The Whole Megilla

From: Pamela in Orlando, FL

Dear Rabbi,

Why is it necessary to read the whole Megilla year after year?

Dear Pamela,

Every year we read the whole Megilla, twice – Purim night and then again by day. Year after year, it’s the same old story, right? Well, almost right. According to the Jewish mystical tradition of reincarnation, it’s the same script being played out by different actors from time immemorial.

Take 1:

The primordial Serpent, evil incarnate, entices Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. She willingly submits to his wiles, resulting in what our Sages refer to as the Serpent’s injecting its impurity into her (Shabbat 146a). The commentators explain that this penetration of evil occurred not only on an intellectual/spiritual level, but on a physical level as well (Sefer HaBahir). Mankind, heretofore entirely pure and poised to perfect the world, became tainted with the internal intermingling of good and evil, which initiated destruction and necessitated the decree of death. The eternal conflict between the forces of good and evil is proclaimed (Gen. 3:15): “And I shall place hatred between you [the Serpent] and between the woman, and between your seed and between her seed. Man will crush your head, and you will bite his heel.”

Take 2:

Eve is reincarnated as Yael, the wife of Chever the Kenite. The Serpent is embodied in Sisera, the Cananite General sent to conquer the Jews. Sisera asks for water; Yael gives him milk instead to make him sleepy. For the purpose of saving Israel (Horiyot 10b), she “submits” herself to him seven times (Yevamot 103a, based on the seven “fallings” mentioned in the verse below). Exhausted, he falls at her feet, and she smites his (Serpent) head.

“And Yael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, ‘Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not’…And he said to her, ‘Give me now a little water to drink, for I am thirsty;’ and she opened the flask of milk and gave him to drink, and covered him…At her feet he sank, fell, lay; at her feet he sank and fell; where he sank, there he fell down… And Yael, the wife of Chever, took the tent-pin, and placed the hammer in her hand, and came to him stealthily, and thrust the pin into his temple, and it pierced through into the ground; and he was in a deep sleep and weary; and he died…And G‑d subdued on that day Yavin the king of Canaan, before the Children of Israel” (Judges 4 and 5).

Take 3:

Eve/Yael is reincarnated as Ester, which is hinted to in Ester’s request, “Fast for me”, where “for me” in Hebrew “alay” is the same letters as “Yael”. The Serpent/Sisera is reincarnated as Haman. This is suggested in the teaching of our Sages (Chulin 139b), “Where is Haman hinted to in the Torah? From the verse [where G‑d chastises Adam and Eve regarding the Serpent], ‘Have you eaten from the tree’”. The wording in Hebrew is, “Hamin HaEitz”, connecting Haman with the tree.

King Achashverosh, under the influence of the serpentine Haman, tries to seduce the Jewish people to partake of the forbidden banquet, in order to arouse Divine Anger and elicit a heavenly decree of death upon the Jews. Ester, as Eve, tells the Jewish people to fast for her because it is on her account that that this cosmic contest between good and evil was consigned, and it is through her that it must be resolved and rectified.

If until that point she was forced upon by the king, Ester as Yael then approaches him on her own volition in order to save the Jewish People from pending annihilation: “Then I will go to the king contrary to the law, and if I perish, I perish” (Ester 4:16). With this she meant to say, just as Yael who engaged in a forbidden relationship against the Law of the Torah in order to rectify the submission of Eve and to overcome the forces of evil, so too I will submit myself in order to overthrow evil and redeem the Jewish People. Then, just as Yael, she invites Haman to drink: “If I have found favor in the king’s eyes, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and to fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I will make for them, and tomorrow I will do the king’s bidding” (5:8).

There, Ester accuses Haman of genocide: “An adversary and an enemy, this evil Haman!” (7:6). Furious, the king departs to the garden. Upon returning, he finds Haman as Serpent and Sisera, familiarly “falling” on Ester’s bed trying to seduce/subdue her: “And Haman was falling on the couch upon which Esther was, and the king said, ‘Will you force yourself upon the queen even while I’m in the house?’” (7:8). At that point, evil was overcome: “Then said Charvona, one of the chamberlains before the king, ‘Also, behold the gallows that Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke well for the king, standing in Haman’s house, fifty cubits high!’ And the king said, ‘Hang him on it!’” (7:9). And so the prototypical proclamation “He will crush your head” was played out, and in the words of the Megilla: “Haman’s evil device that he had devised against the Jews returned upon his own head to destroy him and his sons on the gallows” (9:25).

Sources:

  • Benei Issachar, Adar, 7:7-9.

Note: Yael’s and Ester’s willing submission to sin is referred to in our sources as an “aveira l’shem shamayim”. While it is beyond our scope here to treat this issue in detail, suffice it to say that on very rare and few occasions, based on prophetic inspiration, special individuals may transgress in order to save the entire people.

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