כ״ו בתמוז ה׳תשע״ד (July 24, 2014)

Megilla 13a-b: Casting Lots Against the Jews

Much of the first perek of Massekhet Megilla is devoted to a line-by-line midrashic commentary of the pesukim of Megillat Esther. Our daf focuses on some of the goings-on in the third chapter, where we are introduced to Haman and his dastardly plan for destroying the Jews. Here are some of the interpretations suggested by to pesukim in this perek:

Haman casts lots (see pasuk 7) to decide when to unleash the masses against the Jews, and the lottery falls on the eleventh month – the month of Adar. The baraita teaches that Haman was pleased to find that the lottery had fallen on Adar, which is the anniversary of Moshe Rabbeinu’s death; he did not realize that, although Moshe died on the seventh day of Adar, he was also born on that same date. The Maharsha points out that while it is fairly simple to derive the month – and even the day – of Moshe’s death from the pesukim in Sefer Devarim, the only way to determine when he was born is by relying on the Rabbinic tradition that God allows the righteous to complete their years, by taking back their souls on the same day on which they were born.

Among the reasons Haman gives to Ahashverosh for why the Jews should be destroyed is that they keep different traditions than others: They do not join in eating with others, nor do they intermarry with them, and they do not keep the traditions of the king – rather, they spend the entire year “bi-sh’hi pe’hi“. This enigmatic phrase is understood by most of the commentaries to be abbreviations:

  • sh’hi = Shabbat ha-yom – today is the Sabbath
  • pe’hi = Pesaḥ ha-yom – today is the holiday of Passover.

In other words, they claim to have religious holidays throughout the year, which gives them more vacation days than working days!

It is difficult to determine whether this is the actual intent of the expression. In any case, it also carries the connotation of lethargy and time-wasting – she-hiya u’batalah.

Haman succeeds in convincing the king to agree to his request. In Rabbi Abba’s opinion, this is because Ahashverosh was a true partner with Haman in his hatred of the Jews.

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