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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Purim in Our Time

Adam, Amalek and a tree

103
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Behind the many masks of Purim hide any number of valuable lessons, such as recognizing the ever-present Hand of Hashem; the importance of being unified and the inherent risk we take if we live in a nation not our own.

But let me share another insight with you.

The Gemara in Chulin (139) asks: "Where is Haman found in the Torah?" Now, on the surface, this question may seem frivolous, since Haman lived long after the Torah was given. But we believe that ALL knowledge and events - before AND after Har Sinai - are found in the Torah. So the Talmud answers: "Haman is found in the pasuk (BR 3:11): Ha-min Ha-etz asher tziviticha l’vilti achal mimenu achalta? Have you eaten from the tree whereof I commanded you not to eat?!"

Now, while it is true that the letters of Haman’s name (Hey-Mem-Nun) do indeed form the word Ha-min, those same letters can form other words, too – like "Ha-Mahn," the Manna we ate in the desert. So why do the Sages choose this specific reference? What does the Gemara teach us here? Can there really be a connection between Adam in Gan Eden and Haman?! Yes, there can be!

You see, Adam was given free reign over the Garden of Eden; he didn’t have to work, he conversed with the animals, he lived (albeit for a short time only) a truly pristine existence. He had just one single rule to abide by –
one rule! – to abstain from eating from the Etz Ha-Da’at, the Tree of Knowledge. And he just couldn’t do it.

Haman, too, lived in a kind of Paradise-world. He was rich beyond measure; he had enormous political power; he considered himself a demi-god, and so everywhere he went, people would bow to him deference. Except, that is, for one brave Jew. For a variety of reasons given by the commentators, Mordechai refused to bow, and Haman was powerless to force him to do so. And so, because of this one little bump in his massive ego-trip, Haman decided to wipe out all the Jews, sealing his own fate in the process.

All of us have a great deal of control in our lives. We can decide where to live, what foods to eat, what shul to pray in, with whom we care to associate, etc. But - we are not G-d. At the end of the day, He is the One in control. To bring that point home, He creates points of restraint that we must abide by, and sends our way many scenarios where we don’t get our way. We don’t - and won’t - always have the last word, unless it’s Hashem Hu Ha-Elokim.

Adam and Haman both fell from grace because of a tree. To prevent that from happening to us, we must cling to the most important tree of all, the Torah, the "Etz Chaim Hi" of life.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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