TZAV - PURIM TORAH 5779
Y’all know about the Torah, its 5 books, its 613 commandments and its coded messages. But do you know what “Purim Torah” is? We just finished celebrating Purim Wednesday night and Thursday and Shushan Purim on Friday, so the light and spirit of Purim is still with us. Purim in many ways is the counterbalance of Yom Kippur, so much so, that the sages note that Yom Kippur is called by the Torah, Yom Kippurim, which can be understood as Yom, “the day,” k, “like,” “Purim!” It conveys similar messages to Yom Kippur like the fragility of life and the search for meaning, yet in opposite ways—Yom Kippur with solemnity and Purim with gayety. And since underneath the gayety of Purim there is a deep solemn message, Purim Torah will contain both the gayety and the solemnity.
Let me give you some examples of both. Let’s do 1st the gayety—spoofing the day and its Torah connection. There’s a well-known question raised by the RaShMoff, Rabbi Shimoff. Let me read it to you: The question is, of course, why do hamentaschen have 4 corners? The answer is based, curiously enough, on issues of Jewish law. The original sources report a disagreement over whether hamentaschen should have 4 corners or 3. But here is the core of the issue. If the hamentasch has 4 corners, it would requires tzizis. So far so good.
But if the 4-cornered hamentasch requires tzizis, which do we do 1st—put on the tzizis or recite the blessing on the hamentasch. The answer is obvious, and derives from the halachic principle of tadir v’sh’eyno tadir, tadir kodem (When there is a frequent mitzvah and an infrequent mitzvah, the frequent mitzvah takes priority). In the present case, the mitzvah of the m’zonot blessing on cake or in this case the hamentasch is clearly more frequent because one puts on a tallit once a day but one may eat cake more often. So one obviously 1st recites the m’zonot blessing.
Having recited the blessing, however, a 2nd halachic principle comes into play: a bracha must be over l’asiyato—the act and the bracha must come at the same time. So as soon as I say the m’zonot bracha, I am obligated to eat the hamentasch right away.
But now, having taken a bite from the hamentasch, I have almost certainly taken off one of the corners, so it no longer has 4 corners, and is thus no longer suitable for tzizis!
To avoid the entire issue, the tradition has been handed down from father to son, and from mother to daughter to bake hamentaschen with only 3 corners!
Here are a couple of Purim Headlines for this year:
- ADMISSIONS SCANDAL AT CHAREDI YESHIVAS: Wealthy parents of spoiled students paying large sums to apply. One father explained, “We want to be sure our son won’t be burdened with taking too many secular subjects.”
- BIBI SHUTS DOWN KOTEL UNTIL HE’S RE-ELECTED: Netanyahu asserts, “If Trump can shut down his government to build a wall, I can shut down the Wall to build my government,”
Top 10 Reasons for Celebrating Purim :
- Mordecai-1; Haman-0! Good defeats evil, a great story.
- You can’t eat hamantaschen on Yom Kippur.
- You won’t get hit in the eye by a lulav.
- You get to drink wine and drink wine and drink more wine and you don’t even have to stand for Kiddush. You probably can’t stand!
- You don’t have to build a hut and live and eat outside (but you could volunteer to build a booth for a Purim Carnival).
- You don’t have to kasher your home and change all the pots and dishes.
- Purim is easier to spell than Chanukah—“H”, “Ch”, one “n” or 2, and “a” or an “h” at the end?
- Nobody knows if you’re having a bad hair day. You can tell them it’s your costume.
- Levity is not reserved for the Levites.
- Making noise in shul is a mitzvah!
Question: Why didn’t Esther get Mordechai’s e-mail telling her about Haman’s plan to kill the Jews? Because she had an Achash Virus.
Sometimes Purim Torah turns political, like this story:
Ruhollah Khomeini, today’s Supreme Leader of Iran or King of Persia—called President Trump and said, “Donald, I had a wonderful dream last night. I could see America, the whole country, and on each house I saw a banner.”
“What did it say on the banners?” Trump asked.
