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Purim: Redeeming the Sin of Eden
Video 4 of 7
What we're going to see is that as we go through the story involving Mordechai and Esther, we're going to find a whole series of literary parallels linking us back to the tree of knowledge here too. What does it all mean? Well we'll have to trace the parallels and see where the evidence points us. But the intriguing possibility here is that perhaps Mordechai and Esther are struggling with the same issue that Haman and Zeresh were struggling with. What do we mean when we talk about good? Do you confuse the good and the sense of what I want with the good and the sense of what's right and just and moral? Or can you effectively separate those two and understand the difference between them?
But let's not jump too far ahead, let's look at the parallels that the Megillah lays out for us. Okay let's go back to the beginning of the Megillah and play this little game, what reminds us of the Garden of Eden here? So do you remember that moment where Vashti is done away with and the king is all alone? He doesn't have a mate, he doesn't have a wife. So he figures I'm going to convene a contest, I'm going to gather together all the possible maids and select one among them who I really like. Now of course the king he's a royal guy, and he's going to gather together all of these women who are basically inferior to him on the social totem pole, they're commoners and he's the king. But doesn't matter, he's going to accept one of them, he doesn't really care where they come from.
In the end of course he picks Esther. Now this is one of those moments in the Megillah where you sort of seem to see that at least the hidden hand of G-d; Esther was a one in a million pick, and she becomes the secret daughter of Israel in the palace, and later on of course she's going to become instrumental to saving the Jews. So it might seem fair to say that at least on some level, G-d is the one that picks out this maid for Achashveirosh.
So now stand back and ask yourself does this remind you of anything? In the very beginning of Genesis. Where else in the entire Hebrew Bible do you find a contest convened in which there are all of these possible maids - people who are sort of inherently inferior - that are convened to see if this special person could find a maid among them and in the end he doesn't find any of those, he finds a special person picked for him by G-d Himself. You find it back at the Garden of Eden.
Adam is all alone. G-d convenes all of Adam's inferiors of the beasts of the field in an attempt to find someone who could be his special mate. In the end Adam rejects all of the animals one by one until G-d puts him to sleep. When he wakes up to find the maid that G-d Himself has chosen for him; a special person, by the name of Eve.
You know, almost to hammer home the comparison between the two stories, the Megillah lets you know the device that Achashveirosh used to select the special maid, he would call her by name. Lo tavo od el hamelech ki im chafetz bah hamelech venikre'ah beshem - any given woman would never come back to the king unless he called her by name. What does that remind you of in the Garden? Naming was the device that Adam as well had used to try and find the special mate. G-d had paraded all the animals in front of him and he named them all and he rejects them. He knows their names as it were, and will never call them back again, just like the king.
Except for one whose name delights him, it's Eve. Her name Isha signifies why she is perfect for him, why he will want to spend the rest of his life with her. Isha - the Hei at the end of Ish, means from Ish, from man. It's like he's saying, I've called her by name and I know she's perfect for me. It's like later on, the king will select his queen only by calling her by name.
Now if it was just this you might say, well that's a very interesting coincidence, two beauty contests in the entire Tanach, and the other one just happens to be in the story of the creation of Eve way back in the prelude to the tree of knowledge. But even if I accept that, you said that this was a forbidden fruit story, another tree of knowledge story, how is that the case? Well let's keep on reading.
So Eve has been created and there she is in the garden and she's surrounded by all these trees and she can eat from all these trees. Life is pretty unrestricted. But there is this one command that she has to follow, there is this forbidden fruit and it contains this mysterious, forbidden knowledge. Adam and Eve are both told that if they get this knowledge they're going to die, they're going to become mortal. Ultimately of course Eve does take the fruit and she gives it to her husband, to share in this forbidden knowledge.
Now let's come back to the Megillah. After the beauty contest, what happened? Is there a command given to the Megillah's version of Eve? Is there forbidden knowledge which she dare not impart to her husband? Absolutely. It's her identity that becomes the forbidden knowledge.
Esther is chosen queen the Megillah says, but; Ein Esther magedet moladeta - Esther would not tell of her identity, her birthplace, that she was in fact a daughter of Israel. K'asher tziva aleha Mordechai - because Mordechai had commanded her not to. One more time there's a woman who must not impart knowledge to her husband, it's forbidden knowledge, it could get you killed.
By the way, it's not just the general idea that's the same here, the language is the same here. Back in Eden; Vayetzav Hashem Elokim al ha'adam leimor - G-d commanded Adam saying. But actually literally speaking it's not G-d commanded Adam - Vayetzav Hashem Elokim al ha'adam - G-d commanded upon Adam. It's actually a strange kind of language, it's not the way you would normally say it, but interestingly, that same strange twist appears in the Megillah too. A command upon. Ki Mordechai tziva aleha sheloh tagid - Mordechai had commanded upon her not to say anything about where she comes from.
