Wednesday, February 28, 2007

is blowing up Haman b'serugin?


The Mishna in Masechet Megilla (17a) says that one who reads the megilla b'serugin u'misnamnem - with pauses and while dozing off, has fulfilled his obligation. The gemara discusses this and while it might not be the best way, you are yotzei your mitzva if it happened.

I have the following question: What is considered a pause that changes your mitzva from l'chatchila to b'dieved? Are the natural pauses and the pauses for the banging of Haman's name, considered pauses or are they part of the megilla? If the banging is a problem that means we are mostly yotzei the mitzva only b'dieved.

I personally feel those pauses for banging are considered l'tzorech of the reading and are not a hefsek rendering the reading b'dieved. However it might be dependant on how long the banging continues and how long the pause is. Maybe shuls needs to be makpid on short pauses of just a few seconds..

I posed the question to a Rabbi last night and he did not have an answer. He is not sure if something that might be considered l'tzorech of the reading changes the status, and he said there are different levels of l'tzorech,so the question would be how l'tzorech is it really.

What do you think?

Monday, February 26, 2007

no loyalty among the wicked

Megillat Esther

Haman gets stuck taking Mordechai around on the kings horse declaring how Mordechai saved the king. He is forced to show Mordechai greatrespect when he had been expecting it for himself.

Even worse, while leading Mordechai around town, Haman's daughter dumps the days trash on his head, mistaking him for Mordechai.

Haman has had a pretty lousy day.

He gets home and tells his wife and friends what happened to him.

In 6:13 they respond to Haman, "אם מזרע היהודים מרדכי... לא תוכל לו" - If Mordechai is from the Jews.. you will not be able to overcome him."

Why did Zeresh not say somethign like this earlier and try to dissuade him from attacking Mordechai risking these results? What good does it do to tell him this now? She is just rubbing salt on his wounds!!??

This is a classic case of CYA. They are starting to distance themselves from Haman. They see his star has risen and is now on the way down. They are changing teams.

We see a bit further in the megilla in 7:9 when Harvona tells Ahashverosh about the gallows that Haman had prepared a similar event. How did Harvona know about the gallows? He must have been involved with Haman. Yet he very quickly changed sides and snitched out Haman. He saw that Haman was a goner and he acted accordingly.

There is no loyalty among the wicked. Everybody is looking out for their own interests.

Moving on

Megillat Esther

Haman comes home from the first party with Esther and Ahashverosh. Nothing happened at the party, but Esther invited them to a second party she would be hosting. He considered this a great honor and tells his wife and friends about the great honor he received.

Haman is in a pretty good mood.

In 5:13 Haman says to his wife and friends, "וכל זה איננו שוה לי בכל עת שאני רואה את מרדכי היהודי יושב בשער המלך" - None of this is worth it to me as long as I continue to see Mordechai sitting by the gates of the palace.

Why should one person bother him so much? he was a lowly servant of the king who has been fast-tracked to stardom. He has the king wrapped around his finger and he has been shown the greatest respect by the highest dignitaries, including the king and queen. Where does Haman come off complaining about one stinking Jew who won't bow down to him when he passes by?

Mordechai was Haman's adversary, and as long as Mordechai did not show him what he perceived to be the proper respect due to him, nothing else mattered.

All the friends in the world can bow down to you and kiss up to you, but the one guy who gets on your nerves is the guy who knows you are really nothing but a hot-air balloon. He holds your secrets. he knows your weaknesses. And when he does not show you the respect you demand, his statement is greater than that of all the people who do show respect. His lack of respect is a blow to your self-confidence.

Had Haman been able to ignore Mordechai and bask in the honor he received from everyone else,he might even have succeeded in his goal. His passion with Mordechai is what did him in. He could not ignore the one man who dissed him out of the hundreds and thousands of people who showed him respect.

That caused him to over-reach. That forced him to make mistakes. That brought about his downfall.

learn to get past your hang-ups. Move on. Your chances of success are better when you ignore the little slights.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

why the 13th?

Megillat Esther

Haman selected the 13th of Adar as the date to decree the uprising of the people against the Jews.

In 3:7 we find the lots cast and falling on Adar. Nothing is mentioned about any sepcific day in Adar.

In 3:12 we find Ahashverosh signing the decree on the 13th of Nissan and sending out his messengers to announce it.

In 3:13 we find, "וְנִשְׁלוֹחַ סְפָרִים בְּיַד הָרָצִים, אֶל-כָּל-מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ--לְהַשְׁמִיד לַהֲרֹג וּלְאַבֵּד אֶת-כָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים מִנַּעַר וְעַד-זָקֵן טַף וְנָשִׁים בְּיוֹם אֶחָד, בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁה עָשָׂר לְחֹדֶשׁ שְׁנֵים-עָשָׂר הוּא-חֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר; וּשְׁלָלָם, לָבוֹז." - And letters were sent by posts into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.

Suddenly the 13th of Adar became the day for the extermination of the Jews (notice also, as per my previous post about 7 Adar, that the passuk in which is announced the date of the eventual uprising on the 13th of Nissan is in passuk 13).

How did that day get selected? Was it simply 12 full months from the day the letter was signed? For a suspicious Haman would it not have been better for him to insist on the date selected be the 7th of Adar, since he was so concerned about the bad luck time period of the Jews?

the 7th

Megillat Esther

This probably means nothing, but I find it interesting to consider.

