Avnei Nezer: Purim: Haman’s Spirituality
The 11th of Adar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Avraham (ben Ze’ev Nachum) Borenstein of Sochatchov (Sochaczew, near Warsaw)(1839-1910), author of Avnei Nezer (seven volumes
of responsa) and Eglei Tal (encyclopedia of the laws of Shabbos). He was born in Bendin to the author of the Agudas Eizov, a descendent of the Rema and the Shach. In 1853, he married Sarah Tzina, one of the two daughters of the Kotzker Rebbe, with whom he learned almost daily for almost 7 years. After the petira of his father-in-law in 1859, Rav Avraham accepted the Chidushei HaRim of Ger as his rebbe. After the petira of the Chidushei HaRim in 1866, he accepted Rav Chanoch Henich HaKohen of Alexander as his new rebbi. In 1883, he became Rav of Sochachov. His lectures in the yeshiva lasted six to eight hours, often starting at midnight and continuing until morning, except for a 15-minute break when he napped. Rav Bornstein is frequently quoted in his son’s classic work Shem Mishmuel.
“Va’yar Haman…Va’yimoleh Haman Cheymah” And Haman saw that Mordechai would not bow and prostrate himself before him and Haman was filled with anger. (Esther, 3:5) Note that the Megillah describes Haman as “filled with anger” because Mordechai would not bow to him but without indicating here that his anger was directed at Mordechai.
Later, after Haman departs from the first of the two feasts that Esther held, we are told that when Haman encounters a defiant Mordechai and he is “filled with anger towards Mordechai” (5:9). Why is Haman’s anger only now portrayed as directed at Mordechai, but not in the first instance?
The Avnei Nezer, R’ Avraham of Socetchov, explains what changed from the time that Haman’s anger first flares and the second instance, after Haman has dined with Esther and Achashverosh. Haman, haughty as he is, becomes angry when he sees that his lust to be worshipped by all is unrealized. Nonetheless, he recognizes that Mordechai is a holy person.
For all his bravado, he also realizes that he lacks the spirituality of Mordechai. Accordingly, while he’s upset that he hasn’t achieved his heart’s desire, his rage is not directed at Mordechai, who could not really be expected to bow to the likes of Haman.
However, after Haman has shared a meal with Esther, he feels imbued with a sense of holiness. The pasuk tells us that Haman emerged from Esther’s first feast “happy and good of heart” (“sameach v’tov lev”). The word ”simcha” is denotes happiness rooted in kedushah; it is defined as “a spiritual experience that comes with deliberation and after much contemplation” (see Shem MiShmuel, Sukkos, 5672, in the name of his father, the Avnei Nezer).
Once Haman achieved some measure of kedusha by joining the tzadekes Esther at her feast, his outlook changed. He considered himself worthy of Mordechai’s esteem; he demanded anew that Mordechai bow to him.
Denied, the Avnei Nezer tells us, he feels justified in channeling his anger towards Mordechai – va’yimoleh Haman cheymah al Mordechai. Consider that if the evil Haman could perceive himself to have gained a bit of holiness from sharing a meal with Esther (to warrant a change in the relative view of himself vis-a-vis Mordechai), how much more holiness can we impart to our fellow Jews by sharing our tables with them?