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Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future


Established by Rabbi Hyman and Ann Arbesfeld

March 2017 Purim 5777

A Special Edition in Honor of the
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary



Dedicated in loving memory of Phyllis Pollack

by Dr. Meir and Deborah Pollack
Aliza, Racheli, Atara, Yoni, Ilana and Ari
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
We thank the following synagogues which have pledged to
be Pillars of the Torah To-Go project
Beth David Synagogue Green Road Synagogue Young Israel of
West Hartford, CT Beachwood, OH Century City
Los Angeles, CA
Beth Jacob Congregation The Jewish Center
Beverly Hills, CA New York, NY Young Israel of
Bnai Israel Ohev Zedek Young Israel Beth El of New Hyde Park
New Hyde Park, NY
Philadelphia, PA Borough Park
Koenig Family Foundation Young Israel of
Congregation Brooklyn, NY
Ahavas Achim Toco Hills
Young Israel of Atlanta, GA
Highland Park, NJ
Lawrence-Cedarhurst Young Israel of
Congregation Cedarhurst, NY
Shaarei Tefillah West Hartford
West Hartford, CT
Newton Centre, MA

Richard M. Joel, President and Bravmann Family University Professor, Yeshiva University
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, Vice President for University and Community Life, Yeshiva University
Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, David Mitzner Dean, Center for the Jewish Future
Rabbi Menachem Penner, Max and Marion Grill Dean, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

Rabbi Robert Shur, Series Editor Rabbi Joshua Flug, General Editor
Rabbi Michael Dubitsky, Content Editor Andrea Kahn, Copy Editor

Copyright 2016 All rights reserved by Yeshiva University

Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future
500 West 185th Street, Suite 419, New York, NY 10033 212.960.0074

This publication contains words of Torah. Please treat it with appropriate respect.
For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Paul Glasser at 212.960.5852 or

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
Table of Contents
Purim 2017/5777
Dedicated in loving memory of Phyllis Pollack

by Dr. Meir and Deborah Pollack
Aliza, Racheli, Atara, Yoni, Ilana and Ari

The Menahel and the Manhig: Two Models of Leadership

Rabbi Yaakov Glasser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 8
Open to Embracing Jews; Open to Embracing the Mesorah
Rabbi Menachem Penner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 11
A Walking Sefer Torah
Rabbi Joshua Flug . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 14
The Role of Vashti in the Purim Story
Deena Rabinovich, EdD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 19

From the Musmakhim in Chag Hasemikhah 2017/5777

Esther and Bas Paraoh: Reaching for What is Out of Reach
Rabbi David Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 26
Our Hamantaschens Forgotten Meaning
Rabbi Tuvia Brander . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 28
Self-Nullification through Inebriation
Rabbi Michael Weingarten . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 32
Purim: The Simcha of Satiation
Rabbi Dani Zuckerman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 34

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
It is with great excitement that we present to you this of the contemporary Jewish world. They have been taught,
special edition of the Benjamin and Rose Berger Purim trained, and empowered to educate, and lead the next
To-Go in conjunction with the celebration of the RIETS generation of our community.
Chag HaSemikhah taking place on Sunday, March 19th, This special edition of Torah to Go pays tribute to this
2017, the 21st of Adar 5777. The opportunities for Jewish milestone by sharing Torah insights from scholars of
communal engagement have never been broader, and the Yeshiva University, and some of the recent musmakhim
challenges to the continuity and vibrancy of the Jewish themselves. Please join us, as we wish our musmakhim
people have never been greater. The Musmakhim of RIETS in their journey to inspire the future of the Jewish
are refined Torah scholars who appreciate the complexity people.

Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander Rabbi Menachem Penner Rabbi Yaakov Glasser
Vice President for University and Max and Marion Grill Dean, David Mitzner Dean,
Community Life, Yeshiva University Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary YU Center for the Jewish Future

THE RIETS The Marcos and Adina Katz Kollel and Jewish educators, led by Rabbi
for prospective teachers and rabbinic Michael Rosensweig.
SEMIKHAH scholars, led by Rabbi Hershel Schachter. The YU RIETS Israel Kollel in
PROGRAM The Rabbi Norman Lamm Kollel Jerusalem for chaver, semikhah and
LHoraah (Yadin Yadin) to train post-semikhah students, led by Rabbi
The Rabbi Joseph B. scholars for the role of poskim, led by Dovid Miller.
Soloveitchik Semikhah Program Rabbis J. David Bleich, Yona Reiss and
offers a four-year program Community kollelim give our
Mordechai Willig. rabbinical students an opportunity
of Torah study, professional
The Ludwig Jesselson Chaver Kollel to engage in communal learning, and
training and fieldwork. Talmidim for those with a background in Talmud year-round kollelim in Chicago and
develop expertise in Talmudic planning to enter other professions. Toronto reach thousands of people
study while surveying a breadth with a plethora of classes and dynamic
The Bella and Harry Wexner Kollel
of halakhic topics unmatched in programs.
Elyon combines intensive Torah learning
the world of yeshivot. with courses in professional skills, led by The Rabbi Jacob H. Kupietzky
Kollelim Rabbi Mordechai Willig. Memorial Program for the Study of
Kollel programs allow students The Israel Henry Beren Institute for Kodshim for post-semichah study of the
to devote all their energies to the Higher Talmudic Studies (Hamachon texts and concepts of the Talmudic order
study of Talmud and halakha. Ha-Gavohah LeTalmud) for scholars of Kodshim not generally covered in the
who will become future roshei yeshiva regular semicha studies curriculum, led
Each program is designed
by Rabbi David Horwitz.
for students with distinct
educational goals, whether in
Jewish education, the synagogue
rabbinate, Jewish scholarship or
other pursuits both in and out of
Avodat Hakodesh.

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
Saluting The Members of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

Chag Hasemikhah 5777

Rabbi Moshe Abrams Rabbi Yakov Danishefsky Rabbi Dovi Hochbaum Rabbi Alon Meltzer Rabbi Elliot Schrier
Pittsburgh, PA Bergenfield, NJ West Hempstead, NY Auckland, New Zealand Woodmere, NY
Rabbi Joshua Abramson Rabbi Yoni Danzger Rabbi Michael Hoenig Rabbi Yoni Miller Rabbi David Schwartz
Dallas, TX Woodmere, NY Teaneck, NJ Jerusalem, Israel Staten Island, NY
Rabbi Arieh Ackerman Rabbi Joshua Elsant Rabbi Andrew Israeli Rabbi Ari Mirzoeff Rabbi Moshe Schwartz
Highland Park, NJ Woodmere, NY West Orange, NJ Jamaica Estates, NY New York, NY
Rabbi Gershon Albert Rabbi Daniel Elsant Rabbi Yossi Jacobs Rabbi Steven Nemetz Rabbi Shaul Seidler-Feller
Montreal, QB Woodmere, NY Kew Gardens Hills, NY Vancouver, BC Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Jason Allen Rabbi Yoel Epstein Rabbi Michael Kahn Rabbi Yechiel Neuburger Rabbi Ely Shestack
Baltimore, MD New York, NY Skokie, IL Teaneck, NJ Bergenfield, NJ
Rabbi Avi Anderson Rabbi Matthew Faigen Rabbi Raphael Karlin Rabbi Alex Ozar Rabbi Mordechai
New York, NY Pittsburgh, PA Silver Spring, MD St. Louis, MO Shichtman
Baltimore, MD
Rabbi Jared Anstandig Rabbi Natan Farber Rabbi Joshua Klein Rabbi Elchanan Poupko
West Bloomfield, MI Cedarhurst, NY Concord, CA Jerusalem, Israel Rabbi Moshe Spira
Atlanta, GA
Rabbi Adam Ariel Rabbi Ari Federgrun Rabbi Nuriel Klinger Rabbi Mordy Prus
Saint Louis, MO Holliswood, NY Columbus, OH Brooklyn, NY Rabbi David Stein
Chicago, IL
Rabbi Mosheh Aziz Rabbi Roy Feldman Rabbi Mordechai Rabbi Ari Pruzansky
Great Neck, NY Bayside, NY Kornbluth Teaneck, NJ Rabbi Dovid Strauss
Teaneck, NJ New York, NY
Rabbi William I. Balk Rabbi Shaya First Rabbi Yitzy Radner
Cleveland, OH Teaneck, NJ Rabbi Yosef Kornbluth Detroit, MI Rabbi Yaakov Taubes
Teaneck, NJ Teaneck, NJ
Rabbi Eliezer Barany Rabbi Caleb Fischer Rabbi Moshe Rapps
Hollywood, FL Columbus, OH Rabbi Yehuda Kravetz Teaneck, NJ Rabbi Sam Taylor
Fair Lawn, NJ London, UK
Rabbi Sammy Bergman Rabbi Aaron Fleksher Rabbi Sam Reinstein
Elizabeth, NJ Passaic, NJ Rabbi Shmuel Kresch Teaneck, NJ Rabbi Yosef Shmuel Haim
Southfield, MI Venouziou
Rabbi Jacob Berman Rabbi Noam Friedman Rabbi Alvin Reinstein
Edison, NJ Teaneck, NJ Bronx, NY Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Ben Kurzer
London, UK Rabbi Eli Wagner
Rabbi David Block Rabbi Adam Friedman Rabbi Jared Rosenfeld
West Hempstead, NY New York, NY Scarsdale, NY Woodmere, NY
Rabbi Ari Lamm
West Hempstead, NY Rabbi Moshe Watson
Rabbi Jonathan Bloom Rabbi Jonathan Fruchter Rabbi Itamar Rosensweig
Fairlawn, NJ Queens, NY Queens, NY Teaneck, NJ
Rabbi Michael Langer
Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Gabi Weinberg
Rabbi Abraham Borenstein Rabbi Yechiel Fuchs Rabbi Yisroel Meir
West Hempstead, NY New York, NY Kew Gardens Hills, NY
Rabbi Yaakov Lasson Rosenzweig
Baltimore, MD Charleston, SC Rabbi Yosef Weinberger
Rabbi Tuvia Brander Rabbi Moshe Genack
Boca Raton, FL Englewood, NJ Teaneck, NJ
Rabbi Simcha Lauer Rabbi David Roth
Lawrence, NY Newton, MA Rabbi Michael Weingarten
Rabbi Natan Brownstein Rabbi Yeshayahu Ginsburg
Portland, OR Columbus, OH Holliswood, NY
Rabbi Hart Levine Rabbi William Roth
New York, NY Teaneck, NJ Rabbi Mark Weingarten
Rabbi Shamir Caplan Rabbi Mark Glass
Arlington, TX Manchester, UK Holliswood, NY
Rabbi Eliron Levinson Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein
Highland Park, NJ Monsey, NY Rabbi Mordecai Weisel
Rabbi Dov Carpe Rabbi Raphael Glickman
Teaneck, NJ Cleveland, OH Teaneck, NJ
Rabbi Avi Libman Rabbi Moshe Rube
Toronto, ON Hewlett, NY Rabbi Elliot Wiesenfeld
Rabbi Bryan Chustckie Rabbi Daniel Goldberg
East Brunswick, NJ Teaneck, NJ Lawrence, NY
Rabbi Bradley Lipman Rabbi Shmuli Sagal
Los Angeles, CA London, UK Rabbi Siman Tov Yanetz
Rabbi Shlomo Clark Rabbi Noach Goldstein
Bergenfield, NJ Teaneck, NJ Tel Aviv, Israel
Rabbi Ari Lipsky Rabbi Emmanuel Sanders
West Hempstead, NY New York, NY Rabbi Yosef Yanetz
Rabbi Dan Cohen Rabbi Shmuel Goldstein
Queens, NY Monsey, NY Ganei Tikva, Israel
Rabbi Michael Macks Rabbi Uri Schneider
Lincolnwood, IL Bergenfield, NJ Rabbi Yehuda Feivel Yisroel
Rabbi Meir Cohen Rabbi Yosef Gottesman
Oceanside, NY Teaneck, NJ New Hempstead, NY
Rabbi Yoni Mandelstam Rabbi Gidon Schneider
Jamaica Estates, NY Toronto, ON Rabbi Yeshaya Zimmerman
Rabbi Chaim Cohen Rabbi Jason Grossman
Teaneck, NJ Lawrence, NY Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Joshua Maslow Rabbi Asher Schreier
Cedarhurst, NY Woodmere, NY Rabbi Daniel Zuckerman
Rabbi Noah Cohen Rabbi Scott Hoberman
Boca Raton, FL Skokie, IL Silver Spring, MD

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary:
The Soul of Yeshiva University

