On second thought: the doubling of Purim
There are numerous doubles in the story, both in terms of key people as foils -- Mordechai and Haman, Esther and Vashti -- and in terms of episodes -- the gathering of the bethulos for the second time, the two feasts Esther prepares, the two times Esther appears to the king at risk to her life when he extends his scepter, and even the doubling of 6 months of preparation before the women appear before the king rather than just naming it a period of a year.
The Purim holiday is set for generation through two letters sent by two people, 9:29
וַ֠תִּכְתֹּ֠ב אֶסְתֵּ֨ר הַמַּלְכָּ֧ה בַת־אֲבִיחַ֛יִל וּמָרְדֳּכַ֥י הַיְּהוּדִ֖י אֶת־כָּל־תֹּ֑קֶף לְקַיֵּ֗ם אֵ֣ת אִגֶּ֧רֶת הַפּוּרִ֛ים הַזֹּ֖את הַשֵּׁנִֽית: And,of course, our own reading is doubled, as we read the whole Megillah twice each Purim.
But one of the central double events that used to trouble me upon reading the Megillah was the two recorded conversations between Haman and Zeresh along with his advisors. The first round, she gives him the advice to built an impressively tall gallows on which to hang Mordechai. The second time, she tells him that if Mordechai is mizera haYehudim, Haman is doomed to fall before him.
I always thought: Wait a minute! This is the exact same Mordeachai that you told your husband to hang! Then there is a total turnaround from absolute confidence to defeatist resignation. Obviously, something had to have changed between those two conversations among the same people, and that's what forms the crux of the Purim story: the turnabout that Klal Yisrael was able to effect through coming together in a second acceptance of Torah that is only possible with absolute achdus. It's really the antithesis of the destructive force of sinas chinam that divides the people, leading to the galus we are still experiencing today.
But it also represents a doubling as the second kabbalas haTorah, this time a free acceptance of the whole package, itself a doubled as Torah sheba'al peh had to be accepted as willingly as Torah shebichtav. That's the siginificance hadar kibluha b'yemay Achashverosh.
Another thing about Zeresh's 180 degree turn on the Modercahai/Jewish problem is that it shows the difference between first reactions -- what they like to call hot takes today -- and the more reasoned perspective that takes full facts into account. This second thought idea is the reason I selected this particular title for this post.
It's not just Zeresh who had to revisit the matter to see things clearly but the Jews themselves. They had to go beyond the way things looked at first blush that it's all Mordechai's fault for antagonizing Haman to a realization that there was a deeper flaw within them that caused the decree against them to emerge. Having that view, they saw that their first take was completely wrong, and they needed to turn themselves around to remedy the situation. They did.
Esther then got permission for them to take up arms against their enemies. That, too was doubled, and so the holiday itself ended up doubled with both our standard Purim and Shushan Purim on the next day, which is set to actually keep up a reminder of Yerhushalayim even while celebrating the salvation that centered around Shushan.
I wish everyone a most happy Purim, and we should have our tefillos answered for the yeshuas we all need.
Additional Purim posts here:
Kreplach recipe at http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2015/09/kreplach-recipe.html
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