THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
You can also read previous studies on this site.
PURIM-- A MODEL OF ACTIVIST CO-ED SALVATION
Purim teaches us that God often only helps those who help themselves; tho fasting and prayer had to precede Israel's Purim salvation, it only came when they themselves fought their would-be murderers. So, while we prayed for 1900 years to return to our land, we only succeeded when the Jews, thru the Zionist movement, 100 years ago, decided to actively end their exile-- they succeeded, possibly beyond their own greatest expectations; what a wonderful and sacrificial accomplishment. Our next big mission, that of religious Zionism, is to infuse that wonderful body, the State of Israel, with a balanced, yet intense, Jewish soul, both fully universal and fully uniquely Jewish, to finally return the world to Eden from Jerusalem.
Just as Esther took an active leading role in the Purim tale, so Israel's women, both great wives and mothers and great individuals in their own right, contributed so much to the beginning of the gradual growth of our redemption today (e.g. Raquela-- A Woman of Valor, portrayed by Ruth Gruber). Some haredim, especially chassidim, do not include the names of the mothers of the bride and groom in a wedding invitation; they just add to their husbands' names: "and his mate"; this odd practice, probably due to non-Jewish influence, seemingly contradicts basic Jewish teachings of the uniqueness and value, "the name", of every human being as such; it also ignores God's own example-- He always calls good women, e.g. Eve, Dina and the Matriarchs, by name in the Torah (tho Mrs. Lot and Mrs. Potiphar, moral failures, remain anonymous, as does Mrs. Noach). The later Biblical writings, e.g. Ruth and Esther, are similar, with exceptions, e.g. the wives of Job and Manoach. Golda Warhaftig missed a good friend's child's wedding because only her husband's name, not familiar to Golda, was on the invitation (she herself was a great teacher of Torah)!
So it's appropriate that we counter such Jewish non-Jewish practices by including the names and teachings of two great Estherian Jerusalem female teachers of Torah in this Purim study-- Chana Henkin and Susan Handelman, and Naomi Goldstein HaCohen of Haifa. Usually, sweet pleasant people, e.g. flower children, aren't so smart, and really smart people, e.g. sharp misnagdic talmudists, aren't so sweet-- such women show that their nurturing leitmotif need not be sacrificed by developing their aggressive intellectual sub-motif (v.v. for male teachers, e.g. the Rebbe and Shlomo Carlebach; we are sometimes pleasantly surprised to find that great talmudists are also nice people with common sense, not spaced-out holy terrors).
Z. Regarding Reversals
Purim is the day, and Esther the book, when all is unpredictable, constantly turned upside down; the Jews have it great, as the book unfolds, are soon sunk in severe crisis, and emerge in much better shape at its (temporary?) climax. Purim's message becomes more and more relevant, as our world becomes more and more a topsy-turvey roller coaster. What we assume and take for granted, even for centuries, in so many realms, suddenly seems quite questionable, even wrong, as modern knowledge and thought develop. A little later down the road, the new premises themselves may be questioned; old truths, values and practices may even be rehabilitated. Even our basic image of the universe has a flipside, a completely different way of looking at reality.
ARE YOU STANDING STILL?: What's Let's start our Purim banquet with an hors d'oeuvre-- a wild diversion, taken from a respectable chassidic journal of science and mysticism. Pour epater le bourgeois-- truth often isn't "balabatish", isn't even "common sense"; the sun does not revolve about the earth, tho it appears to do so.
BUT HOW DO I KNOW THAT?-- MAYBE IT DOES! In B'or Ha'Torah, No. 10 ($12 from TOP), Amnon Goldberg of Tel Aviv bolsters the claims of Dr. Avi Rabinowitz and Prof. Herman Branover in previous issues, that geocentrism is a valid way of looking at the universe:
Bertram Russell admitted that "whether the earth rotates once a day from west to east as Copernicus taught, or the heavens revolve once a day from east to west, as his predecessors held, the observed phenomena will be the same; a metaphysical assumption has to be made". Yet today everybody "just knows" that the Earth goes around the sun (heliocentrism). "We cannot feel our motion thru space, nor has any experiment ever proved that the Earth is actually in motion", admit Einstein's leading disciples. Invoked proofs... are more easily and comprehensively explained by the entire universe rotating about the Earth every 24 hours. No experiment has ever been performed with such excruciating persistence and meticulous precision, and in every conceivable manner, than that of trying to detect and measure the motion of the Earth. Yet they have all consistently and continually yielded a velocity for the Earth of exactly zero mph... hundreds of experiments have failed to detect even a smidgen of the purported 67,000 mph translational and 1000 mph rotational velocity of the Earth. Not only can it not be disproved that "the Earth stands forever" (Ecc. 1:4) and has no velocity; it cannot be disproved that the Earth is the center of the universe.
When the cosmographer Rabbi David Gans showed to Tycho Brahe the account in tractate Pesachim of how the sages of Jerusalem yielded to the scholars of Alexandria as to whether the galgalim move and the mazalot are stationary, or v.v., he exclaimed: "Those sages were wrong to submit to the Greeks..." (Nechmad V'Nayim 25). All research confirms the Biblical-Tychonic schema, with the planets of the solar system (except the Earth, which is not a "planet", the word meaning a "wanderer") in epicyclic retinue about the sun, and this coherent unit, plus the whole steller array-- space, and everything in it-- orbiting the Earth and subordinate to it (see Maharal's Be'er HaGola 6)... The authority of Scripture and our sages support the geocentric paradigm (e.g. Rambam's M.T., Y.H. 3; YF: but we don't learn science from Torah, per Rambam & Co.)...
Marx and Darwin openly acknowledged their gratitude to Copernicus, w/o whom their obnoxious theories would never have gotten off the ground to hijack human minds. Historians have shown that many social woes today are directly attributable to the rise of Copernican heliocentrism and relativistic acentrism: i.e., Biblical criticism, evolution (!!-- Rav Kook approved), Nietszche, Freudian psychology (!-- Rav J. Soloveichik appreciated Freud's genius), communism, moral relativism, Nazism, atheism, existentialism, humanism (!!!-- cf. The Mussar Movement), hedonism, anarchism and despair. No wonder Ma'aseh Tuviya referred to Nicholas Copernicus as the `first born of Satan'. M.T. is a 1707 encyclopedia of science compiled by Dr. Tobias Cohn of Metz, one of the greatest physicians of his time; his father fled there from the Polish Chmielnicki Cossacks; he died in Jerusalem about 1729, after serving as physician to Turkish Sultan Ahmad III. He openly disavows supernatural agencies, yet occasionally concedes that certain maladies may be attributable to magical and diabolical influences
YF: While quite thought provoking, I urge you to take Goldberg's claims with a pound of salt if, like me, you have no time to investigate their validity; if you do, let me know what you come up with; cf. Vendyl Jones' disputes with the academic archeological establishment, whom he accuses of anti-religious bias in their study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and The Department of Antiquities, whom he calls The Department of Iniquities, due to their attempts to stop him from seeking the long lost tabernacle and holy utensils, per his reading of the Copper Scroll as of 1997 (C.E., which he reads as "Common Error"; cf. the O.T., Only Testament).
