This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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This coming Monday night and Tuesday, we will celebrate the happiest holiday in Judaism; Purim. One of the reasons for our joy, is that we killed Haman who was from the tribe of Amalek.
The Talmud (Megillah 7b)tells us, and so it is found in the Book of Jewish law (Shulchan Aurach Aruch Chaim 695:2), that every Jew is obligated to get so drunk on Purim, that he doesn't know the difference between "blessing Mordechi and cursing Haman".
This is very difficult to understand!
Firstly, how could we ever bless Haman, the very personification of evil and anti-Semitism, no matter how drunk we are?
Secondly, How could we ever be so drunk as NOT to bless Mordechi? If it weren;t for him, there would be no Jewish people today!
(A "Purim" answer might be that this is exactly what is happening in Israel today; cursing the righteous and justifying the terrorists seems to be a national pastime.)
Thirdly, since when is it a Jewish thing (no less an obligation!) to get drunk?
To understand this, let us ask another question. As a preparation for Purim, we read parshat "Zachor" which contains the strangest Commandment in the Torah; wiping out Amalek. How can G-d actually expect us to murder an entire nation of human beings including women and children just because of their nationality?
Is this Judaism? It sounds exactly like the type of thing that Haman (and the Hamans of every generation) wanted to do!
The answer is in the following story.
You have probably heard of the Chevron massacre of 1929. The gruesome details have been reported again and again about how the Arabs lived in perfect harmony with their Jewish neighbors, until one day for no real reason they rose up and slaughtered as many of them as they could in cold blood. One of the few that remained alive told the following story:
In the Jewish community there lived a certain "renegade" Jew called Menashe. He didn't observe any of the commandments of the Torah, and proudly advertised the fact to the entire community. He would drive his motorcycle into the Jewish quarter on the Sabbath, a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth and smile and wave at his Jewish brethren coming out of the Synagogue. He estranged himself completely from all the Jews. All his friends were Arabs, and he even began to look like an Arab himself.
When the massacre began, he was sitting with his cronies in someone's house, safe from the havoc raging in the streets. Seemingly his change of friends and change of loyalty paid off; he was safe from danger while the Jews were being murdered like sheep.
Arabs poured in from the entire area to loot and kill. First they began with the Jews on the streets and the Synagogue. Then they began raiding the Jewish homes, and when they finished they broke up into smaller groups and began searching the Arab homes as well, with the hope of possibly finding a Jew or two hiding there.
A mob of about ten reached the house where Menashe was sitting, opened the door and entered.
"Any Jews here?" they asked.
"No", Menashe’s friends answered in unison.
"What about him?" they said pointing at Menashe.
"Nope!" they replied. "He's one of us!"
The murderers nodded, turned on their heels, returned to the street, closed the door behind them and proceeded to the next house. But before they could get to the next door, suddenly from house they just left, the door opened and out came…. Menashe. A strange desperate look was in his eyes as he ran toward them shouting. "IT'S NOT TRUE, IT'S NOT TRUE! I'M A JEW! I’M A JEW!"
The Arabs killed him on the spot.
No one, not even a Jew, has any idea what it means to be a Jew. We are the "sons" and the "chosen" of G-d, and this is something that completely defies comprehension.
Similarly, anti-Semitism is a phenomenon that is without reason. A perfect example is the popular classic of Jew-hatred called the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." It explains that the Jews have a secret plan to take over the world, and therefore must be eliminated from pure self-defense.
Almost every other religion (Islam and Xianity are outstanding examples) and nation (England, Italy, Rome, France, Russia even Holland to name a few) in history had or still has such a plan. Except for the Jews. But for some reason (or rather, for NO reason) the book forgets all the others and irrationally targets ONLY the Jews.
Similarly with Haman, and thousands of years later, Hitler. The Jews posed no threat whatsoever to their evil plans of world conquest, nevertheless they hated the Jews more than any other enemy and tried to murder them all. Immediately after each of his conquests, Hitler ordered his soldiers to scour every inch and every corner including even the forests looking for Jews. It was as though that that was his real motive for trying to take over the world. Even near the end of the war when soldiers and equipment were desperately needed at the front, he sent them to Hungary to eliminate Jews instead.
One of the old Chassidim in Kfar Chabad, Rabbi Mendel Futerfass, explained it very well:
"A Cossack could kill Jews all day, but at night he would get drunk and cry. Never mind that the next day he would continue killing. But he did it because he was an animal and his murder was from fury. But when the Germans came it was completely different. A German could spend hours killing Jews, take a cigarette break, wipe off his boots and resume."
This is Amalek; evil for the pure sake of evil. Just as a Jew loves G-d and is willing to sacrifice even his life for G-d (like Menashe in our story). So Amalek is willing to sacrifice everything to destroy the "sons" or the "chosen" of G-d.
In fact, that is where Purim got its name; literally "Lottery Day". At first glance it isn't appropriate, the holiday should have been called "Esther's or Mordechi's Day." The Lots were seemingly a very minor feature of the story.
But the reason that Haman threw Lots, was because he wanted to connect to a level that is above all measure and understanding. A level where there is no good or bad, right or wrong, curses or blessings. And from here he thought he could succeed, even against G-d's chosen people.
In fact, the books of Kaballah explain that this is the reason he built the gallows for hanging Mordechi FIFTY cubits (about seven stories!) high. He was trying to evoke the "50th gate of Binah" which is the source of, and above all understanding.
But he was wrong. So wrong, that he himself was hung on those same gallows.
Haman was from Amalek about whom it says "He recognizes G-d, and wants to rebel against Him." In other words, Haman knew and recognized the truth; that G-d creates all being including Haman himself. But nevertheless he wanted to rebel against Him, even if it means self-destruction. He hated the Jews because he hated G-d.
What he didn't know was that G-d "chose" the Jews from a level that is also higher than good and bad or even blessing and curses. And that here the Jews are unexplainably higher than Amalek.
That is why there are no names of G-d written in the Megillah; because the holiday of Purim reached to G-d's essence above all his names.
So this is why we must drink. Alcohol can change a person drastically as the saying goes, "When wine goes in, the secrets come out". And the innermost "secret" of every Jew comes out on Purim; that our connection with G-d is above all logic, even the logic of the Torah.
And even if a Jew is "evil" or "cursed" (as the Jews were in the time of the first Purim after eating at Achasverosh's meal, and bowing to the idol around Haman's neck) nevertheless by unquestioningly following "Mordechi" they can reach a level above all opposites and change both themselves and the entire world in an instant.
So the commandment to destroy Amalek even the babies. really has no explanation. It makes no sense and ONLY the Moshiach will know who these destructive people are.
Until then, the Lubavitcher Rebbes (who are the Moshiach or Mordechi of each generation) in their writings called Chassidut, have taught us how to identify and eliminate the spiritual "Amalek" within ourselves.
Amalek is "coldness" to Torah and Mitzvot, "doubt" about the Goodness and Ability of G-d (the Hebrew word "Amalek" is the numerical value of "Safek" which means "doubt") and "hatred" toward others.
And the way to eliminate it is by following the orders of "Mordechi"; Self-Sacrifice at learning Torah, prayer and loving others. But mainly through the Joy of knowing that we are G-d's people, and that every deed we do brings Moshiach one second nearer.
May we all defeat the Amalek within us and merit to really dance in Joy THIS PURIM with....
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