Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Toras Purim 5765 (part 1)

Toras Purim 5765

Chullin 139b: Haman min haTorah menayin? “HaMin HaEitz” (Bereishis 3:11).

It is remarkable that the first place three words appear in Tanach with the Rashei Teivos “Haman” in order is Bamidbar 34:5: H-aGevu M-eiAtzmon N-achlah.”

The word Atzmon is made up of almost the same letters as “HaMin HaEitz.”

Moreover, the Midrash Tanchuma to “Zachor es asher asah lecha Amalek” (Ki Teitzei #4) states that in the name of R' Levi that Yaakov and Esav were like a hadas and an atzmoni – so long as they were little no one could distinguish between them. When they grew older, however, the one extends its thorns while the other gives off a pleasant fragrance. So too when Yaakov and Esav grew, Yaakov was an Ish Tam Yosheiv Ohalim while Esav became Ish Tzayad Ish Sadeh.

The Midrash becomes even more relevant when we realize that the hadas may well be Hadassah – Esther. We thus have the divide between Yaakov and Esav alluding to the battle of Esther and Haman.

As if to prove the point, the Targumei Yonasan and Yerushalmi to Bamidbar 34:4-5 translate the name of the place, Atzmon, to mean kisam – a splinter – bringing us back to the eitz.

What is the meaning of atzmon? In the Yerushalmi, Bava Basra 32b the word is used to describe a document in which each side imposes upon itself exaggerated penalties (i.e., an asmachta). In the name of R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, the Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language translates the ayin-tzadi-mem root to connote “storing power.” Thus, when the Torah warns us (Devarim 8:17) not to fall into the trap of believing in “Kochi v'Otzem Yadi” it is warning us not to have faith in a perception that we have an exaggerated sense of our own power. An eitz sustains its foliage and fruit; an eitzah sustains a person or other living creature. An eitzah sustains another person. But otzem connotes an exaggerated perception of strength and advantage.

(To be continued)

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