Sunday, March 20, 2011

Purim Post (but not Purim Torah)

The following is a summary of a vort that I heard as part of a Rabbi Mansour shiur during the week ( I am so enamored with this piece that I had to post it to the blog. Same rules as usual apply, I have attempted to reproduce the vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Mansour.

In Megillas Esther, the King offers Esther that she can have her desire - up to half his kingship. The use of the language is odd and R' Mansour offered two explanations for the phrase. The simple explanation for why the king only offered half his domain was that the empire ranged from India (Hodu) to Ethiopia (Kush). In the middle of the realm was Jerusalem and Ahasverus was telling Esther - you can have anything except for the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash.

R' Mansour also gave a deeper explanation in the name of the Bobover Rebbi. There is a gemara in Eruvin which records a dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai as to whether a person is better off being created or not being created. This dispute went on for many years. The gemara concluded that man was better off not being created, but since we have been created we should act appropriately.

The Maharsha explains this difficult gemara by stating that the dispute was about probabilities. The odds are not in a person's favor to succeed as there are 248 opportunities to do a positive act and 365 possible negative actions. A person has a better chance to do an aveirah then to do a positive act.

The Bobover Rebbi explains that there is a way to tip the scale in our favor to justify being created. There are two parts to every mitzva - the deed and the thought. We learn that if a person thought to do a mitzva and was prevented from doing so, he gets credit for planning to do so. As such, there are two parts of each of the 248 mitzvos and together it equals 496.

The Bobover Rebbi brings a proof from the akeidah where Hashem prevents Avraham from sacrificing Yitzchak. Hashem says to Avraham - Avraham Avraham - even though you did not do it, I give you credit as if you did do it. Avraham is 248 and Hashem is telling him you get credit for doing and thinking about each mitzva.

One of Haman's claims against the Jews is that they were doing mitzvos by rote without thinking about what they are doing. Haman's statement to Ahasveros was "yeshno am echad" there is one nation. The gemara in Megilla teaches - don't read as yeshno, rather read "yoshnu" - they are sleeping. He is arguing that the Jews are performing mitzvos without thinking - mechanically - by rote and without intent. As a result (according to Haman) the Jews are better off not being created because its not 496 vs 365 because the Jews have one half of the 496 - the 248 actions without the 248 intent.

Esther is aware of this and she takes action. When Esther comes to visit the king at the party, it states "half the kingdom" as Hashem says that the Jews are only fulfilling half of what they should - its 248 and I can't protect you. Esther then comes to the king wearing malchus which is equal to 496. Esther understood that the tikun was not only to do the mitzvos, but the Jews needed to change the odds in their favor by paying attention and doing the mitzvos properly. She notifies the people of this and signals to Hashem that the Jews are ready to change.

We should have in mind that when we do mitzvos that we are doing Hashem's commandments and not just a reflex action. In this way we can be zocheh to receive the complete malchus and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash in our days.

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