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FEBRUARY 22-23, 2002 11 ADAR 5762

Shabbat Zachor - This Shabbat we will read an extra portion of Torah which commands us to remember what Amalek did to us, and our obligation to wipe him out. All men are required to hear this special reading, and women should also try to fulfill this obligation.

Pop Quiz: Which of the Kohen Gadol's garments contained twelve different gems?


"And it was turned about, the Jews gained the upper hand over their adversaries" (Esther 9:1)

The holiday of Purim is a truly happy time for all of the Jewish people. As we observe all of the misvot of the holiday, the exciting reading of the Megillah, mishloah manot, and the lavish meal enhanced by the drinking of wine, we are lifted to great heights of happiness.

As we know we have two holidays each year that are Rabbinic in nature, Hanukah and Purim. Rabbi Yisrael Miller asks in the name of the Bet Yehoshua which holiday is greater, Hanukah or Purim? He answers that the miracle of Purim was greater. On Hanukah a small band of untrained amateurs defeated the great army of Greece. This was a change in the natural world - a miracle. This was followed by another change in the natural world, that a small jar of olive oil burned for eight days. But, the miracle of Purim was that Hashem changed, and turned upside-down, human nature. Hashem took King Ahashverosh, who hated the Jews and backed Haman, and made it that he would suddenly befriend us and foil the plot of Haman.

Hashem makes open miracles, to change the laws of physics. He makes a bit of oil burn eight days, makes a small band of sadikim defeat the Greek army, but to interfere with man's free will is something Hashem never does. Well, almost never. He turned an enemy into a friend. This is the greatest miracle of all.

My friends, we need a Purim-style miracle. I was reading an analysis of the current Arab strategy against Israel. It is truly chilling. "The method has two tracks. The first is to wage war against Israel using suicide bombers and terrorists, who engage in low-intensity warfare. In other words, the strategists say the goal is for Israelis to die daily in attacks. The second Arab track aims to confront Israel's strategic weaponry by building missiles and weapons of mass destruction. In other words, an Islamic strike is meant to obliterate Israel."

We need a Purim miracle to change our enemies into friends. We need Hashem to turn it upside-down and make it into the most joyous Purim ever!

Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Reuven Semah

The holiday of Purim gets its name from the pur, the lottery which Haman used to determine the day on which to destroy the Jews. This seems to be a very minor detail in the whole scheme of the Purim story. Why choose this aspect to give us the name of the holiday?

The answer is that Haman comes from Amalek, who believes everything in this world is random happenings. Amalek was willing to buck the Creator Himself as the cause of everything that takes place and Haman followed in his grandfather's footsteps. There is nothing more symbolic of chance than a lottery. This was the method that Haman chose to decide the fate of the Jews. The entire story of Purim shows how all random events are linked up to bring about the great miracle of Purim. Therefore, the name Purim is meant to bring home to us that our destiny is carefully planned with precision and detail. Just as a lottery is really the will of Hashem, so too are our every day happenings, from the greatest events to the smallest detail.

When we read the story of Purim, we should strengthen our faith in Hashem, thereby meriting to have miracles and salvation speedily in our days. Amen. Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And you shall command B'nei Yisrael that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always." (Shemot 27:20)

The Midrash comments on this pasuk that Hashem does not really need the light, but you should nonetheless make a light for Him just as He makes light for you. The Midrash gives the analogy of a blind person and a person who could see who were walking together. The person with sight led the blind person the entire way. When they reached their destination, the sighted person told the blind person to make a light. "I want you to do this," he said, "so you will not feel a debt of gratitude for all that I have done for you. Now you have done something for me in return."

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz commented that from here we see what total kindness is. There are many ulterior motives a person can have when he does favors for others. But the ultimate in doing kindness is to do it without any expectations for something in return. This Midrash should be our guide when we do a favor for another person. Our attitude should be totally to help someone and not to expect even gratitude in return.

Many people feel strong resentment towards people who do not show any gratitude for what was done for them. One who does kindness for its own sake will be free of any negative feelings towards someone who does not reciprocate or express gratitude. Moreover, an elevated person will go out of his way to make the beneficiary of his kindness feel free of any obligations toward him. (Growth through Torah)


"The altar (of copper) shall be holy of holies" (Shemot 29:37)

It seems peculiar that the Torah twice refers to the copper altar, which was situated outside the hechal as "kodesh kodashim - holy of holies". This is in contrast to the altar of incense, which was place opposite the aron hakodesh, and is described merely as "kodesh - holy." Rabbi Moshe Feinstein suggests the following interpretation. The placement of the altars, inside or outside, symbolizes the Torah scholar when he is inside or outside the Bet Midrash. A Torah scholar should be cognizant that while he is "holy" in the Bet Midrash, he must be "doubly holy" when he leaves this sheltered environment.

In the course of time, The Torah scholar will certainly come in contact with people of unfavorable repute who would sway him from the path of Torah. His virtue should be so well developed that it inspires whomever he meets. One who is considered "holy" in the Bet Midrash by his peers is viewed by people in the "outside" world as special as well. Every action he performs is amplified because of his exalted image in the eyes of others. He must always strive to project this image in all of his interactions with people.


