- Rabbi Binyomin Halpern
“He started it!” “Well, she’s doing it also!”
Chances are, that if you live in earshot of children, you may have heard these words before. :)
Be it adults or children, we all usually know what is the correct, appropriate and gracious course of action, but when someone else is out of line or wrongs us personally, we feel justified in taking revenge or keeping an equal standard.
Looking over the megillah this year, the following Rashi caught my eye.
Towards the end of the megillah, Achashveirosh has agreed to allow the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies on the 13th of Adar and has issued a proclamation as such:
The megillah says,
אֲשֶׁר֩ נָתַ֨ן הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ לַיְּהוּדִ֣ים ׀ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּכׇל־עִיר־וָעִ֗יר לְהִקָּהֵל֮ וְלַעֲמֹ֣ד עַל־נַפְשָׁם֒ לְהַשְׁמִיד֩ וְלַהֲרֹ֨ג וּלְאַבֵּ֜ד אֶת־כׇּל־חֵ֨יל עַ֧ם וּמְדִינָ֛ה הַצָּרִ֥ים אֹתָ֖ם טַ֣ף וְנָשִׁ֑ים וּשְׁלָלָ֖ם לָבֽוֹז׃
That the King gave [permission] for the Jews in each city to gather and destroy any army or country that attacks them.. and to plunder their possessions. (Esther 8:11)
Achashveirosh knew this well that the Jews were not looking to loot, nor was Esther requesting any such thing. However, the original evil decree that Achashveirosh had made (3:13) also included this “bonus,” of ושללם לבוז, the plundering of the possessions of the Yidden. This was actually added as an incentive to encourage more wickedness in fulfilling the decree! (see Ralbag.) So Achashveirosh felt it was only “fair” that the Jews get the green light to plunder back as well.
Ultimately though, no Jew touched a dime (or more accurately, Persian “daric” coin.)
In Rashi’s words:
וְהֵם בַּבִּזָּה לֹא שָׁלְחוּ אֶת יָדָם, שֶׁהֶרְאוּ לַכֹּל שֶׁלֹּא נַעֲשָׂה לְשֵׁם מָמוֹן:
They didn’t touch the spoils to show everyone that they didn’t do it for the money. (Rashi, Esther 8:11)
Rashi is striking. Do it for the money??? They were taking action against clear enemies who wished for their total destruction and wanted to steal everything they had! If they were to take anything of their foes in the process there was ample justification, and royal permission. Yet, they didn’t. Even in the throes of battle, the Jews had the presence of mind and the perspective to take the high moral ground, avoiding any shred of doubt as to their motivation and character.
They chose to be noble, and not just to be fair.
Truly, we can say a major theme of Purim is that of nobility, and Malchus, royalty.
As we celebrate (royally!) at our seudos and as we read the megilah this year, it is a great opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the nobility of our ancestors and of ourselves.
Wishing everyone a beautiful Shabbos and a freilichin Purim,
Rabbi Binyomin Halpern