Purim 2014 Dvar Torah

The Gemara asks: where do we find a hint to Haman in the Torah?

From the pasuk “המן העץ אשר צוותך אשר אכלתם” (בראשית ג:יא)

Rabbi Mordechai Miller explains that Chava had made a mistake—she thought you couldn’t even touch the tree, but really Hashem only said they couldn’t eat from the tree. When the נחש was trying to convince Chava to eat from the tree, he pushed her and caused her to touch the tree, and said to her, “See? You didn’t die from touching the tree…go ahead and eat from it.” Had the נחש skipped the first few steps and just told Chava to eat from the tree, she would’ve resisted. But by gradually pushing Chava closer and closer, he was able to succeed in causing her to sin.

The Zohar says “do this today, that tomorrow.” Take baby steps and do a little at a time. That’s the way Amalek works–little by little they cool Bnei Yisrael down. “אשר קרך בדרך”—they didn’t attack us all at once, they slowly penetrated Bnei Yisrael and cooled them down and removed any enthusiasm.

When Haman gets permission from Achashverosh to kill all the Jews, it says everyone knew about the decree (אסתר ג:יד-טו), but right after that, it says that Mordechai knew (אסתר ד:א). Why does the pasuk tell us Mordechai knew if it just told us that everyone knew! Really, Haman sent out two letters: one to all of the high officials telling them what his full plan was, and the other letter was sent to everyone, saying that on י”ג אדר something would happen. He started preparing everyone for something to happen, but only slowly leaked the details, because if he announced to everyone right away what his plan was, he would be faced with resistance and there would be a good chance that he wouldn’t be able to carry out his plan in eleven months’ time. Instead, he slowly got people used to the idea that something would happen, and built up from there. But Mordechai knew what it said in both letters, and he realized that the Jews needed to act right away. If Haman and Amalek work by gradually cooling us down, we need to react with fire and enthusiasm. Mordechai wasted no time in putting on שק ואפר and telling Esther she needed to do something. At first Esther isn’t too worried, and is going to wait for the king to call her: if not today, tomorrow; if not tomorrow, next week; if not next week; next month, and so on. If they had eleven months, she thought, what was the big deal? But once Mordechai explained that Amalek’s “cool-down” process had to be met with fiery enthusiasm, she declared a three day fast immediately and then went to the king.

At the end of Megillah, it says “ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר”. The Gemara in Megillah טז: explains that אורה refers to torah, שמחה refers to Yom Tov, ששון refers to bris mila, and יקר refers to tefillin. So why not just say that? Why is it talking in code? The Sfas Emes explains that the Jews always had these mitzvot—it wasn’t something new—but until now they went through the motions of these mitzvot without any enthusiasm. From Har Sinai, when they had a mountain held over their heads and were forced to accept the Torah, Bnei Yisrael kept the mitzvot because they felt they had no other choice. Finally, during Achashverosh’s time, the Jews perform the mitzvot because they want to, and they perform them with enthusiasm.

So why do we celebrate Purim? It’s true, we were saved from destruction, but still, we were in galus, we were servants of Achashverosh, and we didn’t have the Beit Hamikdash, and our situation didn’t change!
Maybe we’re celebrating not only the fact that we defeated Amalek on an external level, but the fact that we defeated the Amalek within us. By the time the Megillah ends, the Jews’ approach to torah and mitzvot was completely changed, and instead of going through the motions and living a “cooled-down” life, we now do the mitzvot and keep Torah with passion and fiery enthusiasm.

Student Studying in MMY