Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Real Story of Purim

I was very impressed with this short vort given by Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman that I wanted to share it with others who are survivors of sexual violence. I think you will find it both uplifting and inspiring. 

Today is Tuesday the 16th of Adar 5770 and March 2, 2010

The Short Vort
The Real Story of Purim
By Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

 My son was asking a riddle on Purim. The riddle, which of course was being told in jest, went as follows:
Why did Haman want to kill all the Jews if it was only Mordechai who was guilty of not standing in the presence of Haman?

The answer my son offered in jest was: Haman was not in the mood to receive 49,000 emails from Jews all over the world. It was therefore simpler to just kill all the Jews.
The reference which the riddle covertly refers to is of course the unfortunate episode of the execution of Mr. Martin Grossman which occurred the week before Purim and the attempt of Jewish leaders to rally 50,000 people to email the governor for a pardon.
If you find the riddle humorous or not is not my concern; if you involved yourself in the campaign on behalf of Mr. Grossman is also not germane to this Short Vort.
However, what is important is my son’s question.

Indeed, why did Haman want to kill all the Jews? After all, it was only Mordechai who was insubordinate to him? What was the reason Haman had to kill all the Jews?
I could not get the question out of mine the entire Purim and Shushan Purim.

I was aware and recognized that Chazal felt that this was indicative of the anti-Semitic attitude of Amalek and is a manifestation of the concept “Eisav Sonei Yakov”- Eisav hates Yakov (the Jewish people).

However, on a simple text level, why did Haman want to kill all the Jews?

Indeed, from the Megillah it seems clear that Mordechai was an individual with little if any popular support.

The verse states: All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. (3:2)

It seems clear that only Mordechai was not being compliant to Haman; why the need to kill all the Jews?
Let us take a step back and ask and even more basic question. What did Haman care so much that Mordechai refused to bow and kneel down to him?
Obviously the simple answer is that Haman feared that Mordechai’s insubordination could spread and ultimately undermine his power. However, if so, the question returns, why didn’t Haman just kill off Mordechai? If he was able to convince the king to obliterate an entire nation, he certainly should not have had much resistance on the part of Achashveirus to kill off one Jew; especially one who is so flagrantly disobeying the prime minister’s decrees!
Indeed, the decree had the backing of the king himself as the verse states:
2 All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. (3:2)
If so the question becomes stronger and stronger.

Why did Haman want, or need to kill off all the Jews?

Why not kill Mordechai himself and all would be fine?

The other Jews were not bothering Haman, indeed, they were subservient and docile, why mix them in?
Inside the Mind of Haman
The answer is the following.
Haman mixed in all the Jews to his hatred of Mordechai was not because Mordechai was an excuse to kill his real enemies; namely, all the Jews. No, quite the opposite; the reason Haman mixed in all the Jews was to cover up his real and only enemy, Mordechai. 

Meaning, Haman’s accusations against all the Jews were simply a smoke screen to get at his real and only enemy- Mordechai.
Please run that by me again.
Here we go.
Haman was using the Jewish people as a veil to conceal his true intent, namely to destroy and kill Mordechai; not the other way around.
I don’t get it.
If Haman only wanted to destroy Mordecai, why not kill him right away?

Why did Haman use the ruse of: "There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king's laws; it is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them. 9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business."?

If his real intent was just to kill Mordechai, why not tell the king to kill Mordechai right away?
The answer is because Haman could not do that. The king would not have agreed.
Why not?
Let’s go back in time.

Haman and Mordechai were once both officers in the army of Achashveirus.

Achashveirus had distributed money for the officers. Haman- being a person who always needed immediate gratification- spent his money on his carnal needs right away. Later in the campaign when Haman was broke and needed bread, he came begging to Mordechai for his basic needs: bread and water.

Mordechai, who conserved and saved his provisions, would only agree to supply Haman with his needs if Haman would agree to enslave himself to Mordechai. Haman agreed and even signed a document testifying to the sale. (Yalkut Shemoni; Esther; Remez 1,056)
Therefore, Mordechai was not being haughty or hubris-like by not bowing to Haman.

After all, as the Talmud teachers, ‘whatever a slave acquires, his master acquires’ (Pesachim 88b). Therefore, Mordechai was legally correct in not bowing to Haman.

Therefore Haman could never just ask Achashveirus to kill Mordechai (although eventually his irrational hatred would finally convince him to do just that- to his own demise).

If Haman would ask Achashveirus just to kill Mordechai, the king would ask why. Even a superficial investigation would reveal the deep dark secret of Haman; and Haman not Mordechai would be humiliated. Therefore, as any abuser of power and of people, Haman had to divert attention from himself by discrediting his intended victim and his victim’s family!

 By discrediting the entire Jewish people, Haman would be successfully diverting attention from himself, while simultaneously showing how Mordechai is a product of an entirely dysfunctional family unit that has to be destroyed.