MODERN MOSLEM MUSINGS of ISLAMIC IMAMS: Medieval Spanish Jews dialogued with, taught and learned from Islamic phiosophers and theologians. Unlike the cruel Catholic Christian world, the Moslems were viewed as collegues and friends. But, thru the ages, Christian civilization overtook and outstripped, by far, the world of Islam, which plummeted from its medieval heights. Tho the European civilization of the "prince of peace" culminated in the horrendous holocaust, interfaith dialogue with repentant Christians proliferated after WWII. Meanwhile, the world of Islam became the demonic arch enemy, as the Koran became the basis of cruel, frantic and frequent attempts to destroy the State of Israel and murder and injure Jews, many of them Holocaust survivors. Mosques thruout the Arab world became centers of incitement to hatred and murder. The entire free world became the target of Moslem Terrorists. Suddenly, out of nowhere, moderate Moslem clerics are beginning to come out of the woodwork and protest extremist distortion of Islam, a religion which, they claim, innately has nothing against either the Jewish people, the Jewish religion or the State of Israel. I have heard such sentiments from a sheikh in Jericho; likewise, basically Moslem states of the former USSR and Turkey relate freely to Israel. A most articulate, learned and open spokesmen for tolerant Islam recently spoke at Jerusalem's Falk Israel Center for Arye Gallin's Root & Branch project, now at Hineni--
Abdul Hadi Palazzi is secretary general of The Italian Muslim Association and imam of the Italian Islamic Community; he has a doctorate in Islamic Sciences by decree of the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, and directs the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community, Via Muzio Scevola 81/25, 00181 Rome, Italy tel-fax 39-6-782-5036; he is moslem co-chairman of the Root & Branch Association's Islam-Israel Fellowship. In his address at R & B (the spiritual-intellectual equivalent of B & B), he explained how Islam indeed recognizes the Jewish claim to Israel, whereas their own "chosen land" is Arabia. He attributes Islamic anti-Jewishness and anti-Zionism to distortion of Islamic scriptures and tradition by vicious fundamentalists (cf. Jewish and Christian equivalents); he answered tough ?? on his thesis very well; the audience remained until 11 PM to continue the discussion.
The next morning, he appeared at the 12th World Congess of Jewish Studies, to compare Jewish and Moslem laws and practice of cantillation of their sacred texts and prayers; several sheikhs were present to sing Islamic chant, rather than just discussing it. The presence and enthusiastic participation of academic scholars of Judaism of all persuasions-- from charedi Jewish to Protestant theological, including myself and Else Bentheim, everyone friendly, respectful and tolerant, is another major paradigm shift, v'nahafoch hu, of our modern emerging messianic age. Until recently, most non-Jews who studied Judaism did so to refute or condemn it, rather than to learn from it, e.g. Wellhausen & Co.; thus rabbis condemned teaching Torah to non-Jews. But, thruout the ages, e.g. in Italy, when non-Jews took a positive attitude toward Judaism, rabbis such as Sporno and Ibn Ezra gladly taught them. See Israel and Humanity by Eliyahu Benamozegh ($35 from TOP) for an excellant overview of Judaism's attitude to others faiths and folks.
The Congress was an impressive display of modern Jewish academic scholarship, often shedding new light on ancient sources; I met there many of the academic authors whom I quote. Menachem Elon, a great religious Zionist and father, was President of the Congress. Over 1200 participants were offered hundreds of lectures a day, in English, Hebrew, and other languages, besides high level Jewish music, exhibitions, and entertainment. We have a copy of the detailed program at TOP.
Naomi Hacohen is married to Haifa's vegetarian chief rabbi, Shear Yashuv, and is the daughter of Rav Dr. Herbert Goldstein, a pioneer in centerist Orthodoxy; she delivered a paper showing that the stress on certain portions of the prophets, found in the haftarot, is already found in Philo's works (her husband, in full rabbinic regalia, was in the typically totally mixed audience-- ranging from Else Bendheim and Rav Mordecai Machlis to reform, secular and even non-Jewish scholars of Judaism); this highly erudite academic rebbetzin, equally at home in classical Greek, academic English and both Biblical and modern scholarly Hebrew, is the antithesis of her insular yiddish speaking collegues, e.g. The Sulitzer Rebbetzin (see our Matos-Masay study). A leading Conservative rabbi, at the closing session, told how he refused to join a haredi minyan on his flight over, because they recited the blessing "shelo asani isha, Who has not made me a woman"! How intolerant! He didn't have to say it himself and he could easily interpret it (correctly) as a male's reminder that he needs more mitzvos and learning, for he can't rely on his deficient instincts and intuition, unlike a woman who gratefully proclaims that God has made her like His very own personality or Will. This "rabbi" obviously didn't care about the mitzva of dovening with a minyan, or he would have joined them or formed his own.
A Jewish response to our topsy-turvey world is found in the 3 mitzvos of Purim: 1) immersing ourselves in Esther's message of hidden Providence, 2) doing acts of kindness-- gifts to the poor, and 3) deepening friendship-- sharing, and sending to others, our Purim feasts.
Y. THE TORAH READING FOR PURIM IS EXODUS 17:8-16
Tho a public Torah reading must contain at least 10 verses, 9 suffice here, as they form a complete subject unit (Meg. 3:6, 21b); nevertheless, the last verse is repeated to make 10:
AMALEK came and fought Israel in Refidim. Moshe said to Yehoshua: "Choose men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I'll stand on the top of the hill, with the staff of God in my hand". Yeshoshua did as Moshe said. Moshe, Aharon and Hur went to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moshe held up his hand, Yisrael prevailed; when he allowed his hand to rest, Amalek prevailed. The hands of Moshe became heavy; they took a stone and placed it under him, and he sat upon it (no comfortable chair for Moshe, when Tzahal has it tough-- cf. ministers' big cars!). Aharon and Hur supported his hands, one on the one side, the other on the other; so his hands remained an expression of trust until the sun went down. Yehoshua weakened Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. God said to Moshe: "Write this as a memorial in the book and put it also in the ears of Yehoshua-- I'll completely blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens". Moshe built an altar and called it God's My Banner. He said: "for there's a hand upon God's throne, a war for God against Amalek, from generation to generation". The "hand" is either God's, taking an oath, or Amalek's, fighting His sovereignty.
This encounter follows a loss of faith in God at Massa and Meriva; the Torah also links Amalek's appearance to faithless immoral business conduct: "You shall not have in your bag two different stone weights, one large and one small... For an abomination to God, your God, is anyone who does such things, anyone who does wrong (cf. the Israeli bank shares scandal). Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you went out from Mitzrayim. How he fell upon you on the way and massacred your stragglers, all those who trailed after you when you were faint and spent, and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall be, when God, your Lord, will have given you rest from all your enemies round about, in the land that God, your Lord, is giving you as an inheritance, to take possession of it, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven-- do not forget this" (Deut. 25:13-19)-- God's war against Amalek is henceforth to be waged by Israel.
