Sunday, March 23, 2008

Purim Afterthoughts

With Haman hanged and my hangover behind me, I'm going to try to put some Purim thoughts on paper (um, whatever). I've got to keep this short; a Focus deadline is fast approaching and I'm pressed for time. So wish me luck. V'Hameivin Yavin.

There are two Megillahs.

One Megillah is a story of exile; a story of attempted annihilation; a story of God's absence; a story of hopelessness. It is a frightening read. It is read at night, while we fast. Obviously, this Megillah has no seudah associated with it.

There is another Megillah. This Megillah is a story of redemption, a story of a refuah set up in advance of a makkah, a story where the Hand of God is as clear as day. It is a delight to read. It is read in the daytime and it generates a mitzvah to party - hard. This second Megillah is created by the first Megillah. Once we get to the end of the story, we are impelled to read it again from the beginning. And the second time around it's a very different story.

The Talmud teaches: "Anyone who says things in the name of the one who first said them brings redemption to the world." (Sorry, I forgot who said that.) The source for this idea is Esther. She reported an assassination attempt in the name of Mordechai and this, says the Talmud, brought redemption to the world.

Did it, really? By all appearances, all her report accomplished was to get Mordechai a free ride on a horse. Redemption came through Esther's influence with the king. The entire episode of Mordechai's foiling the assassination and his subsequent reward could be deleted from the Megillah with no ill effect. The scene of Haman leading Mordechai through the streets is gratifying, but it is certainly not necessary for redemption. Why does the Talmud think otherwise?

When Haman returns home and tells his wife what happened, she responds by saying that if Mordechai is indeed of Jewish desent, then Haman is finished. Prophetic words; indeed, within a few short hours, her husband was dead. But how did she know? Yes, he had a bad day, but he was still the most powerful man in the empire and he was on his way to a private party with the king and the queen. Zeresh had no way of knowing that Esther was Jewish! She should have told her husband to take a hot shower, get over it and cheer up. How did she know that Haman was doomed?

Zeresh was a smart lady. She knew it was no mere coincidence that just as Haman is about to ask the king for permission to kill Mordechai, the king is reminded that Mordechai saved his life. Instead of hanging Mordechai, Haman is dressing him in the king's clothes and leading him through the streets on the king's horse?! This can mean only one thing. The God of Israel has arrived. And when the God of Israel shows up, it's game over.

By reporting the assassination attempt in the name of Mordechai, Esther created the avenue through which God arrives on the scene. The Talmud is only affirming what Zeresh saw. It is God's arrival that guarantees redemption; not Esther's political shenanigans.

Zeresh's insight echoes Mordechai's sharp response to Esther just a few days earlier: "Revach v'hatzalah ya'amod la'Yehudim mimakom acher." We don't need you, Esther. If you do nothing, the Jews will be saved some other way. God will show up in due time. The only question is if you will play a role.

Zeresh and Mordechai think alike. We don't need Esther.

Some people wonder why God's Name does not appear in the Megillah, but Reb Shlomo Charlebach didn't understand the question. Why should God's Name be in the Megillah? God is the one telling us the story!

With Reb Shlomo's insight, we gain a new appreciation for the words of the sages. "Anyone who says things in the name of the one who first said them brings redemption to the world." We need to remember that God was the one who first said the Megillah. He spoke when Vashti was killed and Esther was chosen, He spoke when Mordechai overheard Bigson & Seresh, and He spoke when Achashveirosh couldn't sleep that night. God wrote and directed this story. We should cite Him as the source of redemption, not Esther.

If Zeresh recognized this truth, so should we. And when we do, we create an avenue that brings God, and redemption, into the world.

1 comment:

  1. 0 comments. That's not right, it's smoking hot as usual. shkoyach.