We are now beginning the thirty days before Pesach in which
studying the laws of the holiday takes precedence over other Torah
studies. R' Yehuda Loewe z"l (Maharal of Prague; 16th century)
explains that our Sages made this decree because thirty days before
Pesach is when the spiritual light of the holiday begins to shine on
In this light, said R' Sheftel Neuberger shlita (Yeshiva Ner
Israel in Baltimore), we can understand why Purim is observed in the
second month of Adar in a leap year (which has two Adars). The Gemara
says that this is done in order to juxtapose one redemption to
another, i.e., to juxtapose the redemption of Purim to the redemption
of Pesach. This is more than a nice phrase, R' Neuberger explained.
It seems that the timing of Pesach actually played a role in the date
that Haman chose for executing his evil plans. How so?
The Megillah states that Haman drew lots "from day-to-day and
month-to-month." Our Sages explain that he first tried to determine
what day of the week would be a propitious time to eliminate the
Jewish People. To do this, he put the names of the days of the week
in one box and eight lots in another box. Seven of these were blank,
while the eighth said, "To destroy, to kill, and to eliminate." But
his plan failed; all of the lots he drew from the second box came up
blank. He then used a similar lottery to choose a month, and the
month of Adar came up. (Why Adar? R' Neuberger explained that since
the Jewish People deserved to be destroyed, it was the undoing of the
process that had begun in Egypt in what the Torah calls "the first
month," i.e., Nissan, many centuries before. Since the nation was
born in the first month of the Jewish year-Nissan-it was fitting to
destroy it in the last month of the Jewish year-Adar.)
It seems, however, that Haman never drew lots to choose a day of
the month. He would have preferred to choose the 15th of the month,
when the month's "force" is presumably strongest, but that would have
been within the thirty days before Pesach when the light of Pesach
already shines. The closest he could get without being in the 30-day
pre-Pesach period was the 13th day. (R' Neuberger added that Haman
did not necessarily make this calculation. Rather, this is the
calculation that took place in Heaven regarding Haman's plan.) (Heard
from R' Neuberger on Shabbat Parashat Zachor of this year)
This week's parashah continues the laws of the
korbanot/sacrifices from last week's parashah. R' Elazar M. Shach z"l
observes that we pray daily for the return of the sacrificial service.
Yet, the haftarah for our parashah seems to downplay the importance of
that service! There we read (Yirmiyah 7:22-23): "For I did not speak
with your forefathers nor did I command them on the day I took them
out of the land of Egypt concerning olah-offerings or shelamim-
offerings. Rather, I commanded them only regarding this matter,
saying, `Hear My voice that I may be a G-d unto you and you will be a
people unto Me . . .' "
Why does the prophet downplay the importance of the sacrifices?
Moreover, what is the significance of the fact that Hashem did not
command our forefathers "on the day [He] took them out of the land of
Egypt" concerning the sacrifices? Didn't He command them regarding
the sacrifices when He gave the Torah?
R' Shach explains: The purpose of the Exodus was to make us
Hashem's nation. Thus we read (Shmot 19:4): "You have seen what I did
to Egypt and that I have borne you on the wings of eagles and brought
you to Me." As a result of the Exodus, we are charged with coming
close to Hashem and with maintaining that closeness.
The laws of the Torah, including the laws of the sacrifices, are
the tools that Hashem has given us to bring us close to Him. While we
are not free to substitute other tools for Hashem's Torah - in any
case, no other tools will work - we also should not confuse the tools
- the mitzvot - with the goal - being close to Hashem. This is the
prophet's message: "Do not confuse the sacrifices, which are the
means, with the end." Our sages teach that the Bet Hamikdash was
destroyed because our ancestors studied Torah without reciting a
blessing, i.e., as a wisdom rather than as the word of G-d. Torah
must be studied as the word of G-d. Mitzvot must be performed with
religious feeling, not by rote. This is the lesson of the above
verses, and this was the purpose of the Exodus.
(Haggadah Shel Pesach Avi Ezri p.14)
"For with joy you shall go forth, and in peace you be led.
The mountains and the hills will break out in jubilant song
before you, and all the trees of the field clap hands."
R' Yaakov Kranz z"l (1741-1804; the Dubno Maggid) observes that
the Gemara (Megillah 10b) interprets the verse after this one as
referring to Haman, Mordechai, Vashti and Esther. Presumably, then,
it is reasonable to interpret this verse in connection with Purim as
well. Specifically, the rejoicing described in this verse would seem
to be relevant to Haman's downfall.
But why would the mountains, hills and trees care about Haman's
downfall? The Dubno Maggid explains with a parable:
In a certain school, there was one very difficult child, as a
result of which the parents hired a teacher who was a strict
disciplinarian. Naturally, all the children suffered at the hands of
this strict teacher, even though they themselves had not been naughty.
Eventually, the troublesome child matured and the strict teacher was
dismissed, much to the relief of all the students.
Similarly, when the Jewish People sin, Hashem appoints a dictator
to oppress them. The whole world suffers at the hands of this
dictator. Even nature suffers when evil flourishes in the world. On
the other hand, when the Jewish People repent and the evil dictator is
dismissed from the world, all of nature rejoices.
