Friday, February 27, 2015
Purim 5631 Second Ma'amar
We find in Megillas Esther (3:7), “... הִפִּיל פּוּר ... מִיּוֹם לְיוֹם וּמֵחֹדֶשׁ לְחֹדֶשׁ .../… he cast a lot … for every day and for every month …” If he cast a lot for every day, every month is included. Why did he cast both for every day and also for every month? The Midrash1 explains that first he cast a lot for the days of the week. This did not work because the archangel of each day complained to God. When Haman saw that the lot for days was not working, he switched to months. This Midrash is difficult, though, because even the lot for months must fall on a specific day of the week. What did Haman gain by switching to months?
The Sfas Emes explains that there is a fundamental difference between days of the week and days of the month. The Gemara2, noting this difference, says that Shabbos is established and set from the Creation – the days of the week never change – whereas the Jewish People establish the holidays – establishing when the month starts, was given to the nation of Israel.
On a deeper plane the Sfas Emes explains that God did not merely give us the power to establish new months. The new month is a metaphor for renewal in the natural world. With the ability to establish new months, God made us the vehicle through which new life is drawn into the world. Generally we don’t think of nature as needing renewal. Nature appears to be constant, following set and unchanging laws. Things seem the same today as they did yesterday and the day before. Actually, though, God is constantly renewing the Creation. The act of creation was not a one time event. Rather, it is constant and continuous. God’s will for the Creation to continue is fed to the physical world through a spiritual hierarchy of which the nation of Israel is an integral part. Therefore, the creative life force that is responsible for the continuing existence of everything we see, comes through us. The cycle of the lunar month symbolizes this constant renewal of Creation because it is so blatant. Every month the moon waxes, wanes, disappears and reappears. Significantly, the Hebrew word for month – חוֹדֶשׁ – has the same root as the Hebrew for new – חָדָשׁ.
For Haman the wicked, our connection with the source of life was anathema. Haman was at the exact opposite end of the life – death spectrum. We are part of the life giving structure of the Creation. Chazal tell us that the wicked, on the other hand, are considered dead even as they live.3 Haman, the wicked, had cut himself off from the source of life.
Haman understood this clearly. When he proposed our destruction to Achashveirosh, he said, “ ... יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם־אֶחָד מְפֻזָּר וּמְפֹרָד .../There is one nation, scattered and separated …” (Esther 3:8) Even though we were scattered and separated, we were one nation. The surface view of the Creation shows innumerable different and disparate things. However, at the most fundamental level, there is one creative life force that is responsible for the entire Creation’s continued existence. Haman understood that the nation of Israel represents this Oneness that underlies everything. Even in exile, when there is much less awareness of God, we remain one nation. Our very existence testifies to the fundamental unity, the Godly life force that underpins every disparate part of Creation. In fact, our primary mission in the exile is to become aware ourselves and to make others aware of this. This is what so greatly angered Haman. We were an intrusion on his turf, so to speak. Haman is part of the physical world. But he is wicked and wants nothing to do with the source of life. We are a threat to him because we represent the source of life.
And this is the reason he switched his lots to months after days of the week failed. As we indicated earlier, the days of the week culminating in Shabbos are God given from the time of Creation. They are above nature. Haman has no part of it. Because Haman was part of the physical world, he could have more “success” with months which represent renewal in the physical world.
Haman wanted to destroy us because we represented connection to the source of life in the natural world and he wanted to remain disconnected from God, the source of life. It is particularly significant, because of this, that the miracle of Purim occurred specifically within the bounds of nature. The miracle had to occur within nature in order to show that nature does not “belong to” Haman and Amalek. Rather, God is the source of life and existence in the natural world. This explains why the Megilla associates the miracle with the month in which it happened, “... וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה .../… and the month which turned for them from sorrow to joy …” (Esther 9:22) The Megilla is alluding to this concept by emphasizing that the miracle did not exceed the bounds of nature.
1Esther R. 7:11