Sunday, March 08, 2015

Purim: A Lesson in Surviving the Exile

י״ז לחודש השנים עשר תשע״ה

In Megillath Esther, we read...
The Scroll Of Esther
אסתר גא אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, גִּדַּל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אֶת-הָמָן בֶּן-הַמְּדָתָא הָאֲגָגִי--וַיְנַשְּׂאֵהוּ; וַיָּשֶׂם, אֶת-כִּסְאוֹ, מֵעַל, כָּל-הַשָּׂרִים אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ. ב וְכָל-עַבְדֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר-בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ, כֹּרְעִים וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהָמָן--כִּי-כֵן, צִוָּה-לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ; וּמָרְדֳּכַי--לֹא יִכְרַע, וְלֹא יִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה. ג וַיֹּאמְרוּ עַבְדֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר-בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ--לְמָרְדֳּכָי: מַדּוּעַ אַתָּה עוֹבֵר, אֵת מִצְוַת הַמֶּלֶךְ. ד וַיְהִי, באמרם (כְּאָמְרָם) אֵלָיו יוֹם וָיוֹם, וְלֹא שָׁמַע, אֲלֵיהֶם; וַיַּגִּידוּ לְהָמָן, לִרְאוֹת הֲיַעַמְדוּ דִּבְרֵי מָרְדֳּכַי--כִּי-הִגִּיד לָהֶם, אֲשֶׁר-הוּא יְהוּדִי. ה וַיַּרְא הָמָן--כִּי-אֵין מָרְדֳּכַי, כֹּרֵעַ וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לוֹ; וַיִּמָּלֵא הָמָן, חֵמָה. ו וַיִּבֶז בְּעֵינָיו, לִשְׁלֹחַ יָד בְּמָרְדֳּכַי לְבַדּוֹ--כִּי-הִגִּידוּ לוֹ, אֶת-עַם מָרְדֳּכָי; וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הָמָן, לְהַשְׁמִיד אֶת-כָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בְּכָל-מַלְכוּת אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ--עַם מָרְדֳּכָי.

Esther 31 After these things did King Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. 2 And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed down, and prostrated themselves before Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordechai did not bow down, nor prostrated himself before him. 3 Then the king's servants, that were at the king's gate, said unto Mordechai: 'Why do you transgress the king's commandment?' 4 Now it came to pass, when they spoke daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordechai's words would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew. 5 And when Haman saw that Mordechai did not bow down, nor prostrated himself before him, then was Haman full of wrath. 6 But it seemed contemptible in his eyes to lay hands on Mordechai alone; for they had made known to him the people of Mordechai; wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordechai.
Esser Agaroth (2¢):
Granted the prevailing opinion is that Mordechai refused to bow down to Haman due to the image of avodah zarah woven into Haman's clothing (Midrash Esther Rabba 7:6), thus preventing any Jew from bowing down in front of it, even in the face of physical danger, if not death. However, this does not explain Mordechai's actions found later on in the Megillah...
אסתר וי וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהָמָן, מַהֵר קַח אֶת-הַלְּבוּשׁ וְאֶת-הַסּוּס כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ, וַעֲשֵׂה-כֵן לְמָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי, הַיּוֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ: אַל-תַּפֵּל דָּבָר, מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ. יא וַיִּקַּח הָמָן אֶת-הַלְּבוּשׁ וְאֶת-הַסּוּס, וַיַּלְבֵּשׁ אֶת-מָרְדֳּכָי; וַיַּרְכִּיבֵהוּ, בִּרְחוֹב הָעִיר, וַיִּקְרָא לְפָנָיו, כָּכָה יֵעָשֶׂה לָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הַמֶּלֶךְ חָפֵץ בִּיקָרוֹ. יב וַיָּשָׁב מָרְדֳּכַי, אֶל-שַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ; וְהָמָן נִדְחַף אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ, אָבֵל וַחֲפוּי רֹאשׁ.
Esther 610 Then the king said to Haman: 'Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as you have said, and do even so to Mordechai the Jew, that sits at the king's gate; let nothing fail of all that you have spoken.' 11 Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordechai, and caused him to ride through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him: 'Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delights to honor.' 12 And Mordechai returned to the king's gate. But Haman hastened to his house, mourning and having his head covered.
The Talmud recounts the details of what transpired between Mordechai and Haman, during this segment of the story, including how Mordechai kicked Haman, while he was down, so to speak...
תלמוד בבלי, מסכת מגילה ט"ז,אבתר דשקלינהו למזייה לבשינהו למאניה אמר ליה סק ורכב אמר ליה לא יכילנא דכחישא חילאי מימי תעניתא גחין וסליק כי סליק בעט ביה אמר ליה לא כתיב לכו (משלי כד) בנפל אויבך אל תשמח אמר ליה הני מילי בישראל אבל בדידכו כתיב (דברים לג) ואתה על במותימו תדרוך (אסתר ו)
Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 16aAfter he had trimmed his hair he put the garments on him, and said to him, Mount and ride. He replied: I am not able, as I am weak from the days of fasting. So Haman stooped down and he mounted [on his back]. When he was up he kicked him. He said to him: Is it not written in your books, "Rejoice not when thine enemy fails?" (Prov. 24:17) He replied: That refers to an Israelite, but in regard to you [folk] it is written, "And you shall tread upon their high places." (Deut. 33:29)
How could Mordechai, a Jew, living in galuth (exile) take such a risk by perpetrating physical violence against a powerful goy?

In fact, the prevailing attitude in galuth, even today in the U. S., and not just in France or Denmark, but in the U. S., is not to make waves, but rather to assimilate.

Mordechai refused to accept this strategy upon himself as the way to survive the exile.

Liberal Modern Orthodox, pacifist Haredim, and the like will undoubtedly make silly excuses, such as...
We are not on the level of Mordechai to make the decision to take such actions.

The fate of the Jews was sealed, and thus he had nothing to lose.
...and other such, unsubstantiated tripe.

On Purim I discussing this with someone, who happened to be a member of the Orthodox Union [OU]. His conclusion was that Mordechai was the Rabbi Meir Kahane of his day.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

2 comments:

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Rav Motle Zilber has a different take. The Hadas leaf is shaped like an eye and on Sukkos it represents the Jew who has Torah but no good deeds.
We know that in Golus we're just going through the motions when it comes to performing mitzvos because these only truly count when we do them
in Israel.
So Mordechai hid the Hadas (the Jews who were learning) and made their Ester, from hester or hidden. Haman pushed him past the point where he could justify that any longer.

Esser Agaroth said...

Interesting.

But, I don't see any s'tirah between our takes on Mordechai's eventual actions, and the risks involved.

I also forgot to mention that Mordechai did not employ any strategy of placating the goyim in control either.

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