A great faith builder and tester is fighting Amalek = 240 = safek, doubt; this nihilistic force holds back God's "throne", the recognition of His rule, oneness and presence amidst nature. He comes from afar to attack the Jewish body and spirit, tho Israel does not threaten him (not like the 7 nations or local Arabs). Amalek cannot stomach what Jewish existance implies for Man. The Jews' enemy is God's enemy and v.v. From Rome to the Crusaders, from Luther to Hitler, from Saddam Hussain to Nassar, the Edomite society of each age produces its contemporary version of Amalek, tho the actual tribe of Amalek was apparantly wiped out by the tribe of Shimon (I Ch. 4:42-3). The Jews must always be on the alert and fight to the finish; Amalek's swagger is only an illusory shadow covering God's world, where all is, in essence, good. Pacifism is silent acquiesence to his aggression. Standing up to Amalek's challenge to faith is our Jewish task, as priests of mankind. Yet, the Torah says we must make our own land secure before we straighten out the rest of the world. A model state of Israel is the best weapon to blot out Amalek's memory-- Mankind will come there to learn about God and itself from Yaakov-- FOR FROM ZION SHALL GO FORTH TORAH AND THE WORD OF GOD FROM JERUSALEM (Isaiah 2).
Similarly, a model Torah society, involved in all national problems, is a sine qua non to bring all Israel to Torah. Why should they want to join a religious world which is ridden with internecine warfare and hateful competition? Does Tzahal pull together an otherwise demoralized society today too? The Talmud asks: "Do Moshe's hands really wage war?-- No!"-- they simply focus Jewish hearts Upstairs. When they look UP to God and Torah as their goals and pray, they'll win (but they must fight). When they look DOWN-- adopt a secular earthly perspective-- they're like any nation and won't prevail. In fighting the Arabs, we must not turn into Jewish Jihidists.
X. MEGILLAT ESTHER-- A Tzadik, a Strategist, and an Anti-Semite in the Purim Drama, are portrayed by Chana Henkin in a TOP video lecture-- Mordecai, as Yosef, is descended from Rachel and is called Tzaddik by the rabbis. Tzadikim possess the ability to stand by their moral principles, tho pressured and threatened, day in and day out, by powerful forces. Neither Tzadik will descend or compromise-- Yosef won't touch, leave alone lie with, Mrs. Potiphar; Mordecai won't even bow down to Haman, tho he may do so to show respect for a leader-- for Haman makes himself a god, determining the life or death of a whole people, and disposing of its property. Esther is not just a simple goody-goody pietist; she knows how to charm fickle playboy Achashverus, without extravagant paraphenalia. She's savvy in court intrigue (cf. Arye Deri & Co.)-- Esther knows that Haman & Co. will dispose of her, if she immediately asks the king to get rid of him. She first has to arouse royal jealousy, hinting of an affair between her and Haman. She must have Haman present and hangable at the moment of his denunciation; the revelation of the Queen's Jewishness will also highlight the incompetence of his intelligence services.
Haman, a prototype rabid anti-semite, is driven to self-destruction by his hatred of the Jews; no matter how successful he is, he can't bear a world where even one Jew refuses to join "Our Crowd" and adopt its values (cf. Hitler). The King is the silent anti-Semite; he just doesn't like Jews; he goes along with Haman's Genocide, with no investigation of, or concern about, the people involved (cf. the silent Allies and Church in WWII, and Achav, who lets his wife do anything to get his neighbor's vineyard, per Prof. Uriel Simon). When he suspects Haman of plotting against him, he's willing to deal with the Jews to his own advantage-- perhaps Mordecai has to be rewarded for his past services to get him to uncover the current plot!
W. THE SNAKE & AMALEK-- A KABBALISTIC OVERVIEW (from a TOP video lecture of Rav Gedaliah Fleer-- contemporary correlations by YF; both of us are interviewed by Shalom Freedman in "In the Service of God"; Rav Fleer was also recently interviewed by the London Jewish Chronicle): Kabala links Amalek to the snake in Eden. Indeed Haman's name appears in Adam's tale-- "HAMIN Haetz, from the tree... have you eaten?" (Gen. 3:11; Hul. 139). The snake resents God's choice of Man for a higher role; so Amalek rejects the choice of Israel, denying their true nobility and greatness (cf. Mein Kampf). Amalek, the symbol of ultimate evil, believes in the reality of God, but hates Him and fights His plans for His World! Rav Yochanan says that the snake seduced Chava (A.Z. 22b, Shabat 146a, Yev. 103b). The highly imaginative Ari claims that Cain was thus born of a mixture of Adam's seed and the snake's poison. He was jealous of Abel's extra sister-wife; he disputed God's so limiting his ability to self-perpetuate. As Adam's son, he too relates to God via a sacrifice-- yet he just takes the first mediocre produce which comes to his hand (see Rashi); he treats God as he envisions God's treatment of himself-- random and haphazard. Thus The Rogatchover Rov explains the connection between one with false weights and Amalek (above)-- When the Jews use bad weights, it is indeed hard for anyone to believe they're worthy of being God's Chosen people (cf. Israel and the Arabs)-- Amalek then can convince all nations that God's own balance scale is out of order, in His choice of Israel.
THE SNAKE doesn't deny God's command not to eat of the fruit, but gives it a novel twisted meaning-- your purpose on this world is to emulate God; just as God never relinquishes His choice to any other force, so He wants you to cherish your uninhibited gift of choice. His prohibition of eating from the tree is but a test to see if you'll retain this freedom, not even relinquishing it to Him! Then you too will merit to be the creator of unlimited worlds, just like God (cf. modern permissive child rearing). Thus the snake makes Eve doubt the nature of her test, as Amalek causes the Jews to doubt their chosenness. Vendyl Jones, a colorful modern founder of the Noachide Movement, claims that the snake urges Eve to take God's prohibition of eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge metaphorically, not literally-- "snakes" call pious folks who take the Lord's words seriously and literally "fundamentalists". YF: But we are to take many Biblical statements as metaphors, e.g. "an eye for an eye"; the Rambam believed that all Biblical tales of experiencing angels are but dreams. It is only thru our oral tradition that we can both know and teach others what is to be taken literally and what metaphorically. But Vendyl stresses that non-Jews must not be confused with our Oral Law until we get them to recognize the fundamental truths about the world, God, Man and Israel from the O.T.-- The Only Testament, The Tanach-- itself. He feels that it's the Jews task to lead and teach the Noachides, whereas others, e.g. J. David Davis and James Tabor, feel that it is the gentiles' task to organize and define a Noachide Movement, in consultation with rabbis.
In 1988, the JP printed an article by a modern Amalek, a Palestinian Anglican priest, who uses double talk to deny the clear Biblical promise of Israel to Israel-- nowhere in his article does he mention that the "poor Palestinians" lost their land in attempts to destroy Israel and drive all the Jews into the sea. Would they even dream of granting Jews in Palestine equal rights, had they won the Six Day War, and some Jews survived? Another Amalek, the Norwegian ambassador, had the gall to unfavorably compare Israel's treatment of the Arabs with the Nazi occupation of Norway; of course, he does not bother to compare the Quisling Norwegian acceptance of the Nazis with that of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Norway's pro-Israel MP Christenson redeems their good name.
