Saturday, March 11, 2006

DVAR TORAH: Tetzaveh/Shabbat Zachor 6 of 5?!

I thought of a new Dvar Torah over shabbat. In the Haftarah we have King Saul commanded to carry out this mitzvah to eliminate Amalek and fulfill the mitzvah conveyed in the Torah special to this Shabbat. Saul almost completely fulfills the entire mitzvah commanded to him, he obliterates all of Amalek, men, women and children. However he leaves alive King Agag, the ruler of the Amalekites and merely captures him. In addition he leaves the best of the animals alive, also violating God's rules. It seems that the former is merely rules of royal combat, a king doesn't kill another king, it's unseemly. As for the latter, Saul claims that this was in order that they could offer all of these animals as a sacrifice to God. Saul thinks he did well, like your dog after digging up your backyard preparing to get rewarded for the good digging job he did. This seems to be the only bad thing Saul ever did (well, until this point, anyway). In comparison to what King David did during his rule, this was minor. Most of what David did, however was personal, and he got punished personally. When David impregnated Bathsheva and had her husband Uriah killed, DAVID lost his son and DAVID was forbidden to build the temple. What Saul did was on the national level and therefore the punishment would be more severe and Jews in the future would suffer from Hodu to Kush because of it. When David took a census when either God or Satan (check conflicting accountss in II Samuel 24:1 and I Chronicles 21:1 respectively...) provoked him to do so (only God can command a census and only in a way that doesn't directly count the people as one would do with cattle (the topic of the Dvar Torah I delivered at my Bar Mitzvah, Parashat Bamidbar/Machar Chodesh 29 Iyar 5756), the entire nation was punished as 70,000 died in a plague. This single act by Saul son of Kish, though he probably meant well, was enough to tear away the kingdom from him, just as he tore away Samuel's cloak. So to did Samuel tear Agag into pieces (an artist's rendition of which can be found at

But further tearing of clothing happens in the future, Mordechai the Jew tears his own clothing. Mordechai, whose lineage is given in Esther 2:4 as being the son of Yair son of Shimi son of Kish, a Benjaminite, is a descendant of Saul who himself is known as the son of Kish (when people are speaking belittling of him). This is a story of descendants. According to midrash, Vashti is the final descendent of wicked king Nebuchadnezzar (or Nebuchadrezzar if you want to make fun of him). Haman is somehow the stock of Agag. But wait! Saul killed everyone but Agag, and then Samuel killed Agag, the last of the Amalekites. Something must have happened between these two events, and while Agag was chillin' in Saul's crib, he must have impregnated a woman and so when he was killed, his seed did not end. Therefore his offspring led to Hamaddata who begat Haman.

So it fell to Mordechai to finish the job. It was Mordechai who raised the ire of the last Amalekites. This is history playing itself out like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm with a lot more violents and a lot less wit. When Esau cried out, it is now Mordechai crying out using almost identical language, with the payment for Jacob's act of deceit being played out here... actually I noticed some strong parallels between this and the story of Joseph in Egypt (Joseph receives the royal ring just as Haman does, and more, but that is for another time). So Mordy destroys Haman and his ten wicked sons and completes the task given to his royal ancestor. Immediately following this, Mordechai himself is elevated to Prime Minister and once again regains royal prestige that his family had lost so long ago.

I've been thinking about this for a couple of days: Mordechai is constantly referred to as Mordechai HaYehudi, translated as Mordechai the Jew. But if we translate literally, it means Mordechai the Judahite. But wait, he's a Benjaminite. The only thing I can think of is that perhaps he is both. Or perhaps the title of Jew became popular at this point to refer to all of Israel or perhaps those that dwelt in the southern kingdom of Judah after the exile of the ten other tribes. Mr. Owl, The world may never know.

Shavuah Tov (and Shabbat shalom to those of you west of GMT+1 (west of Amsterdam, etc...),

Matt, of the stock of Jesse.

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