Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Tzav – Purim Combo 2014 – Everyone Loves Esther

estherSays the heylige Gemora (Taanis 29A) azoy: משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה

In English: When the month of Adar begins our joy is increased. And with that in mind, we begin with a heartfelt mazel tov to our cousins Suzanne and Barry Rozenberg upon the engagement minutes ago mamish, to Jordan Goldschmidt, son of Manuel and Lily Goldschmidt. We are delighted to share this news and of the great match between two families who live less than two blocks from each other and whose kids mistama never met before they went out on their first date.

Earlier this week, the Oisvorfer and eishes chayil were out to dinner with friends from Yirusholayim who were in town for a wedding, some shopping and to catch up with a few old friends. Asked chaver Yitz azoy: why are the weekly shout-outs mostly local in nature? Excellent question and taka the Oisvorfer is inviting any of his readers to send in their mazel tov information; we will gladly post..

Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:

Everyone Loves Esther:

Last week’s lead tidbit about Ben and his coffee cup got many people riled up. A few men were taka nispoale (spellbound and mesmerized) that Ben’s eishes chayil mamish writes her man inspirational notes daily. Others, however, did not believe such a woman exists. And Raboyseyee, this is not the first time in our glorious history that man did not believe that a particular woman existed. And taka this coming Motzei shabbis, as we listen to the reading of Migilas Esther, you need to pay special attention to the story of yet another woman, whom many believe may have been mythical. She being Queen Esther and here is the reason many believe she was a fictional character.

Says the heylige Megillah (Esther- Chapter 1) azoy: ותהי אסתר נשאת חן בעיני כל ראיה. And in English…“and it was that Esther found favor in everyone’s eyes that saw her.” She did? And just about now you’re thinking…hey, how could this be? How could one woman, no matter how pretty, and that would include most of the hot shiksa meydlich you ogle or chap, if you chap, from time to time, find favor in everyone’s eyes? Is this at all possible? Taka we’ve heard of a woman pleasing many men, if you chap, but for one woman to please every man? Moreover, men have different tastes, specifically in looks and traits they find desirable and important in a woman; how then could Esther have managed 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, if you remember your Megillah, of course you will recall that Esther was taken to the King’s palace where she was placed in the pageant to replace Queen Vashti who refused the King’s orders. What those orders were is of course not clear and very much in dispute. Some say the king wanted her to dance in the nude, some say it involved lewd acts with other women, ver vest. That for another day. In any event, every contestant was bathed for months in various oils and fragrances. Esther, too, was afforded all the fineries to get her ready for the selection process. The Megillah records that despite being given the opportunity to select anything she wanted (to improve her appearance and appeal), ‘loi-biksha-dovor’ (she requested nothing). Esther didn’t ask for a thing. When the men in Shushan and mistama in other places heard that there was a woman who didn’t want or need anything, who requested nothing, they were mystified and stupefied. Shoin! They all agreed that she was indeed unique. And for that reason alone, she seemingly found favor in everyone’s eyes. Of course this is Purim Toirah (fictional) only, as mistama such a woman was never created and of course never existed in real life!  As an aside, Ben and the eishes chayil are real!

Shoin, it’s Wednesday evening. After a busy day, the Ruv got home close to 8:00PM to an unusual scene: the entire mishpocho eating dinner together; nice. Over dinner, his youngest son Max asked azoy: Dad, are you fasting tomorrow? That was a great question. And one that got the Oisvorfer thinking about this particular fast. By the time this Toirah reaches you tomorrow evening, many will have decided that Yom Kippur and Tisha Be’Av are really the only two important fast days and that Taanis Esther (Fast of Esther) is not as vichtig (important), even though Queen Esther, over 2,000 years ago, put her life in danger to save the Yiddin over in Persia. Many of you didn’t even have a hava-mina (first thought) about fasting today. Ober, because many of you sinners ate full meals and more today (Thursday), the Ruv has decided to honor Esther and to skip over most of Parshas Tzav which we will read this coming shabbis. No big deal, it’s mostly a repeat of last week’s parsha. If you want to review some of Tzav’s highlights, avada you should know that this parsha was previously covered by the Oisvorfer in the years 2011, 2012 and 2013; you should zicher look these up at www.oisvorfer.com.

Instead, lommer unfangin (let’s then begin) with some Toirah on why the fast of Esther was observed today, Thursday, when Purim is four days away on Sunday. Ershtens, some background. Mistama you all know that more typically Taanis Esther is observed on the day before Purim. If Purim falls on a Monday, the fast is observed Sunday. This year, Purim is on Sunday and the fast should be observed on shabbis. It’s not! Ober, shtelt-zich-di-shaylo (the question arises): why are we fasting on Thursday? Why not on shabbis koidesh, the day before, or at least on Friday? Or, maybe we should fast on Monday, after Purim?

