Halacha for Sunday 14 Adar II 5784 March 24 2024

Pearls of Wisdom on Purim from Maran zt”l

The verse in Megillat Esther states, “Haman said to King Achashverosh: ‘There is one nation, scattered and separated among the nations in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different than any other nation and they do not fulfill the laws of the king and the king has no value to allow them to remain.’” Our Sages taught that Haman meant to slander the Jewish nation, especially in respect to their holidays. He told Achashverosh that the Jews wasted the whole year on their holidays by claiming “Today is Shabbat” or “Today is Pesach.” Let us try to understand what it is specifically about Pesach that angered Haman so much.

Maran zt”l explained in jest that there were two “laws of the king” quoted in the Megillah, i.e. “For each man to wield authority in his home and speak the language of his own people.” He meant for men to be the rulers in their home and for their wives to serve them as mere maidservants. Achashverosh also required all women to learn the language of their husbands.

In Shulchan Aruch on the laws of Pesach, we find two Halachot in opposition to these two “laws.” Corresponding to the law of “For each man to wield authority in his home,” we rule that our wives are important women and they are thus obligated to recline during the Seder. Corresponding to the law of “and speak the language of his husband,” Rabbeinu Yitzchak of London established that the Haggadah be read in the language of one’s country because women did not understand Hebrew very well. Based on this, Haman claimed that the Jews “do not fulfill the laws of the king and thus, the king has no value to allow them to remain.”

It is for this reason that Haman chose to specifically mention Pesach to Achashverosh, for it is during this holiday that Jewish law portrays how we relate to women.

Our Sages taught that ne is obligated to become intoxicated on wine on Purim day. This is seemingly perplexing, for the sin of the Jewish nation was that they participated in Achashverosh’s banquet and drank wine there. How can it be that we commemorate this miracle by engaging in the same kind of behavior?

The answer to this question lies in the fact that Hashem heals in the same manner that He brought about the original blow. Indeed, Yosef began to suffer at the hands of his brothers because of his dreams and he was eventually taken out of prison because of Pharaoh’s dreams. Similarly, an atonement for speaking Lashon Hara is specifically by studying and speaking words of Torah. Furthermore, Adam who sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge which, according to some opinions, was a fig tree, rectified his sin by weaving together leaves of the fig tree as clothing.

This is especially true regarding Achashverosh’s banquet. Indeed, the Midrash states: “Rabbi Evo said: The atonement of the Jewish nation comes about when they drink and become joyous and as a result, they bless and praise Hashem. On the other hand, when the other nations drink, they begin speaking vulgarities, these say Medite women are prettier and these say Persian women are prettier.” At the banquet, the righteous Mordechai supervised everything going on there, as the verse states, “To do the will of every man,” which our Sages interpret as referring to Haman and Mordechai. Certainly, Mordechai ascertained that the Jewish nation recited their blessings, Birkat Hamazon, and words of praise and thanksgiving to Hashem. This itself served as an atonement for the Jewish nation when all of the Heavenly hosts realized the distinction between the Jewish nation and the rest of the nations of the world.

This is what the Midrash meant that the banquet itself served as an atonement for the Jewish nation. Hashem judged the Jewish nation relative to the other nations of the world. In commemoration of this idea, it is therefore appropriate that we engage in feasting and merriment on Purim in order to remember the great miracles Hashem has performed for us in the past and will perform for us in the near future with the arrival of our righteous Mashiach, Amen!

Happy Purim!

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