SALT - Wednesday, 12 Adar 5781 - February 24, 20201

  • Rav David Silverberg
            The Shoshanat Yaakov hymn, which is traditionally read following the reading of the Megilla reading on Purim, concludes by mentioning Charvona, a servant of Achashveirosh who informed the king of Haman’s desire to kill Mordekhai.  After Ester revealed to the king that she belonged to the nation upon which Haman decreed annihilation, as Achashveirosh seethed with anger, Charvona – likely in a deliberate attempt to seal Haman’s fate – told Achashveirosh about the gallows which Haman had prepared for the purpose of hanging Mordekhai, who had once saved the king’s life (7:9).  The king immediately ordered that Haman be hung on those same gallows.  In the Shoshanat Yaakov hymn, after speaking in praise of the righteous figures in the Megilla and denouncing the wicked, we proclaim, “…ve-gam Charvona zakhur la-tov” – “…and Charvona, too, is to be fondly remembered.”
            Why do we make a point of mentioning Charvona in this prayer?  What was so significant about his role, that he should be “fondly remembered”?  Moreover, the Gemara in Masekhet Megilla (16a) states that Charvona had initially been part of Haman’s scheme against the Jews, and it was only at that moment, seeing that the king was angry at Haman, that Charvona instantly betrayed Haman and reported to the king about his plan to execute Mordekhai.  Charvona’s act was hardly noble; this was a matter of cruel political expediency, turning on his erstwhile ally upon seeing his sudden downfall.  Why, then, is Charvona “zakhur la-tov” – to be “remembered fondly”?
            The Klausenberger Rebbe answers that the intent of this hymn is precisely to teach that there is value in good deeds we perform even with less than sincere motives.  Needless to say, we ought to strive to observe all mitzvot out of a genuine, deeply-ingrained desire to serve our Creator and fulfill His will.  However, even during those times when we feel a lack of motivation, and we do the right thing only because of vested interests, this, too, is valuable, albeit less than ideal.  And so after condemning the wicked and extolling the righteous in this hymn, we add, “and Charvona, too, is to be fondly remembered.”  We note that although he acted against Haman out of vested personal interests, we still remember him “fondly,” because he did, after all, do the right thing in bringing about the execution of a dangerous, evil man.
            The Klausenberger Rebbe goes so far as to suggest that this concept underlies the seemingly peculiar choice of the name of this holiday – Purim.  As we read in the Megilla (9:26), this name commemorates the “pur” – the lots cast by Haman when he set out to decide the day on which to kill the Jews in the empire.  Many have raised the question of why this seemingly peripheral aspect of the story was chosen as the basis for the name of this festive celebration.  The Klausenberger Rebbe answered that a decision reached by casting lots is the quintessential example of an unintended outcome, producing a result without having wished for it.  The name “Purim” was chosen to emphasize to us the value of even insincerely driven positive outcomes, that we should not belittle any good deed we or others perform, regardless of the level of sincerity with which it was done.
            One of the themes of the Purim celebration is the rediscovery of our inner goodness, sanctity and connection to the Almighty.  The Jews of Persia were submerged in a decadent, gluttonous society, participating in lavish feasts in Shushan instead of working to restore the Beit Ha-mikdash in Jerusalem.  The experience of Haman’s threat and the subsequent miracle inspired a spiritual reawakening, the rekindling of their inner spark which was unnoticeable but which was never extinguished.  On Purim, we celebrate our and our fellow Jews’ inherent goodness and sanctity, which is often hidden, but ever present.  As such, it is a time to appreciate and value each and every mitzva we or others perform.  True, we can look at any given act and find fault in the manner it was done or the motivation behind it.  But on Purim, we are to look at ourselves and at others from the precise opposite perspective, to see only the goodness, to identify, appreciate, admire and celebrate every positive aspect of every person – including ourselves – no matter how small.  For this reason, we are required to give gifts and generously dispense charity, feeling and expressing friendship and affection to all, regardless of who they are, finding reasons to respect and love our fellow Jew.  And, we are to joyously feast and rejoice over all that is good about ourselves and our special nation, focusing our attention solely on our achievements and positive qualities, appreciating the great value of each and every one.