Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  LifeLine
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Purim

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken


"Letters were sent by courier to all countries under the King's power, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, from children to the elderly, babies and women, on one day, the thirteenth of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and plunder their property." [Meg. Esther 3:13]

We see an apparent redundancy in the use of several different words to describe the murder and plunder which Haman planned. The Vilna Gaon, however, teaches us that Haman planned to strike at every element of every Jew.

The Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer, explains that there are four elements to a person in Jewish thought: the basic life-force (Nefesh), spirit (Ruach), soul (Neshamah), and the body. Rabbi Chanan Nobel, in his excellent commentary on the Vilna Gaon on the Megillah, directs us to the Gaon's own commentary to the Book of Proverbs. There, the Vilna Gaon says that these correspond to the four basic levels of Creation in our living world: those things which do not grow or live, such as rocks and earth; those which grow, like plants; those which move about, such as the animal kingdom; and that which speaks - humankind.

Yet the Gaon goes further and says that the Nefesh, the basic life-force, is intertwined with the body itself. One does not attack a body, but the life inside it. But there is indeed a fourth element of a person: his or her possessions. The Maharal in Nesivos Olam writes that a person's money is considered part of him, as we see from our Sages (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Bava Kama 119a): "a person who steals even a dime from his neighbor, it is as if he had taken his life."

Thus there is no redundancy - Haman planned "l'akor hakol," to uproot everything. The word "l'hashmid," to destroy, refers specifically to a spiritual destruction - taking a person away from Mitzvos, from deeds which elevate his or her soul. "To kill" corresponds to the living spirit within a person. "To annihilate" corresponds to the more basic life force and the body itself, meaning to remove all trace, to destroy even any remnant or name of Israel. And the plunder of property, of course, corresponds to the property itself. Haman wanted to destroy every last trace of the Jews.

The Vilna Gaon concludes that our celebration of Purim contrasts with Haman's goal in every aspect. We add a purely spiritual Mitzvah to the day, with the reading of the Megillah, to uplift our souls. For the spirit, the "ruach" which lives in the heart of a person, this is a day of joy. For the body, it is a day of feasting. And for the sake of our property, we are commanded to give special gifts to the poor, in order that even they should have property of their own on Purim.

And indeed, on Purim, we should invest our whole selves in the celebration!

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Yaakov Menken


 

ARTICLES ON NASO:

View Complete List

Nicknames for the Torah
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5760

Realize Who You Really Are!
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5760

Speak It Out
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5769

Looking for a Chavrusah?

A Celebration of Preparation
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5767

Buy Low, Sell High
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5761

From the Depths of the Heart
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5762

ArtScroll

The Torah's Safeguards
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5771

Harmonizing Without Homogenizing
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

The Dilemma of Nisanel ben Tzuar
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5758

> Building On The Positive
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5764

Life, the Bigger Picture -- Say Cheese!
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

Spirituality Between People
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5763

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Being a Levi
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5773

Behavioral Levis
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5761

For Him the Bell Tolls
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5759

Behold Your Teacher!
Shlomo Katz - 5774



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information