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Adar: Take Back Your Power

‘Your majesty,’ he murmured, eyes gleaming as he knelt before the Kingly throne.  ‘Your majesty, there is a nation... one small nation, scattered and dispersed amongst your Highness’s kingdoms.  A nation who is of a different faith to all of the others, who don’t obey the king’s laws.  A nation certainly unworthy of your grace’s toleration.  So, if the king sees fit, let us decree to annihilate them.  For the princely sum of 10,000 talents of silver which will be deposited in the king’s treasury.’

Haman the Agagite, descendant of our mortal enemy Amalek, presumed that he finally had a winning chance against the Jews.  Scattered amongst the nations, they no longer served their G-d as they had in the past.  With their G-d surely having abandoned them, who would stand with them?   

In fact, he had it all lined up.  The lots he drew indicated that Adar would be the prime month for the destruction of the Jews.  The 7th of this month was the date of Moshe Rabeinu’s death.  The greatest leader of the Jewish nation, the quintessential Jew - surely the month of his demise would be the one whereby all that he had built could be brought toppling down.   

So what did Haman miss?  How did his perfectly constructed plans come crashing down upon him?  How did they culminate instead in his own death, swinging in disgrace on gallows he had built for his archenemy Mordechai?   

But it was no small thing that Haman forgot.  He forgot an intrinsic concept in our religion: the power of Teshuva - of repentance.  Haman underestimated the power of the Jews to un-scatter and un-disperse, to unite with each other and with their father in heaven.  To achieve forgiveness and draw out the transformative power of the month.  From sackcloth to royal garments, from mourning to exuberance, from victim to victor. 

For this is indeed the power of the month.  Adar is a month of opposites, of transformation, as indicated by its Zodiac symbol, with its two fish swimming in opposite directions. True, our leader Moshe may have died in this month, yet Haman forgot that it was the month of his birth too.  Adar is a month of mercy, where darkness can be transformed into light, a month impervious to the evil eye, a month of miracles and redemption. 

And indeed, towards the end, Haman himself understood this, and foresaw fate coming for him.  Although by the time he realized his mistake it was too little, too late.  The Gemara in Megillah tells us that when Haman came to fetch Mordechai for that fateful procession through the cities of Shushan, he asked the Sages, ‘What were you learning when I entered just now?’  They told him, ‘When the Temple is standing, one who pledges a meal-offering would bring a handful of fine flour and achieve atonement with it.’ ‘Your handful of fine flour,’ Haman admitted, ‘Has come and cast aside my ten thousand pieces of silver which I had pledged toward the destruction of the Jewish people.’  Our enemy himself, mired though he was in his hatred and his plotting, still understood that the power of repentance could yet turn all of his elaborate plans upside down; which indeed it did.   

Our enemies understand our power; why don’t we?  All it takes to transform pain to redemption and suffering to celebration, is for us to make use of the precious gift of repentance.  In fact, the Lubavitcher rebbe tells us that in a leap year, we have 60 days of Adar instead of 30.  In the laws of kashrut, 60 has the power to nullify non-kosher ingredients (in certain instances).  And similarly, the 60 days of Adar that we have this year have the power to nullify the negative in our life and transform it to good instead.  Because that is what ultimate repentance achieves.  Repentance from love transforms our sins to mitzvot, the negative in our life to positive.   

This is the true power of Purim, the ‘Venahaphoch Hu’ – the total reversal that we celebrate on this day.  The power of transformation through teshuva, a power which imbues this day with the same power of atonement and promise of redemption as Yom Kippur itself.  Our enemies know this, and it is time we discovered it too.


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