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Purim: Redeeming the Sin of Eden
Video 1 of 7
Look at the arch villain, this man by the name of Haman, sure what he's plotting to do is terribly serious, a genocide carried out on a single day, when all men, women and children from the people of Israel are slated to die. But how we relate to it, it's kind of like a fairytale. Every time Haman's name comes up he gets booed, we dress up like him, make fun of him. What do we picture him like? He's this guy with this three-cornered hat and he's probably got this waxed moustache that he twirls at the end as he thinks up his diabolical schemes. It's like the ultimate cartoon villain - at least that's often how we relate to him.
But what I'd like to do with you today is to sort of take a more grownup's look at the Megillah, looking at this as adults, what does this story look like.
Let's start with that villain that we love to hate, with Haman himself, is this a real character here? Or is this just a caricature of evil? A guy you know is bad because he twirls his moustache, squints his eyes and wants to do really mean things, for no apparent reason, no real motivation, nothing really going on in his head other than he's the mean guy. Or is there some sort of real world struggle, some sort of conflict that Haman faced and failed at? Yes, he was a terrible guy, but he was terrible because he failed in that struggle. Of course, if we accept that interpretation than the next obvious question is, what was that struggle?
So what I want to suggest to you in the videos that follow is that we get an unparalleled insight into these questions from a fascinating thing the sages tell us in the Talmud. They talk about the names of the various protagonists in the Megillah, and they ask a strange question about them. Esther min haTorah minayin - they say, where's a hint to Esther in the Five Books of Moses? Now of course Esther lived many, many centuries after the close of the events recounted in the Five Books of Moses. So what the Sages are saying is a bit strange, and yet they ask that question, where is a hint to Esther in the Torah? Where is hint to Haman in the Torah? Where is a hint to Mordechai in the Torah?
So let's leave Esther and Mordechai aside for now. Here's what they say about Haman. The hint to Haman within the Five Books of Moses, according to the Sages, actually comes from one of the very first stories in the entire Torah, the story of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In that story they find a word that's spelled the exact same way as Haman - Hei Mem Nun, and they say that that Hei Mem Nun appearance, that's the hint to Haman in the Torah. The verse they point to is a short speech made by the Almighty to Adam after he's eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. G-d says; Hamin ha'eitz - have you in fact eaten from the tree I commanded you not to eat from? Those words; Hamin ha'eitz, Hei Mem Nun, are spelled just like Haman, Hei Mem Nun. It's the hint to Haman in the Torah, the Sages tell us.
Now when you think about this, it's kind of rather startling, because you know, Haman is a really bad guy, he plots genocide, he's going to kill us all, and Adam, the person that seemingly the sages are comparing him to, the Adam who is addressed by G-d, have you eaten from this tree, you know, Adam's not such a bad guy. I mean, we don't think of him as such a bad guy, he's the father of us all, he's a pretty good guy. I mean, he does eat from the tree, that's not so good, but it's not like he's plotting genocide against everybody. What do the Sages have in mind with this sort of outlandish comparison? I mean, Hei Mem Nun appearing with different vowelization earlier in the Torah in the tree of knowledge story, it's not like the greatest of reasons to connect these stories. So where are they coming from?
What I want to show you in the next videos is that there's a tremendous amount of evidence to support what it is that the Sages are saying. What I think they're saying is something very, very deep about the story of the Megillah. Something that takes us well beyond the realm of caricatures. We're dealing with real people, issues that all of us struggle with, some of the most important issues we ever struggle with, the kinds of issues that are in play in the story of the Garden of Eden itself.
In order to get some background and to lay the groundwork for the journey I want to take you on, I want to go back with you to the story of the Garden of Eden, to try to get a handle with you on what is going on in that story. Once we've done so, come back to the Megillah and I think we'll see it all with very fresh eyes. Come with me into the next video and let's get started.
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