Shushan Purim - Haman's Comeuppance

How could Haman expect to murder all the Jews in one day?

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Daniel Pinner,

D. Pinner
D. Pinner

Written just after the end of Purim, as Shushan Purim is starting. Written under the influence of the spirit of Purim (pun intended)


Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin asked: Why did Haman want “to exterminate, to slay, and to destroy all the Jews, from youngest to oldest, women and children, on one day” (Esther 3:13)? Judging by the numbers of Persian enemies that the Jews killed, there must have been tens of thousands of Jews in Shushan alone, hundreds of thousands in Persia, and millions scattered throughout the Persian Empire.


Was it at all possible to murder them all on one single day? Even with machine-guns, crematoria, and Zyklon-B gas, it would be an impossible task…as we know only too well. Why did Haman make this impossible decree? Would it not have been more reasonable to have decreed that the genocide begin throughout the Persian Empire on a single day, and continue until the last Jew was dead?


Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin answered his question: Even this, that evil man did out of hatred for the Jews. He realised that he might fail, and if he were to fail, then the Jews would celebrate the day of his downfall. In that event, he reasoned, better that they celebrate only one day.


It is ironic that Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin was himself murdered in the pogroms which accompanied the Polish revolt against Russia. He was shot by a Cossack on Shabbat, the 17th of Tammuz 5552 (7th July 1792), and died five days later. He was fifty-five years old.


Rebbe Shlomo was the adopted son and closest student of Rebbe Aharon of Karlin, who himself was one of the greatest of all the hassidic masters. In the spiritual battle between the Hassidim and the Mitnagdim, the Maggid of Mezeritch called Rebbe Aharon “our best offensive weapon”. One Erev Shabbat, as Rebbe Aharon was chanting the Song of Songs, the Maggid of Mezeritch send an attendant to tell Rebbe Aharon: “The Master wants you not to sing so loudly. You disturb him, and that is serious enough; but what is more serious is that when you sing, the angels in heaven fall silent; they listen to you – and this you must not allow to happen. You are not to interfere with their praise of the Almighty”.


So great was Rebbe Aharon’s influence that for a while, the Mitnagdim referred to all hassidim as “Karliner”.


This was where Rebbe Shlomo grew from. We have much to learn from his explanation of Haman’s decree.


I write these words as the after-effects of Purim are beginning to wear off. But in Jerusalem, Purim is just beginning.


Our greatest victory, our sweetest victory, over Haman is to celebrate Purim for two days. Purim and Shushan Purim, the 14th and 15th of Adar.


There are only three cities in the world today where we celebrate only Shushan Purim: Jerusalem, Jericho, and Shushan. In many other cities in Israel we celebrate both Purim on the 14th of Adar and Shushan Purim on the 15th: Hebron, Shechem, Ramleh, Jaffa, Lod, Beer Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Haifa, Gaza, Akko, and others.


Can you hear us celebrating, Haman? Turn your face up from whatever depths you are in now, and hear our children singing! In our own country, we defeat you year by year. Yes, we celebrate two days. We have denied you even your one pitiful pathetic victory.


To paraphrase what King Achashverosh forced you to proclaim as your led the hated Mordechai through the streets of Shushan: Thus shall be done to the man whom the King delights to disgrace!

"So may all of Israel's enemies perish" (Song of Deborah, Judges 5,31).