Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Lesson of the SHekalim in Defeating Haman

The gemara in Megillah (13b) says:
"אמר ריש לקיש גלוי וידוע לפני מי שאמר והיה העולם שעתיד המן לשקול שקלים על ישראל לפיכך הקדים שקליהן לשקליו והיינו דתנן באחד באדר משמיעין על השקלים ועל הכלאים"
“Reish Lakish says that it was revealed before the one who created the world that Haman would pay shekalim to kill the Bnei Yisroel. Therefore, our shekalim preceded his shekalim as we learn in the Mishna “On the first of Adar they make the appeal for shekalim”.
The gemara is referring to the fact that המן offered אחשׁורושׁ 10,000 shekalim to kill the בני  ישראל. In anticipation of this, הקב"ה instituted that every year a half shekel would be collected for use in the Beis HaMikadash. The question is what is the connection between the yearly donation of a half-shekel to the shekalim that המן paid אחשׁורושׁ. Furthermore, the story of Purim took place in golus when there was no Beis HaMikdash and consequently there were no shekalim being collected. How then did these shekalim have the ability to overturn the gezeirah of המן.
In order to understand this gemara we need to uinderstand what the shekalim represented.                   The מדרש תנחומא (פרשׁת כי תשא סימן ג) says that that הקב"ה told משׁה רבינו  that by reading פרשׁת שׁקלים  every year it is as if  משׁה רבינוhimself is here and raising us up. Rav Tzaddok(פרי צדיק פרשׁת שׁקלים)  explains that פרשׁת שׁקלים  begins with the phrase "כי תשא את ראשׁ" because the act of "נשיאת ראשׁ" implies that you are raising that person over someone else and making him the leader. When הקב"ה commanded משׁה to raise up בני ישראל he was telling משׁה that each individual Jew has the ability to be the best in one area. The מדרשׁ says that the תורה could only be given with 600,000 Jews. If one of them was missing there is something missing from כלל ישראל. Just like a sefer torah is posul if one letter is missing so too בני ישראל are not complete if there are less than 600,000 Jews, and an incomplete כלל  ישראל can’t get the Torah. Rav Tzadok says that this מדרשׁ teaches us that each person from כלל ישראל has a part of his נשׁמה that is unique and that noone else has. This unique part of a person is brought out through לימוד התורה. This is the reason why we say "איזה הוא חכם הלומד מכל אדם". Since each person has his own חלק in תורה, everyone has something to teach others that only he can teach. Furthermore, this חלק  of a person ultimately has its roots in the חכמה of הקב"ה and is considered to be a חלק אלוק ממעל. Rav Tzaddok adds that this concept does not just apply to learning Torah. The גמרא (תענית כא.) says that each person has his time in which הקב"ה  wants/needs that unique chelek of good that a person possesses. When this time comes, that person is raised up above everyone.This concept, Rav Tzaddok writes is what the shekalim come to reinforce. When a person gives his half-shekel, he is showing  that he is an individual who can make his own unique contribution to the תורה and to כלל ישראל. When the מדרשׁ says a person is raised up to the top over everyone else, it doesn’t mean he is better than everyone but rather it means that he is the best person to fulfill his unique role.
In order to answer what  this has to do with defeating המן we have to understand what המן represents. The מדרשׁ תנחומא (כי תצא ט) writes "עמלק, עם שׁבא ללק דמן שׁל ישראל ככלב" . עמלק is a nation that laps up the blood of בנ"י like a dog. Rav Tzaddok (פרשׁת זכור) explains that עמלק’s war against בנ"י comes on two levels. At first he seduces and convinces us to do aveiros However, even after we have sinned and fallen, עמלק comes along to make us fall even further. He convinces us that all is lost and there is no hope. He creates in us a

