A Sincere Apology
Whose forgiveness do we need--G-ds or our friends?
A Feast and a Fast
The story of a political banquet, a pale-faced queen, and
the dethronement of a medium
INSIGHTS: Joy in Four Dimensions
If youre happy and you know it youre not
by Chaya Shuchat
Most of us have experienced some form of hurt, slight or
loss at the hands of another human being. Sometimes we feel
anger. At other times we find it within ourselves to rise
above our pain and be accepting and forgiving.
But most of us, unfortunately, have also been on the other
side of the fence. We were not the victims, but the perpetrators
of some form of abuse. When we realized, with a sense of guilt,
that we actually inflicted harm on someone else, which emotions
did we experience then? Perhaps we felt shame, at first, but
all too often, that shame slowly subsides into a feeling of
complacency. The world goes on, our life returns to normal,
and our friend is left to nurse the wound and wallow in resentment.
Which one of us has some growing up to do?
"If a person will sin and commit a trespass against
G-d and be deceitful toward his friend regarding a pledge
or a loan or about robbery; or he deprived his comrade; or
he found a lost item and denied it--and he swore falsely about
any of all the things
. He shall repay by its capital
and its fifth;
he shall give it to the one to whom it belongs on the day
he admits his guilt."
On the words "to whom it belongs," Rashi
comments: "To the one to whom the money belongs."
Seemingly, Rashi's interpretation is obvious and redundant.
To whom would you assume that the money should be returned,
if not to the original owner? This is precisely the question
on the verse that Rashi wishes to address. Why does the verse
find it necessary to add the words "to whom it belongs"?
It is possible to argue that the additional fifth is a fine
imposed on the thief as a punishment for his violation, and
therefore, by rights, need not be paid to the victim. The
thief may well be obligated to pay it to the court, or perhaps
donate it to charity. To emphasize that it must indeed be
paid to the target of the theft, the verse stresses, "to
whom it belongs."
This seemingly simple verse addresses a deeper underlying
theme in human relationships. There is a concept in Jewish
mystical thought that when one suffers a loss or damage at
the hands of another human being, he should not feel anger
towards that person, since the loss was decreed upon him from
Above. Even had the aggressor chosen not to do harm to him,
G-d could have sent the negative experience his way through
According to this line of thinking, a thief can absolve himself
of the duty to make amends to the victim of the theft. He
could easily argue that the theft is only an issue between
him and G-d. His argument may run as follows: "I have
full faith in G-d's justice; my issue is between me and G-d
alone. My fellow's loss does not particularly tug at my heartstrings,
for after all, G-d has decreed it upon him. I am indeed concerned
for the breach of my trust relationship with G-d. I have violated
His command, and have taken His name in vain. I will therefore
take upon myself penance and supplications to restore our
relationship. I will dutifully fulfill the biblical obligation
incumbent upon me to restore the loss, and even tack on the
penalty. But the wrong inflicted upon my fellow is hardly
my concern. I feel no duty to go to particularly great lengths
to restore my shattered trust with him; he is a nonentity
Such a skewed view of interpersonal relationships reflects
on a lack in the human-Divine relationship as well. Were we
to fulfill our interpersonal relationships merely to please
G-d, this would indicate a basic self-centeredness. We want
to feel right and justified. We are uncomfortable with the
unsettling feeling of being in the wrong, and therefore we
feel compelled to make amends. Our acceptance of the Divine
commandment to appease our fellow stems essentially from our
own need for personal vindication.
Yet a true relationship with G-d entails being thoroughly
permeated with Divine compassion and sensitivity. We are careful
with other people's feelings not so much for the sake of fulfilling
our own obligations, but out of a sincere interest in the
needs of the other person. Upon discovering or regretting
the wrong I have committed against my friend, my sole concern
is to ease his pain and lighten his burden. My personal obligation
and blight vis-Ó-vis G-d is secondary. What is primary to
me is that my friend's loss, and peace of mind, be restored.
I want not only to return the theft, but even add on an extra
amount to make up for the emotional distress I caused, and
any possible profit that he may have lost out on during the
time that his money was in my possession.