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Yeshiva College. Dr. Norman Lamm was musmakhim lead and inspire our
Seminary has been the soul of Yeshiva elected president and Rosh HaYeshiva community through serving in some
University for more than 120 years. in 1976the first who was American- of the most influential and prestigious
Sounds of learning vibrate through the bornfollowing Dr. Belkins death that pulpits throughout North America.
batei midrashot and resonate from morning year. A musmakh of RIETS, Dr. Lamm Our musmakhim also continue to grow
until late at night. is an alumnus of Yeshiva College and the professionally through the myriad of
Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish programs that provide the most current
RIETS educates and trains rabbis who Studies, where he earned his PhD. perspectives and insights into halachic and
have shaped and continue to shape our pastoral guidance.
Jewish world. Combining the highest levels Under the visionary leadership and
of Torah learning in the legacy of Rabbi guidance of Richard M. Joel, the president Many great and influential rabbis have
Joseph Soloveitchik ztl, an unmatched of YU and RIETS, RIETS impact is felt taught at RIETS. Among the most
program of professional preparation for the in the Jewish community throughout illustrious Gedolei Torah was Rabbi
rabbinate and an impassioned commitment the world. RIETS musmakhim occupy Joseph Soloveitchik, a scholar, philosopher
to impact the Jewish community, RIETS an overwhelming number of pulpits and teacher who had a profound impact on
continues to produce the finest rabbinic throughout North America, as well as Jewish thought. A leading authority and
leadership for the next generation and major educational, communal-professional exponent of Halakhah, he was appointed
beyond. Our musmakhim fulfill their and lay leadership positions. rosh yeshiva at RIETS in 1941. Rabbi
destiny as vital links in the chain that Soloveitchik was familiarly known as
continues to transmit rabbinic knowledge the Rav; he had the legendary power to
and tradition from one generation of deliver unparalleled discourses spanning
Jewish leaders to the next. the Talmud, Jewish law, philosophy and
contemporary issues.
The moving and profound ceremony of
the Chag HaSemikhah recognizes the We have an unparalleled faculty of Roshei
promise of our rabbinic graduates and the Yeshiva, said Rabbi Menachem Penner,
achievements of all alumni of the Rabbi Max and Marion Grill dean of RIETS
Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary who and a RIETS musmakh. Our learning
have assumed responsibility for the future tradition is a direct continuation of the
of the Jewish people. It officially marks the Talmud Torah at the classical European
completion of RIETS rigorous four-year yeshivot thanks to the strong foundation
graduate program of Torah learning and As the Western Hemispheres leading laid by one of my predecessors, Rabbi
comprehensive professional training for center for Torah learning and training for Zevulun Charlop. Rabbi Charlop presided
the rabbinate. the rabbinate, RIETS provides exceptional over a period of enormous growth at the
training for students entering the various seminary for more than 35 years and now
Established in 1886, RIETSs more than fields of Avodat HaKodesh in the serves as dean emeritus of RIETS and
5,000 musmakhim serve the worldwide contemporary Orthodox community. The special adviser to the University president
Jewish community in the Torah Umadda Rabbinic Professional Education program, on yeshiva affairs.
tradition that is Yeshiva University. RIETS R-PEP, is the product of a bold, successful
was named after Rabbi Isaac Elchanan strategic planning initiative launched in The seminary has benefited greatly from
Spektor (181796), a revered sage and 2002 by the RIETS Board of Trustees. the construction of the Jacob and Dreizel
spokesman for world Jewry. After his death The program, outlined on the next page, Glueck Center for Jewish Study, which
in 1896, RIETS was named in his memory. is aimed at producing the most well- houses a two-story, 550 seat beit medrash,
trained, emotionally intelligent rabbinic as well as numerous classrooms and offices
In 1915, Dr. Bernard Revel was appointed ulitized by RIETS administration, students
professionals in the history of the Jewish
president and Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS. and Roshei Yeshiva.
After Dr. Revels death in 1940, Dr. Samuel
Belkin (191176), a young, prominent RIETS musmakhim maintain their In an increasingly complex world, RIETS
RIETS Rosh Yeshiva and a noted scholar, engagement with the Yeshiva through the accepts the challenge to prepare its
was named dean of the seminary; in Center for the Jewish Futures continuing students to face the multifarious issues of
1943, he was elected president of the Rabbinic education programming, and todays societyanchored always in the
institution then known as RIETS and career and placement services. RIETS sacred legacy of our Torah and people.

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
Professional Rabbinics at RIETS
The most comprehensive professional rabbinics training of any seminary or semikhah program,
offering advanced professional tracks for students entering into community synagogues, college
campuses, education and outreach work.
Comprehensive curriculum includes Joint RIETS-Ferkauf Graduate Program in Mental
Survey of Professional Opportunities Health Counseling, providing graduate mental health
Public Speaking training to future synagogue rabbis
Homiletics The Rabbinic Personal Development Program at
Adult Education RIETS includes
Pastoral Psychology Individual and group work for three years of semicha
Contemporary Issues in the Jewish Community Testing to determine strengths and weaknesses
The Life and Career of the Rabbi Courses on emotional intelligence
Practical Rabbinics Processing groups led by experienced mental health
Highlights include professionals
Presentations by and continued interaction between Life and Career: Real discussions about stressors, the
students and distinguished community leaders rabbinic family confidentiality and more
Contemporary issues: Comprehensive presentations Career counseling, guidance and placement
and guided group discussions of major communal and
social issues of the day
Advanced Pastoral Psychology course, including role
playing with professional actors

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
The Menahel and the Manhig:
Two Models of Leadership
C elebrating the Chag
HaSemikhah of the Rabbi
Isaac Elchanan Theological
Seminary gives us an opportunity
to consider the extraordinary
Rabbi Yaakov Glasser
David Mitzner Dean, YU Center for the Jewish Future
Rabbi, Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton
contribution that the musmachim
of RIETS have made in leading the
Jewish people. Our Yeshiva prides invariably associated with providing And the whole congregation lifted up
itself on ensuring that every graduate a principled path for communal their voice, and the nation cried that
is fundamentally an accomplished development. Perhaps one of the most night. And they complained against
talmid chacham. In addition, each challenging moments of leadership Moshe and against Aharon; and the
student has received exceptional that we encounter throughout the whole congregation said to them: If we
training, mentorship, and guidance in Torah, and the episode with the most only had died in the land of Egypt! Or if
the practical dimensions of rabbinic far-reaching consequences, is the we only had died in this wilderness! And
leadership. RIETS continues to mission of the meraglim. The Torah why is G-d bringing us to this land to
engage our musmachim through their describes the stature of the individuals die by sword, our wives and children will
personal relationships with RIETS selected to represent the Jewish people be taken captive, isnt it better for us to
roshei yeshiva, which endure long in exploring the landscape of our return to Egypt? And each one said to
beyond the years spent in the beis intended destination Eretz Yisrael: his brother, Let us appoint a leader and
midrash, and through the continued return to Egypt.

rabbinic education that is offered to Bamidbar 14:1-4

our alumni throughout their careers. And Moshe sent them from the desert of The Jewish people react with a
It is often the musmachim of RIETS Paran based on the commandment of national panic that reflects an
who find themselves at the forefront G-d, they were all [distinguished] men, underlying lack of faith in Hakadosh
of confronting major communal issues heads of the Jewish people. Baruch Hu; they are ultimately
that impact not only the larger YU Bamidbar 13:3 sentenced to remain in the desert,
community, but the Jewish people while the next generation will enter
as a whole. As a rav, one is often The Torah describes the reaction of
the Land of Israel. The commentators
called upon to provide perspective the people upon hearing the report of
struggle with many aspects of this
and guidance, and occasionally take the meraglim:
story. A generation that had been
unpopular public positions in the
emancipated from Egypt, crossed
pursuit of propelling our community .
the Yam Suf, survived the theological
forward in its development as ovdei
crisis of the cheit haegel, seems to be
Hashem. .
undone by the report of the meraglim.
As the Torah relates the unfolding What caused this breakdown in
narrative of the Jewish people, we .
are presented with many models of

leadership, and are often exposed to . R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, in his
Liferakim (pp. 122-125), poses a
the struggles and achievements that are

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
simple question: The attribute that character of the entity that he leads. express a commitment to transcend
we treasure most in our leaders is However, there is a second category whatever challenges were before
integrity. Why would G-d hold the as well, and that is the manhig. The us and lead the people into their
meraglim accountable for reporting manhig views the landscape of reality homeland.
precisely what they saw? They were and recognizes the compelling need There are moments that require
insightful and sophisticated people. to transcend it. The manhig is a risk the leadership of the menahel. They
In their judgment, the enemies of taker, suggesting ideas that are often require a measured and steady
the land were indeed formidable, impractical. The manhig is a visionary approach to guiding our communities
and posed an existential threat to who can see beyond the constraints in their growth in commitment to
the Jewish people. What exactly of practicality. The manhig recognizes Torah and mitzvos. Yet there are
was expected of the meraglim in this that not all situations in life should be other moments that call for the
scenario? met with a reasonable and deliberate manhig the bold vision that at first
response sometimes a bold and
R. Weinberg suggests that there are two seems nearly impossible, but with
ambitious approach is necessary to
types of leaders. The first is what R. exceptional inspiration and leadership
propel the people forward.
Weinberg describes as a menahel. A can emerge as a reality. Those who live
menahel is a modality of leadership that The meraglim were at fault for entirely in the realm of the menahel
relates to the practical and concrete deploying the menahel mode of restrain our communitys capacity
dynamics of governance. It consists leadership when the moment called to aspire for greatness. Those who
of the cycle of cause and effect that for a manhig. The Jewish people, reside exclusively in the domain of
needs to be taken into account when standing at the precipice of entering the manhig ignore the day-to-day
assessing a situation for formulating the Land of Israel, required leadership challenges that frame our constant
a responsible approach. The that saw beyond the here and now. struggle to achieve meaning and
menahel excels at the managerial and It required a bold declaration aloh purpose in our lives.
administrative elements of leadership, naaleh, let us go up, the declaration In Megillas Esther we encounter this
the tasks necessary to maintain stated by Kalev (Bamidbar 13:30). very dynamic in the metamorphosis
the steady, consistent, and reliable The meraglim were supposed to of Esthers leadership. As Mordechai

YU Center for the Jewish Future Rabbinic Services

Morris and Gertrude Bienenfeld Rabbinic Resource Website Rebbetzin Esther Rosenblatt
Department of Jewish Career A password protected website with exclusive resources Yarchei Kallah for Rebbetzins
for rabbis, including webinar recordings, shiur outlines, Convene groups of rebbetzins to support and
Development and Placement drasha ideas, a responsa research service, and a host of
Access to professionals who aid institutions with strengthen the skills they need to succeed in their
links to access our resources and services for rabbis. unique role. The program includes in-depth textual
the search process, management and mentorship of
rabbis and Jewish communal professionals throughout Available at learning on topics on which the rebbetzins desire
North America and beyond. additional knowledge, mentoring between veteran and
Continuing Rabbinic Education Courses new rebbetzins, mental health conversations on a wide
Contact Rabbi Ronald Schwarzberg at Web based courses for Rabbis that address range of issues that the rebbetzins often deal with, and
Rabbis Yarchei Kallah contemporary issues in the rabbinate by convening guidance on how to help the rabbinic family develop
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strengthen and sharpen the participants preaching, pastoral, are: Addressing Abuse in Community; End of Life Contact Rebbetzin Meira Davis at
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Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
becomes more aware of the him may he live. Now I have not been and if I am to perish, I shall perish! So
threatening decrees against the Jewish summoned to visit the king for the last Mordechai went about [the city] and did
people and the precarious nature of thirty days. Mordechai was told what just as Esther had commanded him.
their standing in the Persian kingdom, Esther had said. Esther 4:13-17
he relays to Esther that the time has Esther 4:10-12 Esthers initial reaction was one
come to beseech the king for the Mordechais reaction to Esthers ofhanhalah. It is Mordechais
salvation of her people: apprehension is to convey the inspiration that transitions her

- - - magnitude of responsibility that rests outlook and disposition to one
, - , on her shoulders. Mordechai doesnt ofhanhaga. Esther begins to recognize
, ; address her specific concerns, and that if she is waiting for the ideal
, . - - instead begins to speak to Esthers opening to address her concerns, it
. , ; personal disposition as a leader. may be too late. Esther summons the
He also gave him the written text of Mordechai explains that Esther must courage to move forward in a most
the law that had been proclaimed in recognize that there are moments that illogical and nearly irresponsible
Shushan for their destruction. [He bade call for incremental and thoughtful manner ultimately asserting herself
him] show it to Esther and inform her, consideration, and others that as amanhiga and saving the Jewish
and charge her to go to the king and to demand action: people.
appeal to him and to plead with him for - : - , The musmachim of RIETS are
her people. Hathach came and delivered - -
, entrusted with the sacred role of
Mordechais message to Esther , -
. providing leadership for the Jewish
Esther 4:8-9 --
community. Fundamentally, that
Esther relays back to Mordechai that ; - , is an obligation to approach the
such a request is impractical. There . , - institutions and organizations of our
are protocols and procedures in the . -
, community within a grounded and
kingdom in order to engage the king. ,
- - realistic framework of a menahel. From
Essentially, Esther makes the rational -
- officiating lifecycle events to teaching
case for incremental and cautious ; , - Torah, these rabbis search for every
engagement, outlining the risk of , , - , - opportunity imaginable to provide the
angering the king, which would result - , ; , . support and love for our constituents,
in her own demise. . and elevate the spiritual vitality of
Mordechai had this message delivered our community. However, there are
- . -
to Esther: Do not imagine that you, of issues that face our community, which
, -
all the Jews, will escape with your life when assessed from an analytical
- -
by being in the kings palace. On the perspective, seem insurmountable.
- -
contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, These are moments that demand a
- ,
relief and deliverance will come to the manhig, someone who stands up and
, ; , -
Jews from another quarter, while you says aloh naaleh. Someone who
. , -
and your fathers house will perish. And provides creative, ambitious, and
. ,
who knows, perhaps you have attained relentless leadership in addressing
Esther told Hathach to take back to
to royal position for just such a crisis. the challenges of our generation. Our
Mordechai the following reply: All the
Then Esther sent back this answer to musmachim have a responsibility
kings courtiers and the people of the
Mordechai: Go, assemble all the Jews to avoid the pessimism that often
kings provinces know that if any person,
who live in Shushan, and fast in my percolates about the future of our
man or woman, enters the kings presence
behalf; do not eat or drink for three days, community. They must be a source
in the inner court without having been
night or day. I and my maidens will of optimism and hope in projecting
summoned, there is but one law for
observe the same fast. Then I shall go to a path forward to secure the future of
himthat he be put to death. Only if
the king, though it is contrary to the law; our people.
the king extends the golden scepter to