V. CHAOS RESOLUTION VIA THE ORAL LAW
Rav Tzadok HaCohen, based on Tos., says that the Jews did voluntarily accept the written Torah at Sinai, but God FORCED them to also accept the oral tradition. Later, at Purim, they voluntarily reaccepted the oral Torah. The oral law often represents a situation of chaos, where it is impossible to decide between equally acceptable alternative opinions, all true. The oral law does NOT choose between right and wrong positions-- ultimately all are correct, "this and this the words of the living God". However, the majority of scholars, representing the Jewish people, decides as to which view is most suited for God's world at a given period. The love relationship of God and the Jew, beyond logical understanding, is innate in the oral law process-- the Jewish people resolves the unresolvable chaos via a higher light. The Exodus generation LEFT darkness for light, chaos for clarity; they were not yet ready for a process which would TURN the chaos into clarity, which could find clarity WITHIN the chaos itself-- V'Nahfoch hu-- the talmudic process. We can now translate MEGILLAT ESTHER, the Hebrew name of the Book of Esther, as REVEALING THE HIDDEN, teaching chaos theory, a lesson of faith-- that there is light of purpose, even within the most meaningless darkness itself, a resolution to all chaos. In this process, a pure knowledge of God, beyond conceptualization, is suddenly revealed, according to the Ari. All threats to Israel are then revealed, Purim style, as leading to this goal.
V'Nahafoch hu-- all's turned around at Purim. So Ben Bag Bag (Avot 5) urges one to "turn around in it (Torah), turn around in it-- (hafoch ba, hafoch ba; then you will find) that all is in it!" Only by the talmudic process of exploring every possibility in every issue will all our needs be satisfied, and the world properly developed-- see R. below.
U. OVERKILL & UNDERKILL-- THE PURIM HAFTARA
The entire Book of Esther is read both in the evening and the morning. When Shushan Purim falls on Shabbat, the Haftara is I S.15: Shmuel kills Agag, king of Amalek, when Saul fails to do so. Hamen's ancestor was meanwhile conceived, turning Saul's political mercy into historical cruelty. It also led to the opposite extreme-- his murderous cruelty to the priests of On (Yoma 22b, Ecc. Raba 7:32, I S. 22:127ff), which also resulted in a loss of income to the Givonite non-Jews; God plagued Israel with famine for 3 years for this bad treatment of these deceptive pagans; He only stopped when Saul's 7 sons were given to the vengeful Givonites (II S. 21).
This double message-- merciless treatment of the non-Jewish enemy with ultra sensitive treatment of the peaceful gentile, however low and churlish he may be, is quite relevant in our present difficult situation with the Arabs of Israel. Some may consider them Amalek, determined to destroy the Jewish people everywhere; others would say that they simply want political independence in what they consider their land-- they wouldn't pursue Jews abroad without this conflict, unlike Hitler, who would chase even a loyal decorated German Jew to the end of the earth to kill him; we should try to teach the Arabs that they too have a portion in the Torah and Israel, as loyal sons of Noach; we must show them that Islam, used to incite them against us in the name of God, is a falsification of the Torah, while simultaneously publicizing the views and voices of moderate Moslems. Meanwhile, however, any pursuer must be stopped, even by killing him, if necessary, tho he's not Amalek. The little kid who throws stones to drive the Jews from Israel, endangering life, may be in that catagory. Perhaps deportation in such cases is the best remedy-- AND YOU SHALL REMOVE THE EVIL FROM YOUR MIDST. So those families of terrorist murders, who celebrate and praise their acts, should be stopped and punished, for they incite other Arabs to terrorism. While a similar little stone thrower from Mea Shearim should also be punished, his intent and scope is quite different, just to protect his holy city-- he won't bother the Jews of Herzelia.
T. DRINK, DRINK, DRINK, & BE MERRY...
R. Leibele Eiger left a strong misnagdic background for chassidius; he said, however, that the mitzva of lebesumei, to get high, on Purim does not require alcohol. What's required is to transcend one's usual conclusions and realize that, indeed, HE KNOWS NOTHING, not even the difference between "cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai" (Meg. 7a), unless God tells him. My truth is only derived from my own most limited perspective, doubly limited by the contemporary state of knowledge of my society. But one cannot live with such indecision and must act according to his best judgement-- MOST of the year.
Two days a year, however, are set aside to experience man's ultimate ignorance-- Purim and Yom K'PURIM-- the day "like Purim"! I break my routine life, via feasting or fasting, and realize that decisions of life and death might just as well be made by lottery-- Haman casts lots to slaughter Israel; the high priest so determines which goat, otherwise identical, goes to God and which to the Devil; I do not pick my parents, home, or society, despite their tremendous effects on me. Ultimately, I do not even know who is truly good and bad, unless God decides to inform me. He probes hearts and knows things about me that I can never even know about myself, MUCH LESS OTHERS (Rambam, M.T. Tshuva 3:2). I go in disguise, wear a mask, to portray this idea. Modern existentialist philosophers wallow in pessimism and Amalakian sceptism, when confronting human know-nothingness; the Jew, however, celebrates that very state on Purim and Yom Kippurim-- he concludes that it doesn't matter that I know nothing else; there's a God in the world Who knows everything, teaches me via his Torah, loves me, and cares about me. Our ultimate costume, as a nation of priests, is the garb of the kohen gadol; it portrays symbolically the true potential heights of all humanity, if they just develop them.
Solomon teaches: WINE'S A MOCKER, STRONG DRINK RIOTOUS... (Prov. 20:1)... HE WHO LOVES WINE AND OIL SHALL NOT BE RICH (PROV. 21:17). His mother reprimands him: IT'S NOT FOR KINGS TO DRINK WINE... LEST THEY DRINK AND FORGET... GIVE STRONG DRINK TO HE WHO'S ABOUT TO PERISH, AND WINE TO THE BITTER SOUL. LET HIM DRINK AND FORGET... (Prov. 31:1-9, the prelude to A WOMAN OF VALOR). So R. Hanin (or Yochanan) proclaimed: "Wine was created for the sole purpose of comforting mourners and rewarding the wicked!" R. Chiya notes: WINE (yayin, = 70) ENTERS, WISE COUNSEL (or SECRET, sod, = 70) DEPARTS (or EMERGES). R. Hanin b. Papa, however, follows Shlomo's father: "HE MAKES GROW... PLANTS FOR MAN'S WORK, TO BRING FORTH BREAD FROM THE EARTH (first, of prime importance) AND (then, of secondary importance) WINE , WHICH GLADDENS MAN'S HEART-- Ps. 104; he says: "A person in whose house wine is not poured like water has not attained the state of blessedness"-- Eruv. 65a. Radak says that REASONABLE amounts of wine (not vodka!) drive away melancholy, sensitize the intellect, and even prepare the mind for prophecy. Rebbe Bunam said that Purim is even harder than Yom Kipurim! It's far greater affliction to starve our minds by drinking, than to starve our bodies! (see our Naso study on wine and nazir)
Rav Yehuda Henkin notes that one is NOT to get really drunk, in order to confuse "blessed is Mordecai (or Haman)" with "cursed is Mordecai (or Haman)" (Aruch Hashulchan, OH 695:1). He's merely to get high enough that he won't worry about the intellectual and philosophical analysis-- whether to stress the downfall of Haman or the success of Mordecai (Truei Zahav OH 695:5)-- True, many of our enemies have vanished-- cursed is Haman. But Mordecai's "blessing"-- true salvation and redemption-- is a later stage in history. Even today, many Jews are still "servants to Achashverus", afraid to be uniquely Jewish amidst the "rewards" of civilization (Meg. 14a). Don't worry about it today-- just drink and be merry! YF: Perhaps we're all mourners, as we openly face a mixed up sick world every Purim, especially right after the 1996 terrorist attacks on buses; God comforts us with a tipsy Purim Feast.
