cleansing is insufficient to achieve purity. This type of individual is compared to the earthenware vessel, which must be broken to achieve purity. This sinner must demonstrate the “Shivron Lev,” a total and complete breaking of his heart and a subsequent metamorphosis into a new Jew. The occasional sinner is compared to the copper vessel in that he can achieve purity with a mere rinsing and cleaning. He does not need to break his heart entirely since he is generally good anyway. He does not need to change his entire character to achieve Tehsuva. May we all be Zocheh to a complete Teshuvah and perfection of our Avodah of the Ribbono Shel Olam.
by Dov Rossman
The Ari z”l states that Purim and Yom Kippur are are similar. He shows this through the names of the holidays. While Yom HaKippurim is normally translated as Day of Atonements, it can also be pronounced Yom Ha-Kippurim, a day like Purim. This similarity between the two holidays is difficult to understand; on the surface, it seems like these are possibly the most dissimilar days on the Jewish calendar! Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, self-examination, and seriousness, while Purim is a day of eating, drinking, and happiness. How could these holidays be considered so similar?
Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik points out the importance of the idea of lots on these holidays. In the center of the Yom Kippur service in the Beit Hamikdash was the ceremony of the two goats. One goat was given to Hashem as a Korban, LaHashem, and its blood would be sprinkled within the Kodesh HaKodashim, and the other goat would be sent off of a cliff, La’Azazeil. Who was the one to verify which goat would be sent LaHashem and which would be sent La’Azazeil? The Kohen Gadol would do so by way of a lot.
The plot of the story of Purim, literally meaning the holiday of lots, revolves around the lot through which Haman determined the date on which he would carry out his evil plans to annihilate the Jewish people.
Rabbi Menachem Genack states that what most people did not realize during the time in which these events took place was that Hashem was guiding all of these incidents with a hidden hand. Hashem’s subtle coordination of the events is expressed in the Megillah in that the name of Hashem is not written even once in the entire Megillat Esther; it is the only book in the entire Tanach to not include Hashem’s name.
However, our Mesorah teaches us that the commonly used word in the Megillah, Hamelech, does not only refer to king Achashverosh, but also refers to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, Who has controlled all of the world events with His hidden hand throughout history. This differs greatly from the worldview of Amalek, and its descendant Haman. They believed in all of their evil and wickedness that God does not control anything, and that the fate of the world is based on pure chance.
This is the true meaning of Purim. Yom Kippur confronts our daily troubles and fears in the world, no matter how hard they are and no matter how much they might challenge out faith in Hashem. As Jewish people, we trust Hashem in all His omniscience and omnipotence to control the world.
Hence, Purim and Yom HaKippurim stress the same primary spiritual idea: even though the world might sometimes seem to be following mere lot or chance, we need to recognize that everything is being guided by Hashem, Who is all-knowing. This idea is nurtured through the learning of Torah, which is the outline of the world and a testimony to Hashem’s constant concern for Bnei Yisrael and all of humanity.
Rabbi Genack continues to comment on how interesting it is that Yom HaKippurim and Purim are both days that commemorate the giving of the Torah. On Yom HaKippurim, the second Luchot were given to B’nei Yisrael after Moshe Rabeinu shattered the first pair. Our Rabbis (Shabbat 88a) tell us that it was only on Purim that the Jewish people really accepted the Torah, because at Har Sinai, the Jewish people were intimidated to accept the Torah when Hashem lifted Har Sinai above their heads and said they would die if they did not accept the Torah. It is only through the observance of the Torah that we can face the chaos and tragedies in our daily lives and realize that they are from Hashem for the greater good, even if we as human beings cannot understand the way that Hashem works.
by Shlomo Tanenbaum
In the Megillah, Haman receives permission from the evil king Achashveirosh to issue an irreversible declaration that all Jewish men, women, and children are to be killed on the thirteenth of Adar. The decree was issued a eleven months before the date that it would be implemented. The obvious question is: Why didn’t anyone kill a Jew before this date? Would it really make a difference if a person killed a Jew on the exact date specified in the declaration or a day before? This is strengthened by the impression one receives from the Megilla that everyone wanted to implement the decree to kill the Jews! It was not just a “Gezeirat Hamelech” forcing the inhabitants of Paras Umadai to kill Jews; rather, everyone wanted to kill the Jews and was happy that they could finally kill their Jewish neighbors. So why did no one kill a single Jew before the thirteenth if the police and army would not have taken any action against anyone who did?
An answer can be found in the first Perek of the Megilah. King Achashveirosh summons his queen Vashti to appear before his guests during his seven-day party for the inhabitants of Shushan. Vashti refuses to come to Achashveirosh and appear before all his guests. Achashveirosh is enraged over this outright display of defiance against his authority and summons his advisors to think of what to do to his disobedient queen. Memuchan, who Chazal identify as Haman, comes up with a brilliant solution: “Let the king Achashveirosh make an irreversible decree to kill her and proclaim throughout the kingdom that the queen was killed because she was defiant to her husband, the king of all Paras Umadai. In addition, let it be written in the annals of the law that every man shall be a king in his home and he shall have the final say in all matters. Moreover, let it be written and sealed that a husband can force his wife to learn his language if he so desires.” (See Esther 1:16-20 for the exact words of Memuchan’s statement.) This was written in the Persian lawbooks?!? What kind of king makes a law that every man shall be a ruler in his own home? Normal kings deal with national calamities, foreign affairs and government policy, as well as creating law and order in the kingdom. But what kind of bizarre king creates a law that every man shall be a ruler in his own home? What kind of king deals with matters that are so trivial and insignificant for a king?