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
Open to Embracing Jews;
Open to Embracing the Mesorah
Transcribed from Rabbi Penners address to the 5774 Chag HaSemikhah

M y dear musmakhim:
It is such an exciting day
in such a historic time.
Its not just the Chag HaSemikhah.
Rabbi Menachem Penner
Max and Marion Grill Dean, RIETS
Its the time we live in. Its ,
one of the most exciting eras in our
history. Dramatic growth of talmud
taken for granted, were under attack. a zugwould henceforth be needed
Torah and the world of the yeshivos.
Antiochus IV governed Eretz Yisrael, to stand in the place where one gadol
Strong kehillos and thriving mosdos,
looking to force his subjects to adopt hador had led.
both in Eretz Yisraelin Eretz Yisrael
the worldview of Yavan, and to
after millennia of galus!and around Those two chakhamim were Rabbi
abandon their own. It was the days
the world. What an exciting time for Yosi ben Yoezer of Tzereida and Rabbi
before the miracles of Chanukah,
Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. Yosi ben Yochanan of Yerushalayim.
when so many struggled to see the
What an exciting time for you to Their sayings, mishnayos in Avos (1:4-
invisible hand of the Ribbono Shel
become rabbanim! 5), are famous. But to fully appreciate
Olam. And when young men and
them, we need to consider the
And yet, , is a time of uncertainty women, including bnei Torah from
challenges that their generations faced
and immense challenge. You, our the most established Torah homes,
and the radically different solutions
precious talmidim, live in a rapidly were disappearing into a sea of
that these two gedolim proposed:
changing world and in a Jewish assimilation.
community struggling to define itself :
Yes. It was a time very much like our
and grappling to find the Ribbono shel
Olam in an increasingly G-dless world. Make your homes gathering places for
But it was more than a time of
With your permission, I would like to talmidei chakhamim. To do so, create
questioning and it was more than
travel to another such time in Jewish homes where the most righteous
a crisis of assimilation. There was a
history. For just a moment, come with will feel comfortable. Then, fill those
frightening vacuum of leadership.
me to Eretz Yisrael, to Yerushalayim, batim, and your batei kenesiyot, with
Hellenized kohanim gedolim,
in the years before the miracles of those who want to learn, to daven, to
manhigim who lacked the basic
Chanukah: follow closely and unquestioningly in
credentials to serve in their posts,
the ways of Chazal.
It was a time of terrible confusion held sway over much of the nation.
after the death of the gadol hador, So many kohanim, once looked to for
Antigonus ish Socho. Two of his horaah, had adopted the ways of the Then, attach yourselves to the sages.
students, Tzadok and Baytus, had Greeks. And it seemed that no one Walk in the ways of your rebbeim with
begun a process that would lead to towering rabbinic figure and no one modesty and awe. Understand your
the questioning of the very basics rabbinic body could carry the mantle place vis-a-vis the guardians of the
of our faith. Ikkarei haemunah, once of Torah leadership. Two mena pair, mesorah.

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
: are welcomed and sometimes even
printedwith enthusiasm. We live in
And soak in their teachings. Be And let those who are poornot just
a bein hashemashos, an historic time,
mechazeik yourselves, for you will aniyim mamash, but those who form
part kodesh, part chol, but filled with
need much fortitude to stand up to the lower strata of society, uneducated
irbuvia, with confusion.
the winds of change. Redouble your and unsophisticated as they may be
efforts to find Torah clarity in a world live among you. Become as familiar And we have two mishnayos to guide
of confusion. Create a safe haven in with the needs of your kehillah, your us. We need to study these mishnayos
your homes in a world filled with congregational family, as you are well. But perhaps, most of all, we
darkness and falsehood. familiar with the needs of your nuclear must remember that they are best
family. understood as two parts of one whole.
Divrei chokhmah, no doubt, in
I dont believe that the derekh of
challenging times. Surround Two Reb Yosis. Two mishnayos. Two
Rabbi Yosi ben Yoezerthe creation
yourselves with fellow maaminimin solutions.
of homes filled with tzidkus but, by
fact with those who are on a higher
An approach of yirahyiras their nature, somewhat intimidating
madreigah than you. Follow in the
Shamayimprotecting ourselves and and foreign to the uneducated
footsteps of those who grew up in
our precious mesorah. can sufficiently meet the challenges
simpler times and whose lives are
of today. There are just too many
guided by the timeless chokhmas
people, precious neshamos, not just
haTorah. [Be] open to exposing among the world of the unaffiliated,
Its hard to argue with such an
approach. But someone did. A second
people to the beauty but among day school and yeshiva
high school and, yes, even Yeshiva
gadol BeYisrael suggested a radically of yiddishkeit without University graduates who will
different path for the preservation be left behind. Nor do I think that
of klal Yisrael. He presented a vision insisting that they Rabbi Yosi ben Yochanans openness
of the home open not only to the become just like you. alone, filling our homes with so many
chakhamimbut to the masses as common folk that chakhamim are
well. And not just open. Open wide. left without a seat at the table, is what
An approach of ahavahahavas
Rabbi Yosi ben Yochanan, the Av Beis Yisraelembracing others, our Chazal were looking to create. These
Din, warned that times of uncertainty, precious brothers and sisters. two beautiful mishnayos understood
when assimilation is at its highest, are together, these two ideals expressed
My Dear talmidim: side by side, with each aspect pursued
not the time for erecting walls, not even
protective fences. Instead, those who The Jewish world in which you will with passion and yiras shamayim
held to the eitz hachaim with every serve beyond the koslei hayeshiva need to guide you as the leaders of
ounce of their strength had a chiyuv to is thriving and strongbut no less tomorrow.
connect with the people. And not just challenging and no less confusing as Yehei beiskha pasuach lirvachah.
to reach out to them and to teach them, the one that faced these two gedolim in
Hellenistic times. You need to be open. Yesyou heard
but to sit with them, to listen to them,
me correctly. Orthodox Judaism
to hear their concerns and to reaffirm We, too, live in a rapidly changing needs to be and can be open. Pasuach
the unity of klal Yisrael. world in which the very principles lirvachah to the Jewish people.
[ ] upon which our Torah lives are
fashioned are under daily attack. An You must be open to Jews of different

olam hafuchbut not the one seen backgrounds, understanding that
Open your houses wide! And if I each precious neshamah needs special
by Rav Yosef brei dreb Yehoshua
might add to his words, open your attention and a unique path to connect
in masekhes Pesachim (50a). In our
batei kneisiyos wide as well. Invite in to Hashem. You must be open to the
upside-down world, morality is
the people, amkha. Make them feel opinions of those with whom you
close-mindedness and immorality is
welcome, respected and loved disagree, open to explaining the truth,
righteousness. Truth is pass and lies
regardless of who they are. the totality of the Torah, to those

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
whose worldview has been shaped But not every door and every :
by outside influences. You must be window can be left open during
Continue to learn from the chakhmei
open to examining our time-honored a storm. As open as you must be,
hamesorah who sit beside me and
institutions and considering new ideas you must never leave our precious
behind me through phone calls,
and approaches. And, perhaps more mesorah exposed, out in the open.
through listening to their shiurim from
than anything else, open to exposing When something is precious, precious
afar and iyH, through many visits
people to the beauty of yiddishkeit and yet so fragile, a precious gift for
back to the batei medrash in which you
without insisting that they become which so many have given their lives
grew to become talmidei chakhamim,
just like you. to transmit to you, you must protect
rabbanim and manhigei Yisrael
it and guard it with every fiber of your
You, the musmakhim of RIETS, yourselves. to have
need to be open if you hope to lead these people in our lives.
a generation that desires, and will Dont underestimate your role as a
There are many yeshivos and many
sometimes insist, that its manhigim link in the chain of the mesorah.
young men today studying for
listen as frequently as they speak, , , semikhah. But you are unique
accept as often as they judge and . , because Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak
innovate as often as they walk in the . Elchanan is unique. There is no other
ways of their ancestors.
And they, through the chakhmei institution that better represents
And, barukh Hashem, we are open, hamesorah passed it to your rebbeim, the ideals expressed by Rabbi Yosi
and you are openopen to learn, to those on this stage. And today, they ben Yoezer and Rabbi Yosi ben
grow, to listen, to devote your lives pass it to you. Yochanan together. Please dont
to klal Yisrael. Open to leaving New forget how special you are and what
York! Open to work on secular college you, and possibly only you, can
campuses with students who did not You must assure that your batim accomplish.
receive the gift of a YU education. not just your homes, but your batei We believe in you and what we say to
Open to teach in day schools, in every knessiyos, and your batei sefer, resound others about you. You are grounded
grade and to every type of student. with the kolos and the spirit of your in Torah and tradition. And you are
Open to make a kiddush Hashem in rabbeim. They must be open and ready to lead. It is a daunting task that
your hospitals and law firms. exposed to the gedolei Yisrael. lies before you. But it is a thrilling
Open to put the needs of klal Yisrael time to step onto the stage of Jewish
before your own. leadership. There has never been a
Struggle with your rebbeim for group better prepared and more open
You are open to lead all of klal Yisrael answers but never
bederekh haTorah. to meet this challenge.
cease to look to them for guidance.
Chazak veematz. Mazal tov.

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
The Chag HaSemikhah celebration includes a dedication of a sefer Torah in honor of Moreinu
HaRav Hershel Schachter, shlita. This article discusses the various ways that a Jew, and specifically a
Torah scholar, is compared to a walking sefer Torah. Rav Schachter embodies this ideal through his
scholarship, his refined middos and his care and concern for all of klal Yisrael.

A Walking Sefer Torah 1

A sefer Torah (Torah scroll)

embodies holiness and we
relate to it as a holy object.
We stand up in its presence, we kiss
it when it passes us and we provide a
Rabbi Joshua Flug
Director of Torah Research,
Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future
proper way to escort the sefer Torah
as it moves from place to place.
Additionally, we protect it from acts
that are not befitting of a holy object: obligated to tear (his garments). What However, it is the names of G-d that
we store it in an upright position, we is this similar to? It is similar to a sefer are written in the sefer Torah that
make sure that it is never placed on Torah that was burned, where there infuse the entire sefer Torah with its
the floor and when the Torah is no is (also) an obligation to tear (ones holiness.3 If we follow the analogy,
longer usable, we provide it with a garments). the entire body is holy and should
proper burial. Moed Katan 25a be treated with holiness. The body is
In this article, we will explore the The Talmud clearly compares the infused with holiness when the soul
notion that each and every Jew loss of an individual to the burning enters the body.
represents a walking sefer Torah. of a sefer Torah.2 The commentators R. Yosef Shaul Nathanson, Divrei
This idea, which is alluded to in a offer a number of explanations as to Shaul 340:5, notes that there is a
number of Talmudic statements, why a person is comparable to a sefer story recorded in the Talmud about
was developed by a number of Torah. The most poignant explanation how the Romans killed R. Chanina
commentators. is offered by Ramban (Nachmanides ben Tradyon that supports Rambans
1194-1270), who states: analogy:
The Talmudic Sources
The most explicit source comparing
a Jew to a sefer Torah is found in two
places in the Talmud in a statement .
by R. Shimon ben Elazar. In the midst .
of a discussion about when one tears
It seems to me that the soul in the body
ones garments over death or other
is like the names of G-d (written) on
tragic events, the Talmud states:
the parchment. It is merely a parable to

convey the message that it is a great loss

and cause for alarm and a person must

. tear his garments as if a sefer Torah was

. burned before him.
Ramban, Moed Katan 25a
R. Shimon ben Elazar states: If someone .
is present when a person dies, he is All parts of a sefer Torah are holy. .

