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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Victory of Purim Through Yaakov’s Havayeh Powers

Wiki Commons: Tomb of Esther and Mordecai - Hamadan - Western Iran – 02 Uploaded by mrjohncummings
Tomb of Esther and Mordechai - Hamadan, Western Iran

The Victory of Purim Through Yaakov’s Havayeh Powers

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

Mordechai and Esther correspond to Avraham and Sarah, respectively. 

The Medrash[1] teaches us about the parallel between Mordechai and Avraham:
[The Scroll of Esther describes Mordechai as] “ish Yehudi” (lit. a man of Judea) for he was equal to Avraham in his generation. Just as Avraham our forefather hurled himself into the fiery furnace and went around bringing people to recognize Hashem’s greatness, as it is written, “and the soul that they made in Charan”[2], so, too, Mordechai in his days brought the people to recognize Hashem’s greatness, as it is written, “and many of the nations of the land became Jews”[3] and he declared the unity of Hashem’s Name and he sanctified it. Therefore, he is called “Yehudi”, as it is written, “ish Yehudi”; do not read “Yehudi”, but “yechidi” [literally, “the man of the Unique One”, for he publicized Hashem’s unity].
On the other hand, Haman’s spiritual opposite is Avraham. This is the reason that the mothers of Mordechai and Haman shared the same name, Amtilai.[4]

Since Haman is the spiritual opposite of Avraham and Mordechai parallels Avraham, Haman is also the opposite of Mordechai.

Likewise, we see the parallel between Esther and Sarah in the teaching of Rabbi Akiva[5] that just as Sarah passed away at 127, so did Esther merit to rule over 127 countries.[6]

Thus, we see how Mordechai and Esther are spirituality connected to Avraham and Sarah.

However, there is a difference between them, and this is expressed in the gematria, the numerical value, of their names.

The gematria of Mordechai (מרדכי) is 274 and of Avraham אברהם) 248). The difference between them is 26, which is the same value as the holiest of Hashem’s names, the four-letter name referred to in Kabbalistic literature as Havayeh (הויה).

Likewise, the gematria of Sarah (שרה) is 505 and of Esther, אסתר) 661), with a difference of 156, which is six times Havayeh (26).

26 and 156 add up to 182, which is seven times Havayeh.

182 is also the numerical value of the name of Yaakov. The reason for this is that the key to defeating Haman is the spiritual energy of Yaakov. Haman was descended from Esav,[7] who was also descended from Avraham and Sarah.[8]

It was the fact that Mordechai and Esther were descended from Yaakov that granted them the power to defeat Haman. This is related to Hashem’s promise to Avraham, “for your seed shall be called be’Yitzchak—with Yitzchak”.[9] Our Sages explain this odd expression as being exclusionary: “with Yitzchak, but not all of Yitzchak”, for Esav is not considered the true seed of Avraham.

Therefore, Esther and Mordechai were endowed with an additional seven times the name of Havayeh, to allude to their inheritance of a unique spiritual strength from their ancestor, Yaakov, with which they were able to defeat Haman. Yaakov’s ability to overcome Esav enabled them, in turn, to overcome Esav’s descendant, Haman.

The Zohar explains[10] that Yaakov overcame Esav by bowing down to Hashem seven times while in Esav’s presence: “And he went ahead of them and he prostrated himself to the ground seven times, until he came close to his brother [Esav]”.[11] The Zohar explains that “And he went ahead of them” refers to a revelation of the Divine Presence, which went before Yaakov in order to protect him. When Yaakov saw this, he bowed down. Indeed, the verse doesn’t say that he bowed down to Esav but simply that he bowed down.

This relates to the gematrias of Yitzchak and Esav. The gematria of Yitzchak is 8 times Havayeh (26)—208.

Yitzchak split his amount of this revelation between his sons. He bequeathed seven portions of Havayeh to Yaakov, and one to Esav. It is on account of this one portion of Havayeh within Esav that he is considered a brother to Yaakov, as it is written, “isn’t Esav the brother of Yaakov?”[12]

But the gematria of Esav (עשו) is 376. The remainder of Esav consists of the exact opposite of Havayeh, tamei (טמא), which means impure and has a gematria of 50. This is the dominant aspect of Esav, and therefore, he contained it seven times: 7x50=350. (So in total, 350+26=376.)

The seven times tamei within Esav are the direct antithesis of the seven times Havayeh within Yaakov. This is the reason that Esav so despised Yaakov, on account of the seven times Havayeh within him.

But through Yaakov’s act of bowing down to Hashem seven times in Esav’s presence, the seven times Havayeh within Yaakov removed the seven times tamei within Esav. Once this was complete, the one time Havayeh, the good aspect hidden within Esav (which was swallowed up in the seven times tamei), was revealed, and therefore Esav “embraced him [Yaakov] and kissed him”. According to the Rashbi,[13] Esav did so with all his heart.

Yaakov’s victory granted his descendants, Mordechai and Esther, the power to defeat Esav’s descendant, Haman. This is apparent in the above Medrash where it says that Mordechai’s title ish Yehudi could also be read ish yechidi, which means “the man of the Unique One”, for Mordechai publicized Hashem’s absolute unity.

The lesson for our time is that the forces of impurity and evil related to the spiritual energies of Esav and Haman are still in existence. We overcome them by increasing in our faith and submission to Hashem as He reveals Himself in the name of Havayeh, which represents G-dliness that transcends nature. We accomplish this through increasing in our observance of Torah and Mitzvos in general, and specifically through studying the teachings of Chassidus.

Based on the teachings of the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn,
in Toras Levi Yitzchak, Chidushim U’biurim Be’shas, pp. 97, 214.

[1] Esther Rabbah 6:2.
[2] Bereshis 12:5.
[3] Esther 8:17. This could mean that they converted to Judaism (as Rashi explains), but in the context of this Medrash, it appears to mean that they accepted the faith in one G-d, just as Avraham’s “converts” didn’t literally convert.
[4] Avraham’s mother was Amtilai the daughter of Carnevo, while Haman’s mother was Amtilai the daughter of Urvesa—Bava Basra 91a.
[5] Bereshis Rabbah 48:3.
[6] Esther 1:1.
[7] Haman was descended from Amalek. Amalek’s father was Elifaz, whose father was Esav.
[8] Esav was the son of Yitzchak, who was the son of Avraham and Sarah.
[9] Bereshis 21:12.
[10] Bereshis 171b.
[11] Ibid. 33:3.
[12] Malachi 1:2.
[13] Sifri Behaaloscha 59.

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