You know, and while we're considering language here, if Mordechai really is sort of occupying the G-d role as it were, from the Garden of Eden - in other words, G-d was the one who had commanded Adam and Eve the first time about forbidden knowledge and now Mordechai is the one issuing those commands to the new Eve, to Esther, about what she must and must not tell her husband. Isn't it interesting that the text talks about him strolling in the palace gates, using a very strange word; U'Mordechai mithalech. Mithalech is a Hitpa'el form of walk, and it's a very unusual form to describe a person walking. What it sort of means, that he took himself for a walk. This is the last time the word Mithalech is ever used in the Hebrew Bible. You know when the first time it's used is? Back in the Garden of Eden, when G-d was Mithalech in the Gan. G-d was strolling in the Garden. Seemingly, the Megillah is cuing us in here. Mordechai really is occupying the role of the commander in this case, the one who commands about forbidden fruit.
But if all of this is correct, if the interaction between Mordechai, Esther and the king really does mimic the tree of knowledge story, the Megillah's version of that story is about to get turned on its head. You may be aware that the Megillah is a topsy-turvy book. In the words of the Megillah itself; Venahafoch hu - and it was all reversed. Here too we're going to get an incredible reverse, right in the middle of this tree of knowledge replay. Mordechai, the very person that had commanded Esther not to impart this forbidden knowledge about her true identify to the king, now comes to her and says, tell him the forbidden knowledge. Haman has issued his decree, now you have to go and tell him who you are and beg him to save your countrymen. The one who says you can't impart that knowledge, whatever you do never say anything; now says, no, the reverse is true, go feed the forbidden fruit to your husband.
It's interesting that the Megillah who had used the word before; Tziva - command - to characterize Mordechai's insistence that she not tell, now uses that same word to characterize his insistence that she does tell. In the words of the verse; U'letzavot aleha lavo el hamelech - and he commanded her to come to the king. What does Esther say in response? She says something that actually fits totally like a glove with this tree of knowledge theory. She says, I can't do it, I'll die. Well if you're thinking tree of knowledge, it's no wonder. Whenever you give forbidden knowledge, death is right around the corner.
Kol ish v'isha asher yavoi el hamelech el chatzer hapnimit - anybody who goes to the king without being called; Achat dato lehamit - they're taking their lives in their hands, they're going to be killed. Now you want me to go - what? Give this forbidden knowledge, this really unpopular news to the king, that his queen is from that really unpopular nation, the one that his secretary of state is going to wipe out in one blood-soaked, holocaust-like day. I don't think he's going to take that too well. Yeah, he might have been happy to take a queen from among any commoner, but now that Haman has made the Jews the dregs of society, how happy is he going to be to hear that I'm from them? If it wasn't bad enough that I'm going to go to him when I'm not invited, listen to what I'm telling him. You think he's going to want to hear this? It's going to be off with my head.
Now as if to complete the sense of the complete reversal of the original tree of knowledge story, listen to what Mordechai responds to her. No, no, Esther you've got it the other way around, you've got to go to the king. Im hachareish tacharishi ba'eit ha'zot - if you keep silent; Revach vehatzala ya'amod layehudim mimokom acher - one way or another G-d will save us. But; V'at u'beit avich taveidu - you and your father's house are going to be ultimately destroyed. It's death you're worried about? If you don't go to him that's when you will be destroyed. It's the complete reverse.
So she says, fine, I'll take my life in my hands. I'll go to the king and impart to him this forbidden knowledge of who I really am. But then she says, you know if we're going to play topsy-turvy, I have a command for you. Leich, kenos et kol hayehudim - gather all of the Israelites together. V'tzumu alai - and you and them fast; Al tochlu - do not eat. It's as if Esther is saying to them, you know it began Mordechai when you told me I mustn't share forbidden knowledge. You want me to eat of the forbidden fruit and to give it to my husband, then I the commanded will turn around and make a command of you, and that command of you will be do not eat. Mordechai listens; Vaya'as k'chol asher tzivta alav Esther - He did all that she commanded him.
So it's like everything has reversed itself, the entire tree of knowledge story. Therefore Esther is now left with a very serious challenge; she's got to tell the king who she really is. It's like Mordechai is telling her, find a way to give that forbidden knowledge to your husband. Way back in the Garden, Eve gave Adam that fruit and the results were disastrous, now you need to find a way to give him the forbidden knowledge in order to avert a disaster. If she finds a way to accomplish this task she will redeem that original tree of knowledge story, she will go through the exact same act that Eve did when she gave the forbidden fruit to Adam. Using the medium of food, and just like Eve at a banquet, she's going to give knowledge that's very, very dangerous to her. She's going to impart this knowledge to her husband. Except that act instead of being destructive will be the most compassionate, saving thing in the world. It will not kill, it will save us all.
As we shall see though, Esther faces a very, very great challenge. In order to somehow give this knowledge to the king in the right way she's going to have to do it in a way that distinguishes between the two types of good. She's going to have clearly demarcate what desire looks like and how that's different from the right thing to do. When she does that, she will have finally redeemed the great tree of knowledge sin. How Esther does this forms the climax of the Megillah's narrative, a climax that we will understand ever more deeply when we keep the tree of knowledge in mind as we read it. We'll do that when we come back in our next video.
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