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
They found R. Chanina ben Tradyon open your mouth and allow the fire to According to R. Sofer, a person can
who was sitting and learning Torah and enter so that your body will be burned be treated as an accessory of holiness
gathering crowds publicly, and there was internally and your soul will ascend and (tashmish kedusha) for certain
a sefer Torah in his arms. They took him fly upward. purposes. R. Yosef D. Soloveitchik of
and wrapped him in the sefer Torah, Avoda Zara 18a Brisk (1820-1892) adds that when a
surrounded him with branches and lit person reaches a certain level, he is
R. Nathanson notes that the dialogue
the branches. They brought sponges of not simply treated as an accessory of
between R. Chanina ben Tradyon and
cotton, soaked them in water and placed holiness, but rather as an actual object
his students (according to Maharshas
them on his heart so that he would not of holiness:
interpretation) is based on the
die quickly. His daughter said Father,
assumption developed by Ramban
this is how I should see you? He said .
that a person is comparable to the
to her If they only burned me, it would
parchment of a sefer Torah and the
be difficult for me. Now that I am being
soul is comparable to the letters. A Torah scholar is not categorized as an
burned with a sefer Torah, He Who will
seek retribution for the desecration of R. Moshe Sofer notes a halachic accessory of holiness but rather as actual
the sefer Torah will also seek retribution ramification of the comparison of a kedusha.
for my desecration. His students asked person to a sefer Torah. The Gemara Introduction to Teshuvot Beit
him Rebbi, what do you see? He said to states: HaLevi
them The parchments are being burned, R. Soloveitchiks comments give a
but the letters are flying away. [They . deeper insight into a statement of the
said to him] You too should open your : Gemara:
mouth and allow the fire to enter you.
He responded It is better that the one Mar Zutra stated: The worn out covers
who placed it remove it, but one may not of the Sifrei Torah are converted to
destroy himself. burial shrouds for a neglected corpse4 :
Avoda Zara 18a and that is their proper disposal. Rava stated: How foolish are people
Megillah 26b
Maharasha ad loc., explains further: who stand up for a sefer Torah but dont
R. Sofer wonders why it is permissible stand up for a great person.
to use the cover, which is imbued with Makkot 22b
holiness, for a seemingly mundane
act: He writes: There is a verse in the Torah (Vayikra
[] 19:32) stating that one must show
honor to a Torah scholar by standing
, up for him. Rava doesnt understand
, , why people would choose to stand
, . for a sefer Torah, but not for a Torah
. . scholar. One can question Ravas
: statement: If we are all compared to a
The students asked him what do you sefer Torah, why should these people
see etc., they also saw the same thing, One must understand why they allowed
be motivated to specifically honor
but they inquired about it to give using covers for burial shrouds for a
a Torah scholar on the basis that he
him perspective so that he wouldnt neglected corpse. Granted that this is the
is compared to a sefer Torah? Why
cause himself more suffering, but method of disposal, nevertheless, they are
is there any special honor due to a
rather allow himself to die quicker. still accessories of holiness and how can
Torah scholar on the basis that he is
Their message was that just as you see one use them for the mundane? One must
comparable to a sefer Torah?
the parchment burning which is the conclude that the corpse is also considered
physical embodiment of the Torah, but an accessory of holiness because a Jewish Based on the comments of R.
the spiritual (essence) which are the person is compared to a sefer Torah. Soloveitchik, one can answer that
letters, are flying up, so too, you should Chatam Sofer, Megillah 26b there are two levels where one can

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
be compared to a sefer Torah. On a
basic level, every Jew is compared
to a sefer Torah, but as an accessory
of holiness. Just as we dont stand

up when the cover for a sefer Torah
is brought into the room, there is
no obligation to stand for every
individual. However, a Torah scholar
is compared to a sefer Torah on a
level where he is considered an actual
object of holiness. For this reason,
Rava questioned the logic of those
who stand for a sefer Torah because of
its status as an object of holiness and

Join Us
in honoring our Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel
not for a Torah scholar who attains the
same level of holiness.
There are many other allusions in the
rabbinic sources comparing a Jew to a
Rav Hershel Schachter sefer Torah. In the next few sections,
we will explore some of those
By participating in a Ketivat Sefer Torah comparisons and what we can learn
Celebrating his 50 years as a marbitz Torah and posek at from them.
the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary
and in communities in Eretz Yisrael and around the world.
Relating to Ourselves as Sifrei
Each event will provide people with an opportunity
to fill in a letter based on a minimum contribution. Viewing ourselves as representations
Motzei Shabbat , February 25 Tuesday Evening, March 7
of sifrei Torah bears a certain
Los Angeles, CA Passaic, NJ responsibility. R. Yechezkel
Levenstein (1895-1974) notes that
Motzei Shabbat, March 4 Motzei Shabbat, March 18
Upper West Side of Manhattan Teaneck, NJ
we must treat our minds as if they are
sifrei Torah:
Sunday, March 5 Sunday Morning, March 19
The Five Towns At Yeshiva University ,
prior to the Chag Hasemikhah ,
Rav Schachter will receive the HaRav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik ztl
Aluf Torah Award at the Chag Hasemikhah
For more information please contact Marc Merrill ,
212-960-5400 ext. 6133
As much as we must guard our mind,
we must sanctify it with the holiness of
a sefer Torah since the mind is truly like
an actual sefer Torah If a person
uses his mind for nonsense it is similar
to throwing a sefer Torah into the
street. The mind is holy and it must be

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
dedicated to the purpose for which it was are two mitzvot that relate to the Rabbi Soloveitchik comments that this
created to understand and internalize development of a child. First, there is idea appears in the laws of writing a
the Torah and the mitzvot and to lead the mitzvah of chinuch, training. This sefer Torah:
a person to a purposeful life and to mitzvah only applies before the childs
everlasting and eternal happiness. bar/bat mitzvah. The second mitzvah
Collection of Talks of R. Yechezkel is the mitzvah of talmud Torah. This .
Levenstein (as recorded in Chochmat mitzvah does not only include the :
HaMatzpun, Vol. 16, p 303) intellectual pursuit of learning Torah,
it also includes the study of how to The sofer must have another sefer Torah
There are a number of components (or its text) in front of him to copy from
perform mitzvot, the study of the
included in using our seichel (mind) for it is forbidden to write a single letter
fundamentals of faith and participating
properly. First, there is the intellectual by heart and he must recite each word
in an educational program that leads
component. G-d gave humans the orally before writing.
intellectual capacity to understand, one to become a G-d fearing Jew.
Regarding this mitzvah, the fathers Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah
analyze, reason, imagine, and solve
obligation does not stop at bar/bat 274:2
problems. We are expected to do our
part and use our intellect in a way mitzvah. Rather it continues until the When the sofer recites the words
young adult can take responsibility for that he is writing, it symbolizes the
that reflects that we represent a sefer
his/her own education. transference of holiness from the
Torah. Second, there is a behavioral
component. G-d gave us the ability The chinuch stage is a preparation for internal to the external.
to choose between right and wrong, the talmud Torah stage. Just as one
between good and evil. We are cannot write on a sefer Torah if the The Letters of the Torah
expected to make choices that reflect skin is not softened and purified, a
our status as walking sifrei Torah. This child cannot become fully engaged in A number of Kabbalistic and Chasidic
is not limited to choosing to perform the talmud Torah process until he is sources present a variation to the idea
mitzvot. It also includes choices to softened and purified. His character that a person is a walking sefer Torah.
improve our character traits. traits must be refined, he must According to this variation, the Jewish
learn certain skills and he must be people as a whole are representative
The Preparation Process of a acquainted with the basic concepts of of a sefer Torah, with each person
Sefer Torah Judaism. comprising one letter. The acronym
used to express this is:
R. Soloveitchik also notes that a sefer
Rabbi Yosef D. Soloveitchik (1903- Torah does not acquire its holiness . =
1993)5 comments that just as automatically. The sofer (scribe) who
producing a sefer Torah requires a Israel= There are 600,000 letters in the
prepares the sefer Torah must imbue Torah.
certain process, developing oneself the Torah with holiness. In applying
as a Jew requires a certain process. our analogy to a person, we are left The number 600,000 represents the
He notes that there is an interesting with the following paradox: If a entire Jewish people. The Jewish people
comparison between the preparation person is compared to a sefer Torah, as a whole is compared to a Torah
process of a sefer Torah and the he must imbue himself with holiness. which also has 600,000 letters.6
development of a person during However, if he is not already imbued The Radomsker Rebbe (R. Shlomo
childhood and adolescence. There are with holiness, how can he impart Chanoch HaKohen Rabinowitz,
two stages to the process of producing holiness onto himself? Where does 1801-1866) suggests that one of the
a sefer Torah. The first stage is called the holiness come from? messages we can derive from this idea
ibud, processing, where the skin of the
Rabbi Soloveitchik suggests that is how we treat our fellow Jew. His
animal is softened in order to prepare
each person is born with a certain suggestion is based on the concept of
it for writing. The next stage is the
internal holiness. Each person has a mukaf gvil, the concept that dictates
actual writing of the sefer Torah.
responsibility to transfer that holiness that every letter of the sefer Torah must
Rabbi Soloveitchik remarks that there so that it is apparent externally. be surrounded by parchment on all

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
sides. Therefore, if two letters touch HaSemikhah celebrates the passing
each other, the entire sefer Torah is . on of our mesorah to a new generation
invalid.7 . of Torah scholars. The dedication of a
The Radomsker Rebbe writes: sefer Torah celebrates kavod HaTorah.
As we celebrate these events, we should
. keep in mind the lessons we learn from
the sefer Torah. We should constantly
remember that we represent a walking
. sefer Torah, both as individuals and as
... members of the Jewish people.

. But the merit of Torah (study) does
not come to (fruition the same way as) Endnotes

prayer does with an increase of influence.
1. This article was adapted from an article
Rather, its merit increases automatically written for the BLev Echad program in
. through Torah study for it is the root memory of the eight students of Yeshivat
of potential abundance for all Jewish Merkaz HaRav and Yashlzatz who were
souls, for it is known that their root is in murdered by a terrorist on Rosh Chodesh
Adar II 5768. It also appeared in the Benjamin
. Torah because there are 600,000 letters
and Rose Berger Shavuot To-Go 5769. The
representing the 600,000 souls. While author thanks J.Z. Spier for his initial research
each letter is different from the rest, and coordination of the program.
Every sefer Torah has 600,000 letters and each person has his own portion in 2. Regarding the practice of tearing ones
which corresponds to the 600,000 souls Torah, nevertheless, his portion does not garments upon witnessing a death, see Gesher
of the Jewish people that stood on Har limit him (to other areas of Torah) HaChaim 4:9.
Sinai In each generation, the root and learning Torah serves to unite all 3. Ramban seems to be consistent with his
of the souls that accepted the Torah portions of Torah. own opinion in Milchamot HaShem, Sukkah
at Har Sinai are still apparent. From Resisei Leilah no. 43 4b, that the parchment of the sefer Torah only
this we learn an important lesson that receives its holiness from the letters that are
each person must guard himself from R. Tzadok expresses two aspects written on it. His comments in Milchamot
inappropriately encroaching on ones of the idea that the letters of the HaShem imply that even if the name of G-d
Torah represent each Jew. First, each is not written on the parchment, but there
friend regarding his business and he are eighty-five letters of the Torah text on the
should not be jealous if he sees his friend person has his own portion in Torah.
parchment, the parchment is infused with
with something he doesnt have. (The Each person has his own insights in holiness.
reason for this is) that just as regarding Torah that nobody else will discover.
4. A meit mitzvah is a corpse that is
a sefer Torah, the Torah is invalid if two Whether it is a question that has
discovered and there are no relatives to take
letters touch each other because of the not yet been asked, a new way of responsibility for the burial.
mukaf gvil concept, so too every Jew understanding an idea, or a different
5. R. Soloveitchik developed this idea in a
must guard himself from encroaching on way of organizing information, each lecture that was originally given on Shevat
anyone else, for if not, his portion in the person has the ability to discover 3, 5719 in Yiddish. The Yiddish notes were
Torah is invalid. his own personal portion of Torah. compiled by Dr. Hillel Zeidman and were
Second, the Torah serves to unify the translated to Hebrew by R. Shalom Carmi.
Tiferet Shlomo, Shavuot, pg. 141a The article appears in Beit Yosef Shaul Vol. IV
Jewish people. Each person represents
R. Tzadok HaKohen (1823-1900) (1994).
one part of a whole. Each persons share
also addresses this idea and explains in Torah is available to everyone else. 6. In reality, there are only 304,805 letters in
how this idea is significant both on the Torah. There are also many more than
an individual level and for the Jewish This Torah To Go issue marks the 600,000 Jews. See R. Moshe Sofer, Chatam
commemoration of three events Sofer, page 72b of his Commentary to Masechet
people as a whole: Chullin, who deals with this question.
that celebrate the Torah. Purim is a
day categorized by Chazal as a day 7. Menachot 34a.
of reaccepting the Torah. The Chag

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
The Role of Vashti
in the Purim Story
T he Mishna, Megillah 2:3,
records a dispute regarding
how much of the Megillah
must be read:
Deena Rabinovich, EdD
Director, Jewish Education Program, Stern College
, for Women
; , --
); , ( ,
The halakhah at the end of the The Midrashic View of Vashti
.), ( ,
day requires us to read the entire
From where must one begin reading The text tells us virtually nothing
Megillah.1 If we focus on the plot
the Megillah in order to fulfill ones about Vashti other than that she was
alone, we realize that it is not really
obligation? R. Meir says one must read beautiful and that, clearly, she had
possible to conceive of the Megillah
the entire Megillah. R. Yehuda says [one more than a little backbone. The
without the initial narratives, just
must begin no later than] there was a meaning or derivation of her name
as it is not possible (Rashis famous
certain Jewish man (2:5). R. Yosi is uncertain.4 As with other minor
question at the start of his Bible
says [one must begin no later than] characters in the Megillah, Vashti is
commentary notwithstanding)
After these events (3:1). not introduced with any biographical
to conceive of starting the Torah
The unspoken question that the or genealogical data. Here the
in the middle of Parashat Bo and
tannaim in this Mishna allude to has midrashim step in. Vashti was, we are
leave out the entire Sefer Bereishit.2
been frequently asked by modern told, the daughter of Belshazzar5 and
Megillat Esther is a creative tour
readers what was the point of the granddaughter of Nevuchadnetzar,
de force, richly detailed and chock
including chapter one [or, according the king of Babylon who destroyed
full of literary tricks that scholars,
to R. Yosi, chapters one and two] in the First Temple.6 Nevuchadnetzar
particularly in recent decades, have
Megillat Esther? The basic plot of the is, from the perspective of Chazal,
been uncovering and noting with
Megillah details the threats to, and among the most wicked of men.7 In
no apparent end in sight.3 Our focus
the salvation of, the Jewish people. tying Vashti to such a man, Chazal
here is the episode involving Queen
The Megillah could have begun with hinted at their assessment of her.
Vashti who, in 1:9-12, is summoned to
the rise of Haman and any necessary They did not give her much credit for
appear before the king and his guests
background information could have defending human dignity. As Michael
at the royal banquet and refuses to do
been added there. R. Yehuda and R. Fox observed, the rabbis thoroughly
so. Only these details are provided.
Yosi see the opening of the Megillah approve of feminine reserve
The remainder of chapter one
the ostentatious display of the but they could not believe that a
describes the reaction of the king and
wealth of the Persian monarch, the gentile the granddaughter of King
his advisers to the shocking refusal
great banquet that goes on, month Nebuchanezzar would have shown
by the queen, but Vashtis role in the
after month, the story of the deposing true modesty.8
story essentially begins and ends with
of Vashti the Queen after the public
those four verses. What do they teach Unlike Vashti, Achashverosh, in the
humiliation that she caused the king,
or allude to? What light do these midrashic view, was a commoner who
the selection of a new queen as
verses shine on the dnouement of began his career in the royal stables.
non-essential, at least be-di-avad
Esthers story? When his father, Darius, wrested

