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Purim: The Fragrance Of Greatness

By Rabbi Yitzchok D. Frankel

Agudath Israel of the Five Towns

What is the source for Haman from the Torah? “… הַמִן הָעֵץ”—“Was it from the tree . . .” (Bereishis 3:11)

What is the source for Esther from the Torah? “… וְאָנֹכִי הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר”—“I will surely hide . . .” (Devarim 31:18)

What is the source for Mordechai from the Torah? It is written, “Fine myrrh . . . ” (Sh’mos 30:23), and the Aramaic translation is “מֵירָא דַּכְיָא”

—Chullin 139b

It makes sense that Esther is hinted in the pasuk of “I will surely hide . . .” After all, Esther was hidden. Even Achashveirosh, her own “husband” didn’t know she was Jewish. Esther represents the hidden aspect of HaKadosh Baruch Hu in the world. She expresses how the miracle of Purim was totally hidden and was based on seemingly natural occurrences.

It also makes sense that Haman is hinted in the pasuk of “Was it from the tree . . . ,” which refers to the Eitz HaDaas from which Adam HaRishon ate.

HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave Adam HaRishon anything and everything he could possibly want. It was all there in Gan Eden. There was only one fruit, from only one tree, that was forbidden to him. The entire world was there for his enjoyment but still he could not hold himself back from the one thing that was not meant for him. So HaKadosh Baruch Hu criticized him by saying, “Was it from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from, that you ate?”

Haman was of the same nature. He had the whole world at his feet; he controlled everything. His life was a charm. Yet, as he confessed to his wife Zeresh and to all his associates, “But all this is of no value to me as long as I see that Jew Mordechai sitting at the King’s gate” (Esther 5:13). Like Adam HaRishon, he couldn’t hold himself back from the one thing he didn’t have, and that’s why the pasuk of “Was it from the tree . . .” is quite appropriate for him.

But why is Mordechai hinted in the pasuk of “Fine myrrh . . .”? This pasuk details the fragrant spices used in the shemen ha’mishchah, the oil used to anoint the Mishkan and its utensils. What resemblance does anointment oil have to Mordechai?

We will preface our answer by pointing out that the circumstances preceding the Purim miracle, if taken at face value, seem to indicate that Mordechai was in the wrong. Mordechai appeared to have emerged as a dangerous extremist. The Jews under the Persian Empire were a scattered and vulnerable minority; it was in their best interests to stay out of trouble and quietly wait for Hashem’s salvation while maintaining Judaism as best as they could. The last thing they wanted to do was invoke the wrath of the ruling authorities, which was exactly what Mordechai did.

It would seem that the individual directly responsible for Haman’s campaign against the Jews was Mordechai himself. He antagonized Haman. He made his refusal to bow to Haman into a public issue, thereby throwing a very unfavorable spotlight onto Judaism. As a result, the Jewish people were construed as a seditious element in the kingdom. Haman then claimed to have every justification to retaliate against Mordechai and his people. These are the unambiguous events, recorded in the Megillah, that led up to the decree of “To annihilate, to kill, and to destroy” (ibid., 3:13).

Haman had been just fine, happily pursuing his administrative career, with no seeming interest in harming Jews, until it was brought to his attention that Mordechai would not bow to him. This was a public slight to his honor that he could not ignore. And it agitated him greatly.

We can imagine the Jews around Mordechai saying, “Mordechai, why get Haman upset with us? Why don’t you just go and do what everyone else does? Mordechai, you’re getting us all in big trouble with the government because of your fanatical ways!”

So much for taking things at face value. The Midrashim teach us that just the opposite was true. Haman was allowed his angry retaliation against Mordechai because of Hashem’s anger against His people, who were guilty of “prostrating” themselves to Haman by joining Achashveirosh in his gaiety over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and acculturating themselves to Persian society. This sad behavior was in addition to their earlier bowing down to Nevuchadnezzar’s idol. These things angered the Borei Olam. When would His people reject avodah zarah once and for all? In order to wake them up, the Borei Olam brought upon His people a harsh decree: “To annihilate, to kill, and to destroy.”

But here on earth, “it was turned about” (ibid., 9:1). Things appeared just the opposite of what was really going on.

In truth, Mordechai was preserving and protecting K’lal Yisrael. And all those people who thought they were the ones who were saving K’lal Yisrael were in fact hurrying it toward destruction. Our salvation came only through Mordechai, who was the Meyra Dachya, the genuine sweet-smelling spice of heaven.

The Torah tells us to place our faith in the leadership of the gedolei Yisrael:

“According to the instruction that they give you, and according to the judgment that they say to you, shall you do. You shall not stray from the matter that they tell you right or left” (Devarim 17:11).

“Right or left—Even if he says to you that right is left, or that left is right. And certainly if he says to you that right is right, and left is left” (Rashi, ad loc.).

We must not stray from what our leaders, the gedolei Yisrael, tell us, even should it appear to us that they are making “right” into “left.” We mustn’t do what appears to us politically correct. This is because the gedolim of the generation are the Mordechais of the generation. They are the shemen ha’mishchah, the choice spices, the fine myrrh. They are the sweet-smelling gift that HaKadosh Baruch Hu has put into this world where everything appears to us upside down and “turned about.” It is never correct to challenge their leadership.

It is therefore quite appropriate that Mordechai is hinted in the pasuk of “Fine myrrh . . .” v

Rabbi Frankel can be reached at rav@agudah5t.org. At local stores: Machat shel Yad Shemos

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Posted by on February 21, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.