Erudite, tho non-traditional, Ruth R. Wisse explored "The Schlemel as Modern Hero". The East European Jew reinterpreted his physical weakness as reflecting its opposite, his incredible strength in refusing to be defined by others. The schlemel, a frequent Purim play character, is the victim of evil forces, beyond his control. The Purim fool evolved from the crude cynical 15th Century German "naar" to the protagonist in sophisticated East European satires of communal weakness. The Jews of Purim were saved by a combination of beauty, brains, and sheer good luck. East European shtadlanim were far less successful; they're portrayed as comic bumbling Mordecais (cf. Itzik Manger's Megile Lider, starring Shlemel Fastrigossa, the ordinary downtrodden shtetel Jew). The Jew both admires and ridicules himself thru the schlemel. Purim is the opportunity for everyone to let off steam, to display their often repressed thoughts and feelings. On Purim, the rabbis wanted to take man momentarily beyond good and evil, into the Messianic ideal world, without villains, with no need for alert moral awareness-- a moment of rest from the Jewish struggle. The catagories of Haman and Mordecai were not to be inverted, but prophetically transcended.
WELCOME ABOARD!: While high on Purim, Rav Kook z"l said that he could connect any verse to Purim! A visitor shouted: ...AND LOTAN'S SISTER WAS TIMNA (Gen. 36:22). Rav Kook said that this verse indeed contained the essence of the Purim story. Timna, a Horite princess became a mere concubine to Eliphaz, Esau's son, and bore him Amalek, the ancestor of Haman (36:12)! The rabbis tell us that she yearned to bear Avraham's seed; she humbled herself to sleep with Eliphaz, after Avraham & Co. rejected her as an insufficiently sincere convert-- the result was Amalek, who was to avenge his mother's slight ever after, on Avraham's descendants. Therefore the Jews freely accepted the many fair weather converts to Judaism, who appeared after their smashing Purim victory (Est. 8:17), tho they were motivated by fear of the Jews-- this was a tikkun, a fixing, of the overly suspicious and rejectionist attitude that caused all the trouble (cf. British and Dutch overly rigid standards of conversion, and the Syrian Jewish community's total refusal to convert non-Jews, originating in Argentina in 1935; perhaps the Persians were simply Judaized as Sons of Noach, preventing further anti-semitism-- YF; may Israel's Arabs soon join Alexander Schindler's list of peaceful non-halachic Reform converts!). The opposite extreme may have been Moshe's too free acceptance of the mixed multitude, who were steeped in Egyptian perversion. Rav Kook's teaching can serve as a lesson to Israeli religious judges (dayanim), who so often give a terribly hard time to truly sincere converts, with little sensitivity to their feelings.
A minimum requirement for dayanim who deal with any non-Israelis should be knowledge of their language; this itself should be part of a positive revolution-- the emergence of worldly, with it, friendly dayanim, preventing great disgrace to God's Name and perversion of justice.
S. A HASSIDIC PURIM FEAST
From Newman's Hasidic Anthology (Schoken): The piyyut to Shabat Z'chor cites: "If all holidays will no longer be observed, Purim still will be!" Bet Pinchas (14-5), explains that, in the future, Israel may not merit the open intervention of God, commemorated by the other festivals-- it will, however, merit His aid in its battles in a natural way, as Purim (The 6 Day War?). Understanding the hidden workings of God may be even higher than just seeing His miracles. In truth, the reference is to Megillat Taanit, all of whose post-Torah holidays ceased, except Hanuka and Purim (Otzar Yisroel). Rav Meir Weiner shows how all the other holidays are included in both the name and the holiday of Purim!
Adar is Yosef's month; the 2 Adars in leap years correspond to his doubled tribe, Efrayim and Menasha. Haman, also a great Prime Minister, tried to destroy Israel in Adar, but Yosef's dream was fulfilled: "My sheaf arose and also remained standing upright" (Gen. 37:7). Moses Montefiore reminded the Gerer Rebbe that Mordecai could not have uncovered the plot against the king, if he didn't know Persian. So, he concluded, Polish hassidim should learn proper Polish (and polish?)! The Rebbe replied that the story shows the opposite-- that the plotters knew that the Jews didn't bother to learn the local languages, and were thus unafraid to speak in Mordecai's presence! Only rare Jewish leaders, as Moses & Sir Moses, should be linguists, on behalf of their people! The opposite approach of Sir Moses and Rabbis Hirsch & Soloveichik, integrating Torah and the world, might have saved many of the majority who abandoned East European Jewish tradition; the insular approach of their rabbis made them conclude that they had to leave their heritage to be part of the world, that Torah was a replacement for life, rather than its sanctification and source of meaning.
Y. Persky, author of "English is Gematria" and "The Sayings of God", suggested a way to get even more material into these studies-- skip the vowels! Anglophiles will benefit-- Jews acquire mental sharpness and flexibility by constantly exploring the possible meanings of unvocalized Hebrew-- let's try it!
Kbrnr Hssdm pd th brrs f thr Prm gfts wth dntns fr th pr f Ertz Ysrl- thr rbb rdrd t s th bst wy t fght Hmn! S tdy's Sldrty Cnfrncs mght fnd wys t mrve srl's ecnmc systm t rtn mrcn lm. Hrsch strplr nted tht Jws drss p s Gntls n Prm; n Ym Kprm, thy ll drss p s gd Jws! Th Prrsvr Rbb wld gv lts f chrty n th dy FTR Prm, whn vryn nglctd th mtzv!
For those who minds are too laden with Purim spirit(s) to make the attempt:
Kobriner Hassidim paid the bearers of their Purim gifts with a donation for the poor of Eretz Yisroel-- their rebbe ordered it as the best way to fight Haman! So today's Solidarity Conferences might find ways to improve Israel's economic system to retain American olim. Hirsch Ostropoler noted that Jews dress up as Gentiles on Purim; on Yom Kipurim, they all dress up as good Jews! The Porrisover Rebbe would give lots of charity on the day AFTER Purim, when everyone neglected the mitzva!