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
control of Babylonia from Belshazzar, have given the women an opportunity replaced by Esther, who goes on to
Vashti was selected as Achashveroshs to engage in illicit relations.10 save her people. Vashti, under this
wife.9 Thus Vashti provided a veneer view, is the anti-Esther.
As for Achashveroshs drink-infused
of legitimacy for the new royal demand that Vashti appear at his party
family. The difficulties (not to speak Contemporary Scholarship
so that he could show her off, the
of internal inconsistencies) in the midrash once again fills in the blanks.
midrashic reading of the historical Contemporary critics, though, reading
Vashti was required to appear in the
record are not our issue here. It is the Megillah without the midrashic
nude that was the manner in which
true that Darius, the father of Xerxes, additions, have suggested alternative
the king wished to display her beauty
was not a descendant of Cyrus the understandings of the Megillah as a
following some banter with some of
Great, and that might be the nugget whole and of its various characters,
his guests. And, the Gemara tells us,
of history behind this particular including Vashti. While their textual
Vashti would have ordinarily agreed
midrashic tradition. inferences are noteworthy and
to her husbands demand were it not
The Megillah tells us that while for the fact that she had developed appreciated, their conclusions seem
Achashverosh was hosting his second leprosy (or sprouted a tail).11 By to fall short of the mark in explaining
party for the male citizens of Shushan, this interpretation, Vashtis refusal the role of Vashti in the Megillah.
Vashti was hosting a party for the was not based on the impropriety Adele Berlin, for instance, argues that
women [Esther 1:9]. Here, too, details of her husbands demand but on the Megillat Esther must be read as a
are supplied by the aggadah. Vashti contingency of her condition.12 The farce and that we cannot appreciate
took the women on a tour of the private midrashim, then, provide a backstory the story fully unless we realize it is
chambers of the King to satisfy their identifying Vashti as a hater of Jews meant to be funny. The subject of
prurient curiosity. The tour may also who was punished appropriately and the farce is the Persian empire and


Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
Persian court where a major policy reduces Haman to an archetypal elements. These themes include the
decision, the annihilation of the Jews comic villain not darkly evil survival of the Jewish people in exile,
is made casually, but a small domestic of whom we are not meant to be struggle with foreign cultures and
incident, Vashtis non-appearance at a threatened since he is doomed from mores, the end of the age of miracles
party, becomes a crisis of state, with all the start.14 and facing down anti-Semitism.
the bureaucratic trappings that can be Berlins reading also does not take Farce does not quite do justice to the
mustered.13 into account the history the Jews have Megillah.
While it is certainly plausible to read had with the Amalekite forbears of Timothy Beal, another contemporary,
the character of Achashverosh as a Haman, nor with the centuries of anti- acknowledges the farcical nature of
fool and that of Mordecai as a wise Semitism that have followed. Berlin Megillat Esther, but also sees it as a
man, labeling all of the characters as feels that the nature of the festival, the strange sometimes deadly serious
types ignores the growth of Esther. holiday of Purim, is the main force book of questions that arise in the
When we first meet Esther she is a behind the book and is content with context of exile.15 The main question
passive young woman, an orphan classifying the book as one of comedy of the book, in his view, is one of
under the protection of her cousin. with the message that all is right with identity. Beal argues that the book
She is dragged off to the palace and the world. But is that all that a book of Esther reflects a context in which
she continues to listen to the various of Tanakh should be? To affirm that the traditional means of self-construal
people who give her advice. In the all is right with the Jews? To sum up have lost their meaning.16
course of the story, she becomes a Megillat Esther as a feel-good farce According to Beal, Purim teaches us
brave, confident courier who is thrust ignores the more serious themes and to recognize, and even to celebrate,
onto the largest of stages and performs dark elements that exist alongside the otherness within us that we so
as an expert. Berlins reading also the admittedly comical and farcical

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
often try to repress or hide and as He notes the anti-Semitic horrors of and her fateful choice helps us
such, the holiday of Purim is not the the twentieth century the pogroms understand how her example may
force, or reiteration of Esther, but is in Russia, the murders in the Ukraine, have influenced Mordecai and Esther.
a it is a survival of Esther.17 Beal sees the Persecutor of the Jews now The more surprising comparison is
Vashti as an object to the male subject, not vizier but supreme leader who with Mordecai. Vashti embarrassed
a special object, a quintessential almost realized Hamans goal to the king in the presence of his boon
something to bounce off in order to slaughter, slay, and destroy all the companions: Mordecai publicly
remind him of how solid he is. She is Jews, young and old.23 The literary snubs Haman by refusing to bow to
the grounding for his own identity forces of the narrative help him him in the presence of a group of
whose refusal to come reveals the believe that there will be relief and gossiping courtiers. Both offenses
male subjects special and highly deliverance for the Jews, even when result in international edicts that are
problematic dependence on her as God appears to be hidden. enacted by the king and publicized by
fixed object.18 Vashti refused to Like Berlin and Beal, Fox comments
runners dispatched throughout the
come into the kings presence to be empire. Vashti insults her husband,
on the tone of humor and farcical
the object of the pleased male ogle and suddenly all women are suspected
elements present in the opening
and as a result she will never again be scene. Rather than dictate the tone
of despising their husbands and
present, and someone more pleasing commanded to show their spouses
of the entire book, the comical
[presentable, objectifiable] will fill the honor.
opening, in Foxs reading, causes
space left by her.19 Vashti, in short, was the audience to lower its guard and ... , -

written out of the palace, and written thus compounds the shock as we , -
- - -
out of the Megillah. Her absence, Beal see pride, egoism, royal instability , :
contends, leaves the reader in the mutate into murderous hatred and - -- -
company of Persian fools, at the center sinister scheme.24 The role of Vashti - - , .....
of whom is a dangerous power vacuum becomes important since even a - , - --
called the king and that we mourn
scanty presentation of a character , - :
the blank space left by Vashti.20 can be suggestive of a larger quality .
The role of Vashti is thus one of a
and the authors attitude toward it
palimpsest, a story that is written, then a literary figure does not exist Vashti the queen hath not done wrong
erased, and then a new story is written in isolation the actions and to the king only ... For this deed of the
over the old, erased one Vashti will
experiences of one figure, even when queen will come abroad unto all women,
survive her own end in the narrative. these do not affect the outcome of to make their husbands contemptible in
She will haunt the rest of the story. The the main action, alter the readers their eyes, when it will be said: The king
story of Esther and Mordecai never understanding of other parallel Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen
shakes her memory.21 characters.25 Fox suggests that we try to be brought in before him, but she came
For Michael V. Fox, it is not merely to understand Vashti by pairing her not... for he sent letters into all the kings
the character of Vashti that proves with characters with whom she is provinces, into every province according
haunting it is the entire story that contraposed in conflict like the men to the writing thereof, and to every
revisits every year as he hears the of the court and those with whom she people after their language, that every
Megillah read in shul: is in correspondence, like Esther.26 man should bear rule in his own house,
and speak according to the language of
Indeed, I relive its truth and know its
Vashtis Influence on his people.
actuality. Almost without an effort of
Mordecai and Esther Esther 1:16-17, 22
imagination, I feel something of the
anxiety that seized the Jews of Persia The root b-z-h appears both in the
upon learning of Hamans threat to their Indeed, Vashtis role in the Purim description of Vashtis alleged offense
lives, and I join in their exhilaration at story can be understood by pairing against her husband, and in Hamans
their deliverance. Except that I do not her with other characters. However, reaction to Mordecais snub (Esther
think of their but my22 unlike Foxs conclusion, a closer 3:6). Mordecai insults Haman and
look at the text dealing with Vashti

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
suddenly all Jews are suspect of conscience in the face of tyranny and [bowing] a non-option.28 As Yoram
treason against the king. oppression. Vashti knew that no good Hazony notes:
could result from her appearance at a
As long as Achashverosh took decisions
drunken, all-male party. Her options
; through broad consultation with a
were not promising. She could
, -
range of advisers, there was every
acquiesce to the command of the king,
, -
. , reason to hope that the laws of the
lose her dignity and help him lose
. Persian state would tend towards at
his as well (which would no doubt
There is a certain people scattered least the roughest approximation of a
anger him at a later time). Or she
abroad and dispersed among the peoples just settlement among the competing
could refuse on principle, angering the
in all the provinces of thy kingdom; perspectives in the empire. Hamans
king and exposing herself to a harsh
and their laws are diverse from those of installation suppressed the search
consequence, but maintaining both
every people; neither keep they the kings for a greater truth on the part of the
her dignity and that of the king. Faced
laws; therefore it profiteth not the king to state; henceforth it would become that
with a lose-lose situation, knowing
suffer them. If it please the king, let it be defined by the perspective and desires
that one way or another she was
written that they be destroyed. of a single man, Haman. Since it would
doomed to fall, she opts to fall with
Esther 3:8-9 be his desires rather than truth which
dignity and refuses to appear.
would now determine right and wrong
The money belonging to the Jews will
While it would seem that Mordecai for much of mankind, his elevation
be taken from them and used to enrich
had no prior compunctions about transformed him (and Achashverosh as
Hamans coffers.27 The plot similarities
bowing to Achashverosh, the elevation well) into a usurping god an idol. To
between Vashti and Mordecai
of Haman as the key political adviser serve his whim would be as service to
underscore their common goal to
to the king made prior behavior the Canaanite gods, for whom men had
uphold human dignity and freedom of

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Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
murdered their children king and Haman should come, Esther
According to Hazony, the elevation 5:7), careful with both her choice of .
of Haman as sole advisor to the king words and her timing. She approaches -
dramatically changed the political the king, waiting for Achashverosh to
landscape in Shushan, adding acknowledge her presence, and then .
idolatrous overtones where none graciously invites both Achashverosh
had previously existed. Before, the and Haman to first one party and then . , ,
king had many advisors and he another. It is only at the second party ,
would listen to their advice before that she begins to describe the threat ,
acting. Now, Haman was in complete she and her people are facing. Esther .
control, the sole adviser, the only and Vashti differ, then, in tone and . , ,
voice. Multiple opinions were no tactics.
longer desired or allowed Hamans
Even the struggles the two women
was the only opinion that carried
face are fundamentally different. ,
any authority. Mordecai views
Where Vashtis struggle was
this behavior as a form of idolatry
personal with national implications .
and refuses to acquiesce. When The purpose of including Megillat Esther
(because of her refusal, an edict
Mordecairemains seated, refusing in Tanakh is to raise the question: Who
is passed impacting all women),
to rise and bow to Haman, he, too, is in control in a topsy-turvy world?
Esthers struggle was national with
is aware that there are bound to If the Tanakh had not included Megillat
personal implications (she will only
be consequences, although it may Esther, we would recognize God only in
be in danger once she reveals her
not have occurred to him that he places and situations where we could call
connection to the Jews who are about
was endangering the entire Jewish Him by name. Megillat Esther comes
to be destroyed). It is Vashtis original
people. Mordecai is aware that he has to fill this gap. It teaches us that God is
vulnerability that sets the scene for
entered a lose-lose situation where found in hidden places, in places where
Esthers. Vashtis weakness was related
the only choice is to fall. Like Vashti, it is not possible to name Him by name.
to her gender (a woman in a mans
he decides that when the fall is all Even in those situations where it is not
world) while Esthers vulnerability is
there is, it matters.29 Vashtis brief possible to mention a prayer, a halacha,
threefold [she is a woman, an orphan
appearance on the screen, her refusal or anything indicating kedusha. Megillat
and a Jew]. But, at this time, it is
to relinquish her belief in what was Esther shows us the path of hashgacha
Vashtis failure that teaches Esther
right, enables us to understand the even in a kingdom of opposites,
how to work within the system. Esther
scope and rationale of Mordecais hashgacha that works through intrigue,
learns what steps she must take, what
refusal and his commitment to his coincidence and lotteries.
words she must use. Where Vashti
beliefs. Megillat Esther completes Tanakh. It
fails, Esther will succeed.
If Vashti and Mordecai, at least in was purposely written in a secular and
this sense, complement one another, exaggerated manner to teach us that
The Megillah of Opposites Gods hashgacha is to be found in places
Vashti and Esther are contraposed.
Where Vashti refuses to appear when and situations that are far removed
Rav Yoel Bin Nun refers to Megillat
ordered, Esther dares to appear where from kedusha and that the Hand of God
Esther as Megillat HaHephech, the
not invited. Where Vashti was silent, directs the world even in places where
megillah of opposites. Why do we
Esther succeeds with her skillful His Face is hidden. 31
need such a megillah in Tanakh? The
speech.30 Where Vashti obstinately In a topsy-turvy world, where the
Megillah comes to remind us who is in
refuses to engage, Esther approaches ruler is impulsive and governs by
control in a topsy-turvy world:
the king with trepidation and narcissism, where the Jews are mired
in exile and God seems far away,
meekness. Where Vashti is blunt va-
- He is still, in fact, present. Why do
ti-maen she refuses (Esther 1:12),
? Vashti and Mordecai have different
Esther is subtle, ...
, outcomes despite the same approach
( If it pleases the king the

