Perashat Tessaveh 5778
Perashat Tessaveh 5778Friday, February 23, 2018
This coming week we celebrate Purim. It is our custom that the names of most Jewish holidays are tied to the essence of the day (e.g., on sukkot we dwell in a sukkah, on Passover Hashem passed over the Jewish homes). What then is the significance of the name Purim? Translated, Purim actually means "lots" as in casting lots. How does this description relate to the holiday?
The Megilla tells us the origin of the name Purim. In the third chapter Haman the Amalekite became infuriated by Mordekhai's refusal to bow down to him. Haman was so incensed by this Jew's disavowal of his authority that he convinced King Ahashverosh to destroy the entire Jewish people. He then cast a pur, a lottery, to determine the day for his proposed genocide.
Why is this the focal point of Purim? Does it really matter how the date of destruction of the Jewish people was decided?
In addition to the reading of the weekly perasha this Shabbat, we also read Perashat Zakhor which describes the vicious attack that the Amalekite nation perpetrated against Am Yisrael as they fled Egypt. The Torah describes the attack as "asher karekha baderekh", which translates as "who happened upon you". Karekha comes from the root mikre, meaning happenstance or coincidence. The Amalekites sought to weaken the morale of the Israelites by having them believe that the miracles they experienced, such as the ten plagues and the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, were nothing but a coincidence. Failing to achieve their goal, the Amalekites were in turn defeated by Bene Yisrael.
How appropriate then is the naming of the hag Purim! Following his ancestors' plot to get rid of the Jews, Haman leaves the date of their annihilation to chance. In doing so Haman, like the Amalekites, believed that there was no such thing as Divine Providence. A casual roll of the dice would seal the Jews fate, or so he thought. The events of the Megilla show otherwise.
Megillat Esther appears to be a series of coincidental events, naturally occurring and orchestrated entirely by the players and their choices. However, the outcome was that every plan was turned on its head, confounding its schemer's intentions. Through the hidden hand of Hashem, a complete reorder of the most carefully planned plot unfolded. Haman was hung on the very tree that he himself prepared for Mordekhai. Likewise, on the day that the Jews' enemies looked forward to ruling over them the decree was reversed, and the Jews ruled over their enemies.
By naming the holiday Purim, we triumphantly declare to the world that there are no coincidences, and that the real achievement of Haman's lottery was the dramatic demonstration of Divine Providence.
May 31 2020
Sivan 8 5780