He replied, “Allah is god, Allah is great,” as if he could taste victory.
Trump responded, “You know, Ruhollah, I am really happy you called. Last night I had a similar dream. I could see all of Teheran, and it was more beautiful than ever. It was all brand new; it had been rebuilt completely and on each house flew an enormous banner.”
“What did the banners say?” Ruhollah asked.
“I don’t know,” Trump replied, “I can’t read Hebrew!”
Sometimes Purim Torah turns serious. If you analyze carefully the text of the Megillah you would see that, from start to finish, the story probably took about 13 years. If we each sat down and wrote out the story of our lives over the past 13 years or any such group of years, the result would be our own Megillah
And finally, here’s some deep Purim Torah with an amazing prophecy encoded in the Megillah itself—a code that’s so profound I like to share it whenever I can on Purim. In the Megillah text, after the Jews defend themselves and killed t
Esther’s request seems somewhat strange. The 10 sons of Haman had already been killed, why did the Esther request the King to hang them? The simple approach suggests she made this request so that everyone would know the consequences that would befall them if anyone else might think of harming the Jews. However, rabbinic commentaries offer a different spin. Commenting on the word “tomorrow” in Esther’s request, the Midrash (Tanchuma Bo 13) comments: “There is a tomorrow that is now, and a tomorrow which is later,” indicating a prophecy for the future. By using the word “tomorrow,” Esther unconsciously prophesied a time when the Jewish people would reenact the hanging of Haman’s 10 sons!
And now—as Paul Harvey used to say—you’re going to hear the rest of the story. After World War II, the surviving Nazi leaders were tried at Nuremberg for their war crimes. On October 1, 1946, 12 of the German defendants were sentenced to death by hanging for their part in the atrocities committed against the Jews and others. One of those convicted was Martin Bormann, who was sentenced in absentia. A 2nd was Hermann Goering, who committed suicide in his cell just hours before the executions. The remaining 10 Germans were hanged to death on October 16, 1946. The date is significant as you will see.
In listing the names of the 10 sons of Haman, for thousands of years our tradition has required that 3 letters in the name of Haman’s sons be written in a smaller font— a shin, a taf and a zayin, which has the gematria numerical equivalent of 707 (shin = 300, taf = 400, zayin = 7). It was not known why we needed to write these letters in a smaller font until our time; but now we know. When in Hebrew we speak of the calendar year, we do not use the thousand number. This year, for example, 5779, in Hebrew is called shin-taf-ayin-tet or 779. It is assumed that everyone knows what millennium they are in. So based on the word “tomorrow” in Esther’s request as being some future event—these smaller 3 letters were a future prophecy for the killing of Haman’s 10 sons in a future year 707. It could have been 4707 or 5707.
October 1946, when the 10 Nazi criminals were executed, was the Jewish year 5707! Coincidence? The 10 remaining Nazis thus fulfilled the request of Esther: “tomorrow…let Haman’s 10 sons be hanged.”
Furthermore, since the trial was conducted by a military tribunal, the sentence handed down should have been death by firing squad, or by electric chair as practiced in America. However, the court specifically prescribed hanging, exactly as per Esther’s request. The New York Herald Tribune of October 16, 1946 reported: “With burning hatred in his eyes, Julius Streicher—one of the Nuremberg 10—looked down at the witnesses and shouted as he was about to be hung: “Purim Fest 1946!” What did Streicher know about Purim? The date of the execution, October 16, fell on Hoshana Rabba, the end of Sukkot—the day, a few days after Yom Kippur when Gd’s verdicts are sealed.
If that doesn’t help you appreciate how truly deep the Megillah’s Torah is, let me add one more detail from Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel. The Megillah records that, per Esther’s instructions, the 10 had been hanged on gallows made of wood or eytz in Hebrew. The hangman at Nuremberg was an American army officer named, John C. Woods.
So here we have some Purim Torah—some with gayety and some with solemnity—but all with great meaning. May the light and spirit we experienced this Purim continue to illuminate our lives. Amen!