R. PURIM CURIOSITIES (from The Purim Anthology by Philip Goodman-- JPS):
As Goodman's other holiday books, this book contains a wealth of information in clear down to earth style, scholarly, but fun. Esther is the only book in the Bible which doesn't mention God's name. Mordecai knew that the Persians would read and copy it and use His name for idolatrous purposes (Hai Gaon). Paradoxically, the Additions to The Book of Esther in the Apocrypha, not considered divinely inspired, included a prayer by Esther, with God's name.
In sharp contrast to all the other biblical books, Israel isn't mentioned in the Book of Esther. The only reference to the relationship of the Jews of Persia with their ancient homeland is that Mordecai is described as one who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives... (Esther 2.6-- cf. contemporary dedications of Diaspora Jewish Centers, where their temporary function is ignored). Rav Hadari expounds the Megilla's hidden references to the land of Israel. The law that Jews in cities walled from the time of Joshua should celebrate Purim on Adar 15, Shushan Purim, serves to give honor to the cities of Israel, more special than Shushan, which is distinguished from the provincial cities in Esther (Meg. 2b-3a).
The Book of Esther is the only book of the Bible which contains the following words: Tevet, the tenth Hebrew month (2.16); Kasher, meaning "fit" (8.5); Patshegen, a Persian word meaning "copy of the writing" (3.24,; 4.8; 8.13); Pur, a Persian word meaning "lot" (3.7; 9.24); Karpas, a Persian word meaning "cotton" (1.6); Ahashteranim, a Persian word meaning "the king's service" (8.10; 8.14).
NUMEROLOGY: All the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are found in Esther 3:13. Mishteh (banquet) occurs 20 times in Esther, the number of times it's found in the rest of the Bible. The numerical value of the Hebrew letters of "Blessed be Mordecai" and "Cursed be Haman" each amount to 502. "The King" and "Haman" each = 95.
PURIM NAMES: At one time Purim was known as Mordecai's Day. "The Sweet Festival" or Id El Sukar, was the name by which Purim was known to the Moslems of Jerusalem, during the the Turkish regime. Leading Moslems of the community were eager recipients of Purim gifts of pastries and sugared candy, sent by the chief rabbis and other Jewish dignitaries. If, by accident, a prominent Moslem failed to receive his anticipated present of sweets, he considered himself affronted. In Missouri and Louisiana, there are towns called Esther (also Estherwood, La.). Queen Esther Street is in the heart of all-Jewish Tel Aviv.
PURIM IN INDIA: An Indian festival, greatly resembling Purim, usually occurs on the 14th day of Adar. It's celebrated in the open, with much festivity-- the Jewish stranger may err in believing that he is observing his own Purim-- cf. Halloween. In the cosmopolitan city of Bombay, one can see, on the eve of Purim, multitudes dressed in costumes and masks, particularly in pink and red colors. On the day of Purim, there is a great procession; a wooden image is borne aloft, on which the wrath of the spectators is mercilessly wrought. When the procession reaches a certain quarter, a ceremonial burial of the image in a special hole begins, amidst much Oriental levity and song. The image is a symbol of an enemy, such as Haman. The Bombay Times has printed articles dealing with this festival. Its origin is not clearly known-- it is evidently in memory of a miracle that saved the Indians from some impending peril. Apropos, the Jews of India are wont to say that the only difference between Jew, Yehudi, and Indian, hodi, is the letter yud.
THE KANARINSTI TRIBE: Israel ben Joseph Benjamin, in his Travels of Israel, gives interesting information about the Kanarinsti tribe in Eastern India. This tribe differs from the other tribes in the area in that it does not have a faith of its own. The tribesmen observe the traditions of their neighbors, particularly those of the Jews. On Purim they take two wooden pictures of men and they bang one against the other, until one is smashed to smithereens. The broken image serves as a reminder of Haman, while the remaining one recalls Mordecai. Their anger is not abated until they hang the remnants of Haman on a tree.
Q. DISCOVERIES OF RAV KUZRIEL MEIR
As a young man Rabbi Moses Cordovero came across a copy of the Zohar on Esther. When he wrote his monumental 30 volume commentary, Or Yekar, on the Zohar, he couldn't find it. Legends in and around Safad's tight-lipped kabbalah community suggested that the book was too revealing of the Jewish future!
Esther contains many interesting words. On the surface they're Hebrew-- a closer look reveals the internationalization of names and loan-words from no less than seven languages. VASTHI is of Persian origin and means `best' or `beautiful one'. A sublime reading of The Megillah suggests that it doesn't mean the Babylonian princess, but Israel, bride of `the King'. So, when the word King stands alone-- not `Achashverus the king'-- God is intended. The names Memuchan (1.16) and Haman are related to the word "faithful". However, Memuchan means, in Persian, `a man of little faith' and Haman means `one who has belief in his own ability to determine events'. The Talmud identifies Memuchan with Daniel, and Haman as a barber, who becomes Grand Viser. Daniel indeed had lost his faith in Israel as the bearer of God's promise. Being a barber was a lowly profession, as low as being a house painter in Vienna in the early 1900's.
The phrase `Haman the AGOGIE' (8.3) denotes a man who is brazen in his actions. Like a child, he wants to destroy everything, when he sees that he cannot have his way now. The name Charbonah (1.10,7.9) means `ass-driver' in Persian, `the spirit of destruction' in Hebrew, appropriate for he who suggests Haman's immediate execution. The name Karshina is read KRSNA (1.14). Ahasuerus goes to his advisors, the dominant religious authorities of the day, for aid. Hence the gods-- Krishna, Astarte, Mars, and Adonos are to be found here in their Persian/Aramaic forms, called advisors to the king. Each god represents a country under Persia's influence: India, Persia, Turkey, Greece and Rome. Esther Raba outlines the jobs of these princely men. A close look reveals the seven sins for which Israel was exiled; they represent the seven offerings presented to the Lord upon the altar in Jerusalem. There is a curious lack of information about the unusual letters found in the list of Haman's sons, who are hung. The German Jewish tradition demands that a Tav (the 12th letter), Shin (the next 49th letter) and Zian (the next 24th letter), out of the 89 letters, be written much smaller than usual. They may represent the final Purim event-- the hanging of the nine ministers of Hitler in tav-shin-zian, 5707, 1946. Julius Strecher mounted the steps and stated: "Now I go to God". His last words were "Purimfest 1946", as the gallows ropes tightened (Newsweek 10/28/46).
THE FAST OF ESTHER's theme is repentance and forgiveness. Exodus 32:11-14, 34:1-10 is read in morning and afternoon services from the Torah, plus Isaiah 55:6- 56:8 in the afternoon, the Haftara.