Ober Raboyseyee, anyone that went to yeshiva should know that with the exception of Yom Kippur, we do not fast on the heylige shabbis. Shabbis is designated for making le’chaim and gorging. Some are more machmir (stricter) and make multiples, gorging at the kiddish club, at the shul kiddish, at your friend’s house on the way home from shul and of course in your own house so as not to upset the eishes chayil who slaved, cooked and baked your favorite foods. Shoin! And should a fast day taka fall on the heylige shabbis as it does this year, we observe it on Friday. We do? No, in fact, we do not! Why not? Because in most cases, our wise sages did not allow a public taanis (fast) on Friday. Taka why? Seemingly this was due to the numerous additional required fast day prayers which a few rabbis added to the regular daily routine and by doing so, the time needed to recite them, would seriously cut into shabbis prep time and cause us to enter shabbis famished after the fast. Moreover, eating a big meal on an empty stomach on a Friday night could cause one to fall asleep without having performed yet another shabbis mitzvah, if you chap. There is one exception but that for another day. In any event, for  those reasons, our sages decided that since it was only Esther who put her life at risk, saved only by touching the king’s magical scepter, if you chap, that eating on Friday and on Shabbis was zicher more important than recalling Esther’s fast day on the 13th of Adar. Instead we follow the Shulchan Aruch 686 (Code of Jewish Law) and move the fast up to the Thursday preceding the great festive yom tov of Purim.  Did you chap all that? As an aside, ever since, men all over the world, especially Jewish men, have tried to convince their neshey chayil (wives) that touching the magic scepter, could bring salvation. Nu, at times, it does bring jewelry.

Is this always the rule? Do we always move the fast day up when it conflicts with the heylige shabbis? Not! Because when it comes to the observance of Tisha Be’av, one of the saddest days on our calendar, we actually push the fast day off by one day. Why is Taanis Esther different? Ver veyst.

Let’s review: when Taanis Esther falls on shabbis, it is moved back to earlier in the week ober; the fast of Tisha B’Av however, is pushed off until Sunday. Why is one tzoim (fast day) made sooner and the other postponed? Listen to this mamish gishmake pshat, one worthy of shabbis tish mention. The fast of Esther was established to remember the miracles that took place in the days of Mordechai. With regard to miracles, we do not want to delay their commemoration. Conversely Tisha B’Av commemorates the RBSO’s punishment of the Yiddin who spoke too much loshoin horo, practiced sinas chinam and for myriad other reasons, mostly bad. Therefore we try and delay the fast as long as we can.

But there is good news in this gantze movement. And what is it? Those of you that don’t take this fasting day too seriously are not alone and maybe not in such big trouble after all. Seemingly, you’re not going to hell for eating on this day. Of course, your other avayrois (sins) will get you directly there. Moreover, this topic was hotly debated by some of the bigger guns including the Rayvid, Rashi, and Rabaynu Tam and others. Says the Rayvid: observance of Taanis Esther is not a mere custom; rather, it is a rabbinical obligation based on a source in biblical writings (Divrei Kabbala). The Rambam (Hilchos Taanis 5:5) agrees.

Ober says the Bais Yoisef (Orach Chaim 686 s.v.) citing the Shibolei Haleket, citing Rashi, mamish farkert (opposite). Says Rashi and who knew more or better about any topic under the sun, azoy: observance of Taanis Esther is neither a biblical nor a rabbinical obligation: it is merely a minhag (custom).  And says Rabaynu Tam (Rosh, Megilla 1:1), he of the extra set of tifilin fame, azoy: Taanis Esther is a rabbinical obligation.

Mistama you weren’t giving this argument too much thought earlier today as you were feasting on Thursday night pizza at home or a steak or Chinese out at a local eatery. Ober lemyseh (in reality), this argument among the big guns does have implications to your behavior and also to a discussion we had just last week about the coming of Moshiach. How did Moshiach get involved into the gantze Esther story? Soon, we will address that and him.

Says the Ramo (Orach Chaim 686:2): “this fast is not an obligation; therefore, we may be lenient regarding the fast in case of needs such as a pregnant or nursing woman or a sick individual.” Seemingly, the Ramo holds like Rashi; Taanis Esther is merely a custom. And guess what?  It appears that the Mishna Berura and the Aruch Hashulchan do not record any objection among the Acharoinim (later Rabbis) to this ruling and it appears that the Ramo’s ruling represents normative Halocho. Zicher you would like to be nursing, if you chap, but are you?