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
to their lose-lose situation? Because Routledge, 1997; Aaron Koller, Esther in 23 Beal, p. 12.
God orchestrated a different outcome. Ancient Jewish Thought, New York: Cambridge
24 Fox, p. 25.
University Press, 2014; Yoram Hazony, The
Vashti needed to be replaced, but not Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther, 25 Fox, p. 167.
before teaching us what ordinarily Jerusalem: Shalem Press, 2000; S. Talmon,
happened in Shushan when one 26 Fox, p. 167.
Wisdom in the Book of Esther, Vetus
stood on principle. Her story gives Testamentum 13 [1963], pp. 419-455, Jeffrey 27 Berlin notes that according to Haman, the
us a greater appreciation of the Cohen, Vashti, The Unsung Heroine, Jewish Jews were not currently providing any income
Bible Quarterly 24:2, 1996, 103-106; and to the king and understands that the king is
salvation of the Jewish people as a Yonatan Grossman, Esther: Scroll of Secrets, not only giving Haman authority over the
whole and specifically of Mordecai. Israel: Maggid Publishers, 2013 [Hebrew]. Jews but also permission to keep any tribute
It also provides insight into Esthers But the list of articles and books about the he collected from them. [Commentary on
reasoning for trying a more diplomatic Megillah goes on and on. Esther 3:11, p. 42]
approach. Yet even while Esther 4 The name is often said to mean beauty 28 There are many midrashim that help to
learned from Vashtis story to confront or its equivalent, but that is apparently an explain why Mordecai refused to bow. One
the king in a more soft-spoken anachronism. J. Dynely Prince, Note on is Esther Rabbah 6:2, which suggests that
manner, we cant lost sight of the fact Vashti, Journal of Biblical Literature, Boston, Haman wore an idol around his neck so
1914 33:2, p. 87-90. bowing to Haman would be, in fact, idolatry.
the she risked her life in confronting Esther Rabbah 5:9 suggests a prior altercation
the king and it was only through Gods 5 Esther Rabbah 3:5.
between Mordecai and Haman and places
providence that she was successful. 6 TB Megillah 10b. These identifications both Haman and Mordecai in Jerusalem
are tied in with the chronology sketched out at the beginning of the construction of the
Vashti appears only briefly in the by the rabbis , many of whom saw the events Second Temple. When the enemies of the
Megillah but, like a palimpsest, she of the Megillah as taking place between Jews disputed the right of the Jews to begin
leaves behind traces. On one level, she the destruction of the First Temple and construction, both sides agreed to send
is an object lesson for other women the construction of the Second. Belshazzar messengers to the king to resolve the issue.
[or Bel-shar-usur], historically, was the son Haman was chosen to represent the enemies;
throughout the kings dominion, to of Nabonides, the last king of the Neo- Mordecai was chosen to represent the Jews.
keep their places in the household Bablyonian Empire. [Amelie Kuhrt, The On the journey, Haman ran out of food and
economy.32 But more to our point, Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources of the begged bread from Mordecai. Mordecai
she emerges as a major influence Achaemenid Period, London: 2009]. agreed to share his rations with Haman,
on Mordecai and Esther, and as the on the condition that Haman become an
7 See Sanhedrin 92b and various other
indentured servant of Mordecais. Haman
key for our understanding of the references.
agreed and the document of indenture was
challenges they faced and overcame. 8 Fox, p. 164 written on the bottom of Mordecais shoe.
Many years later, in Shushan, when Haman
9 TB Megillah 12b; Esther Rabbah 3:14;
Endnotes would walk past Mordecai and expect that
Yalkut Shimoni Esther 1049.
Mordecai would stand up and bow down,
1 Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 690:3. 10 TB Megillah 12a. Mordecai would extend his foot, displaying
the sole on which the document was written.
2 Jon D. Levinson [Esther: A Commentary, 11 TB Megillah 12b.
This filled Haman with rage. If the first
London/Louisville, 1997], 1, is surely correct 12 See Fox, p. 165. midrash gives Mordecai a warning that there
that Esther is a complex piece of literature would come a time when he would need
with few and perhaps no scenes that could be 13 Berlin p. xix.
to take a stand, the second midrash helps
omitted without damage. 14 Berlin, p. xx. to explain the personal nature of Hamans
3 Among the works which I examined while revenge.
15 Beal, p. 49.
thinking about Vashti were Michael V. Fox, 29 John Goldman, A Lion in Winter: A
Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther, 16 Beal, p. 111.
Comedy in Two Acts. New York: Samuel
Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 17 Beal, p. 124. French, Inc., 1966.
1991; Adele Berlin, The JPS Bible Commentary
Esther, Philadelphia, JPS Society, 2001; 18 Beal, p. 21. 30 S. Talmon, (1963). Wisdom in the
Charles D. Harvey, Finding Morality in the Book of Esther. Vetus Testamentum, 13(1937),
19 Beal, p. 23.
Diaspora: Moral Ambiguity and Transformed 419455.
Morality in the Books of Esther, Berlin/New 20 Beal, p. 26.
31 Rav Yoel Bin Nun, Megillat HaHephech
York, Walter DeGruyter, 2003; Timothy K. 21 Beal, p. 29 in Hadassah hi Esther, p. 52, 54 [Hebrew]
Beal, The Book of Hiding: Gender, Ethnicity,
Annihilation, and Esther, London/New York: 22 Beal, p. 11. 32 Beal, p. 25.

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
Esther and Bas Paraoh: Reaching
for What is Out of Reach
A t perhaps the most tension-
filled moment in the Megila,
Chazal make a curious and
enigmatic comment.
Rabbi David Block
Mashgiach Ruchani, Shalhevet High School
Esther is about to enter, brazen and Chag HaSemikhah 5777
unsolicited asher lo chadas (not
according to the law) into her
story, this miracle seems remarkably noting the relationship between
husbands throne room to appeal to
insignificant. Does the stretching of amasa and amah/amos (cubit/cubits),
the king about the impending plight of
the scepter really add all that much Chazal famously offer an alternative
her people. After three days of fasting,
to the story? The true miracle is explanation: Bas Paraoh extended her
Esther dons her royal garments and
that Achashverosh allowed Esthers hand and it miraculously stretched
slowly begins her approach, and
intrusion; the true marvel is that the length of many cubits (Shemos
Achashveroshs reaction was all she
Achashverosh did not sentence her Rabbah 1:23, Sotah 12b).2
could have hoped for:
to death, but responded graciously:
While the circumstances of the
, -
What troubles you, Queen Esther,
two stories are certainly different,

; ,
and what is your request? [Ask]
the thematic connection between
, -
up to half the kingdom, and it will
the rabbinic interpretations are
. ,
be granted (5:3)! Does it matter
unmistakable. In fact, Chazal
And it was so, when the king saw Esther whether the length of Achashveroshs
themselves already make this very
the queen standing in the court, she scepter was two cubits or twelve?
obtained favor in his eyes; and the king What do Chazal intend with this
held out to Esther the golden scepter that puzzling comment?
was in his hand. And Esther drew near, :
The key to understanding this
and touched the top of the scepter. ... ...
midrash may be not to view it in
Esther 5:2 .
isolation but to pull the zoom lens And it was so when the king saw
Here, Chazal say what, to many, has back and consider its theme more
Queen Esther. R. Yochanan said: Three
become a well-known part of the globally. Indeed, this is not the first ministering angels were appointed to
story. As Achashverosh holds out time Chazal tell us of a moment in help her at that moment And one [of
his scepter, it miraculously stretches which one extends ones hand and the angels was appointed] to stretch the
(Megillah 15b; Yalkut Shimoni, it or, in our case, that which the
golden scepter So too you find with the
Esther 1056) ostensibly to cover hand is holding miraculously arm of the daughter of Paraoh.
the distance between its master and stretches. About a millennium before Megillah 15b
Esther. As wondrous as it is, one the Purim story,1 when Bas Paraoh
question begs to be asked: Why do sees a basket floating in the Nile, The connection between the two
Chazal say this? The verse itself seems vatishlach es-amasah vatikachehah statements of Chazal indeed,
to give no indication at all of any Bas Paraoh sends her amasa to self-proclaimed is inescapable. But
supernatural occurrence. And, when fetch it. The simple translation of what are we to make of it? Are the
considering the overall narrative of the amasa is her maidservant, but, two linked only through haphazard

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
similarities? Or is there something far ones capacity to grasp. would want to see the trajectory of
more intentional in this perplexing the Megilahs events as coincidental
And now let us return to our
connection? I want to propose or political maneuvering, one
midrash regarding Esther. Whether
that, by suggesting that link, Chazal could. Indeed, that is precisely what
Achashveroshs scepter actually
are teaching that to understand makes the celebration of Purim
stretches is hardly the point. Chazal
their words in Esther, we must first so poignant: we celebrate Gods
are urging us not to overlook the
appreciate their words in Shemos. protection and intimacy even when
significance of that moment, because
Yes, in Shemos, Chazal were it is not overtly recognizable. But to
it is quite easy to; when Achashverosh
capitalizing on a textual homonym notice the remarkable confluences
extends his scepter, nothing changes
(amah), but my rebbe, Rabbi David of coincidences as Providence, to
for the Jewish people. They are not
Fohrman, suggests that their appreciate the intricacies of Gods
spared, and they hardly seem closer
translation of the verse is more than intervention at every moment, is not
to salvation. But, in fact, that moment
just a cute play on words. Consider easy. So, in their subtle yet powerful
was the catalyst of all that was about
the scene as Bas Paraoh notices a way, Chazal try to assist us. They leave
to come.
mysterious basket floating in the clues, disguised as dramatic details of
Just moments before, Esther is faced the story, that help us recognize Gods
Nile and sends her maidservant to
with a terrifying choice: She can let subtle yet timeless wink. We simply
fetch it. Who was Bas Paraoh? She
her people succumb to the malicious have to open our eyes.
is, quite literally, the daughter of
plans of Haman, or else barge into
the king the very king who just
the throne room unsolicited and risk Endnotes
decreed genocide against Israelite
death. Esther is ambivalent at first;
male babies. Her father is the reason
when Mordechai suggests that she 1 Or, according to some, closer to 800 years.
that this basket needed to be placed
choose the latter path, she seems 2 Significantly, in the Midrash Tanchumas
in the Nile to begin with. And it is his
unwilling to risk her life. And quite (Tanchuma, Warsaw, Shemos 7) version
own daughter, the princess of Egypt,
understandably so: even if she were of this midrash, the text uses the word
who saves the Israelite child from her venismascha (and it stretched)
to be personally pardoned, it remains
fathers decree. When she opens the precisely the same word used to describe
extremely unlikely that she would
basket, she knows immediately that Achashveroshs scepter in the the Gemara
persuade the king to save an entire shemasach (that it stretched).
the child is miyaldei haivrim, an
nation by reversing decrees issued by
Israelite. And, vatachmol alav, she 3 It should not be ignored that the
his most trusted advisor. That seems similarities between the two midrashim are
has compassion on him. She chooses
entirely out of reach. not perfectly parallel. In Shemos, Bas Paraoh
to raise the child in the home of he
Yet, ultimately, she obliges. Like reaches and it is her own arm that stretches;
who decreed the childs death. And, as in the Megilah, Esther does the figurative
later verses make clear, Moshe knows the kings daughter back in Egypt, reaching, but it is Achashveroshs scepter that
that he is an Israelite; his adopted Esther, the kings wife, opts to reach stretches. While the purpose of the imperfect
mother brings him up that way. for that which is, figuratively, beyond parallel is not entirely clear, I suggest that it
her grasp. And when she does, might have to do with the circumstances of
Next to Paraoh himself, Bas Paraoh each situation. In the Shemos story, it is Bas
God ensures that Achashveroshs
might be the least likely person to Paraoh who is in control of the outcome
scepter stretches; that the impossible the decision as to whether to bring Moshe
do this. Raising an Israelite in her
becomes within reach. Just like Bas in and raise him in the palace is her own. In
fathers palace seems utterly out of
Paraohs courage sets in motion the Shushan, it was in Esthers control to try to
reach. And yet, Bas Paraoh reaches for reach; whether she would be successful was in
events that would lead to the salvation
it. And when she does, Chazal tell us the hands of Achashverosh. So, when Esther
of the Israelite people, it is Esthers
that her arm, figuratively, stretches. reached, it was Achashveroshs scepter that
courage, in this very moment, that stretched. In either case, the significance is the
God ensures that when one acts
does precisely the same thing for the same: when one reaches for what seems out
heroically for something moral, when
Jewish people many years later.3 of reach, with the help of God, the impossible
one stretches oneself and reaches for becomes attainable.
a good that seems out of reach, the It is well known that Purim is the only
desired outcome becomes well within holiday that does not commemorate
a nes nigleh, an open miracle. If one

