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A Peek Behind the Veil (Purim)

Oct 21, 2009 by Rabbi Pesach Siegel


At the conclusion of the Megillah reading we sing out the words of the piyut, Shoshanas Ya’akov tzahalah vesamecha bir’osam yachad techeles Mordechai”. Our voices echo the words of the Bnei Yisroel who, through the grace of Hashem, had been saved from destruction. They were filled with happiness and joy upon beholding the sight of Mordechai HaTzaddik going out in front of the king, garbed in majesty, the majestic color of techeles. The simcha burst forth from their collective sight, bir’osam yachad, the nation of Israel, the Rose of Ya’akov, saw, together as one, the techeles of Mordechai.


Why does the faculty of sight figure so prominently? What is so integral about seeing through one set of eyes?


Purim is all about illusion.


Achashveirosh had illusions of grandeur (or more accurately – “delusions”). A mere stable boy, he rose to the highest position in the land, a meteoric rise to power. His queen,  

Vashti, took the credit for his ascent to the throne. His anger was fueled by her claim. He was a self made king.


He was king over the entire world. In his time, King Shlomo held this distinction. Achashveirosh viewed himself as a successor of Shlomo HaMelech. He went to extreme lengths to have a duplicate of Shlomo’s throne made. The skilled artisans were found in Shushan. After fashioning the throne, it was too difficult to transport to Babylonia. Achashveirosh had the entire seat of government transferred to Shushan just so he could sit on the throne! Shlomo HaMelech ruled over the entirety of creation. Angels performed his bidding. He was master over the beasts of the field. This was reflected in the manner Shlomo ascended the throne. The golden animals would raise him from level to level, and as he reached the top, he would sit upon the throne and golden birds would lower the crown on his head.


Shlomo delivered the creation in its entirety over to Hashem Yisborach, Achashveirosh took it for himself.


He was afraid. His greatest fear was of the Beis HaMikdash. Achashveirosh can only cast his own image on creation in a world where the Creator is seemingly absent. The rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash was a threat looming over his head.


When, according to his calculations, the promised time of redemption had passed without incident, his joy knew no bounds. The entirety of the Jewish nation was within his grasp, never to immerge. Seventy years had elapsed and they remained within his clutches. Not a single Jew lived outside the confines of his kingdom. He has been granted absolute power.


He celebrated by donning the robes of the Kohen Gadol. The monarchy has passed from the people of Shlomo to Achashveirosh. The priesthood is no longer in the hands of the descendants of Aharon. The vessels of the Beis HaMikdash are reserved for his pleasure.

Shushan is referred to as “HaBirah”, a word used to describe the Beis HaMikdash, as well. Achashveirosh designed Shushan along parallel lines to the Beis HaMikdash, an anti-Beis HaMikdash, one dedicated to his honor. The Beis HaMikdash had ten levels of kedusha. Achashveirosh filled Shushan with ten levels of impurity, as manifested in the ten sons of Haman.


But it was all an illusion.


Achashveirosh invited his subjects to a feast. His Jewish subjects were treated with every consideration. One is obligated to show honor to one’s ruler. Attending the banquet is the proper course of action to follow. It will guarantee the security of the Jewish people. Failure to attend will place them in grave danger. How could one not go?


Mordechai understood otherwise. He stood alone.


The king decreed that all must bow before the new viceroy, Haman. It is a show of respect to his majesty, the king. One who fails to do so risks bringing upon himself the king’s wrath. Everyone paid obeisance to Haman, all, except Mordechai. Not only didn’t he bow, he doesn’t even acknowledge Haman’s presence, doesn’t move from his place or respond to Haman’s greeting.


He thus, seemingly, placed the entire nation of Israel in danger. Our sages tell us that none other than Esther levels this charge at him. She challenges him, “Why did he have to provoke Haman. If he wished to avoid bowing down to Haman, why do so in a public manner.” Mordechai is held responsible for bringing destruction upon the Jewish people.


This too is an illusion.


The wicked Haman rises to the highest position in the land. He obtains from Achashveirosh the royal signet ring. He is empowered to issue an irrevocable decree, one which even the king himself is powerless to repeal. He casts lots. The month of Adar is chosen. Moshe Rabeinu departed this world in Adar. Even the spiritual forces are aligned with him. He is unstoppable in his quest to bring the world to the nether depths of  impurity, the fiftieth level of tumah. He will hang Mordechai, the epitome of kedushah and taharah, on a gallows fifty amos high, thus obliterating from this world the fifty levels of kedushah. He fears one thing, he fears Esther. Esther is in a position of power, she was adopted by Mordechai. Only she can thwart his plans. Esther invites him, and only him, to a mishteh, a wine banquet. His fears are no more. She favors him over Mordechai. His goal is within his grasp.