The people of Paras Umadai had the same exact thought. They reasoned that if their king would make a law as trivial as “Let every man be a ruler in his own home,” then maybe when the king declared that all Jews will be killed on the thirteenth of Adar, he really meant the thirteenth of Adar and no other date. Who knew what this crazy king was actually thinking? You never knew what to expect from this king. The people of Paras Umadai therefore waited until the thirteenth of Adar and did not attack any Jews beforehand.
We can see how, through his own advice, Haman effectively prevented the Jews from being attacked before the thirteenth of Adar. We should also consider that in this same advice, Haman told Achashveirosh to kill Vashti, which led to Esther’s appointment. This in turn led to the reversal of Haman’s decree that all Jews shall be killed on the thirteenth of Adar. Hence, Haman prevented the killing of Jews both before the thirteenth of Adar and on the day itself through his own actions. Furthermore, he even set the stage for the killing of the Jews’ enemies by establishing the thirteenth of Adar as a day of Milchamah. Hashem planned that Haman foil his own plans of utter annihilation of the Jews and change them to salvation for the Jews.
This episode has many lessons. One lesson is that every single time the Jews are in danger or trouble, Hashem has prepared and planned the possibility for Geulah. Hashem never forgets about His Am Segulah and His Banim. Moreover, it also teaches us that Hashem can bring Geulah from any person or event. Whether it be from a Jew, a Nochri, or our enemy, the Geulah is always at hand and waiting. Hashem has many Sheluchim (agents) to carry out his will in this world, and even our most hated enemy can become his Shaliach (agent). May Hashem bring the Geulah speedily in our days, wherever may be its source.
- Heard from Rabbi Cohen, a former eighth grade Rebbe at RPRY.
Do as the People Do?
by Tzvi Grossman
The third chapter of Megillat Esther records that when Mordechai saw Haman, he did not bow down to him. Haman became upset with him and wanted to kill him and all of Mordechai’s fellow Jews. Especially given how severe the response was, we must question Mordechai’s actions: was his approach correct or not according to the Torah perspective?
In Jewish law, we sometimes follow what the people are doing, the common practice. For example, the Gemara (Pesachim 66a) raises a question regarding carrying a knife on Erev Pesach which falls out on Shabbat. The rabbis did not know what to do, so they said, “Let us go see what the people do.” They noticed the next day that the common practice of the people was to stick the knife into the wool of the Korban Pesach and let the animal bring the knife to the Beit Hamikdash. The Chachamim investigated the common practice and decided the Halacha in accordance with the common practice. Given this, it seems that Mordechai, who was the only one who did not bow down to Haman, must have been wrong.
This conclusion is very troubling, though. Chazal teach that Mordechai was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, the high court. How can it be that such a knowledgeable person would have acted so improperly?
The Gemara states in Megillah 15a-15b that Mordechai came from a position of wealth, whereas Haman came from a position of poverty. The Maharsha explains that at an earlier time, Mordechai and Haman had been in the army together, and Haman had sold himself as a slave to Mordechai for food. Therefore, Mordechai was really Haman’s master. Now we can understand why Mordechai acted differently from all the other Jews and refused to bow to Haman. He really was in a different position from the rest of the nation, so he had a right to act differently.
Tosafot mentions that Mordechai would not bow to Haman because Haman wore an idol around his neck, so Mordechai was avoiding a violation of idolatry, whereas everyone else bowed to Haman because that was the decree of the king. A question was once asked of Rav Soloveitchik (quoted in Nefesh Harav) whether one is allowed to bow to the master in the beginning of a karate match. The Rav answered even though he would not be doing this as idolatry, one is still not permitted to bow because it is a silly thing. We see that Mordechai teaches us that sometimes it is not proper for us Jews to follow the common practices of the surrounding culture and that even though this might pose difficulties in the short-term, in the long term this insures our cultural survival.
Halacha of the Week The Mishna Berura (693:6) records that men should be sure to don their Tefillin during the reading of the Megillah. This practice fits well with Chazal’s assertion (see Sukkah 25) that Tefillin represent the P’eir, the glory of the Jewish people, which is prominently expressed in Megillat Esther. This practice also seems to be the polar opposite of the Halacha forbidding a male Aveil (mourner) to wear Tefillin on the first day of his mourning. Intense mourning is not in harmony with Tefillin, while on the other hand, intense joy is entirely in harmony with wearing Tefillin.
Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Willie Roth, Ely Winkler
Executive Editor: Jerry M. Karp
Publication Editor: Ariel Caplan, Jesse Dunietz
Publication Managers: Etan Bluman, Moshe Zharnest
Publishing Manager: Andy Feuerstein-Rudin, Chanan Strassman
Business Manager: Josh Markovic
Webmaster: Avi Wollman
Staff: David Barth, Kevin Beckoff, David Gross, Roni Kaplan, Mitch Levine, Jesse Nowlin, Dov Rossman,
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter