048 Special Holiday Edition – How to Overcome Our Insatiable Appetite for More – Purim and Freewill – A Powerful Parable about the Showing Off Garments– A Great Story about Rav Shach and Peace in Your Home – Human Emotions and Compliments – The Ultimate Torah Podcast
The Torah Podcast Transcript
048 The Torah Podcast – Special Holiday Edition – Purim – How to Overcome our Insatiable Appetites
Purim and Free Will – Megillah
The verses in Megillah in chapter 5 say like this, “And Haman recounted them the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his sons, and all the ways that the king had promoted him, and that he had exulted him over all the princes and all the king’s servants. And Haman said, ‘Esther did not even bring anyone to the party except me. Tomorrow too, I’m invited to go with the king. But all this is worth nothing to me every time I see Mordechai the Jew sitting in the king’s gate.’” Rashi explains there, “I do not care for all of the honor that I have.” In other words, as long as Mordechai was around and he didn’t bow down to him, Haman didn’t care about all of his honor that he received. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Rav Aaron Kotler and Rav Wolbe all ask the kasha, question, “How could Haman say that all of the honor that he received is nothing as long as Mordechai is around? It doesn’t make any sense. If a person had a huge meal and he was missing one little thing from his plate, would he not feel satisfied? Haman started out as a poor stable boy, he had nothing. And now he rose to greatness, he was world famous. What does he care that one Jew wouldn’t bow down to him? This was even after it was decreed that all the Jews should be killed, so he knew that Mordechai was going to be killed. What did he care? It would be like lehavdil, somebody won the Gold Olympic medal, and now he’s world famous. One person in the audience didn’t applaud when he received the medal. What would he care?
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains there’s a difference between honor and physical desire. Physical desires, you can only eat so much so it would be true if you were missing one little part of the meal, you’d still feel satiated. But kavod has no end. Honor has no end because it’s not in existence. It’s in the person’s mind. It’s not a tangible thing. It’s a dream, it’s a fantasy that every single in the world is going to give him honor. Therefore, since Mordechai won’t bow down to him, in his mind all this honor is worth nothing. We can see an example of this in Gemara Gittin 57B where the Caesar was demanding kavod from the seventh son of this woman whose other sons he already killed. This was the youngest son. The king said to him, “I’m going to toss my ring down on the floor, and you pick it up as if you’re giving me kavod, as if you accepted my rulership.” The boy said to him, “Woe to you, Caesar if your own honor is so important, how much more so the honor of the Holy One.” The whole thing was absurd. This king, this Caesar, wants this little boy to give him honor and the whole thing is fake. The boy knows it’s fake, and he knows it’s fake. He’s really picking up the ring. But still, he wants the honor. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz wants to explain that this can apply also in other areas. It can also be true by money. The possuk in Koheles says, “One who loves money will never be satisfied with money, because what happens? A person starts to make a lot of money, and then that money starts to become a necessity. Then he needs more and more money, and he starts to get an unbelievable drive to be a multi, multi billionaire. What is he going to do with all of those billions?
He goes on to explain, “These are self-imposed. These are desires that a man imposes on himself. They’re not real. He creates the desire himself and it builds up, and then it becomes real. But he did it to himself. And that’s the pshat, meaning in Pirkei Avos when it says, “The punishment for a sin is another sin.” What does that mean? When a person sins, he starts to get more drive for that sin, because once he tasted it, he wants more and more, and it’s a downward spiral from there. He’ll start to desire things that he never desired before. Because the Koheles Rabbah says, “One who has 100 desires 200. And one who has 200 desires 400.” And it grows geometrically. That’s what it means, schar avera, the reward for a sin is a desire for more and more sin. But Baruch Hashem, not everything is lost. Why? Because it also could work in the opposite direction. Schar mitzvah, mitzvah, the reward for a mitzvah is another mitzvah, because when a person starts to mitzvos he has more drive to do more mitzvos. He feels good from that mitzvah and he wants to do more chessed, more kindness, more mitzvos, more learning. He explains, “When a person refuses to give into his desires, he will actually start to crave less and less. And he won’t need those things. In the end, he’ll be happier because when a person curbs his desires, they start to disappear.” You stop eating sugar you’ll have less drive for sugar. Then you could turn yourself around and go in the right direction, in the direction of good which will lead to happiness.
The Gemara in Chullin 139b, “Where in the Torah – the Torah itself – do we find Haman?” What, Haman is written in the Torah? Haman came way after the Torah. The Gemarah answers, “We see in Bereishis 3:1 where it says, ‘ha min ha eitz, from the tree that I forbade you, you ate.’” What’s the pshat, explanation? We already found a case like Haman. What was the case? Adam haRishon had everything. He was the king of the world. Chazal says, “The angels used to feed him roasted meat and strained wine.” He had everything he could possibly want, except God forbade him to eat from the eitz ha das, the tree of knowledge. But he couldn’t take it. He had to eat from that tree. It was like everything that he had was nothing. That’s where we find Haman in the Torah. Haman also had everything – all the riches, all the fame, all the glory, he had everything. And the one little fact that Mordechai wouldn’t bow down to him drove him crazy. Also Adam haRishon, he had everything. He was in Gan Eden, he had all he could desire. But it was as if he had nothing. Why? Because he couldn’t eat from the tree, the eitz ha das. What’s going on here?
When God created the world, He created man in a position of free will. He had to have free will. There had to be something forbidden to him, what he chose, yes to do it, or not to do it. And man is always going to have desires for things that are forbidden to him. The question is, does he have the chochma to understand the ramifications of his actions? This was the difference between Haman and the Jewish people. Rav Wolbe explains that Haman was in a fantasy world. He thought everything revolved around him. Even when King Achashverosh asked him, “What do we do for someone who deserves kavod? Of course, who could it possibly be? It has to be me.” He was an egomaniac, which means the whole world was created for me. There is no God. I don’t have to listen to anybody else. I’m the king, I’m boundless. I could do whatever I want.” But the problem with that world view is it leads to an insatiable desire, which have no end, which drag a man to take a man out of the world. The Pirkei Avos says, “Taiva, kinah ve kavod take a person out of the world.” Desires, jealousy, and honor take a man out of the world. In other words, his whole life he’s just running after something which he will never get, and he’ll never be happy. He’ll never be satisfied. It grows more and more geometrically – he wants more and more without end. That world view was influencing the Jewish people at the time of Achashverosh. They also wanted to go to the party. They went to the party. What does it mean, they went to the party? They also wanted to start to run after this world, to look for happiness in the wrong places. But what happened? When Achashverosh handed over his ring to Haman, it said it was, “Greater than all the 48 Prophets” in terms of the effect it had on the Jewish people. All the tochachot, all the rebukes of 48 Prophets did not have the same effect as the possible annihilation of the Jewish people. They saw it with their own eyes. That’s what woke up the Jewish people, woke them up to what? To the re-acceptance of the Torah. Purim is kabbalas HaTorah, for Torah she bal peh, the oral tradition. We re-accepted upon ourselves the Torah, and the Jewish people understood that the only light is the light of Torah. And real pleasure lies in the performance of the mitzvas, and the bond, the kesher, the connection that we have to God. The possuk says, “And the Jews had light, happiness, joy and honor.” What was light? The light of Torah. What was happiness? The happiness of Yom Tov, the Holidays. What was joy? The joy of bris milah, circumcision. And what was honor? The honor of tefillin, phylacteries. They came to recognize that the true light, happiness, joy and honor are only obtained through Torah, Torah and mitzvos. This was the true kabbalas haTorah, the kabbalas haTorah that came from love.
Now, it’s interesting that we know, Chazal tells us that our kabbalas haTorah, the zehuma, the impurities that came from the chet of Adam haRishon when he ate from the eitz ha das, they were removed from the Jewish people. We went back to a state of being back in Gan Eden, back to the neutral position. It was a reset. We were back in the highest position where we can choose between good and evil. Then after the chet ha egel, sin of the golden calf, we fell again. But now at the time of Purim the Jews again pushed the reset button. They accepted the Torah upon themselves completely, which removed all the tumah, all the impurities that came from the chet of Adam haRishon, the sin of Adam haRishon. Every man, every person always has a choice to do good or to do bad. If they do bad again, they metameh themselves, they make themselves impure which leads to a downwards spiral of more and more impurity. They start going in the wrong direction. And if they start to pick themselves up and do good they start to become more pure, and holy. This is our choice and as long as a person has life he has free will. The balance is always going to be equal. Rav Wolbe explains, “This is what we say every morning in the bracha, blessing, ‘Please make the Torah pleasurable in our mouths, veharev na.’ Pleasure also means to blend in, that we should see the light in Torah, it should be desirable for us. We should love it, we should want to come close. We should start to get a taiva, a desire for Torah, for the right things.” Like a healthy diet, a person eats healthy. He wants and desires healthy food. A person who is sick desires sick food. It keeps going. You need a direction depending on what the person chooses. I want to explain now, what is the greatness of Purim and what is this opportunity we’ve now been given?
Rav Hutner brings down the Vilna Gaon who says that, “Purim is the twin of Yom Kippur.” Purim is the other side of Yom Kippur, they have the same words – ke Purim. Purim is actually higher. He explains that the Gra bases it on this rule. We know chetzi lachem, that all the Yom Tovim are half for you and half for God. Half the day we are obligated in mitzvos and prayers. And half the day is for our enjoyment, with festive meals, rest, friends and family and all that thing. So, it’s split up half and half. The only two holidays where it’s not split up half and half is Yom Kippur and Purim. Why? On Yom Kippur it’s purely spiritual. We have the five things we can’t do – we can’t eat, we can’t drink, we can’t wear shoes, all these different things that we cannot do on Yom Kippur. It’s supposed to be a purely spiritual day, when we take away all the physical. On the other hand we have Purim. Purim is a day where it’s 95% physical, eating and drinking and singing. This is where we get chetzi lachem. It’s all one holiday. Purim is one half, and Yom Kippur is the other half.
I’d like to say a chiddush, why is Purim the highest day of the year? It’s a Holiday that will never be erased. It will last forever and ever, even though it’s d’Rabbanan, it comes from the Rabbis. But Purim is the highest of the high because it’s all physical. In other words, betoch, amidst the physicality of it, of the drinking and the eating and the singing, we choose spirituality. It’s the highest of the high. It takes us back to min ha eitz, to Gan Eden, to where man was sitting in Gan Eden being fed meat and drinking wine, and at the same time instead of choosing the wrong thing like the sin of Adam haRishon, he chooses the right thing. This is our opportunity to make the tikkun of Adam haRishon, to fix up what the first man messed up. By truly accepting upon ourselves the Torah, that our light should be the light of Torah and our happiness should be Yom Tov, and our joy should be bris milah, and our kavod should be tefillin. By accepting upon that, we are making the tikkun of Adam haRishon. We are making the right choice. We are correcting the sin of the first man, of Adam haRishon. This is the highest Holiday of the year. It’s like we’re in Gan Eden, and we were saying, “Yes, we want only Torah. We want the connection to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, because we understand that that is the right direction to go in, which will lead to true happiness. And even though we might have a tendency towards our physical desires, we choose to go above that, ve aharev na, that the Torah should be sweet – sweeter than our physical desires, which will lead us to true happiness and a successful life.
A Powerful Parable
The Maggid miDubno brings a possuk in this week’s Parsha, where Moshe Rabbeinu broke the tablets after the sin of the chet haEgel, the Golden Calf. The possuk says, “And you will write upon these tablets the words which were on the first tablets that you broke.” The Gemara in Yevamos 62:A says, “Reish Lakish explains, Hakadosh Baruch Hu said to Moshe, ‘Thank you for breaking them.’” It’s unbelievable. He wants to bring a moshul, parable to explain it.
One time there was a guest who came to a new city, and had all of these beautiful garments. He wanted to show off to the people there how beautiful his garments were. He was hoping the weather is going to keep changing. Why? Because in the warm days, he’ll wear different garments for warm days. And if it gets colder or rains, so he’ll be able to wear the heavier garments to show the people. When the day changed from sun to rain he was all happy and excited, because now he’s going to go outside to show the people his winter garments.
