Purim from the Torah

Secrets of the Jewish Year
Holiday Messages and Meditations on the Jewish Year

The Jewish Month of Adar


With relation to four proper names, the Talmud (Chulin 139b) queries: "Where is he alluded to in Torah?"

  • Where is Moses alluded to in the Torah? (Rashi: before he came, that he will come.) As it says [before the Deluge], "inasmuch as he is flesh" (Genesis 6:3). (Rashi: the Hebrew word for 'inasmuch' [beshegam] is numerically equivalent [345] to Moses [Moshe], and the continuation of the verse reads, "and his days shall be one hundred and twenty years," the exact life-span of Moses.)

  • Where is Haman alluded to in the Torah? (Rashi: the account of Haman.) As it says [when G-d addresses Adam after the sin], "Did [you eat] of [ha-min, identical in spelling to the name Haman] the tree?" (Genesis 3:11) (Rashi: -alluding to Haman's being hanged on a tree.)

  • Where is Esther alluded to in the Torah? (Rashi: the account of Esther.) As it says, "And I shall surely hide [haster astir, similar to the name Esther] [My face on that day]" (Deuteronomy 31:18). (Rashi: In the days of Esther the Divine countenance will be concealed, and many troubles and evils will befall the Jewish people.)

  • Where is Mordechai alluded to in the Torah? (Rashi: the greatness of Mordechai.) As it says, "Pure myhrr" (Exodus 30:23), which translates [into Aramaic, Onkelos] mara dachia [the consonants of which spell Mordechai]. (Rashi: The pure myhrr is referred to in this verse as 'the head of all spices.' The righteous Men of the Great Assembly are compared to fragrant spices, and their head-leader-is Mordechai.)

  • Why do our sages ask the question "Where is he (his/her name) alluded to in the Torah" specifically in reference to the above four persons? What is the relation of Moses to the three figures of Purim? Why is the order of the names as stated above (i.e., Haman between Moses and Esther and Esther before Mordechai)?

The secret of this teaching of our sages may be explained as follows:

Moses passed away on the 7th of Adar. The sages teach us that when Haman's lot fell on the month of Adar, he rejoiced, for he believed it to be a bad sign for the Jewish people, inasmuch as Moses, their leader, passed away in that month. But he did not know that Moses was also born on that very same day, the 7th of Adar. While on everyone's birthday his soul-root shines most strongly-to such an extent that it directly affects (albeit from "above") one's physical reality (inspiring one with the encompassingconsciousness of self-sacrifice in his service of G-d), in the case of Moses, he is actually "reborn" and returns to enter reality (asinner Divine consciousness-da'at) every year on his birthday.

Haman believed the "passing away" of Moses, the secret of the primordial tzimtzum, the "contraction" and apparent disappearance of G-d's infinite light, to be literal. His power derives from this apparent vacuum of Divine omnipresence. Moses represents the revelation of G-d's infinite light to the Jewish people, while Haman represents the apparent disappearance of Divine presence and providence.

Esther represents the deep awareness in the Jewish soul that, even though G-d seems to have "disappeared," His Divine countenance, His "face" (the Hebrew word for which also means "inner" and refers to the revelation of His inner essence) is ever-present, though hidden in times of exile. Therefore, the tzimtzum is not meant to be taken literally. Through the strength of our faith in this very truth, we cause His countenance to reappear. In Kabbalah, this is the secret of the reshimu, the "impression" or "memory" of G-d's infinite light here, in this very place of darkness.

Mordechai is in fact the reappearance (rebirth) of Moses, as taught in Kabbalah. He is a ray of light from the countenance of Moses that came in that generation of darkness to illuminate the apparent vacuum, and thereby overcome the power of Haman. In Kabbalah, this is the secret of the kav, the "beam of light" which penetrates the "vacated place" created by the tzimtzum.

It now becomes clear why the allusion to Moses appears before the Deluge, in the phrase "inasmuch as he is flesh, and his days shall be one hundred and twenty years," which refers to his apparent state of mortality. In truth, his soul-essence did not "drown in the flood," but became a "fish," the sign of Adar, thereafter to be drawn from the origin of his soul-the endless waters of Divine wisdom, the Torah-in his subsequent lifetime, as is said, "for I drew him from the water."

Haman derives from the primordial sin of Adam and Eve having eaten the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. In Kabbalah, this is explained as intellectually succumbing to binary logic, which excludes the possibility of the paradox of two contradictory states existing simultaneously. Either G-d is here or not. Haman's end is to be hanged on the very tree from which Adam ate.

The derivation of Esther's name from the verse "And I shall surely hide…" is clear, in accordance with the above explanation.