This is why he claims: "There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people”; in other words, they are one big dysfunctional family unit!
Haman is the ultimate abuser.

 It makes no difference if the abuser is a pedophile, a wife beater, a controlling spouse or parent; the modus operandi is always identical.
The abuser realizes that the victim knows a secret evil which the abuser has committed.

In the case of Haman, he knew that Mordechai was aware of his sordid past as one who had squandered the king’s wages and that as he was not a respectable prime minister; but rather a despicable and lowly servant of Mordechai.
In a case of pedophilia, only the child knows that the ostensibly respected authority figure is in truth a lowly and basely beastly worthless low life; notwithstanding the abusers standing in the professional world.
In the case of spousal or child abuse, it is the spouse or child who knows the secret evil which the ‘respected’ spouse and or parent are perpetuating in the privacy of the home.
However, one thing is always the same as it was with Haman.

Just as Haman realized that in order to buttress his attack on Mordechai, he had to distract attention from his crimes through intimidation by discrediting his victim and the victim’s family by declaring the supposed dysfunctionality of the entire Jewish people, so does today’s pedophile attempt to distract attention from himself by claiming that the victim and/or their family are dysfunctional, strange and that they are the real criminals.
Although, Mordechai and the entire Jewish people were always loyal citizens to the crown, this did not deter Haman from claiming that Mordechai and indeed the entire Jewish people are ‘different’ from everyone else.
So too, the abuser will always attempt to discredit the victim and their family. By discrediting the victim’s family he hopes to silence his true enemy, the victim.
I can recall in dealing with various cases of abuse, how the abuser would attempt to discredit the victim’s family by claiming exaggerated and outright false accusations against the victim and their entire family.
This is nothing less then the evil legacy of Haman.
The case against the Jewish people was nothing more than the modern day’s abuser attempt to create a smoke screen which simultaneously attempts to deflect attention from the abuser and their hideous deeds and discredit the victim by defaming the family of the victim.
However, ultimately, Haman is undone by himself. Ultimately, Haman cannot even wait until Adar when- by order of the king- he and everyone will be allowed to kill the Jews.

After Haman sees Mordechai once more he is filled with rage and anger. Let’s see the episode inside the Megillah:
9 Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king's gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home. 
      Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 
11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 "And that's not all," Haman added. "I'm the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king's gate."

 14 His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy." This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the gallows built. (Chapter five)

Haman states: But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king's gate”.
Why is that? Why is that “all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordechai sitting at the king’s gate”? This is strange; after all, Mordechai would have been wiped out based on the king’s decree that all Jews will be killed by Adar. Why couldn’t Haman let matters take their natural course and wait until the following Adar when Mordechai will be killed along with the other Jews?
The answer is found in the words: “as long as I see that Jew Mordechai sitting at the king’s gate”.

As long as Mordechai was seen by Haman, Haman could no longer contain himself for even one more day. Why not?

Mordechai represents the deep dark secret of Haman.

Mordechai who represents the ‘victim’ is the only person on the face of the Earth who knows about Haman’s murky past. He is the only one who stands in the way of his further climb on the ladder of power and fame. As long as Mordechai is alive and well, Haman the abuser is never safe. He cannot claim he is great, wonderful and honorable without being contested. As long as that one person is still alive and well, Haman’s plans for grandeur could be stifled at any minute. Mordechai must be silenced and must be silenced today!

Although Haman had hoped by discrediting and destroying the entire Jewish people, Mordechai would also be destroyed; he could not wait the eleven months, his evil mind would not let him rest.
This is the typical of the pedophile and of the abuser. When attempts at distracting attention from the crime by discrediting the family are not sufficient, the abuser becomes a caged animal who will stop at nothing to destroy his prey.

However, these efforts at destroying Mordechai were ultimately what led to the downfall of Haman; as on the exact tree which he prepared for Mordechai he was hung.

So too as well, last ditch attempts by abusers to destroy the credibility of the victims will be their undoing.

I recall the historic event we had at the Shul on Erev Yom Kippur when brave victims of abuse stood up and declared unabashedly"Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?"

 6 Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman."(7:5, 6)-
 After the event there were those who attempted to protect the abusers. They called me and ‘reported’ to me how this victim is ‘unstable’ and that victim is ‘not normal’. However, as time has gone on, it has become clearer and clearer that everyone was indeed telling the truth and it was those who deny that such things are going on who were wrong.

These last ditch attempt by the abuser or by his cohorts to destroy the victim will ultimately be their own demise as it was with Haman.

At the end of the day, truth and tzedek, justice will reign.

Just as the Megillah ends on a happy note with Haman’s demise and Mordechai’s elevation, so too we daven that all abusers will be eliminated from our midst and the true victims will one day receive the recognition they truly deserve. 

No comments: