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Kli Yakar: Purim

The 7th of Adar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Shlomo Ephraim of Lunshitz, author of Kli Yakar (1550-1619). After serving as rosh yeshiva in Lemberg, he became the Rav of Prague. He was well-known as an inspiring speaker. In addition to Kli Yakar, Rav Shlomo Ephraim also wrote special selichos to be said in memory of the Jews of Prague who suffered horribly during the pogroms of 1611.

The Talmud (Chullin 139b) asks, “Where is there a hint to Moshe in the Torah? Where is there a hint to Haman in the Torah?”  While we can understand why the Talmud would search for an allusion to Haman, it is almost impossible to believe that the Talmud needs to ask where is there an allusion to Moshe in the Torah, unless, the Talmud wants to compare something between Moshe and Haman.

Actually the two represent two different forms of the fear of God. The Talmud in Shabbat and Avodah Zarah teaches that God held Sinai over the heads of the Jews and told them, “If you accept the Torah; fine. However, if you do not; here you will be buried.”

This teaches us that when Moshe led them to Sinai they experienced the lower form of the fear of God. They served God in fear of punishment, or the consequences of not serving Him.

However, Haman offered those Jews who wanted to survive the opportunity to live if they would sacrifice their faith. They were not in fear of punishment. They chose to maintain their commitment to Torah in a combination of fear and awe. They refused the opportunity to reject Judaism. They experienced a higher level of love and awe as a consequence of Haman than they did during the time of Moshe.

This is why the Talmud teaches that they achieved true acceptance of Torah only during the Purim story. (Olelot Ephraim, Volume 2, Page 45)

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