The commandments regulating interpersonal relationships,
such as those concerning slander, honesty in business dealings,
or charitable obligations, fall in the category of "mishpatim,"
or laws which have a logical basis. Although they are in concordance
with human understanding, we are nevertheless obliged to fulfill
them out of a sense of kabbalat ol, (acceptance of
Divine authority). G-d is aware of the all-too-human tendency
to rationalize and justify our transgressions. The Torah therefore
institutes a code of conduct that is not subject to the rules
of human rationality, to prevent a person from absolving himself
of blame when that should suit his agenda. Yet it is far from
G-d's intention that we fulfill our obligations towards our
fellow man out of a sense of duty towards G-d, and forget
the human dimension. The ultimate expression of kabbalat
ol is when it takes root in all levels of the personality.
A G-dly person refrains from gossip and evil speech, is scrupulous
in his business dealings, and avoids to the utmost taking
any property that does not belong to him. But what is his
motivation? Does he really care that much for the feelings
and needs of his fellow human beings, or is he trying to score
points in heaven? The intent of the mishpatim is to
mold the human character, and to guide a person to become
more humane, more sensitive and more loving. We subject ourselves
to the Divine will so that we can transcend our own selfish
nature, and thereby become truly G-dly and loving individuals.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Shabbos Parshas Vayikra, vol.
7, pp. 9-19
Feast and a Fast
by Yanki Tauber
Why was annihilation decreed on the Jews of that generation?
Because they enjoyed the feast of the wicked [King Achashverosh]
Talmud, Megillah 12a
Was participating in the feast of Achashverosh so grave a
sin that it deserved a decree of annihilation, G-d forbid?
Indeed, the Book of Esther implies that it was no sin at all,
even desirable and necessary. We are told that Achashverosh
had instructed that no man be pressured to partake of any
food or drink that did not agree with his constitution or
his religious beliefs. He had even arranged for kosher food
for his Jewish subjects, in full conformity with the exacting
standards of none other than Mordechai himself!
And the Jewish people had many compelling reasons to attend
the week-long banquet thrown by the king to celebrate the
consolidation of his rule over the 127 provinces of the Persian
Empire. All residents of the capital were invited, and to
turn down the royal invitation would have been a grievous
insultsomething that a small minority, scattered throughout
the empire and threatened by many enemies, could ill afford
to do. It is true that the Jews are not like the other nations
of the world, whose fortune rises and falls with the political
tide. In the words of the Talmud, the people of Israel
are not subject to fate,
for they are under the singular province of G-d. Indeed, our
millennia of survival as a lone sheep surrounded by
seventy wolves belies every law of history. But it is also true
that we are commanded to construct a natural vessel
through which the divine protection and blessing might flow.
Surely the Jews of Persia recalled the words spoken by the
prophet Jeremiah seventy years earlier, when they were first
exiled from their homeland: Seek the peace of the city
to which I have exiled you, and pray for it... for in its
peace shall you have peace. 
In any case, even if there were something amiss in the Jewish
attendance at the feast of Achashverosh, was this a transgression
so terrible that it warranted Haman being given the prerogative
to annihilate, slaughter and destroy every Jew, young
and old, women and children, in a single day?
Jews in Politics
But the problem was not that they participated in the feast;
it was that they enjoyed the feast of the
Emperor of Persia.
Certainly, the Jew in exile is commanded to employ the tools
that, by natural criteria, aid his survival under foreign
rule. But he must always remember that this is no more than
a vessel for G-ds protection. Politics,
business, natural lawthese are no more than a front,
an elaborate fašade which G-d desires that we construct to
encase and disguise His supra-natural providence of our lives;
they are not something to be revered, much less to get excited
But the Jews experienced joy at having been invited to Achashveroshs
feast. As they took their places among the Persians, Medians,
Babylonians, Chaldeans and the other nationalities of the
realm, they felt content and secure. After seventy years of
exile, they had made it; they were now a member
of equal standing in the family of nations at Achashveroshs
table, with glatt kosher dinners issuing from the royal
With their joy, the Jews disavowed their uniqueness as a
nation under the special protection of G-d. Their feelings
demonstrated that they now perceived the niche they had carved
for themselves in the good graces of an earthly emperor as
the basis for their survival. But the world they so gleefully
entered is a capricious one. One day a Jew, Mordechai, is
a high-ranking minister in Achashveroshs court and another
Jew, Esther, is his favorite queen; a day later, Haman becomes
prime minister and prevails upon Achashverosh to sign a decree
of annihilation against the Jewish people.
