Torah for the Times

Friday, November 9 2012 - 24 Cheshvan, 5773

Torah Reading: Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1 - 25:18)
Candle Lighting Time: 4:24 PM

Shabbat ends: 5:25 PM

Purim in Cheshvan?

The Connection


At the end of last week’s Parshah we read about Abraham’s most important test, the Akeidah-the binding of Isaac, where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Our Parshah opens with the passing of Sarah.

The Midrash connects these two events. When Sarah was told of what was supposed to happen to her only son Isaac at the Akeidah, the shock was so great that her soul left her body. She never got the chance to hear that, in the end, Isaac was not sacrificed.

Cheshvan and Adar

The Midrash, commenting on the story of Haman’s desire to have all the Jews annihilated, connects it with the passing of Sarah.

Haman considered all the months of the year to determine which one would be most suited for carrying out his diabolical plan. Each month was disqualified by haman because of something good that occurred in it that was favorable to the Jewish people. When he considered the month of Cheshvan—the month that we are in now and which has no Holidays—he dismissed it as well because Sarah’s passing occurs in this month. Haman felt that her merit would shield the Jewish people.

The Midrash then states that after rejecting eleven of the twelve months because of their favorability to the Jewish people, he finally settled on the month of Adar. Haman concluded that Adar was an unlucky month for the Jewish people since Moses died in this month. Little did he know, the Midrash states, that Moses was also born in the month of Adar and that his birth would override the effects of it being the month in which he died.

The Differences Between Sarah’s Passing and Moses’ Passing

The obvious question here is why did Haman feel that Sarah’s passing in the month of Cheshvan would render that month a fortuitous month for the Jewish people and would afford them protection in her merit whereas Adar, the month of Moses’ passing, would not afford them protection. Why was Moses’ passing more of a negative phenomenon than Sarah’s? And if the passing of a tzadik generates positive energy, what is the difference between Sarah’s passing and Moses’ passing?

Commentators explain that in truth it is not that Sarah’s passing was considered a good omen but rather it was the binding of Isaac that precipitated her demise that was the good omen. Haman was concerned that the self-sacrifice that Abraham and Isaac exhibited with the Akeidah would render his efforts futile. And since Sarah’s passing resulted from her hearing about the Akeidah, it was considered to be an integral part and continuation of their self-sacrifice, thereby carrying within it the merit of the Akeidah.

Another answer to this question may be that Moses pleaded with G‑d to be allowed to enter into the Land of Israel and was turned down. This suggested to Haman that Moses’ passing was a totally negative experience because Moses was unhappy about it.

At first glance, this answer can be challenged because Sarah’s death, too, was tragic and untimely. As the Midrash that was cited earlier states, her passing was a result of the shock she experienced upon learning of the Akeidah. Obviously, the circumstances of her demise were also less than desirable. Why then did Haman think that her passing would be a source of strength and protection for the Jewish people while Moses’ passing would prove to be detrimental to them?

Moses, the Power of Complete Redemption

The truth is that Moses’ passing was not simply contrary to his expressed will. In the end, Moses was convinced that his place was actually with his generation in the desert. As the Midrash puts it, G‑d told Moses that in the days of Moshiach he will arise with his flock and take them to Eretz Yisrael. His passing, therefore, was an act of supreme devotion to his people to not forsake them even in their deaths.

Nevertheless, Moses’ passing and his inability to enter into the Land of Israel rendered the Jewish nation vulnerable to Haman’s threat.

If Moses had entered the Land of Israel and had built the Beit Hamikdash-the Holy Temple- it would never have been destroyed and the Jews would not have been exiled to Persia.

Haman thus reasoned that the very fact that the Jewish people were in exile is attributable to Moses’ passing. Thus, the month of Adar symbolized (in Haman’s mind) and contained within it the energy that undermines Jewish stability. There can be no better month, Haman thought, than the month of Adar in which to further undermine Jewish existence.

Haman, of course, was wrong.

His mistake, the Midrash and Talmud state, was that Moses was also born in the month of Adar, and indeed on the very same day that he would die 120 years later. Moses’ birth, which introduced the soul of the one who would liberate the Jewish people, overrode the negative connotation of the day that he died.

How does his birth on that same day in the month of Adar ameliorate the negative effects of his passing?

Moses’ birth introduced the very notion of and potential for liberation. Moses’ soul was inextricably bound up with removing the shackles of golus=exile from the Jewish people. And that was what defined Moses’ very essence. Thus, the fact that Moses also died in Adar, enabling the subsequent exile of the Jewish people, could not override his positive energy of negating the forces of exile.

Indeed, Moses personified the ideal of complete Redemption. As our Sages declare, “Moses is the first redeemer and Moses will be the final redeemer.” This does not mean that Moses and Moshiach are the same person, but rather that Moshiach’s power and ability to redeem the Jewish nation, is derived from Moses. Moshiach internalizes the soul of Moses and all the ideals with which he is identified. Moses thus is the very engine of the future Redemption just as he was the engine of the first Exodus from Egypt. And as it turned out, Moses was also the catalyst for the deliverance of the Jews from Haman’s decree because it was scheduled for the month of Adar, the month in which the energies of Redemption were introduced into the world by virtue of it being the month in which he was born.

Harnessing the Power of Moses

The lesson for our times is it is through harnessing the power of Moses that we will bring an end to exile and its threats to the Jewish people. Moses personifies two complementary ideals:

Moses is the ultimate personification of Torah. Indeed, in Deuteronomy the Torah actually ascribes the Torah to Moses: “Moses commanded us the Torah as an inheritance to the assembly of Jacob.”

But Moses is also the exemplar of Ahavat Yisroel, of total commitment to and willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of the Jewish people.

These twin traits of Torah study and Ahavat Yisroel are thus the forces that we bring to bear that will not only temporarily delay the negative forces of golut—the Hamans of our own day that threaten us—but will finally and imminently bring the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach.

The Feminine Power of Cheshvan

In light of the above, one might entertain the notion that we have to wait for Adar to avail ourselves of Moses’ power of redemption. In truth, however, even in this month of Cheshvan we are endowed with the power of the matriarch Sarah, whose passing occurred in this month and whose passing we read about in this week’s parsha. And while Haman misconstrued the character of Adar by thinking that it would be an ominous time for the Jews, he had no such illusions about Cheshvan. He knew of the power that was vested in this month by Sarah.

This echoes the Talmudic statement that the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt in the merit of the righteous womenand will be redeemed from this exile in the merit of righteous women, as well. And whereas the righteousness of the men can sometimes be clouded, allowing the Haman’s of the world to think that we are still vulnerable, they do sense that the righteous women are a more potent force of good and salvation for the Jewish people.

The feminine power of Cheshvan is further buttressed by the passing of the matriarch Rachel on the eleventh day of this month. It is she who cries for her children and refuses to take no for an answer. G‑d tells her to refrain from crying because He has listened to her prayers and, as a result, “the children shall return to their borders.”

Indeed, the word Cheshvan has the numerical value of Moshiach plus the letter vav, which is the letter of truth. This indicates that we want and expect the true and completeRedemption through our righteous Moshiach now, in the month of Cheshvan. At that time we will witness the dedication of the third Beit Hamikdash, which our Sages tell us was reserved for this month.

Moshiach Matters

It is well known that the Messianic Era, and especially the time of the Resurrection of the Dead, is the fulfillment and culmination of the creation of the world, for which purpose it was originally created.(Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi in Tanya)

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