Purim, A Personal Story, and Why There is No Third Option

We last left off with a question: Why do we call Purim by a name that commemorates the weapon of choice that we were fighting against? Amalek once again attacked us with the “coincidence” ideology, and we fought back by seeing Yad Hashem. Why call it Purim after Haman’s lottery? A lottery, after all, is the ultimate in chance and coincidence, which was Haman’s tool of terror.

To answer this question we have to rethink our premise and ask: is Purim really named for Haman’s lottery? The answer I want to present here is very textual but bear with me to discover a new dimension to the story.

Let’s first look at the possukim that name the holiday.

כִּי֩ הָמָ֨ן בֶּֽן־הַמְּדָ֜תָא הָֽאֲגָגִ֗י צֹרֵר֙ כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִ֔ים חָשַׁ֥ב עַל־הַיְּהוּדִ֖ים לְאַבְּדָ֑ם וְהִפִּ֥יל פּוּר֙ ה֣וּא הַגּוֹרָ֔ל לְהֻמָּ֖ם וּֽלְאַבְּדָֽם׃        

וּבְבֹאָהּ֮ לִפְנֵ֣י הַמֶּלֶךְ֒ אָמַ֣ר עִם־הַסֵּ֔פֶר יָשׁ֞וּב מַחֲשַׁבְתּ֧וֹ הָרָעָ֛ה אֲשֶׁר־חָשַׁ֥ב עַל־הַיְּהוּדִ֖ים עַל־רֹאשׁ֑וֹ וְתָל֥וּ אֹת֛וֹ וְאֶת־בָּנָ֖יו עַל־הָעֵֽץ׃

For Haman Ben Hamadata, enemy of the Jews, planned to destroy them, so he did a pur, that is, a lottery, to discomfit them and destroy them.

And when she came before the king, he said through written law to enact the evil he had devised against the Jews upon his own head, and they hanged him and his sons on the tree.

The next possuk continues:

עַל־כֵּ֡ן קָֽרְאוּ֩ לַיָּמִ֨ים הָאֵ֤לֶּה פוּרִים֙ עַל־שֵׁ֣ם הַפּ֔וּר 

That’s why these days are called Purim, because of the pur…

Now, we usually take that to mean that the name Purim is because of Haman’s lottery. But the placement of the possukim is odd. Shouldn’t the third possuk be placed between the first two?

It would then say, “For Haman wanted to kill the Jews, so he made a lottery to destroy them–that’s why we call this holiday Purim–And when she came before the king he changed the decree and the evil he had planned was enacted upon him instead.” In fact, the Megilla can skip the second possuk altogether, and just say: “Haman wanted to kill the Jews using a pur, which is a lottery, and therefore this holiday will be called Purim.”

By including a second possuk describing Esther’s actions and placing the עַל־כֵּ֡ן קָֽרְאוּ֩ לַיָּמִ֨ים הָאֵ֤לֶּה פוּרִים֙ עַל־שֵׁ֣ם הַפּ֔וּר immediately thereafter, the possuk implies that there is something to be learned here. We know that in the Torah, placement and usage of a specific word are never insignificant. Let’s analyze some of the relevant possukim that discuss Esther’s actions to see how the name Purim refers specifically to something she did. Read More

Who is Amalek, and Why is Adar the time to care?

One of the ideas I find most compelling in Yiddishkeit is the absolute comprehensiveness of it all. For a thinking person there is little room to believe that the Torah is anything short of Divine. As each layer is unearthed and examined, we are left with a greater sense of awe for the All Knowing Creator.

Particularly, I enjoy researching time and nature. (Those who have heard me speak over the last several years know this  is a topic I always touch on.) Each month is imbued with its own mazal, and the Jewish calendar, unlike other lunar calendars, has a built-in solar correction that keeps each month roughly within the same season. These seasons (there are 6, according to Jewish tradition) are referred to throughout our seforim and have a deep spiritual significance. Let’s take a quick look at the month and time of year we find ourselves in and see what we can learn.

Adar is the last month in the last Torah season, which is called kor, late winter. The days are short, dark, and frigid. All of nature seems to be if not dead, then at least in deep hibernation. If we look at the year linearly, we are now as far away from Nissan as we can get. The redemption from Egypt, becoming the עם הנבחר, the clarity that we gained at קריעת ים סוף (all of these are recurring powers that we can tap into yearly)–are but a distant memory. It’s been a long, cold winter and we feel it in our enthusiasm and in our spirit. It’s the season of Kor, where we struggle to keep going. Read More

Who Am I, and Why Am I Writing: My Story

My fellow grammar nerds will recognize the name of this blog as a play on the well-know adjective book, “Nearly, Dearly, Insincerely” and might get a chuckle out of that. but truthfully (and dare I say, clearly and sincerely?) there is more depth to it!

Let me explain by stepping back…a few years, then as far back as a decade….

My daughter, Temima, was born in August 2015. I’m forever grateful that in our family we are not bound to name for or name after. Each name for our children is hashed out between my husband and myself throughout the pregnancy (obsessively, at my insistence…o, the games I play…), and then we run our short list by my husband’s Rebbe to make sure we’re not missing any obvious information that would make the name ill-advised.

When the name Temima came up during my fourth pregnancy, I wasn’t initially too excited. As I thought about it, and as my husband expressed more and more interest in it, the name grew on me too–with one major caveat. I did not want to name her Temima for the more Israeli definition of “perfect” or “complete”. I repeatedly said that if we use this name, we should have in our minds and hearts the other definition, inspired by Rav Yaakov Hillel’s book, one of temimus, and of the passuktamim tehiye im Hashem Elokecha”.

Fast forward to August when Temima was born. Until Temima’s birth, I had been blessed with relatively pain and drama free birth experiences. That changed with her birth.

Temima was five and a half pounds when she was born, a far cry from the seven and a half pounds the sonogram technician had predicted, and that was normal for our family. In retrospect, the nervous looks exchanged by the nurses as they let me hold her for a few minutes should have made me nervous as well.

Within minutes, she was whisked away to the nursery to be properly examined and cleaned off, while I was sent to the maternity ward. As with all my kids, I did leave instructions that she was to be brought to me as soon as possible for feeding.

Soon after I settled into my bed in the maternity ward, a nurse came to tell me that my baby had been in respiratory distress and had been rushed to the NICU for observation and treatment. Alone, still hooked up to an IV and recovering, I couldn’t do much, nor really figure out what that meant.

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