sense of יאושׁ and once we are מייאשׁ, we give up hope of doing teshuva. After all, why should we do teshuva if there is no point to anything. This is why עמלק is compared to a dog that laps up the leftover blood. Whatever self worth we have left after doing an aveirah is destroyed by עמלק. He comes along and sucks all the life out of us.
This idea can be applied to the story of פורים. The בני ישראל were in golus as a punishment for their aveiros. By taking part in the סעודת אחשׁורושׁ we were exhibiting the signs of יאושׁ. אחשׁורושׁ was celebrating our גלות and we joined him in the celebration. Is there any greater יאושׁ than celebrating one’s own downfall? Shortly after, המן comes along and takes advantage of our יאושׁ to try and totally destroy us. המן told אחשׁורושׁ that we were an עם מפוזר ומפורד. According to what we have been saying we explain that one sign of יאושׁ is not recognizing that we are all in this toether. Giving up hope on the גאולה is tantamount to saying that כלל ישראל as a nation, as an עם הנבחר is a relic of the past. By not recognizing that we are in fact one  nation, we were showing signs of being an עם מפוזר ומפורד.
הקב"ה foresaw that this would happen, so He decided to teach us many years before the Purim story that this attitude is not correct. This lesson was taught to us through the שׁקלים. As we explained from Rav Tzaddok, the shekalim reinforce the idea that each person is a חלק אלוק ממעל and has a unique purpose and goal in life. However, it is not just that we each have a tachlis, but that tachlis comes through connecting to הקב"ה and his תורה. The unique חלק that each of has in תורה, also serves to connect us to to each other through the Torah. Since my fellow Jew has something in תורה  that I don’t have, I need him to teach me that part of  תורה. At the same time that each of us can create our own individuality through the תורה, we also are connected as one nation through the תורה. The shekalim teach us that we are not an      עם מפוזר ומפורד  but rather an עם סגולה  and a ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדשׁ. This lesson of the שׁקלים was reinforced everytime we donated our half-shekel year after year on ר" אדר.
Perhaps with this idea we can understand another גמרא  regarding the שׁקלים of המן.The gemara (מגילה טז.) says that when המן came to put מרדכי on the horse of ,אחשׁורושׁ he found the תלמידים studying the laws of קמיצה that applied to the קרבן עומר. המן commented that their studying the laws of קמיצה pushed away the 10,000 shekalim that he paid אחשׁורושׁ. What is the connection between the 10,000 shekalim paid to      אחשׁורושׁ  and the halachos of קמיצה? The significance of this is that not only were the תלמידים of מרדכי connecting to each other through לימוד התורה, but that day was the 16th day of ניסן, the day when the קרבן עומר  would have been brought in the בית המקדשׁ. The בנ"י  were learning halachos מענינא דיומא that only applied בזמן הבית. Through their learning they were showing that they were no longer in a state of יאושׁ. They had finally accepted and internalized the lesson of שׁקלים  that had been taught to them year after year. בּנ"י  finally recognized that they were and always will be connected to הקב"ה. When המן  saw that the בנ"י  had realized this, he realized his plan was going to fail.
Finally, with this מהלך it is very understandable why there was a new קבלת התורה of תורה שׁבעל פה. The entire lesson of the שׁקלים  is that we each have our own חלק and כח החידושׁ in the תורה. This חלק is brought out by the חדושׁים that we are מחדשׁ in תורה שׁבעל פה. [In fact we find this idea in the מגילה. The גמרא  tells us that "ויעבר מרדכי" refers to the fact that מרדכי decreed a fast day on the first days of פסח. מרדכי used his כח החידושׁ to lead the בנ"י  during this עת צרה]. Once בנ"י recognized and appreciated how everyone has their unique part in תורה, it naturally led to a reenergizing of לימוד התורה and a new קבלת התורה  on the part of  כלל ישראל.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Purim thoughts

Everyone nows that Achashveirosh did not know where Esther came from. What is interesting is that the gemara in Megillah says that Esther would leave Achashveirosh, go toveil and go to be with Mordechai.Now Esther was in the palace for 9 years before the end of the story. You would have to assume that Achahsveirosh had his best men working to find out where Esther came from. I would assume that would include keeping tabs on her and seeing who she was in contact with. Yet no one was able to catch her sneaking out to visist Mordechai. I find this very interesting.

Parshas Vayikra:Esther Karka Olam

I'm finally getting around to updating my blog. I hope noone missed me too much.

I spoke this week about the sugyah in Sanhedrin that discusses Esther's marriage to Achashveirosh. The gemara says that for any aveirah done b'pharhesia-in public one must give up their life. The gemara asks what about Esther-she married Achashveirosh which was an aveirah b'pharhesia. The gemara gives 2 answers 1) Abayei says  Esther was "karka olam" 2) Rava says since Achshveirosh did it for his own hana'ah it was mutar.

What is meant by "karka olam". The simple understanding is that since she went to Achashveirosh against her will we don't view it as if she did an aveirah. Rav Elchanan in Kovetz Ha'Oras (Siman 48) wants to explain that neither pikuach nefesh is docheh aveirah b'pharhesia and an aveira b'pharhesia isn't doche pikuach nefesh. Therefore, the best cause of action is "shev v'al ta'aseh"-do nothing. Since Esther was forced to live with Achashveirosh, she is considered in a state of shev v'al ta'aseh and it was muttar.

The Rishonim ask what do you do about the fact that she was married to Mordechai and there is an issur of adultry which is one of the big 3 aveiros.

1) Rabeinu Tam says sleeping with a non Jew is not an aveirah of giloy arayos.
2) The Rivam says the heter of karka olam applies to giloy arayos as well.
3) One can also say based on the Rashba in Megillah (15a) that Mordechai gave Esther a get.

Another question that needs to be answered is that when Esther invited Achashveirosh to the party she went to him willingly. The heter of karka olam no longer applies. How then is it mutar? The Maharik (shoresh 167) and Noda Beyehuda (tanyana y.d. siman 161) answer that to save klal yisroel it was mutar. The Kovetz Heoros also suggests that she did it b'issur-it was an aveirah lishma. But elsewhere (siman 45) he quotes the Maharik as well.

A nafka mina l'maaseh is the question whether a married woman can give herself over to a robber to save others.The Shevua Yaakov (chelek 2 siman 117) based on the Maharik says it is muttar and the rayah is Esther. The Noda BeYehuda disagrees. First of all he says we see the Rashba holds Mordechai divorced Esther-so there is no issur eishes ish. Even if you learn like Rahsi that she was married, the heter is only to save all of klal yisorel. to save a few Jews is assur.