The Megillah tells us that after Haman was killed, Esther put
Mordechai in charge of Haman's house. Why did she do this? More
importantly, why do we need to know this? The answer, says the Dubno
Maggid, is that it demonstrates that Haman existed for only one
purpose - to oppress the Jews and drive them to repentance. Once that
purpose was accomplished, not only did he cease to exist, but every
tangible memory of him, including his property, was eliminated.
(Kol Rinah Vi'shuah)
A Related Thought (in the Spirit of Purim . . .)
We read in Tehilim regarding the days of mashiach: "Then all the
trees will rejoice." Why do the trees care if mashiach comes?
R' Shepps z"l (maggid shiur / instructor in Yeshiva Torah
Voda'ath in Brooklyn) explained: Today, more and more sefarim / Torah
works are being published, and we can no longer tell which represent
the true interpretation of Torah and which do not. However, when
mashiach comes, the Truth will become widely known, and there will be
much less publishing taking place. With the decrease in publishing,
the demand for paper will decrease as well, thus leading to widespread
rejoicing among the world's trees.
(Heard from R' Avigdor Weill a"h)
R' Yosef David Sintzheim z"l
With the end of the French Revolution, R' Sintzheim came out of
hiding and was appointed Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg. He also began to
arrange his writings for publication, and, in 1799, he published the
first volume of his Talmud commentary, Yad David. In this
encyclopedic work, the author arranged questions, explanations and
comments from hundreds of earlier Torah works according to the order
of the Talmud so that a student can readily find where in those works
any particular page of Talmud is discussed. The works that R'
Sintzheim indexed for this project included Talmud commentaries, books
about Rambam's Code, and even books of derashot / sermons. (The Yad
David is currently being reprinted by Machon Yerushalayim in Israel.)
During his years in Strasbourg, R' Sintzheim also wrote large portions
of his other works: his Torah commentary, Shelal David; a commentary
on Shulchan Aruch entitled Da'at David; an encyclopedia of halachic
and Talmudic topics called Minchat Ani; and other works.
In this same period, R' Sintzheim's influence as a spokesman for
Orthodox Judaism also grew. In 1806, when Napoleon convened an
"Assembly of Jewish Notables," R' Sintzheim was chosen to be among its
leading members. The Orthodox representatives to this body did not
necessarily consider the appointment an honor, as they knew that they
would be called upon to "reconcile" the position of halachah / Jewish
law on various social questions with the "enlightened" law of France.
Indeed, at the opening session of the Assembly, Napoleon's
representative posed 12 questions that the Emperor wanted the Assembly
to address including: "Is a get / Jewish divorce valid if it is not
sanctioned by a French court?" and "Is a Jew permitted to lend money
to a non-Jew with interest?" As the leading halachic authority in
France, R' Sintzheim was caught between the need to give answers that
would not misrepresent Jewish law but would not endanger the safety of
When the Assembly of Jewish Notables had completed its work and
issued its answers to Napoleon's questions, the Emperor convened a
"Sanhedrin" to legislate those answers as the law of the Jews. The
delegates to this body, of which R' Sintzheim was appointed President,
were informed in no uncertain terms that their failure to comply with
Napoleon's wishes would result in the expulsion of the Jews from
France. To ensure the body's "success," Napoleon stacked it with rich
Jews whose economic interests outweighed their Torah scholarship and
commitment to halachah.
Some have argued that the compromises announced by Napoleon's
"Sanhedrin" gave legitimacy to the then young Reform movement, and
that this is the reason that R' Sintzheim is not well known today
despite his awesome scholarship. However, R' Sintzheim's
contemporaries clearly did not see him in that light. R' Moshe Sofer
(the Chatam Sofer), one of the leading warriors against Reform, said
in a eulogy for R' Sintzheim (printed in Derashot Chatam Sofer):
Such a person [as described earlier in the eulogy] was the
tzaddik who we are engaged in eulogizing. He was very
honored by, and close to, the king, and was asked many
questions and he answered them, and he was greatly esteemed
by the king and his ministers - nevertheless, he was great
[in the eyes of] the Jews [borrowing the description of the
Mordechai at the end of the Megillah]. All his days were
devoted to Torah study and he reviewed the Talmud several
times. All the books of the Rishonim / early scholars and
Acharonim / later scholars were fluent on his lips, as one
can see from his works. I knew him as a youth, and even now,
through exchanging letters with him, I know his righteousness
and perfection. Although he was made an adon / lord because
of his knowledge of politics, he remained lord over his
strength [probably meaning his yetzer hara], and they [the
king and ministers] were not lords over him, and he did not
give in to them, G-d forbid. Although he had to uncover a
little bit, he went back and covered twice as much
[paraphrasing a Talmudic expression, here used to mean that
he undid any damage that he had been forced to cause]. And
his perfection remained standing.
After the "Sanhedrin" was disbanded, R' Sintzheim remained in
Paris as Chief Rabbi of France. Until the end of his life, he also
continued to compose written works. He passed away on 7 Kislev 5573 /
November 1812. (Source: Introduction to the new Machon Yerushalayim
edition of Shelal David)
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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