And more good news: The above discussion where the heylige Ramo suggests that Taanis Esther is but a custom, concerns Taanis Esther on its regularly scheduled day. And you can only imagine what they might say about its observance on another day as is the case this year. Maybe we are supposed to party on this day, ver veyst.  In other words: it appears that although you thought you were sinning while enjoying today’s meals, seemingly, your sinning is more related to your other chazzerish behavior. Let’s review;  if you were taka eating out with the eishes chayil and the mishpocho on this day, which is not the scheduled fast day, it appears that you might be ok. Ober if you were eating out with or partying with Vashti or someone like her, you are in deep do-do.

Back to Moshiach: Says the Rambam (Hilchois Megillah 2:18) azoy:  “although we will no longer commemorate national tragedies (like Tisha Be’Av) after the arrival of the Moshiach, the days of Purim we will observe.” Ober according to Rashi and even the Rabbeinu Tam, we will likely not observe Taanis Esther after Moshiach arrives. And since Taanis Esther is but a commemoration of the near tragedy that Homon placed on our ancestors, we will not, in the days of Moshiach, commemorate such tragedies. And the bottom line: Our rabbis of course differ on how this fast day will be observed; it does appear however that Rashi’s theory seems to be accepted as the Halachic norm. Gishmak!

On the other hand……….the Oisvorfer is reminded of a discussion he had some years back with a much respected rabbi here in the 5 towns. Asked the Rabbi of the Oisvorfer azoy: which is more important- a din (Law) or a minhag (custom). Answered the Oisvorfer: of course the law is more powerful than is a custom. Ober said the good rabbi that the Oisvorfer was wrong and he had proof. Said he: there is a din (law) that if a person borrows money from his chaver (buddy), he is obligated to repay the loan. However the custom is not to! Shoin and settled. Using that logic, it would appear that we are supposed to fast on Taanis Esther because it’s the minhag, no matter on what day of the week it eventually lands. But if you didn’t, nisht giferlich (not terrible) and besides, Yom Kippur is not too far off. Veyter.

Though you’ve heard the Megilla read many dozens of times, without learning what the heylige Gemora or the myriad medroshim (commentators) have to say about Esther, Mordechai and the good king, you know precious little. And since we already dedicated kimat four pages to Taanis Esther, let’s spend a few minutes by reviewing these givaldige sources; believe the Oisvorfer when he says that you will not regret it. Their take on Esther is informative, creative, imaginative, juicy, tantalizing and more. They also seek to plug a few holes, as did the good king. Let’s quickly do a shtikel background check.

Says the medrish (Esther Rabbah 6:5; BT Megillah 13a) azoy: Esther was an orphan who was raised in the house of her uncle Mordechai (Esth. 2:7). Her father died during her mother’s pregnancy, and her mother, passed nebech, during childbirth. Left alone as a baby, Mordecai had to care for Esther’s nursing but how? Says another medrish (Bereishis Rabbah 30:8) azoy: he could not find a wet nurse and he himself miraculously had milk and nursed her. Shoin, miracles do happen. Ober says another (Medrish Tehilim, on Ps. 22:23) azoy: Mordecai’s wife nursed the infant. Got milk? Mordechai had another wife?

Says the heylige Gemora (Megilla): Esther was Mordecai’s wife and taka says the Megilla (Esth. 2:7): “Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter [literally: took her le-vas],” which the midrash understands as: Mordecai took her le-bayis, that is, as a wife (BT Megilla loc. cit.). Based on this pshat, of course many of you are wondering how it was that Esther, a married woman; found herself in the royal harem. Ver veyst and more on her marital status below, but it definitely adds some color to the great Purim story and her very sad life. On the other hand, this would certainly let us understand why Mordechai was hanging around the royal courtyard; of course he was checking on his eishes chayil.

How old was she when taken to the king’s palace? Ver veyst and that depends on which medrish talks to you. The Megilla doesn’t tell us and of course when there is no solid information, people speculate. Of course, the medrish knows her age.  How? They made it up! Says one: she was forty years old, says another that she was seventy-four, which is the gematria (numerical value) of the name “Hadassah”, her second name, according to some. Yet others suggest that she was seventy-five and one more has her at eighty. 40, 74, 75 and 80? These are not the images that most of you chazerim conjured up when you pictured Esther being selected over all others, ober ver veyst? Would the king replace Vashti, who, until her demise, was according to yet another Gemroa, one of the most beautiful woman in the world,  with a 40 year old? Were you there? Was anyone you know there?