The "fragrant spices," the Men of the Great Assembly, represent the supernal partzufim ("human-like configurations" of the sefirot, "Divine emanations") of the higher worlds, whose source-"head"-is Mordechai, the reappearance of Moses. It is for this reason that Mordechai's name is alluded to in the translation of the Torah text given by Moses (in the very verse that begins "and you [Moses] shall take for yourself the head of spices-pure myhrr"; "pure myhrr," whose translation alludes to the name Mordechai, is itself a acronym of the saying of the Zohar that "the appearance of Moses is in every generation."). Mordechai translates Moses' soul-essence to his generation of Divine concealment. [Mordechai, in his marriage to Esther, as taught by our sages, gives birth tohimself (after having been first born, to himself, from the hidden union of "Moses Moses," to be explained) as the "Moses of the generation." Thus, in one respect, he precedes Esther, yet in another respect, that of his being the translation of Moses, he followsEsther, as is the order of the citation above.]

Mordechai merited to manifest Moses by his spirit of self-sacrifice not to bow to Haman (and what he represented, the literal understanding of the tzimtzum): "And the man Mordechai would not bow nor prostrate himself." This aroused the wrath of Haman, but ultimately was responsible for his downfall.

The order in which the Talmud interprets the four names now becomes evident: Moses appears to have passed away, a thought promulgated by Haman. From the strength of faith of Esther, Mordechai, the Moses of the generation, was reborn (In fact, Mordechai himself raised Esther and taught her to have faith, this being the secret, explained in Kabbalah, that the origin of the kavis in the infinite light which preceded the tzimtzum, from which it enters into the reshimu and subsequently emerges, as if born, from it.).

In studying the weekly Torah-portion, we read each verse shnaim mikra ve'echad targum ("twice in the [Hebrew] original and once in [Aramaic] translation"). The acronym for this custom is shemot, which means "names." It itself is the name of the second of the Five Books of Moses (Exodus). In the Torah-portion Shemot, Moses is born, receives his name, and asks G-d to reveal to him His Name, the Name of redemption (Ekyeh asher Ekyeh, "I shall be that which I shall be," which equals 543, the "mirror image" ofMosheh = 345). Here, G-d first addresses Moses at the burning bush, by calling his name twice: "Moses Moses," just as in G-d's Name, His Name (Ekyeh, "I shall be") is repeated twice. The repetition of the Name "I shall be" is interpreted by our sages to mean "I shall be with you now [to redeem you from this exile] and I shall be with you in the future [to redeem you from the final exile]." Moses is known as "the first redeemer and the final redeemer," for which reason his own name is repeated twice.

Mordechai, the secret of "once in [Aramaic] translation," is born from the union of the two names "Moses Moses"-"twice in Hebrew." Moses, the redeemer from Egypt, and Moses, the Mashiach (his ultimate rebirth of 7 Adar), unite (in the secret of "without a break between them [i.e., the two names of Moses]") in the darkness of the Persian exile to bear Mordechai, the most essential reappearance of Moses in the Bible (at its end), as taught in Chassidut.

Thus, the four holy names of Purim are Moses, Moses, Mordechai, Esther (the second "Moses"-"the final redeemer"-replaces the wicked Haman, in the secret of "evil becomes the throne of good" in the Messianic era; Mordechai precedes Esther in accordance with their natural order-Mordechai raised Esther-before he is "reborn" as the manifest translation of Moses, through their very union), in correspondence to the secret of the four letters of G-d's essential Name, Havayah ("Moses Moses" is the secret of the "higher union" of the first two letters of G-d's Name Havayahyud-kei-"the concealed levels are to G-d our G-d"; "Mordechai Esther" is the secret of the "lower union" of the two final letters of G-d's Name, vav-kei-"and the revealed levels are to us and our children"). [Together, the four names Moses, Moses, Mordechai and Esther equal 1,625 = 25 ? 65 ("Pure myhrr" = 25 ? 26): 65 = G-d's Name Ado-nai, the way we pronounce the Name Havayah, which equals 26 = 2 ? 13, Ado-nai = 65 = 5 ? 13. Thus, the four above names "enclothe" the essential Name Havayah and give it expression. Together, one Name Havayah and twenty fiveNames Ado-nai total twenty six Divine Names.]

Let us summarize with a diagram:

yud Moses, the first redeemer
hei Moses, the final redeemer
vav Mordechai, the Moses of the generation
hei Esther, the faith of Israel


May we, in our generation of exile and redemption, merit to the strength of faith of Esther, and the radiant "fragrance" of Mordechai, with the coming of Mashiach and the true and complete Redemption. Amen.

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