This week's Haftarah: Shemuel I 15:1-34.

Since this week is Shabbat Zachor, and we read a special maftir discussing the command to wipe out Amalek, we read a haftarah on the same topic. The haftarah tells of the war that King Shaul waged against Amalek. He was victorious, but he had mercy on their king, Agag, and brought him back as a prisoner instead of killing him. The next morning, the prophet Shemuel rebuked Shaul for not fulfilling Hashem's command to completely wipe out Amalek. Shemuel then killed Agag, the king of Amalek.

The Gemara teaches that on the previous night, Agag's wife had conceived and later gave birth to a child. Since Agag was alive that night only because Shaul neglected to kill him on the battlefield, Shaul was held accountable for enabling Amalek to continue. Therefore, it was up to Mordechai, a descendant of Shaul, to correct Shaul's mistake and battle Haman, the descendant of Agag. This maftir and haftarah are always read on the Shabbat before Purim in order to link the story of Amalek to the story of Haman.

Answer to pop quiz: The hoshen (breastplate).


1. This is a most unusual paragraph. How quickly can you find out what is so unusual about it? It looks so ordinary you'd think nothing was wrong with it - and in fact, nothing is wrong with it. It is unusual though. Why? Study it, think about it, and you might find out. Try to do it without coaching. If you work at it for a bit it, will dawn on you. So jump to it and try your skill at figuring it out. Good luck - don't blow your cool!

2. While exploring the Amazon jungle, Professor Fossil was seized by hostile natives who told him he could make one final statement which would determine how he would die. If the statement he made was false, he would be boiled in water. If the statement were true, he would be fried in oil. Since Fossil found neither option too attractive, he made a statement that got him out of this seemingly impossible situation. What is the one statement he could have made?

3. Art Conn bought a used car for $600 and sold it to Hardy Pyle for $800. He later bought it back for $1000 and resold it for $1200. Did Art make any profit and if so how much? Explain.

4. Sid Shady and Sam Slug were in a plane flying off the coast of South America at 300 meters altitude. Sid and Sam were in this situation as a result of a bet. Sam claimed that if he dropped a five kilogram steel ball from the plane six seconds after Sid dropped a five kilogram sack of feathers, the steel ball would hit the ground first. Which of the two will actually hit the ground first?

gnihtoN ro llA

The Gemara (Hulin 139b) asks, "Where is an allusion to the wicked Haman found in the Torah?" and finds it in the pasuk, "Hamin ha'ess asher siviticha l'bilti achol minenu - Have you then eaten from the tree which I commanded you not to eat from it?" (Beresheet 3:11). The name "Haman" is made up of the same letters as the word "Hamin".

What, however, is the connection between Haman and the story of Adam's sin? Adam, the only man in the world, was the sole owner of everything. He ruled over all creatures, lacked nothing, and could have lived forever. Hashem's command not to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was meant to limit his domain - but only marginally - and to teach him to be content with what he had. He was not to risk everything he had for what was not meant for him. Unfortunately, Adam did not adhere to this principle, and he suffered the bitter consequences.

Haman, too, had everything - vast wealth, many children in powerful places, and the highest position in the realm - and he was second only to the King (5:11).

Nevertheless, he could not bear the fact that Mordechai the Jew remained the only one who refused to bow down to him. Not content with almost everything, Haman risked all he had in an attempt to gain what he felt would be everything - by planning the annihilation of the Jewish people. Had he not been so greedy, he could have lived a life of wealth and royal honor. But he did not learn from Adam's mistake, and he, too, suffered the bitter consequences. (Vedibarta Bam)

ycreM oN

"And Haman remained to beg Queen Esther for his life" (Megillat Esther 7:7)

Everything in the Megillah illustrates the workings of Divine Providence. How does this principle apply to the episode in which Haman pleads with the Queen for his life?

Esther was a descendant of King Shaul, who erred when he did not follow instructions to kill Agag, the King of Amalek. Therefore, by bringing about the downfall of Haman, she was in a sense rectifying her ancestor's iniquity.

According to Rambam (Teshubah 2:1), ultimate teshubah is accomplished when all the details of the situation in which the iniquity occurred are repeated and one does not succumb to the temptation. Since Shaul let Agag live out of pity for him (Shemuel I 15:9), Esther was therefore now put through the same test. When she had no pity on Haman and was unyielding to his pleas, her ancestor Shaul received his forgiveness and "vehamat hamelech shachachah - the anger of the King - Hashem, King of the Universe - abated" (7:10). (Vedibarta Bam)


1. The letter e (the most common in the English language) does not appear in the paragraph.

2. The statement that Fossil made was "You will boil me in water." The natives are faced with a dilemma. If they boil him in water, that would make his statement true, which means he should have been fried in oil. They can only fry him in oil if he makes a true statement, but if they do, it would make his final statement false. The natives had no way out of their situation so they were forced to set Fossil free.

3. Art made a total profit of $400 since he made $200 profit each time he sold the car.

4. Neither. Since they are flying off the coast of South America, both objects will hit the ocean.

Although it is a misvah to drink on Purim, please remember that it is forbidden to endanger one's own life and the lives of others. Please do not drive if you have been drinking.

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