Haman is building “castles in the air.”


The Jews fast, they pray, and finally Mordechai instructs Esther to reveal herself to the king. Esther protests. By going voluntarily to the king she will be lost to her husband, Mordechai. She will be in danger of losing her portion in olam haba by doing so, she will lose her life in olam hazeh. “Wait”, she says. “I haven’t been summoned to the king in thirty days. Surely he will call on me. What can be gained by going prematurely? The dreaded date is many months away. Why did you incite Haman in the first place?” She didn’t see “eye to eye” with Mordechai. It went against all logic.


And now a few words about Amalek.


The impact of Amalek is massive. Amalek is talented in a particular area. They are adept at sowing doubt and confusion. When one is stricken with doubt as to the proper course to follow, the resolve suffers, and one is rendered impotent. If one cannot see a clear path then one stumbles and is lost.


When Klal Yisroel encountered Amalek in the desert, Amalek spoke the language of the Canaanites, but were garbed as Amalekites. They did so in order to hinder the Jews from offering prayers for their salvation. Are they Amalekites or Canaanites? They sought to confuse the Jews, to present them with mixed signals, thus being unable to perceive reality.


The letters Amalek can be rearranged to form the word me’ukal – crooked. The gematria of the word Amalek is 240, the same gematria of the word safek – doubt.


Confusion stems from doubt. One cannot be in a state of confusion when one is certain, when one sees clearly.


One individual was blessed with clarity of sight. He saw the events unfolding as a pattern and not as random events of anti-semitism amidst the golus. The normal rules don’t apply. He saw a calculated attempt by a master strategist to wrest control of creation away from its Creator, an attempt to remove Hashem from this world by totally eradicating even the memory of His chosen people.


And he saw something else. He saw that the biggest threat to his people was not from the quarters of the enemy, it was a threat from within. Klal Yisroel was stricken with a lack of insight. They were guilty of bowing down to the idol of Nevuchadnezer (actually a bust of Nevuchadnezer), attending and benefiting from the banquet of Achashveirosh, all in the name of shalom malchus. By doing so they lost sight of the true and only malchus.


Esther is hesitant. By all natural calculations entering the inner courtyard spells a death sentence for her. That is the “appearance” of things. Mordechai tells her, “Al tidami binafshech” - Don’t be deluded by appearances. It’s all an illusion. Look beneath the surface, raise yourself up and see beyond the natural order of things. There can be no delay, no compromise, and absolutely no outward sign of respect to those who are propagating this crime.


Klal Yisroel was in mortal peril. Mordechai by his decisive action, through his unbending intolerance saved the nation. He had no doubts, no lack of clarity.


The posuk states, Vatilbash Esther malchus – Esther was adorned with majesty. She attained the level of ruach hakodesh. She found herself standing, not in front of a king of mere flesh and blood, but before the Melech Malchei HaMelochim. Achashveirosh, as a force to be reckoned with, ceased to exist.


The illusion was dissipated. Achashveirosh is powerless, Haman self destructs. All that remains is k’vod shamayim.


Hashem gave us a mitzvah, the mitzvah of tzitzis. We tie the strings into knots to represent our bond with our Maker. A strand of techeles wool is hung on each corner. Chazal give us an insight into the mitzvah of techeles. The color of techeles is similar to that of the sea. The color of the sea is like the color of the sky. The color of the sky is similar to the Kiseh HaKavod.


Our challenge in life is to pierce the darkness which surrounds us. Hashem’s presence is deeply buried as in the depths of the sea, but from those very depths we see evidence of his omnipotence. Our understanding is cursory, at best, but when we probe deeper we gain a higher level of understanding of Hashem’s majesty, and we rise, as if from the ground to the sky. Until we finally arrive at our destination – the Throne of Glory.


The words of the piyut thus become illuminated. The “Rose of Ya’akov” represents the state of Klal Yisroel in golus, among the thorns. They rejoice. Why? Bir’osam yachad techeles Mordechai. Because they finally saw, together as one, the same techeles that Mordechai saw. The masquerade is over. (Based on Torah thoughts I merited to hear from Rav Yonasan David).


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