Purim 5779

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The depth of ingratitude[1]

‏…וישלח ויבא את-אהביו ואת-זרש אשתו: ויספר להם המן את-כבוד עשרו ורב בניו ואת כל-אשר גדלו המלך ואת אשר נשאו על-השרים ועבדי המלך: ויאמר המן וגו’ וכל-זה איננו שוה לי בכל-עת אשר אני ארה את-מרדכי היהודי יושב בשער המלך
…[Haman] sent for and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. He spoke to them about all of his glory, wealth, multitude of children, the promotions that the King had given him, how he was in charge of all the ministers and slaves of the King. Haman said [to them]: “…All of this is worthless to me, so long as I see Mordechai the Jew sitting in the gate of the King”[2]

Towards the end of the Megillah, Haman practically had a mental breakdown. His arch nemesis Mordechai was still alive, despite Haman’s desire that all the Jews be killed. Haman himself delayed Mordechai’s execution, in order to kill his entire people on the same day. It’s clear that Haman had grown impatient, waiting for the decreed day’s arrival. He complained to his family and friends that he felt like nothing in his life mattered, so long as Mordechai the Jew was alive.

How far was the depth of Haman’s ingratitude? If we consider Haman’s very humble beginnings, we’ll glean a very clear picture. Haman wasn’t always second in command to the King. Our Sages inform us[3] that his original profession was a barber and bathhouse attendant. Although Haman later became the general of an army, he was eventually purchased as a slave, to none other than Mordechai[4]. Haman went from these circumstances to become an unstoppable authority over 127 kingdoms. The contrast is stark. Everyone was commanded to bow to him. How did Haman feel about his newfound position of authority, with all the perks that came with it? Since Mordechai refused to bow to him, it was all worthless.

The gemarra asks[5] where we can find an allusion to Haman in the Torah. The answer is from the very beginning of the Chumash. Hashem asked Adam if he ate from the Tree of Knowledge with the expression: המִן-העץ אשר צויתיך לבלתי אכר-ממנו אכלת? The word המִן, “from”, can be read as Haman. Why is this the place to allude to Haman, in the entire Torah?

Perhaps it’s to allude to the ingratitude that beset Haman. Haman’s weakness was that the slightest lack clouded his appreciation for his abundant good. Where else do we see such a characteristic? With Adam and the Tree of Knowledge. In the Garden of Eden, we are taught that it was a complete paradise. Adam and his wife didn’t need to worry about a thing. Their meals were prepared for them by Angels themselves[6]. They had roasted meat, and very fine wine. They didn’t yet need to earn a livelihood. What was the one rule by with they had to live by? Not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. This seemingly should have been a very easy test. However, since it was the one thing they were lacking, it overpowered all that they had. Haman was no different. Hopefully, from their ingratitude, we can learn to appreciate all the amazing blessings in our own lives. Have a freilichen Purim!

[1] Based on Mishnas Rabbi Aharon I pp. 103

[2] Esther 5:10-13

[3] See Megillah 16a

[4] Targum I to Esther 3:2. See also Megillah loc. cit.

[5] Chullin 139b

[6] Sanhedrin 59b

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