P. SHAVUOT II
Dr. Susan Handelman, author of many books and articles, teaches English and Judaism at the Univ. of Maryland. Raised in a fine, but non-observant, American Jewish home, Susan was turned on to Judaism when she visited Israel; she studied at high level Chabad schools, became observant and dedicated her life to awakening other Jews to their heritage (cf. Avram and Sarai). She's here on Sabbatical as a Jerusalem Fellow. Her article, From Purim to Shavuot: The Chassidic Meaning of Revelation, is reprinted, with permission, from Wellsprings, a journal of Jewish thought published by the Lubavitch Youth Organization in N.Y.:
Spring is an especially rich time in the Jewish calendar. As the natural world gradually reawakens and the days grow longer, we move from the joyous festival of Purim on to Pesach a month later, and then count the seven weeks to Shavuot. Purim, of course, celebrates the salvation of the Jews from destruction in the Persian empire; Passover the redemption of the Jews from Egypt; and Shavuot the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Each of these holidays contains its own special meaning and beauty, yet all three are also connected by a common theme: the nature of Revelation. The nature of Divine Revelation is one of the most perplexing issues for many modern Jews. How indeed does God "speak" to humanity? To what extent is the Torah the "word of God"? The Bible can seem elaborately repetitious in some parts, but elusive and ambiguous in others. And to a newcomer, the rabbinic commentaries and laws can appear arbitrary and mysterious. The "orthodox" idea of Torah, for its part, also seems very paradoxical. On the one hand, the Torah is said to be eternal, unchanging, and perfect; on the other, it is described as newly revealed each day, and subject to the continual process of rabbinic interpretation in every generation. Yet "Every new insight a worthy student will discover in the future was already given to Moses at Sinai" says the Talmud (Megillah 19b). How can it be both perfect, yet constantly developing, given at Sinai and yet to be revealed? And how can Purim and Shavuot begin to help us answer these profound questions?
Torah or Death? Accepting and Re-accepting the Torah
Initially, it might seem that Purim and Shavuot are entirely different holidays. Shavuot celebrates the open revelation of God to the entire Jewish people and the giving of the Ten Commandments. The scene is the desert wilderness, a few months after the Jews' escape from Egypt and the dramatic drowning of Pharaoh's troops in the sea. At the climactic moment, the Torah is given amidst the blaring sounds of the shofar, and thunder and lightning from the Mount (Exodus 16). The Scroll of Esther, on the other hand, recounts events that take place not in a desert wilderness, but in the Persian capital of wealth and luxury. Here, the Jewish people are intensely vulnerable, in exile and scattered about a far-flung empire -- quite unlike the scene at Sinai where they were all gathered together at the foot of the Mount. Moreover, the Megillah of Esther nowhere even mentions the name of God, nor does it appear to contain any overt directives from God. In Exodus, God directly speaks to Moses and the redemption from Egypt takes place through Moses' quite public battles with Pharaoh. The miracle of Purim, by contrast, occurs through the quiet and private self-sacrifice of a woman, Esther, whose very identity as a Jew is concealed, and who, by a "quirk of fate", has been married to the Persian ruler, King Ahasuerus. Of course, one of the messages of the Scroll of Esther is that there are no "quirks of fate," and that the strange turns and twists of history, where God seems so utterly concealed and withdrawn, trace in fact the design of the divine plan.
The "concealment of God" in Esther is at bottom another, deeper aspect of the "revelation" of God. As the Talmud (Chullin 139b) notes, the verse from Deuteronomy 31:18 where God says, "And I will hide, yes hide, (haster astir) my face" is an allusion to Esther. For the word haster, which comes from the root word meaning to "conceal," has a deep connection to the similar sounding name "Esther"; the Deuteronomy text is saying that, in the days of Esther, there would be a concealment of the divine countenance.
Chassidic philosophy adds that in the very name of the book, Megillat Esther (the "Scroll of Esther"), there is also a hint that in the deepest concealment, revelation is also found. The word megillah, or scroll, is related to the root verb for "revelation", "gallah". Megillat Esther can be read: alongside "Esther" (concealment) is Megillah (revelation). And further: when God says, "I will hide, yes hide my face," God is also signifying that "Even when My face is hidden, you can still reach the `I'--I as I am beyond all names." In other words, revelation and concealment are not really opposites, but inter-related aspects of divine emanation. Similarly, the Torah has both revealed and concealed aspects; it is both manifest and hidden, ambiguous and yet very detailed. The Talmud also makes some extraordinary remarks about the connections between Purim and Shavuot in its commentary on Exodus 19:17. This verse describes the arrival of the Jews at Mount Sinai after their escape from Egypt, and their preparations to receive the direct revelation of God's commandments: "And Moses brought forth the people to meet God out of the camp, and they stood under the mount" (b'takhthit ha-har).
In the talmudic tractate Shabbat 88a-b, R. Avdimi interprets the phrase b'takhtit, "under" (idiomatically, it would signify "at the foot of"), in its literal sense and says: "This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He overturned the mountain upon them like an [inverted] cask, and said to them: `If you accept the Torah, it is well; if not, there shall be your burial.'" But R. Aha then observes: "This furnishes a strong protest against the Torah." That is, R. Avdimi's statement is astonishing and troubling, for it implies that the Jews accepted the Torah under duress and not of their own free will. As one of the commentaries points out, if the Jews were brought to account for non-observance and asked: "Why didn't you fulfill what you accepted upon yourselves," they could retort that they were not responsible, because they had been coerced into accepting the Torah under the threat of death. The Talmud continues the discussion with Rava resolving the problem by saying: "Yet even so, they re-accepted it in the days of Ahasuerus," for it is written that `the Jews confirmed [kimu] and took upon them [kiblu] (Esther 9:27)'; they confirmed what they had accepted long before." The verse Rava is citing comes from the end of the Book of Esther and describes the condition of the Jews in the Persian empire after they had been miraculously rescued from Haman's plot to exterminate them: "And because of what they had experienced and what had happened to them, the Jews confirmed [kimu] and took upon them [kiblu], and upon their posterity... to observe these two days... " (Esther 9:27).
In its original context, the words "they confirmed and took upon them" [kimu v'kiblu] refer to the instituting of the holiday of Purim itself. Rava, however, reads it on a deeper level to refer to Sinai as well-- to the original giving of the Torah: the Jews now confirmed and freely re-accepted what they had undertaken 1,000 years before at Sinai (see V. above). The contemporary French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas has some interesting comments on this passage. The Jews freely reconfirmed and re-accepted the Torah after 1,000 years of Jewish history -- with all its dangers and its pains, its near and real catastrophes -- had been lived. The Jews did not withdraw from the scene; they reconfirmed Jewish history. That is, they reconfirmed the results of their acceptance of the Torah, even though accepting it had left them vulnerable to the violence of history, to the dark designs of the Hamans who arise in every generation to oppose the Torah's message. A world without the Torah, or a world in which the Torah would not have been accepted by the Jews, would have been a world so devoid of the divine, so filled with violence and darkness that it could not have existed; in a sense, that is the threat of the inverted cask, the threat of "Torah or death."
In the same passage in the Talmud (Shabbat 88a-b), Reish Lakish makes a similar interpretation based on an irregularity in the verse Genesis 1:31: "There was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." In the previous summary descriptions of the acts of Creation, the Genesis text uses the phrases: "there was a second day, a third day, "etc. The change to "the" in this verse implies something different and special. According to Resh Lakish, the definite article "the" is referring also to the sixth day of the month of Sivan, which is the day God wished to give the Torah at Sinai. Continues Reish Lakish: "The Holy one, blessed be He made a compact with the Works of Creation and said to them, `If Israel accepts the Torah, you shall exist; but if not, I will turn you back into emptiness and formlessness.'" In other words, it is the Torah that alone allows for the transformation of the world into a real habitation for God, and that gives meaning and purpose to human history. Without it, all is chaos and darkness.