When Mordechai informed Esther of Hamans plans and
enjoined her to use her influence with the king to annul the
decree, Esther told him to gather all the Jews who are
in Shushan, and fast for my sakedo not eat or drink
for three days, night and day; I and my maidens will likewise
fast. Thus I shall go to the king, against the law...
It was forbidden, on pain of death, for anyone to go to the
king unsummoned. Esthers only chance was to charm the
king into not killing her and to turn him against his favorite
minister in favor of her people. The last thing for her to
do under such circumstances was to approach the king looking
like a woman who had not eaten for three days!
So dictate the norms of human nature and palace politics.
But Esther recognize that the key to saving her people was
to reestablish the relationship between G-d and Israel on
its original, supra-natural terms. The Jews must repent their
regression to a political people; they must draw on their
only true resourceG-ds love for them and His commitment
to their survival. They must storm the gates of heaven with
their fasting and prayer, and rouse His compassion for His
Of course, she must go to Achashverosh and do everything
in her power to make him change his mind. But this is merely
a formality. She must go through the motions of doing things
the normal way because that is what G-d wants
her to dobecause this is the garment in which He chooses
to cloak His salvation. But she will not appeal less fervently
to G-d because she fears it will make her less attractive
to Achashveroshthat would be like a soldier discarding
his rifle because it creases his uniform.
Thus Esther rectified the error of those who enjoyed Achashveroshs
feast. They had exalted the fašade, abandoning the essence
of Jewish survival for the sake of the superficial vessel.
Esthers approach to dealing with the threat of Hamans
decree reiterated the true priority of the Jew, and evoked
G-ds reassertion of His singular providence over the
fate of Israel.
Based on the Rebbes talks on Purim 5722 (1962) and
Joy in Four Dimensions
by Yanki Tauber
Joy, teaches the Torah, is to be a perpetual presence in
the life of the Jew. There are, however, several degrees of
1) Serve G-d with joy
(Psalms 100:2). This is the joy that accompanies the performance
of every mitzvahthe Jews joy in having merited
to fulfill the divine will. Here, the joy is not an objective
in itself, but a component of another aim: the objective is
to serve G-d, but in order that this be achieved in the most
optimal manner, ones deeds must be saturated with joy.
(For example: giving charity grudgingly aids the recipient
materially, but also demoralizes him; giving cheerfully nurtures
the paupers body and refreshes his soul).
2) Seasons for rejoicing
(Kiddush for the Festivals; Deuteronomy 16:14). On the festivals,
it is a mitzvah to rejoice. Here, joy is not an accompaniment
to some other deed, but the substance of the endeavor itself.
Nevertheless, this is still not joy for the sake of joy. The
objective remains the fulfillment of the will of G-d, who
commanded that the festivals be celebrated joyously.
3) When [the month of]
Adar commences, one increases in joy (Talmud, Taanit
29a). This means that the Jew strives to increase his joy
in all areas, including his non mitzvah-related activities.
The joy of Adar is not a joy with an objective, but an end
in it itself.
4) A person is obligated
to get drunk on Purim until he doesnt know...
(Talmud, Megillah 7b). On Purim the Jew attains the ultimate
in joy: not only is his joy not qualified by any reason or
objective, it is free even of the objective to be joyous.
He is so consumed with joy that he is oblivious to all, including
the fact that he is rejoicing...
From an address by the Rebbe, Purim 5718 (1958)
 Meaning, that the thief is obligated to repay the
amount that he stole, plus one fifth of the total added
on as a penalty. This refers to a case where the thief regretted
his action and admitted it in a court of law.
 Rashi's commentary on Vayikra 5:24.
 Tanya, Iggeret Hakodesh, ch. 25.
. Esther 1:8; Targum ibid; Talmud, Megillah 12a.
. Talmud, Shabbat 156a; et al.
. Midrash Rabbah, Esther 10:11; et al.
. Cf. Deuteronomy 15:18: G-d will bless you
in all that you will do; see discourses on
this verse by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (Sefer HaMaamarim
5565, vol. II, p. 648; 5568, vol. I, p. 165), Rabbi DovBer
of Lubavitch (introduction to Derech HaChaim), Rabbi Menachem
Mendel of Lubavitch (Derech Mitzvotecha, Mitzvat Tiglachat
Metzora, ch. 2), and Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch (Kuntres
UMaayan, Maamar 17).
. Likkutei Sichot, vol. XXXI, pp. 170-176.
. Likkutei Sichot, vol. IV, p. 1274.