Homon: the comeback kid.
Question: which Jewish holiday features an open bar with plenty to drink, beautiful women, heroes, villains and other colorful characters, extramarital sex and grand feasts? Welcome to the great and magical holiday of Purim, which, according to some, will be the only Yom Tov the Yiddin will continue to celebrate once the Moshiach makes his appearance. And why not? Would you rather we kept eight days of Pesach?
Is it a wonder why we love Purim and the Megillah? Is there another Yom Tov in the entire Jewish calendar where we can openly discuss and celebrate important matters like: Vashti’s beauty, her unwillingness to make an appearance in the nude, a death sentence for acting too tzniusdik (modestly), where Esther, already married to Mordechai- (according to many)- is whisked away to the king’s palace and also marries the king, where the Jews are saved because Esther touched the kings scepter, if you chap, and partly, because Homon mysteriously fell onto Esther’s bed and was accused by the King of making advances on the wife he stole from or shared with Mordechai? Zicher this story is unique. It’s the only day when boys can wear bras and dresses and girls’ hoizen (pants) and still be active members of the shidduch scene. Some say that on Purim, boys may also ask girls out on dates without the services and intervention of a shadchan (intermediary), but this hasn’t been confirmed. And they compare this day to Yoim Kippur? What the hec is going on here?
And speaking of cross-dressing, is this mutir (allowed and even encouraged) and who came up with the idea that boys and girls can play dress-up on this day? Did Mordechai wear panties and a dress when his people were in dire straits? Grada (so happens) this minhag (custom) of masquerading on Purim was first recorded in the 16th century over in Padua, Italy by Rabbi Yehudah Mintz, who, in response to a query about the potential Toirah law violation of cross dressing- (A man’s item shall not be on a woman, and a man shall not wear a woman’s garment; whoever does such a thing is an abhorrence unto the RBSO), – answered azoy: This law had always been regarded as a precautionary measure for a man who might be tempted to dress up as a woman in order to get closer to other women and possibly touch or even commit adultery- loi olaynu. Avada there was/is good concern because ad hayoim hazeh (till today) a good number of you still pay dearly for this service, if you chap; rachmono litzlon (heaven forbid). Said the good Rabbi, based on interpreters of Halocho (Jewish law) before him: that on Purim the prohibition of ‘cross-dressing’ was not a legal violation since it was solely for the purpose of merrymaking. He therefore encouraged the Jews of Padua to wear their costumes and enjoy the holiday (but to keep the grogger in its proper place). Something to keep in mind, let’s party!
In almost every chapter of the Megillah, one character or another can be found shikkering (drinking heavily) at a party. In fact, the word “mishteh” (party) appears more times in the Book of Esther than it does in all of the other Megillahs (books of the Bible) combined! Yikes! Moreover, The Megillah concludes with Mordechai instructing the Yiddin to observe these days as “yemei mishteh v’simcha” (“days of drinking and rejoicing.”) Says the heylige Gemora: “It is one’s duty to make oneself fragrant [with wine] on Purim until one cannot tell the difference between ‘cursed be Homon’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai.’” And gay veys (go know): from all the things that bochurim learn in Yeshiva for so many years, this is the only one item, they’re makpid on (strict about). Has the world gone mad?
And our Rabbis compare Purim to Yoim Kippur? What’s pshat here? On Yoim Kippur, we could be condemned to death and/or zicher ruin any chance we have of forgiveness just for thinking about women – even fully dressed ones- and avada for conjuring up chazerish images of nudity, beautiful women, consorting with married women and feasting. On Purim, we hear about the party Vashti threw for the girls, her unwillingness to appear in the nude over the mechitza, (always a dangerous place to hang out, if you chap) and about Esther having to juggle two relationships. Nu, is it a wonder we read the Megillah twice? What’s pshat? Am I making all this up or are these stories mentioned directly in the heylige Gemora, Toisfes or at least in the Medrish? Happily, the latter is true. Grab a Gemora quickly!
