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Wednesday, March 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

    The reading of the Megillah is capped off by the singing of the joyous poem "Shoshanas Yaakov." It ends with the words "vegam Charvonah zachur latov," so too Charvonah (is blessed)... So what was so great about Charvonah that merited his placement in this song - and the "good side" of the song. Charvonah was the one who pointed out that Haman had prepared a gallows for Mordechai and Achashveirosh subsequently ordered Haman's hanging on that very gallows. So. There were plent of other players in the story. What about Hasach? What made Charvonah special?
    If one reads only the text of the Megillah without any awareness of the talmudic materials on it or the history surrounding it, Achashveirosh seems like a pretty neutral king. However, having been the one personally responsible for the halting of the building of the Beis HaMikdash, he was certainly part of the problem in many respects. What one can see simply from the text of the Megillah is a glimpse into his personality. He was very impulsibve decision maker who always acted on the moment. Once the moment was gone, it was gone. His anger with Vashti spelled her demise almost instantaneously. He didn't hesitate to grant Haman's request on the spot. "Kill the Jews? Sure." When Mordechai saved his life, he was certainly most grateful but nothing was ever done. So he forgot about it completely and had to be reminded. Even with Haman's decree, he does seem to have totally forgotten about it later on.
    Although Achashveirosh was not from Amaleik this trait is very much in step with the theme of Amaleik - chance and happenstance. Rashi (Devarim 25:18) explains that Amaleik "happened" upon B'nei Yisroel as they came out of Egypt (despite Midrashim to the contrary). The live-in-the-moment mentality of Amaleik is diametrically opposed to that of the Jews who understand that there is no chance and nothing happens without purpose. Not only was Achashveirosh physically a threat to B'nei Yisroel, his mentality was spiritually in opposition with ours.
    Charvonah understood this about Achashveirosh. He knew Haman was evil but he knew that for Achashveirosh to adequately punish him, he needed to seize the moment. Achashveirosh was already quite agitated and might not have appreciated Charvonah's intervention. But he knew that Achashveirosh could easily forget about this if time were to go on. So Charvonah jumped in and gave Achashveirosh a great idea that was too ironic to pass up. Charvonah was responsible for making sure Haman met his just and immediate demise. If not for him - who knows what would have happened?


     I have yet to receive an answer to the question I posed last Purim: The gemara (12a) recounts that the students of R' Shimon bar Yochai asked: Why was it that the Jews of that generation (in the megillah) deserved to be destroyed. The final answer is that they were deserving of destruction since they bowed down to an idol. Rashi there indicates that this refers to the time of Nevuchadnezzar. There are two difficulties with this, both of which stem fro the simple historical fact that Nevuchadnezzar's reign was many decades before the story of Purim. (Nevuchadnezzar reigned approximately 26 years after the churban - Megillah 11b.) If they deserved to be destroyed, why did it take so long for this punishment to (almost) be meted out? Furthermore, this generation was not the one that sinned in the days of Nevuchadnezzar. Why does the gemara list this as the reason why the Jews of that generation deserved to be destroyed?


     Another thought that occurred to me this year: Haman suggests to Achashveirosh that the one in whom the king finds favour should be brought through the city on the king's own horse and it shall be declared, "kacha yei'aseh la'ish..." We see that phrase once again when the suggestion is actually carried out. We also see the exact phrase with regards to the mitzvah of chalitzah. After the woman spits in front of the man, she declares "kacha yei'aseh la'ish" - this is what is done to the man who neglects to build his brother's house. Not only is the phrase the same, the trop on the words is exactly the same. So what is the connection?

Purim Samei'ach!

Eliezer Bulka

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