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Purim 2000

by Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman
Torah from Dixie staff writer

Interestingly, the Talmud states that even if all sacrifices are suspended at the time of the ultimate redemption, the korban todah will always be with us. Interestingly, too, the Talmud states that if all of our holidays become null and void in the days of the Mashiach (Messiah), the holiday of Purim will always be with us. There must be some intrinsic connection between Purim and the korban todah which would result in their both remaining even in the days of the Mashiach. What is their connection?

                                                                              

                                                                                                                      

"Who is rich? He who is satisfied with his lot" (Ethics of Our Fathers 4:1).

The Torah portion of Vayikra describes many of the korbanot (offerings) that were brought in the Mishkan (Tabernacle), among them being the korban shelamim (peace offering). A sub-category of that offering, discussed in next week's portion, is the korban todah - the thanksgiving offering, brought by someone upon escaping any kind of near death experience. Whether it was a serious illness or a voyage over treacherous seas, one would display his gratitude to Hashem for saving him by bringing a korban todah.

Interestingly, the Talmud states that even if all sacrifices are suspended at the time of the ultimate redemption, the korban todah will always be with us. Interestingly, too, the Talmud states that if all of our holidays become null and void in the days of the Mashiach (Messiah), the holiday of Purim will always be with us. There must be some intrinsic connection between Purim and the korban todah which would result in their both remaining even in the days of the Mashiach. What is their connection?

The Talmud poses a fascinating question: "Where is Haman hinted to in the Torah?" (Our tradition teaches that the Torah represents the blueprint of the world. As such, everything in this world is hinted to, in some form or another, in the Torah.) Remarkably, the sages answer that a reference can be found to Haman in the first recorded conversation between Hashem and Adam, when Hashem (rhetorically) asks His prized creation, "Have you (in Hebrew - hamin) eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?" (Genesis 3:11). Do the rabbis mean to say that just because the name "Haman" and the word "hamin" are spelled with the same three Hebrew letters, we have found a reference to Haman in the Torah?

The commentators point out that Hashem gave Adam dominion over the entire world. Everything that a person could ever want, Adam had access to. . .except for one thing - he was forbidden to eat from the tree in the center of the Garden of Eden. Just one tree, and he still was unable to refrain from transgressing. Adam stumbled in part because, on a certain level, he felt that if he could not have everything, then it was as if he had nothing. Similarly, explains Rabbi Yissachar Frand of Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Haman also had it all. He was the second in command to King Achashveirosh, ruler of 127 provinces, the entire civilized world. The Talmud tells us that Haman himself was one of the wealthiest men that ever lived, and yet with all his power and fame, his wealth, his subjects, his many children, and his enormous mansion, it all meant nothing to him as long as this one Jew Mordechai didn't bow down to him.

That is human nature. A person can have everything, so much to be thankful for, and yet gripe and complain over what he does not have. By finding the source for Haman in the verse reprimanding Adam for partaking of the single forbidden fruit, the sages are pointing out that the destructive character trait of not being satisfied with what one has, no matter how much it may be, did not originate with Haman in the Purim story. It finds its source, to some degree, even in Adam in the Garden of Eden.

The Torah gives us a mitzvah to eradicate the nation of Amalek (from which Haman descends), which we read about in this week's special maftir Torah reading. Asks Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, the late rosh yeshiva (dean) of the Yeshiva Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, how do we perform this mitzvah today when we don't know who is a descendant of Amalek? He answers that we do this mitzvah by destroying the Amalek character traits within us. Perhaps it is to destroy this Haman within us, to eradicate the disgusting trait of being a malcontent, of being an ingrate. If we constantly focus on what we lack instead of on what we have, we'll never be happy with all the wealth, fame, and power this world has to offer. That is what Purim is all about; it teaches us to be happy with what we have.

Purim and the korban todah, say the rabbis, will always be with us. Why? Because they both teach the same lesson - to be grateful to Hashem for everything. The obligation to show gratitude never ceases - it is timeless. The korban todah, through which we show gratitude to Hashem for saving us, makes amends for the sin of Adam who was ungrateful on his level. On Purim we seek to eradicate the Haman within us and to serve Hashem with a full loving heart in gratitude and happiness.

Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman writes from Atlanta.

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