So too with Moshe Rabbeinu. If the people never sinned and Moshe never broke the luchos, so they would have remained on the same level. All we would have received was the written tradition, because we didn’t need any help from the oral tradition, to make additional laws and explanations. However when the Jewish people sinned, Hakadosh Baruch Hu said, “I will give them the Torah and the Mishnah and the Halachos and the Aggados – the things that they will need for the different challenges they are going to face over time.” That’s why Hashem thanked Moshe Rabbeinu for breaking the luchos, because the original luchos were not enough for them. They needed more restraints and restrictions to make it through this long exile. Interestingly enough, Purim is a time when we accepted upon ourselves the Torah she bal peh, the oral tradition which has helped us to survive as a Jewish people, and will help us until the time of the coming of the Mashiach.
Great Stories – Rav Shach
The possuk says, “And he saw the calf and the dances and he threw down the tablets from his hands.” The Seforno explains that Moshe even though he heard in heaven that the Jews had sinned with the Golden Calf, but he didn’t break the tablets till he actually saw them dancing. When he saw how happy they were in sinning, at that point he broke the luchos.
One time, somebody saw Rav Shach sitting and learning Gemara but he was crying. He was muttering to himself, “They’re crazy, they’re crazy.” He asked him who he was Rav Shach referring to? He explained, “There’s an Israeli sports team that just won a game abroad, and they’re organizing this huge welcome for them. They decided that the airport was not big enough. They’re going to shlep them to this park where there’s going to be 100,000 people cheering for them as they come in.” The person said to Rav Shach, “Let them do their thing and we’ll do ours. Chazal tells us, ‘They run and we run,’ but we run to the next world.” He says, Rav Shach was crying. He said, “But 100,000 Jews will be there.” In other words, he was crying over the influence that the nations have on us and our value system, that there should be 100,000 Jews obsessed and cheering for some sports team.
Peace in Your Home
Rav Simcha Cohen wants to explain the value of compliments in a marriage. He starts off when it comes to helping each other a man and his wife, on the physical level everybody explains that they have to do their job. Most husbands don’t call in and say, “I’m not coming home for two or three days,” just because he doesn’t feel like it. Or a wife will say, “I’m not taking care of the children this week, because I’m just not in the mood.” Usually that doesn’t happen. But when it comes to emotional needs, that’s a different story. People say, “I just don’t feel like it. I’m in a bad mood.” They excuse themselves for giving to the emotional needs of their partner. Emotional needs are really a top priority in every human being’s value system. Even when a person works, he’s working for money, he also has to get praised there. He has to enjoy his job. Nobody will just do something that they’re miserable at. Emotional needs are very important, they’re basic. Everybody wants warmth and encouragement, appreciation. They want to feel loved for who they are. But in a marriage you could go neglected. Everybody has excuses. They know that their partner longs for a kind word or a compliment, or some warmth. But they say, “Listen, that’s not who I am. I would be faking if I did it,” and it can go on for years. Marriage counsellors testify that almost every problem a couple comes in with is that their spouse is not fulfilling their emotional needs.
On the top of the list of emotional needs, the Ramban explains, “The need for appreciation is the strongest imperative of all.” The Rambam says, “For one finds that most people are willing to wear themselves out, body and soul, with the absolute maximum of labor and toil for the sake of achieving some station of respect, so that people will honor them. And many people are willing to forgo the greatest of physical pleasures because they’re afraid they are going to suffer public embarrassment.” You see what people will go through in order to be appreciated and have a good reputation. Also in a marriage, a rich woman will say, “The palace that I live in isn’t worth anything if there’s no warmth in it. What does it help that my husband is famous? He doesn’t pay any attention to me.” And a man who’s rich and respected will give up everything in order to have some warmth from his wife.
The Rambam explains that in order to fulfill the mitzvah you shall love your neighbor as yourself, the first move is to give a compliment. He says, “It is a mitzvah incumbent upon every man to love every one of the Jewish people as his own self. As the Torah says, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Therefore, one must tell his praise. But not only can you praise a person for his character but you can also praise a person for his associations. You can say, “What a wonderful mother you have. What a wonderful daughter you have. What a beautiful house you have, and you have beautiful clothes.” The most basic and fundamental way to fulfill your spouse’s emotional needs is to praise them.”
Okay, that’s it for this week’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends, and do me a personal favor and rate this and leave a comment on iTunes. It’s really going to help my podcast, and it’s a mitzvah to spread Torah.