Haman is throwing lots to select a date for the destruction of the Jews. He figures the lottery will fall out on a time that is naturally bad for the Jews. It falls out on the 12 month, the month of Adar. Haman is happy, we are told in the midrash, because he realized that in the month of Adar we find the death of Moshe Rabbeinu on the 7th of Adar. That obviously means the month of Adar is bad luck for the Jews.

As a side point, the gemara tells us that he did not realize that Moshe was also born in Adar, so the month of Adar is good for the Jews.

The passuk in the megilla just tells us that it fell out on the 12th month which is Adar. I find it interesting that the passuk that this is written in is passuk 7 (chapter 3). In passuk 7 we have the lots falling out on Adar, and Haman is thinking about the 7th of Adar.

the vow of silence

Megillat Esther

Mordechai told Esther to keep her nationality and ethnicity secret. When she is fist selected in the original roundup she kept it secret. We are told in 2:10, "לא הגידה אסתר את עמה ואת מולדתה כי מרדכי צוה עליה אשר לא תגיד".
Rashi tells us that Mordechai insisted she keep it secret in the hope that Ahashverosh would reject her thinking she was from a lowly family. If she announced her royal lineage (she was from the line of King Saul) there was more chance that Ahashverosh would want to select her, as it validates his kingship to a certain extent...

After Ahashverosh selects Esther (despite her silence), we are again told that Esther still did not reveal her nationality. In 2:20 it says, "אין אסתר מגדת מולדתה ואת עמה כאשר צוה עליה מרדכי...". This second time we are offered no explanation as to why Mordechai insisted she still keep quiet about it.

Why was it so important for her to keep quiet? When he saw that she was selected anyways, meaning the silence on the matter did not help, why did Mordechai insist she keep up the charade? What difference would it make now that they were already married?

who was Esther?

Megillat Esther

Ahasverosh is searching for a new queen. He has his guys round up all the pretty women in the neighborhood and prepare them for a beauty contest of sorts. The winner would be anointed queen and all the runners-up would be relegated to the second women's house as part of the general harem.

We find Esther being taken and preparing herself to meet Ahashverosh. It finally is her turn to appear before the king. In 2:15 it tells us, "ובהגיע תור אסתר בת אביחיל דוד מרדכי..." - when it came the turn for Esther the daughter of Avichayil, uncle of Mordechai...

Why describe for us now all of her lineage? Previously when it first introduced Esther it did not tell us she was the daughter of Avichayil. Why now, after we already are familiar with Esther, does it feel necessary to introduce us to her lineage, when before it did not?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How hard is it to count to 70?

(this post is cross-posted at Torah Thoughts and at DafNotes)

We recently learned in daf yomi the calculations, and miscalculations, of the 70 years of exile after the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash and prior to the rebuilding of the second Beis Hamikdash.

One would think that 70 years is not too difficult to keep track of, especially when you are living within the thick of it. However, we see Ahashverosh miscounted the 70 years. So did other people. Nobody knew from when to begin the count of 70, therefore everybody's count was skewed and nobody had the correct target date. It was only after the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash began that we could look back and say we know when the count of 70 years of exile began.

The same is true in the upcoming parsha regarding the creation of the golden calf. The Jews knew Moshe was going to be on Mt. Sinai for 40 days. How hard is it to count 40 days? Yet they miscounted and that led them to making the mistake of creating the golden calf.

We have many dates and calculations throughout tanach and Jewish history. Great Rabbis have calculated with varying conclusions the dates of the coming of Moshiah, the end of the world, the redemption, etc. These dates come and go. We then question how the great Rabbis could be wrong and lose faith (sometimes) or simply become cynical when hearing such things. We have to realize that we never know where to begin the count, and therefore our counts and calculations are always wrong. It is only in hindsight we can look back and say where the count began.

The gemara says the world will only last 6000 years. That is pretty good reason to start getting nervous. We are now in the year 5767 (of the Jewish calendar). That only leaves 233 years left to go before armageddon!

But considering the fact that pretty much every count in the Torah and Jewish history was found to be miscalculated, we have to consider that we have no idea when the count of 6000 years begins. Did the 6000 years begin from the first day of creation? Maybe from Avraham recognizing monotheism? Maybe from matan Torah? Maybe from the jewish nation entering Eretz Yisroel? Or maybe from multitudes of other placemarks in jewish history. We have no idea when the count begins, and will only know after it actually happens.

I think it was the Rambam who said not to bother calculating the coming of the mashiah, as doing so only causes people to lose faith when the predicted event does not happen. Instead of worrying about specific dates and calculations that will almost definitely be wrong anyways, we should heed the advice of the great masters and be "mefashfesh b'maasav" - look at our ways and correct our actions and try to prepare in that way for the days of Mashiah.

Sunday, February 18, 2007



the purpose of this blog is to share with you (if anyone chooses to read this, if not then it is just to get my thoughts written down) my thoughts on the various Jewish holidays. I chose to separate this from my Torah Thoughts blog, so that blog will remain solely devoted to the parshat hashavua.

With Purim coming up, and daf yomi currently learning masechet megilla, this blog looks like it will begin with the topic of Purim and Megillat Esther, with Pesach fiollowing closely after that.

I hope I will have satisfactory chiddushim, lessons extrapolated, and general thoughts about the holidays that will keep you interested... and even more importantly that they will be true and accurate.

Hag Sameah!