And speaking of Vashti whom the heylige Gemora describes as being less than prudish, why did she taka refuse to appear in the nude before the King and his choshovo guests which included many Yiddin? Says the heylige Gemora that she had been plagued with leprosy, her beauty was marred, and she refused to make a laughing stock out of herself just to satisfy her boorish husband’s (and his merrymen’s) desires. Others, of course, say she grew a tail, ver veyst? Then again, the heylige Gemora tells us that Vashti was on full display in front of the women’s only party she was throwing side by side with Achashveyroish but was epes a shtikel shy around the men? Was Vashti a lesbian queen?
Even oisvorfs like yourselves, will recall this more than amazing story of how Esther wound up in a beauty pageant, the first ever Miss Persia contest, to find the king a replacement wife and ultimately in his harem. Is this a place for nice Jewish girl or married woman? Can you imagine telling your eishes chayil that the first lady died and that you’d like to enter her into a beauty contest to see if she’s selected to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom? Is it even oila-al-das (register in your mind) that Esther was entered into a competition to become queen by marrying a sheygitz (gentile)? Hey, wasn’t she married to Mordechai at this time? Then again, he was the king and I imagine that his scepter had magical reach and powers. Did financial security efsher play a role here? The Megillah tells us that at Mordechai’s instruction, Esther did not reveal her people or her origins, though she seemingly revealed herself, of you chap, while she lived at the king’s court. What did she eat, how did she keep kosher, Shabbis, mikveh, and mange two husbands? Guess what? You’re not alone with these questions. The codifiers of the heylige Gemora had similar questions and dedicated an entire misechta (tractate) to these and other questions about what took or may have taken place during this time period. In fact, other Gemoras (Kisuvois) have even more graphic detail about the on- goings with the King’s magic- check it out. Grada this Gemora makes for easy reading and is mamish enjoyable. Bikitzur (n short) some claim Esther had secret arrangements to keep the Shabbis, kashris, mikveh and more. Some say she was able to juggle both husbands, ver veyst? Others say that she ate chazir (pig) and didn’t necessarily follow all or seemingly any of the halochois and efsher took one for the nation. Ver veyst, was I there?
Efsher you’re taka wondering how Esther managed to juggle two men, is this or was this mutir (permitted) at the time? Ober the heylige Gemora has her covered with this amazing alibi: seemingly, they (Mordechai and Esther) were originally permitted to remain together because a woman, other than the wife of a Kohain, who is forced to have sexual relations with another man remains permitted to her husband (Kesubois 51b; Shulchan Aruch, EH 6:10-11). In other words: every time the kings wand touched her jewels, it was considered rape and she was considered to be a damsel in distress and her living with Achashveyroish was considered to be under duress (Toisfis Kesubois 51b s.v. asurah . See also Toisfis Megillah 13). Ober says the heylige Gemora (Megillah 15a, based on Esther 4:16): that from that fateful day when she voluntarily offered herself to Achashveyroish by touching the royal scepter, as part of her plan to save the Yiddin, she was no longer permitted to return to Mordechai, and that was a personal sacrifice she made for her people.
Did the Oisvorfer earlier mention (intro above) that with the arrival of the Moshiach, we won’t have any other holiday besides Purim? Indeed he did and so we are taught by no lesser an authority that the RambaM ( Hilchois Megillah, 2:18) who says: “The holiday of Purim will never be abolished. Even at the end of days when all commemorations of our travails will not apply, the Book of Esther will be like the Five Books of Moses and last for all eternity.”
Says the Medrish to Mishlei: that all holidays will be cancelled in the future, except for Purim, which will always be kept. Says the heylige Gemora: that although the final redemption will be even more miraculous than Yitzias Mitzrayim (Exodus), the miracle of Purim — which basically revolved around the personalities of Mordechai and Esther and their supporting cast– will never be forgotten. It was the unique courage and boldness of Mordechai and Esther together that make them the stars of the beautiful story we read in the Megillah. And let’s not forget queen Vashti, for had she not refused to appear naked before the king and his many guests, perhaps this entire story would have ended differently. Ober, as always not all agree and says Rebi Elozor: Yom HaKippurim will not be annulled ever. Thus we have many statements from Chazal, which seem to contradict one another, what else is new?