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
Our Hamantaschens
Forgotten Meaning
O f the many oddities codified
as part of our annual Purim
celebrations, Rabbi Moshe
Isserles, in his glosses on the Shulchan
Aruch (O.C. 695:2), records a little-
Rabbi Tuvia Brander
Rabbi, Young Israel of West Hartford
Chag HaSemikhah 5777
known custom of eating maachal
zeronim (foods with seeds) on Purim
in commemoration of the food Daniel for bringing us our delightful three- gate of the king (Esther 2:21). The
and his fellows eat while in captivity cornered confectionaries, we are two books share similar powerful
in Nevuchadnezars court (Daniel left pondering how Daniels menu moments of religious conflict and
1:8). Yet surprisingly, this medieval connects with the Purim saga. Why heroism defiant refusals to bow
minhag to eat seeds on Purim (Kolbo did we bake his story into our Purim down and dire consequences for
# 45) is one many of us fulfill each observance each year? their faith-based insubordination
year albeit unknowingly when (Esther 3:2-4;Daniel 3:12-18).
Certainly, at first glance, the Books
we consume copious quantities of Esther and Daniel are thrust into
of Esther and Daniel seem intimately
hamantashen of the poppy seed circumstances where they must
linked they have similar characters
variety. In fact, Rabbi Yisrael Isser of intercede with the monarch in the
and plots, use many of the same
Ponevezh, in his Menucha u-Kedusha, hopes of averting the imminent
narrative devices, motifs and even
explicitly connects the eating of these destruction of their community
specific textual parallels. Esther
tasty triangular treats to the diet (Esther 4-5; Daniel 2). Distinct
and Daniel, the title characters of
of Daniel and his friends. For him, parallels emerge even in depictions of
both stories, are each called by a
poppy seed is not just another flavor, governance in both books, as strange
Hebrew and a foreign name (Esther
it is the mahn (Yiddish for poppy and capricious limitations preventing
2:7; Daniel 1:6-7), are described
seed) in the hamantashen. Scholar the amending of royal decrees feature
as physically attractive (Esther 2:7;
Hayyim Schauss echoes this idea by prominently in both plots (Esther
Daniel 1:4), and are blessed with
declaring that hamantashen is merely 8:8; Daniel 6:17). Fundamentally,
the favor and trust of palace officials
a conglomeration of Haman, mahn the Books of Daniel and Esther tell
(Esther 2:9; Daniel 1:9-10). Daniel
(poppy seed) and tashen (pocket).2 tales of Jews coerced into the service
is stationed at the kings gate (Daniel
While we may be thankful for the of foreign power, who ultimately
2:49) just as Mordechai sits at the
trivia and this anomalous custom prove their worth, rising to greatness
as courtiers and bringing honor and
In many ways, eating poppy seed hamantaschen salvation to the Jewish people. The
Books of Daniel and Esther focus
on Purim to remember Daniel and his friends on the same core question: How
Megillat Esthers sister story seems to make a lot must Jews in the Diaspora conduct
themselves in the palace of a foreign
of sense. However, a closer look at the stories show king the seat of power of a foreign
that while Daniel and Esther ask the same questions, empire the capital of an alien
the answers provided are remarkably different.
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
So in many ways, eating poppy seed hamantaschen on
Purim to remember Daniel and his friends Megillat
Esthers sister story seems to make a lot of sense.
However, a closer look at the stories show that while
Daniel and Esther ask the same questions, the answers
provided are remarkably different.
Indeed, the similarities embedded in text, character
and plot between the works seem to be drawing them
into conversation with each other, but the conversation
is hardly a harmonious one. Placed side by side, stark
differences emerge between approach and outlook
advocated in Esther on the one hand and advanced in
Daniel on the other. Daniel is seen repeatedly casting by Rabbi Aaron Brander (RIETS Class of 1958)
off and subverting any trace or association with his
foreign hosts culture; Esther, on the other hand, is When we arrived in America in 1950, after time in
portrayed as being able to embrace her Persian milieu the DP camps in Europe, my father and mother made
and marshaling it to help achieve her goals. the heroic decision to send me to a yeshiva instead
of the norm at the time of sending to public school.
That heroic decision eventually led me to Yeshivas
I. Names
Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan and is the reason why I
Over the course of both books, Esther and Daniel merit celebrating the simcha of the semikhah of my
are ascribed both Hebrew names and names in their grandson in the very auditorium where I celebrated
vernaculars. Esther, thought to be derived from the my semikhah 58 years ago and the semikhah of my
Persian word for star, is also called by a Hebrew two sons, Rabbi Kenny (86R) and Rabbi Asher
name, Hadassah (Esther 2:7), whereas Daniel is given (92R) Brander.
the Babylonian name Belteshazzar upon entering Knowing that there are nine musmakhim whose
the Babylonian royal academy (Daniel 1:6-7). Yet
grandfathers are also RIETS musmakhim speaks
immediately in the next verse (Daniel 1:8), we
volumes about the legacy and vitality of our Yeshiva.
witness Daniels total disregard for this new name,
As I reflect on my familys deep connection to RIETS
and throughout the entire Book of Daniel, not once
is Daniel only referred to by this foreign name. By
for over 60 years, I am reminded of the verse (Kohelet
contrast, clearly the Book of Esther embraces her 4:12) , the three stranded
Persian name. After all, it is the Book of Esther not the rope is not easily severed.
Book of Hadassah, and once we are told her Hebrew
name, Esther is never called Hadassah again. Even at
the end of the Megillah as Esther is placed within her MIDOR LDOR HONOREES
Jewish lineage, the verse identifies her as Queen Esther RIETS celebrates the semikha of eleven musmakhim
daughter of Abihail (9:29). whose grandfathers are also musmakhim of RIETS
Rabbi Tuvia Brander 15R Rabbi Aaron Brander 59R
II. Royal Training and Food Rabbi Shlomo Clark 14R Rabbi Matthew Clark 56R
Rabbi Yakov Danishefsky 16R Rabbi Dr. Chaim Danishefsky zl 46R
Similarly, both Esther and Daniel are taken as part of Rabbi Noam Friedman 17R Rabbi Abraham zl Insel 45R
formal royal programs with a set standard universally Rabbi Noach Goldstein 17R Rabbi Dr. Noah Goldstein zl 53R
Rabbi Jonathan Grossman 17R Rabbi Zelo Schussheim zl 48R
applied (i.e. a years regiment of beautification before
Rabbi Ari Lamm 15R Rabbi Norman Lamm 51R
meeting the king [Esther 2:9-12] and a course of food Rabbi Elchanan Poupko 16R Rabbi Baruch Poupko zl 42R
and study to prepare to be reviewed by the king [Daniel Rabbi Itamar Rosensweig 14R Rabbi Bernard Rosensweig 50R
1]), and both emerge recognized as the best. Yet how Rabbi Ashie Schreier 17R Rabbi Max Schreier 52R
do our protagonists accomplish this? Esther seems Rabbi Yaakov Taubes 17R Rabbi Chaim Schulman zl 52R

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to embrace the process; she follows your servant for ten days, giving us seeds :
Persian cultural and beauty norms to eat and water to drink.
and undergoes the strict treatment Daniel 1:5,8,12 .

regimen in preparation for meeting Dr. Aaron Koller points out that (18) that they (Daniel, Hananiah,
the king: Mishael and Azariah) might implore
Daniels resistance here transcends
() the mere halakhic restriction of the God of the Heaven for help

kashrut; it bespeaks a meta-protest regarding this mystery, so that Daniel
on Daniels part against any attempt and his colleagues would not be put
. of acculturation. Daniel employs to death together with the other wise
() very strident language be defiled men of Babylon. (19) The mystery was
(Daniel 1:8) in his refusal to revealed to Daniel in a night vision;
eat the kings food. As he insists on then Daniel blessed God of Heaven
consuming only seeds, it is these (27) Daniel answered the king and
seeds that represent the prototypical said, The mystery about which the king
(9) The girl [Esther] pleased him and anti-cultural food, unchanged from its has inquired wise men, exorcists,
won his favor, and he hastened to furnish natural form by human processes or magicians, and diviners cannot tell to the
her with her cosmetics and her rations, society. The protest is only heightened king. (28) But there is a God in heaven
as well as with the seven maids who were when Daniels final success is ascribed who reveals mysteries, and He has made
her due from the kings palace; and he not only to his refusal to participate known to King Nebuchadnezzar what is
treated her and her maids with special but to Gods direct intervention to be at the end of days.
kindness in the harem. (12) When each (Daniel 1:17). Daniel 2:18-19,27-28
girls turn came to go to King Ahasuerus
at the end of the twelve months III. Encountering the King IV. Identity
treatment prescribed for women (for
that was the period spent on beautifying In both stories, there are moments The clearest contrast between Esther
them: six months with oil of myrrh and when Daniel and Esther must and Daniel one closely connected
six months with perfumes and womens intercede with the king in desperate with this central theme is the
cosmetics). attempts to prevent the impending way they construct and express their
Esther 2:9,12 death sentence hanging over them Jewish identity in public. Famously,
and their communities. Yet here Esther is instructed repeatedly not to
By contrast, Daniel refuses to reveal her people nor her kindred
participate at all: too, Esther and Daniel approach
this challenge in vastly differently (2:10, 20), and it is only revealed in
() ways. Esther, famously tasked with the direst of circumstances. Daniel,
forestalling Hamans decrees, prepares on the other hand, freely proclaimed
() :
to meet the king by donning royalty his Jewish faith openly attributing
(Esther 5:1); Esther approaches his every action and success to God.
: Achashverosh adorned in her stately Even under extreme circumstances,
() Persian regalia. By contrast, Daniel Daniel refuses to hide his faith and
prays by imploring God to help and even chooses to flaunt it as he prays
(5) The king allotted daily rations to returns to the king, careful to ascribe before an open window facing
them from the kings food and from the his knowledge to God: Jerusalem under decree of death
wine he drank. They were to be educated (Daniel 6:11).
for three years, at the end of which they -
were entered the kings service. (8)
The Struggles of Todays
Daniel resolved not to defile himself with :
the kings food or the wine he drank, so ... -
he sought permission of the chief officer As Jews today, many of us still grapple
not to defile himself. (12) Please test with navigating our identities as

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
Jews in the Diaspora. What we are and fragments unearthed, not a reminder of the need to always work
presented with in both these stories single passage of Esther has been to synthesize the paradigm of Esther
are two unique and somewhat uncovered.3 Perhaps this is not and the outlook of Daniel engaged
contradictory models of how to surprising, as this ethos central to the in the world around us, seeking to
respond, exist and even thrive in Book of Esther is antithetical to the uncover and integrate the best of our
exile. The story of Daniel carries a code and character of those desert foreign realities and, at the same time,
message of overt and defiant Jewish communes. On the other hand, there always being aware and committed
identity predicated on a total refusal is no holiday celebrating Daniel; to never being defiled or defined by
to assimilate not only religiously it is only Purim immortalizing the outside values.
but intellectually, culturally or example of Esther.
emotionally. Daniels refusal to Endnotes
Which brings us back to our delicious
even ingest foreign foods signals an hamantaschen after all, what are
opposition to even consider valuable 1 I would like to thank my brother Yoni for
our hamantaschen? Are they not just his comments and revisions to this piece, and
wisdom in an alien society. It is a a scrumptious amalgamation of these Dr. Aaron Koller for sharing with me the core
model in which foreign wisdom is two philosophies? It is a poppy seed of this idea and inspiring me to continue to
resisted and political considerations pursue the study of Tanakh on ever-deeper
core symbolic of Daniels defiance
are relegated to secondary. Esther, and his refusal to become a consumer levels. For a thorough overview of the schol-
on the other hand, is a story of a of foreign culture surrounded by
arship and a thought-provoking discussion of
closed Jewish identity centered on a the textual and thematic relationship between
sugary dough the quintessential Daniel and Esther, see his book Esther in
willingness to adapt to everything: food of high culture in a symbolic Ancient Jewish Thought (Cambridge U Press,
foreign lifestyles, language, foods and 2015).
pocket acting as a cover for identity.
dress. It is a model in which outside It is this contradictory food that is 2 Hayyim Schauss, The Jewish Festivals (Ran-
wisdom is valued and harnessed to eaten on Purim the day devoted
dom House, 1938; Hebrew 1933), p. 270. I
help empower the individual. Yet it came across this piece and the quotation of
to celebrating Esthers covert mode the Menucha u-Kedusha in a fascinating article
also serves to strip away any explicit of Jewish identity! Even the pastry by Eliezer Brodt (http://seforim.blogspot.
Jewish identity. Throughout Jewish eaten on the day of Esther cannot
history, these paradigms personified mentashen-in.html).
totally ignore the example of Daniel.
by Esther and Daniel resonated Together, the hamantaschen forms a
3 Israel Antiquities Authority (http://www.
with some and were eschewed by
resounding message for all of us and a scrolls-content?locale=en_US).
others. Of all the Dead Sea scrolls

The hamantaschen forms a

reminder of the need to always
work to synthesize the paradigm of
Esther and the outlook of Daniel
engaged in the world around us,
seeking to uncover and integrate the
best of our foreign realities and, at
the same time, always being aware
and committed to never being
defiled or defined by outside values.