Ober didn’t we learn that Esther was mamish a beauty? Isn’t that what they taught us in yeshiva and didn’t we always conjure up images of a young Esther? Were we wrong? How could she be 75 or 80 and described as so strikingly beautiful? Ober says the same heylige Gemora (Megilla 15a) azoy: Esther is included among the seven most beautiful women in the world and as we said back on page one, she found favor in the eyes of everyone who gazed upon her. Not just was she beautiful but says the heylige Gemora (Megilla 13A) about her sexuality, azoy:  if Achashveyroish  “wanted to find in her the taste of a virgin, he found it; if the taste of a non-virgin, he found it.” Seemingly, she was quite the dish! Was she a version of the Mun the Yiddin enjoyed in the midbar?

Says the medrish: Esther hid from Achashveyroish’s agents who sought women for the king. She succeeded in remaining concealed for four years, but was eventually found and brought to the royal palace. Unlike the other women, who wanted to be chosen, Esther tried to evade the king, but she was the one picked to be queen. And what do we learn from this? That her selection was part of the divine plan; isn’t everything? Seemingly, Esther was meant to rule in order to bring deliverance to all the Yiddin and so says the (Seder Oilam Rabbah 29; Midrash Panim Acherim, version B, para. 20).

Another medrish: Esther was given seven maids to serve her in the harem; the Rabbis comment that she used them in order to count the seven days of the week [to know when the Shabbis fell, so that she could observe it even in the harem]. Gishmak! One tradition states that she was served kosher food in the harem, of course! Though she didn’t tell anyone she was Jewish, she did order and enjoy kosher food, maybe even sushi – why not? Another asserts that she was given pork rinds. Another medrish suggests that Esther, in order to maintain her kosher standards, ate only seeds while in the harem. What did she eat? Ver veyst.

Nu, we’ll close with this. Earlier we mentioned that according to many, but certainly not all, Mordechai married Esther. According to others, he was but her Uncle who gave her shelter. So….according to the tradition that she was previously unmarried, she was now married to and living with a goy; albeit the king.  Ober, according to those in the Gemora  that suggest that she was mamish married to Mordechai, wasn’t she committing adultery by also being married to and sleeping with the  king? Ober not to worry. Since the Gemora and medrish loved Esther, of course they found a way to make it all kosher and here’s how.

Though she may have technically been with the king, she wasn’t sleeping with him because she enjoyed the royal treatment.  Instead she is viewed as having been forced to sleep with the king against her will. As an aside, bazman hazeh (in our times) many wives feel the same way  about their husbands and farkert, if you chap. And says the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 74b) azoy: because of her passivity, her life with the king was not thought to entail illicit sexual intercourse (a grave sin, for which one should “be killed rather than transgress.) Consequently, Esther was not considered to be a married woman who willingly engaged in adultery, and she was therefore permitted back to Mordecai once the king was done with her. And the final shocker? Says the Gemora (Megilla 13b) azoy: Esther continued to live with the Mordechai, at the same time that she was married to Achahsveyroish. Shreklich (OMG!)

Ober didn’t we learn and indeed we did, that the good queen voluntarily approached the receptive king? How could we consider her to be forced into the marriage and relations when she touched the scepter and mistama took one, not just for the team but for the entire nation of Yiddin? Taka excellent questions and says the heylige Gemora that the game did indeed change when Esther went and on her own  free will, touched the magic scepter and did who knows what with you know who, in order to persuade him to cancel Homon’s evil  decree. See chapter 5 for more details.  The Rabbis taka perceived this going and coming as having sexual connotations, which therefore had tragic consequences for Esther and for Mordecai as of course further described in the heylige Gemora (Megilla 16a); check it out.

Did Esther get pregnant from either Mordechai or Achahsveyroish? Yet another excellent kasha, one the heylige Gemora address as well.  According to some, she did not! And why not? Seemingly, she had protection, seemingly not just from the palace guards, if you chap, and taka, so says the Gemora; OMG! Ober says the medirsh (Esth. Rabbah 8:3): she did become pregnant by Achahsveyroish but miscarried. One more medrish will tell us that  not only did Esther become pregnant but she was also the mother of “the last Darius” (idem) or of Cyrus.

Ober what about hilchois Niddaa? We can accept that she was living with Mordechai and or with the king. We can even accept that she had kosher and maybe some pork. And we can even chap that she got pregnant and had a baby, got pregnant and aborted or never did, because she used protection. But what about the very strict hilchois Niddha? Nu, not to worry, the Gemora devotes extensive attention to Esther’s observance of the laws of Niddah. How did she keep these? Seemingly, Mordecai would walk about in front of the harem in order to rule for Esther regarding menstrual spotting. Gishmak! Another pshat  has Esther showing the spotting from her menstruation to the local Toirah scholars; efsher a forerunner of women sending in their underzachin to their local rabbis for immediate inspection. Ver veyst. Once cannot make this stuff up, can one?


A gittin shabbis and a very freylichin Purim!

Yitz Grossman

The Oisvorfer Ruv

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