And why is it that the RBSO utilizes beautiful women (Vashti and Esther) to bring about one of the greatest miracles in Jewish History? And they compare this holiday to Yoim Kippur: could any two Jewish holidays be more polar opposites than these two? Oy vey- I see I went too fast – let’s back up…
Not only is Purim the polar opposite of Yoim Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in terms of the calendar (one comes in the fall and one in the spring), but while Yoim Kippur emphasizes denying oneself all bodily pleasure, Purim encourages us to eat, drink and be merry and also to efsher take a second look at the neighbor’s wife. To fully chap the comparisons between these two holidays, we must avada look at the writing of the heylige Zoihar and who knew better? Says he in his epic work: that on Purim, one may accomplish, through bodily pleasure, what one can accomplish on Yom Kippur through bodily affliction. Sounds like a plan and is it a wonder that people like Madonna and others are embracing the heylige Kabolo? Avada this sounds good to most of you. In other words: there is more than one way to achieve an elevated sense of spirituality besides the rituals of denial like on Yoim Kippur. Seemingly the RBSO requires us to have both experiences, believing that sometimes we also find spirituality in the world of pleasure, in eating, drinking, laughing and chapping. Avada this is even more heightened by images of ourselves at Achashvayroish’s table with Vashti giving lap dances.
Could this be one of the reasons that Megillas Esther is the one book where we don’t find the RBSO’s name? Though the RBSO is noticeably absent by name, our chachomim (wise men) understood the Purim story differently. They said that the RBSO was indeed present, but rather than overtly interfering with the course of daily life, He remained hidden, orchestrating all of the events from behind the scenes. Hey, isn’t that what He does all the time and best? And isnt that what you would do if you came upon a scene where you found one woman and a few men? Oy vey! Anyway Raboyseyettes and Raboyseyee (the Oisvorfer’s version of v’nihapichu), it’s all but impossible to cover the entire Megillah, the Gemora and the myriad Medroshim on the events that befell the Yiddin way back in Persia (now Iran) so many years ago in but a few pages. Besides, I need to get my grogger ready to stamp out that miserable Homon a few more times.
And speaking of Homon…is it my imagination or is he making a comeback of late? Is it my imagination or is it taka the case that as the years go by, fewer and fewer people in shul are carrying a grudge against this miserable bastard. I remember altz kint (as a child) and even into my early 20’s that when his name was mentioned, everyone shot their guns, stamped as hard they could, booed and otherwise displayed some emotion. Today: a nechtigur tug (fugetaboutit). People still shoot their guns and hard, but mostly not in shul, if you chap. Today people get angry at those making noise at his mention and people stay angrier at the Gabbai for longer periods of time for not getting the right kibbud (honor) in Shul. What? You gave that fellow maftir? I suspect that any day now…the mention of Homon will be received with warmth, appreciation and perhaps even a standing ovation. Givald!!
ותהי אסתר נשאת חן בעיני כל ראיה
Given that today is Tannis Esther and given that loi olainu, most of you didn’t bother fasting even though Queen Esther put her life and virtues on the line to save the Yiddin of her generation, I decided to close with a shtikel Purim Toirah. The Megillah states (quoted above) that Esther found favor in everyone’s eyes that saw her. Avada you must be bewildered by such a comment, after all, which woman (even your hot shiksa girlfriend) could be so amazing that she could be pleasing to every man? As everyone knows, men have different tastes, specifically in what traits they find desirable and important in a woman. They also bore easily. How could Esther manage to please them all?
One excellent p’shat states that Esther had one unique quality that all could and did agree was extremely desirable, something they’d never before found in a woman. And what was it? Nu, the Megillah records that despite being given the opportunity to select anything she wanted (to improve her appearance when taken to the king’s palace for the replacement queen lineup), – לא בקשה דבר (loi biksha dovor)- Esther didn’t ask for a thing. When the men heard that there was a woman who didn’t want or need anything they taka agreed that she was indeed unique, special, and for that reason, she found favor in everyone’s eyes. Of course this is Purim Toirah (fictional) only as mistama (likely) such a woman never existed in real life!
A freylichin Purim to all-