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Self-Nullification through
enny Youngman once said:
When I read about the
evils of drinking, I gave up
Rabbi Michael Weingarten
Senior Rabbi, Young Israel of Forest Hills
Fellow, Kollel LHoraah, RIETS
All jokes aside, the dangers of Chag HaSemikhah 5777
alcohol are quite alarming. Alcohol
plays a role in 60% of all fatal burns,
the Rama dissents, arguing that the recognize the historical underpinnings
drownings and homicides, 50% of
mitzvah can be fulfilled through other behind the clash of Mordechai and
severe traumas, and 40% of fatal
means, many, in practice, adhere to Haman? Purim wasnt the first round
motor vehicle accidents, suicides, and
the Shulchan Aruchs approach. Purim of their fight. Over five hundred years
falls. People who drink regularly are
has thus become synonymous with earlier, Mordechais ancestor King
at greater risk for liver disease, heart
unfettered indulgence in alcohol, a day Shaul had been commanded by G-d
disease, bleeding from the stomach,
of wild revelry and unruly rejoicing.1 to wipe out the nation of Amalek. On
depression, sleep disorders and
the precipice of success, Shaul decides
several types of cancer. An astonishing Many of us enjoy the festive
that it would be inhumane for him to
17 million Americans fall into the atmosphere that alcohol on Purim
kill Agag, the King of Amalek, whom
category of alcoholics, men and facilitates. But how many of us have
he had taken captive. In a moment
women who are simply unable to quit ever stopped to think just how out
of misplaced mercy, he spares Agag,
drinking, irrespective of the harm it of character it is, how incongruent
who lives long enough to father a son,
causes them and others. this mitzvah is with Judaisms
the great-great grandfather of Haman.
overall mindset and approach? Our
Yet the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Due to his deviation from G-ds
religion is generally very cerebral
Chaim 695:2, quoting the Gemara directive, Hashem takes away Shauls
and structured, quite measured and
in Megillah (7b), writes that a person kingship, giving it to Dovid Hamelech
balanced. Copious consumption of
must imbibe alcohol and get drunk instead.
alcohol would seem to be antithetical
on Purim, intoxicated until they lack
to its values. Furthermore, given In his Sichos Mussar (Purim 5731),
the cognitive clarity to differentiate
the aforementioned health risks of Rav Chaim Shmulevitz poses the
between the righteous Mordechai
alcohol, excessive drinking on Purim following question: What was it about
and the wicked Haman. Although
would seem to violate the Torahs Shauls sin that was so egregious that
mandate of vnishmartem mode necessitated him being punished so
How many of us know lnafshosechem (Devarim 4:15), harshly? After all, Dovid Hamelech
the directive to protect ones own also sinned on multiple occasions and
the backstory behind health and wellbeing. Why then did yet G-d allowed him to remain King!
the Chachamim feel compelled to Rav Shmulevitz explains that Shauls
the clash of Mordechai institute this strange mitzvah? What is mistake stemmed from the value he
and Haman? Purim going on here?! placed on his own reasoning, the
misplaced notion that somehow his
wasnt the first round Were all quite familiar with the basic
points of the Purim plot. But how own personal ethos could be more
just and merciful than G-ds. G-d had
of their fight. many of us know the backstory and
explicitly ordered Shaul to kill Agag,

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
yet in Shauls eyes this command faith alone. The Purim story came oscillate from caring to callous, from
seemed cruel and antiquated, out about through Shauls sin, through empathetic to apathetic.
of touch with the norms of decent his placing his own reasoning above
As we sit down to our Purim seudah,
society and polite company. And G-ds will. Each year, we strive to fix
let us remind ourselves of the
so Shaul, thinking he knows best, Shauls mistake by following the Sages
following: first and foremost, of the
decides to deviate from G-ds directive command to get drunk, to impair our
dangers of alcohol. We must drink
and spare the life of Agag, an act cognitive abilities and take a leap of
judiciously, responsibly, serving as
that ultimately spawned Haman and faith, to trust that G-d knows best.
proper examples and role models
almost spelled death for the entire
Yet it is not only as atonement for for our family and friends. If we
Jewish nation. Shauls sin necessitated
the past that we must inculcate this know based on past experience that
his removal from the throne, for his
outlook in ourselves, but also in our behavior under the influence is
sin stemmed not from a fit of passion,
preparation for the future. The battle substandard, we should not drink
like Dovids, but rather from a far
with Amalek is not over. A day is excessively, but rather follow the
more sinister source, the delusion
coming when we will have to reject Ramas approach, drinking a small
that he knew better than G-d, that his
our own reasoning and personal amount of wine and then going to
own conscience, rather than Hashems
qualms and follow G-ds command to sleep. Second, whether we choose
command, was the ultimate moral
utterly destroy Amalek. It is through to imbibe or not, let us recognize
inebriation on Purim that we seek to the message and purpose of such
Many of us know the famous instill appreciation of such an attitude intoxication and the potential for
Tikunei Zohar no. 21, which draws within us. atonement that it provides. For
a connection between Yom Kippur through the nullification of our egos,
We live in a generation in which
and Purim. While many explanations opinions and personal value systems
the sacred is synonymous with the
have been proffered, I would like to
self, in a world that deifies personal in favor of G-ds; through kimu vkiblu,
suggest my own. Both Yom Kippur reaccepting the Torahs outlook and
autonomy. In todays society, mans
and Purim are days of repentance,
own opinions and moral compass way of life (Esther 9:27 and Shabbos
festivals of forgiveness. Each year, 88a), we will surely merit to see
are given credence over his Makers.
as we sit down at our Purim seudah, salvation, as the Jews did in Shushan
One needs to look no further than
we begin a process of teshuvah, one so many years ago.
the story of Shaul to learn the dangers
that reaches its climax at the height
of such an attitude. The Midrash
of our inebriation. The directive to Endnotes
Tanchuma, Metzora, teaches us that
become intoxicated until we cannot
Shaul, who was merciful to the cruel,
differentiate between Haman and 1. Editors Note: There is no halachic
was ultimately cruel to the merciful. imperative to drunkenness or intoxication
Mordechai is not a call to engage in
An individual who lives life based on a on Purim day (Rama, 695:2, Mishnah Berura
frivolity, but rather to utilize alcohol
personal value system, rather than by 695:5, and Beiur Halacha s.v. Ad Delo Yada)
to inhibit our reasoning abilities, and with so many young adults we keep our
G-ds concrete commands, can easily
to submit and serve G-d through Yeshiva campus dry on Purim.

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Purim: The Simcha of Satiation
A righteous person eats to satisfy his soul,
but the stomach of the wicked will lack.
Rabbi Dani Zuckerman
Mishlei 13:25 Fellow, Wexner Kollel Elyon

T he war has been won, the Chag HaSemikhah 5777

Jews have celebrated, and
Esther and Mordechai have
who extends their hand to receive should
successfully enshrined Purim on
be given. .
our calendar. And yet, the Megilla
Yerushalmi, Megilla 1:4 We dont investigate to determine
mentions one last detail before the
With regard to the general obligation whether he is poor and it is appropriate
curtain falls on the Purim story:
of tzedaka, there is only a mitzva to to give to him or not, rather we give to
. all who ask. For this day is not one of
give money when the petitioner is
King Achashveirosh placed a tax on the tzedaka alone, but of joy and gifts. For
actually poor. But when it comes
mainland and the islands. even in regards to wealthy people it is
to matanos laevyonim, it is not the
Esther 10:1 written, sending gifts to one another.
petitioners need which determines
What does Achashveiroshs tax add to whether one should give, but the very Ritva, Bava Metzia 78b
the Purim story? Why in particular is stretching of his arm; the request Ritva uses the example of mishloach
it the concluding narrative comment? itself obligates us to give. Why is manos to buttress his point that giving
Moreover, while Achashveiroshs this so? Why should we give money on Purim is not only to fill a need,
lasting legacy was taking from to a potential phony on Purim just but to spread joy to all. If mishloach
others, we commemorate Purim because he asked for it? Is giving manos are given even to the wealthiest
every year with unique mitzvos of indiscriminately even a good thing? people, as an expression of goodwill
giving to others. How do the mitzvos It seems like a waste of money that and festivity, matanos laevyonim can
of mishloach manos and matanos could be put to better use! be similarly distributed even to those
laevyonim define the joy of Purim and Ritva answers by connecting matanos who are not destitute.
how do they relate to Achashveirosh? laevyonim to the broader mitzva Ritvas approach sheds a new light
On its surface, matanos laevyonim of simcha on Purim. We dont on the giving we do on Purim day.
seems to be an expression of the discriminate with matanos laevyonim While mishloach manos and matanos
regular mitzva of tzedaka. However, because it is not just a mitzva of laevyonim differ in their details, they
the specifics of matanos laevyonim tzedaka, but a mitzva of sharing and are in fact two branches growing from
reveal it to be of an entirely different spreading simcha with the whole a common root. It is only because
nature. One major distinction is community. It is an act of turning they share a common root that Ritva
recorded in the Talmud Yerushalmi, Purim into a day of communal can bring a proof from mishloach
and subsequently codified by the festivity. We distribute without manos to matanos laevyonim. Rambam
Rambam1 and Shulchan Aruch:2 reservation because matanos laevyonim similarly expresses the common
aspires not just to provide for the poor root of mishloach manos and matanos
but to spread simcha to all: laevyonim when he prioritizes the
. latter over the former:
We dont investigate recipients of gifts to
the poor on Purim, but rather anyone

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Purim 5777
and fill them. However, who can matanos laevyonim define the joy of
, afford to discriminate when he is Purim. We give without reservation
so overflowing with simcha and because Hashems miraculous
. gratitude? If one is so full of joy that intervention generates such an
It is better for a person to give more he cant bear to withhold it from extreme sense of gratitude, simcha,
gifts to the poor than to be lavish in his others, then it is no longer their needs and completeness that unlike
Purim feast or in sending gifts to his that drive him, but his desire to share Achashveirosh we simply overflow
friends. For there is no greater and more his joy with them. in our efforts to bring that joy to
splendid joy than to gladden the hearts others. Just when we thought the
Let us now return to Achashveirosh.
of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and story was over, the Megilla interjects
Why indeed does the Megilla
the converts. For one who gladdens the with a seemingly irrelevant historical
conclude with his tax? Maharal4 notes
hearts of these unfortunate individuals comment. In reality, though, it is one
that Chazal compare the Persian
resembles the Divine Presence, [about that serves to define our mindset and
Empire with Achashveirosh at
whom] it says, to revive the spirit of the obligations as we celebrate the holiday
its head to a bear, because of its
lowly and to revive those with broken of Purim.
insatiable appetite that knows no rest.5
hearts. The Megilla begins by describing
Rambam, Hilchos Megilla 2:16 Achashveiroshs appetite for lavish, Endnotes
Why is the greater and more splendid licentious, gluttonous parties and
1 Hilchos Megillah 2:16.
joy the litmus test by which we concludes with his similarly limitless
choose mitzvos on Purim? We dont appetite for money. Maharal goes 2 Orach Chaim 694:3.
find a similar comparison or ranking one step further and identifies the 3 See Harerei Kedem Vol. 1 siman 206. Cf.
of mitzvos on any other holiday! source of Achashveiroshs voracious Rambam, Hilchos Chanuka 4:14, where he
appetites: his inner sense of compares mitzvos based on competing values
Rambams hierarchy is only logical
rather than a common value.
because he too understands mishloach emptiness. As wealthy and powerful as
manos and matanos laevyonim as he was, Achashveirosh felt a constant 4 Ner Mitzva pg. 11 dh Viamru biperek asara
yuchsin. Cf. Or Chadash 10:1 where Maharal
particular mitzvos that express one need to acquire more.6 provides two alternative explanations.
common, broader theme of the day; As the Megilla ends, we are reminded 5 Kiddushin 72a.
radiating our joy outwards to other of the stark contrast between the
members of the community.3 6 Haman expresses similar sentiments when
hedonistic world of the Persian he declares vichol zeh eineno shoveh li. See Or
Dispensing money indiscriminately Empire and the generosity of spirit Chadash Pesicha dh Rabi Abba bar Kahana
is foolish and wasteful only if that characterizes Purim. The unique and ibid., 5:13. See also Rashi Vayishlach
ones focus is to identify needs mitzvos of mishloach manos and 33:11 on Yaakov and Esavs contrasting
attitudes in this regard.

R. Moshe Sofer, Derashot Chatam Sofer, derasha for the 7th of Adar II 5594, offers an aggadic explanation for the
law that we must provide to anyone who asks for charity on Purim, even those who may not be worthy. He explains
that the essence of the Purim story is about the Jewish people, who were distant from HaShem and undeserving
of His mercy. Yet they asked for His mercy and He responded with kindness. If HaShem was willing to provide to
those who are not worthy, on Purim, we too should do the same. Chatam Sofer adds that we can actually see a textual
hint to this law. The Megillah specifically refers to this mitzvah as matanot laevyonim and not matanot laaniyim or
matanot ladalim. While all of these terms could be translated as gifts to the poor, the word evyon can sometimes
refer to someone undeserving. Rambam, Hilchot Sanhedrin 20:5, codifies the ruling of the Mechilta, Mishpatim no.
20, commenting on the prohibition against perverting the justice of the evyon, that an evyon, as opposed to a dal, is
someone who cant be trusted because of previous evil acts. One must still offer the evyon a fair trial. Chatam Sofer
notes that while ordinarily, one might prioritize the dal over the evyon in giving charity, on Purim, one should not
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Chag HaSemikhah
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The Chag HaSemikhah Convocation will also pay
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The RIETS Dinner that evening will also honor Dr. David Arbesfeld with the RIETS Service Award
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