Susan then expounds upon and analyzes a chassidic philosophy of Revelation, which focuses on the differences and respective merits of the modes of clal, oneness and generality, and prat, particular, exact and exquisite devisive detail, in the Ten Words of Creation and the Decalogue. These modes are also reflected in the chassidic catagories of "chochma" (wisdom), the condensed "point" or oneness of an idea and the intellectual capacity to produce it, and the later expansion, elaboration, and broader comprehension of the idea, called "binah" or understanding. These attributes prevail thruout both the Torah and its derivitive, Creation. She concludes with:
The Messianic Era: The Scroll of Esther and the Books of Moses
The rabbis have taught, "All Holidays will one day cease, but the days of Purim will never cease" (Yalkut Mishley 944). And, further, All the Prophetic Writings will "cease" in the days of the Messiah, except for the Scroll of Esther, which will endure eternally, like the five Books of the Torah and the Oral Torah. And although the memory of the troubles Israel has known will "cease"-- "the days of Purim will not pass from among the Jews, and their memory will not cease from their seed".
There are many interpretations of these profound statements (see S. above). Perhaps we could say that just as the prat has a certain advantage over the clal, and as binah has over chokhmah, so too does the holiday of Purim contain a special revelation. At first glance, Purim seems to be a "light" holiday and we normally associate it with fun and frivolity, in contrast to the high seriousness of the Giving of the Torah. Yet Purim contains a special elevated spirituality, a special illumination precisely because here God's actions were so "concealed" in the darkness of history. And so it is fitting that this holiday was brought about by the private self-sacrifice of a Jewish woman, after whom the biblical book is named. The Talmud also says that "Women were given more binah than men" (Niddah 45b). Just as woman has the physical capacity to take the man's seed and develop it in her womb for nine months, until it is a complete and fully individualized human being, so too does she have a greater measure of this intellectual and spiritual capacity of binah, both developmental and relational.
Recent studies of "women's ways of knowing" by feminist psychologists have also made this point. In Chassidic thought, these physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual capacities emanate from and reflect the divine attribute of binah, the "feminine" side of God, so to speak. Chokhmah may be the flash, the seminal seed-- the spark of an initial idea, but without the developmental strength of binah, it all too soon dissipates. To apply this idea to our topic: on the holiday of Shavuot, we celebrate God's giving of the Torah through Moses -- given with thunder and lightning in "one word." But that Torah then had to be developed through the ongoing toil of human study, and even more, it had to be lived -- lived daily through the darkness of the long years of history, when the refusal of the Jews to bow to all the Hamans who arose made them so vulnerable to pain and violence. And it was the Jewish women, in so many of those dark times, whose quiet self-sacrifice, whose maintenance of the sanctity of the Jewish home and family, succored and saved the Jewish soul and the Jewish people.
So Esther, with her power of the feminine and her private self-sacrifice is indeed a worthy counterpart to Moses. And so, too, the Book of Esther will live on, along with the Five Books of Moses, into the days of the Messiah, when what is concealed will be revealed, the greatness of woman will be truly recognized, the pain of exile ended, and the Jewish people -- to quote from the Book of Esther (8:16) -- will have "light, gladness, joy and honor."
YF'S RESPONSE TO SH'S ARTICLE: 1) WOW!-- a great drasha. 2) This completes my current revision of these studies, all of which are now available on WWW; why my work should end with this particular kabbalistic exposition, I'll leave to kabbalists and psychologists. 3) In general, from the Baal Shem Tov down, I find hassidic writings, like midrashim, highly imaginative and, often, deeply insightful; but, like midrashim, their alleged basis in older Jewish sources, and thus their authority, is quite questionable; yet we're not to critique such Midrashic exegesis, no matter how far-fetched; Rav Y. Hadari explains that the midrashic medium, the exegesis, is not the message, but only a didactic device-- the rabbis had to convey certain important messages to their flock, who came to learn only at the drasha on Shabbat, whose genre was the weekly Torah reading; so they had to link their message to it-- for example, when they wanted to stress the terrible sin of embarrassing another, they made up a captivating tale of Rachel lying under Yaakov's wedding bed, playing ventriliquist, so that Yaakov not realize that he lay with Leah!!! Similarly, the talmud concludes that many cast aside their worldly responsibilities like Rashby and failed, whereas those who combined the study of Torah with the pursuit of a livelihood, per Rebbe Yishmael, succeeded (Ber. 35b).
The Besht, completely ignoring this obvious message, says that the trouble was that they did "like Rashby", rather than doing their own mystical thing-- a very nice idea, recently expounded by neo-chassidic Grand Rabbi M. Gafni as the need to tell one's own true story and to hear it from others; but it has nothing to do with the text! So Rashby himself claims there that the obvious blessings of the second section of shma are really curses, tho the Jews are doing God's will, since they, rather than non-Jews, are doing agriculture!!
Here too, these sublime, possibly true, concepts of binah don't reflect the proof texts themselves. The talmud's only conclusion from the alleged extra "binah" of women is that they mature a year earlier (at 12), and only regarding their awareness of the significance of vows which they undertake, re their resulting responsibility to keep them (cf. bar and bat mitzva ages). Indeed, only Rebbe claims this, while Rebbe Shimon ben Eleazer claims that a boy matures a year earlier than a girl-- as he frequents the house of his teacher, his shrewdness develops earlier!! Extra female "binah" is likewise claimed only by Rav Eleazer in the name of Rav Yose ben Zimra, per Gen. Raba 18:1, citing Nida 45b; but Rav Yermiyahu quotes Rav Shmuel ben Rav Yitzchak there, that some reverse it (claiming greater maturity for boys), because a woman generally stays at home, whereas a man goes out into the streets and learns understanding from people (but it depends on who else is at home and whom you meet in the streets-- Yentl will grow wiser at home with her dad than will her male counterparts with the riff-raff in Zion Square and the Russian Compound). Indeed, the view which rejects extra binah re women may be better for the Jewish feminist cause-- formal higher Torah education and public participation of women may dull the cutting edge of their instinctual nurturing binah, whereas it will increase the normal human intelligence of girls, just as it does for boys. So insular societies, such as Meah Shearim, may seriously lack bsalance and binah, insofar as they don't leave their "house" to mix with others!
But Rav G. Fleer claims that in a holistic world, any association or connection with a word or phrase in the talmud must itself have some relevance or validity; while I subscribe to this principle, it does not mean that the talmud in any way SUPPORTS any such particular stream of consciousness association. Gedalia notes that the verse "for if you call out to understanding (to bina) ..." (Mishle 2:3), which the Targum reads: "you will call mother understanding (bina)", is used by the Zohar to connect women and bina. He claims that "chochma", the pure idea, is always limited by its application, "bina". Enough-- my computer cup, as my Purim cups, runneth over. Happy Purim!!