Parshas Pekudei 5757 - 1997
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
Parshas Pekudei 5757 -- 1997
At the beginning of chapter four of the Book of Esther, it is related that Mordechai tore his garments and cried terribly. The Jews mourned deeply throughout the city -- up to the gate of the king, but not beyond. (No one may enter the gate of the king dressed in sackcloth and ashes.) Mordechai knew all that had happened...
Rav Yehudah Ben Sasson argued that King Achashverosh did not know that Haman's decree was meant for the Jews. Why did the Jews stage mourning before the King's gate? They were trying to get the King's attention, so that he could realize he had been duped into something he never should have gone along with.
The Manos Halevi replied that Chazal (the Rabbis of the Talmud/Medrash) did not explain so. Rather, Mordechai's cries had deeper meaning. The Medrash asks, "Why did Mordechai cry? Was he a fool, that he did not know that G-d hears the slightest whisper? Chana taught us that G-d hears whispers, as it says (Shmuel 1:1:13), "Her lips moved, but her voice was not heard."
"Why did Mordechai cry? He cried: 'Yitzchak, my father -- what have you done? Esav cried out before you (when he did not receive the blessings), you heard, and blessed him ("by your sword you shall live"). Now we have been handed over to die by the sword...' " (Yalkut Achashverosh 1148)
The Torah says, "When Esav heard the words of his father, he cried." (Beraishis 27:34) If someone says that G-d forgets -- he will be forgotten! Rather, Hashem is patient, and collects His due. Yaakov caused Esav to cry; where was he forced to pay? In Shushan the Capital... (Beraishis Rabbah 67:4)
Rebbi Pinchus in the name of Rebbi Hoshea said:
"Yaakov tore his clothing." The sons caused their father to cut kriah (the tearing of the garments -- the Jewish sign of mourning) -- the sons themselves performed kriah before Yoseif. Yoseif caused the brothers to cut kriah -- his descendant Yehoshua (Joshua) cut kriah. Binyamin caused the brothers to cut kriah; where was he paid back? In the capital of Shushan, as it states, "Mordechai (a descendant of Binyamin) tore his clothing and put sackcloth on his loins..."
Said Rebbi Aivo: Yaakov took sackcloth, and his children will forever be taking sackcloth... (Beraishis Rabbah 84:2)
The Manos Halevi expressed amazement at the lessons which can be derived from these medrashim.
1. How much a person must flee from causing pain to another! The brother's poor choice (in turning against their brother) and Yoseif's action (in teaching them a lesson) had repercussions. The hardest to fathom is the story of Binyamin; he didn't do anything (but was accused falsely by Yoseif's men). Yet, because he was pivotal in causing pain to the brothers, would be paid back.
2. Even a wicked person, at the time of his mitzvah, is considered righteous; therefore Yaakov was considered guilty for causing Esav to cry when Esav was listening to his father...
3. The most amazing: Mordechai was not crying out of pain; it is a sign of faith to cry quietly. He was crying for deeper reasons, as the verse clearly states: "Mordechai knew all that had happened..."
The Rabbis decreed that three mitzvos not be performed on Shabbos: Shofar (Rosh Hashanah), Lulav (Sukkos), and the reading of the Megilah at Purim. The concern was that someone might carry the object four cubits in a public domain. Many people are familiar with the basic idea, but there are numerous questions and difficulties with this subject.
One of the standard questions concerns the limitation of the decree to these four mitzvos. Why did the Rabbis not forbid the reading of the Torah Scroll on Shabbos, or using the Mohel's knife to perform Milah (circumcision) on Shabbos?
The Kli Chemdah has an interesting approach. The Talmud in Sukkah, discussing the Rabbis' decree, adds several words. "Shabbos is definite; Yom Tov is a doubt..." The early codifier, the Rif (Rav Yitzchak Alfasi), latched on to this reason. The mitzvos of the Tom Tov are overruled by a distant possibility of negating Shabbos, because the Shabbos is certain, while the Yom Tov is not.
Certainly we understand why the decree does not apply to reading from the Torah Scroll, or the knife of the Bris. When the Torah is read on Shabbos, or a Bris occurs on Shabbos, there is no conflict of Yom Tov with Shabbos. There are no doubts about the Shabbos; therefore, we do no worry about a distant possibility that someone might forget and carry the Torah Scroll or circumcision knife.
As we have discussed from Rebbenu Bachaye and Maharshal, there really is no doubt concerning Yom Tov either. However, the Rabbis decreed that two days of the holiday be kept -- as if it were still considered a doubt (Tosfos, Tractate Sukkah).
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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Last Revision: January 27, 1997