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  • 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

  • Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

בְּטַבְּעֹת֙ הָאָרֹ֔ן יִהְי֖וּ הַבַּדִּ֑ים לֹ֥א יָסֻ֖רוּ מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃

“In the rings of the Aron the poles shall be, they shall not be removed from it” (Ex. 25:10)

Al pi kabbalah (from a kaballistic viewpoint), whatever happens during the week, is hinted to in the weekly sedrah. It just so happens that this week’s parsha of Terumah discusses the first Jewish fundraising campaign, and it just so happens that I was solicited for a number of crowdfunding campaigns for Torah organizations this week. (Stay tuned for our BYB campaign coming up in May :))

Aside from financial support and donations for all the items of the Mishkan and the avoda within, there is another illustration in the parsha to support the cause of Torah.

The aron, ark, which housed the luchos, had unique halachic specifications. One of these relates to its badim, carrying poles. Other keilim, for example, the shulchan and mizbeach, had poles as well. Their poles, however, were only used when they were carried. The aron’s poles had to remain attached to the aron at all times.


R’ Meir Simcha of Dvinsk explains that the aron represents the Keser Torah, the crown of Torah learning, which is available to all (Yoma 72b.) Is Torah learning actually always available to all? We are not all talmdei chachamim, or BYB students learning Torah day in and day out. The fact is, however, that Hashem created the world in such a way that Torah cannot exist alone in a box. It needs the poles, the badim which represents the entire support system. We need parchment, sefarim and active Torah learners. We also need everyone else to grab onto the handles. We need crowdfunding campaigns to support our yeshivos and kollelim, and we need parents, teachers, students, volunteers and a host of other support systems to support our talmidim and talmidos in all of their learning.

Kabalistically or otherwise, this week is a great time to celebrate Torah learning and seek out new opportunities to support it further. Thank you so much to each of you for the key roles that you play in holding up the aron and BYB. It cannot happen without you, it’s just how Hashem made the world.

Wishing everyone a beautiful Shabbos,

Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

  • Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

Routines are great. There are so many details that need to get done during a busy week that building routines really help ensure that they can all get done. In our own home, we have a morning routine, a bedtime routine, and a routine for giving out the wine and challah at the Shabbos meal.

The great part about routines is that you don’t have to think about them, you can go on autopilot, and think about the next thing.

The challenge of routines is that you don’t have to think about them, and when you do things without thinking about them it is difficult to internalize what you are doing.

In Parshas Beshalach, we find a fascinating chain of events. Bnei Yisroel approach the Yam Suf only to realize that Paroh is chasing after them.

וּפַרְעֹ֖ה הִקְרִ֑יב וַיִּשְׂאוּ֩ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֨ל אֶת־עֵינֵיהֶ֜ם וְהִנֵּ֥ה מִצְרַ֣יִם ׀ נֹסֵ֣עַ אַחֲרֵיהֶ֗ם וַיִּֽירְאוּ֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַיִּצְעֲק֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶל־ה'׃

Paroh approached, and the Jewish people lifted their eyes, and behold! Mitzrayim was advancing behind them [Bnei Yisroel] became very afraid and they cried out to Hashem (Ex. 14:10)

In dire circumstances, the Jewish people reacted in the way they were taught. Rashi comments that they were תָּפְשׂוּ אֻמָּנוּת אֲבוֹתָם, they grabbed onto their spiritual heritage of turning to Hashem in tefillah, prayer, in times of difficulty.

In the very next pasuk however, we find the Jews complaining bitterly to Moshe:

וַיֹּאמְרוּ֮ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֒ הֲֽמִבְּלִ֤י אֵין־קְבָרִים֙ בְּמִצְרַ֔יִם לְקַחְתָּ֖נוּ לָמ֣וּת בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר מַה־זֹּאת֙ עָשִׂ֣יתָ לָּ֔נוּ לְהוֹצִיאָ֖נוּ מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃

[Bnei Yisroel] said to Moshe “Are there not enough graves in Mitzrayim that you took us [out] to die in the desert?? What did you do to us by taking us out of Egypt!”

(Ex. 14:11)

We find then that Bnei Yisroel davened to Hashem, but at the very same time complained to Moshe. How can this be? Did they forget that Moshe and G-d are on the same team? Moshe Rabbeinu took them out of Mitzrayim at the direction of Hashem, who guided His people at every step of the way! If they are davening sincerely to Hashem, know that only He is in full control, why are they questioning Moshe?

The answer, which is said in the name of R’ Yitzchak Abuhav, is that yes, they turned to Hashem in prayer, but it was not out of a sincere understanding of emunah (belief,) bitachon (faith,) and clarity of hashgacha pratis (Divine Providence.) Rather it was a תפסו תָּפְשׂוּ אֻמָּנוּת אֲבוֹתָם, a prayer of their parents and grandparents. It was a prayer because “that is what you are supposed to do when you are in trouble”. - but it was not a prayer of their own. So once the tefillah was over, they could easily ‘close the siddur’ and turn around and complain to Moshe.

Routines for tefillah are critical, but so is taking ownership of those tefillos. By taking a few moments to think about why we are davening, what we are davening for, and internalizing the words that we say, we can grab hold of the legacy of our avos and imahos, making it our own legacy as well.

Wishing everyone a beautiful Shabbos,

Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

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