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TRICK OR TREAT

by Benyamin Cohen    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

The Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 88a) relates that the Jewish people originally accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai under duress, as Hashem held the mountain over them, threatening them with destruction if they did not accede.

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The Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 88a) relates that the Jewish people originally accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai under duress, as Hashem held the mountain over them, threatening them with destruction if they did not accede. However, hundreds of years later, in the days of King Achashveirosh and the Purim story, the Jewish people willingly reconfirmed their commitment to the Torah. The question arises as to why it was so important that they accept the Torah once again, specifically at the time of the Purim story. They had been doing fine for such a long time. Why now?

Rabbi Yonason Eybeshitz, the 18th century Kabbalist and scholar from Alsace, suggests that to answer this question we must first gain a better understanding of what Haman, the Jewish people's enemy at the time of their reconfirmation, represented. Haman was a descendant of the evil nation of Amalek, which in turn came from Esau, Jacob's twin brother. While Esau was the epitome of pure evil, he was not viewed as such by many of the people of his time because of his duplicity and guile. He was able to conceal his inner nature from his father by his supposed expertise in the mitzvah of honoring one's parents and by his outward religiosity in other areas of observance.

A similar kind of deception could have been mistakenly ascribed to the Jewish people for originally accepting the Torah without truly feeling it in their hearts. It is very difficult to be objective with a mountain suspended over your head. Therefore, in order to differentiate themselves from the deceptive ways of their enemies and to be assured of victory over Haman, the Jewish people needed to reconfirm their belief in the Torah's supremacy.

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Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan, is currently a sophomore at Georgia State University.

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