Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Purim Story

מסכת בבא בתרא-דף עג,ב
ואמר רבה בר בר חנה זימנא חדא הוה קא אזלינן בספינתא וחזינן ההוא כוורא דיתבא ליה אכלה טינא באוסיי (ומית ־הגהות הב"ח) ואדחוהו מיא ושדיוהו לגודא וחרוב מיניה שתין מחוזי ואכול מיניה שתין מחוזי ומלחו מיניה שתין מחוזי ומלאו מחד גלגלא דעיניה תלת מאה גרבי משחא וכי הדרן לבתר תריסר ירחי שתא חזינן דהוה קא מנסרי מגרמי מטללתא ויתבי למבנינהו הנך מחוזי
The Maharsha says this entire story is talking about Purim. He says that "going on a boat" means going into a place of danger. The fish which they saw refers to Haman who drew a lottery and decided to destroy the Jews in the month of Adar whose zodiac sign is fish; he wanted to "swallow up the Jews" like a fish which "swallows up" its food. The small insect inside the nose of the fish refers to Mordechai who acted with great humility and looked at himeself as a small insect. The pushing of the water refers to Mordechai's prayers through which he turned the tables on Haman and ended up killing Haman. The sixty cities which were destroyed refer to the soldiers who were planning to attack the Jews had it not been for the Jews' prayers. The sixty cities of people who ate from the meat of the fish refer to the Jews, who after their victory, took the spoils of war. The eye of the fish refers to Haman who "set his eye" upon the month of Adar to make it into a month of bad luck. The exorbitant amount of oil extracted from the fish's eye (three-hundred barrels of oil) refer to the commandment to be excessively happy on Purim. The building made from the dead fish's bones after twelve months refer to the establishment of the holiday of Purim which occurs yearly and was the opposite of the intention of Haman, yet Haman himself caused it to occur.

ואמר רבה בר בר חנה זימנא חדא הוה קא אזלינן בספינתא וחזינן ההוא כוורא דיתבא ליה חלתא אגביה וקדח אגמא עילויה סברינן יבשתא היא וסלקינן ואפינן ובשלינן אגביה וכד חם גביה אתהפיך ואי לאו דהוה מקרבא ספינתא הוה טבעינן
The Maharsha explains: The sea is a reference to the exile. The "dry land" which they thought they saw was a temporary ease in the sufferings in the exile, which lulled them into a false sense of security that they began feasting on the back of the fish, meaning they stopped praying for the redemption and instead took part in the elaborate banquets thrown by Ahasuerus because they were satisfied with their position in the exile. Then, the true nature of the exile revealed itself, and it showed itself to be extremely dangerous. Had it not been for the fact that select individuals continued praying for the redemption, like Mordechai, then the Jews would have drowned completely into the depths of the exile.

ואמר רבה בר בר חנה זימנא חדא הוה אזלינן בספינתא וסגאי ספינתא בין שיצא לשיצא דכוארא תלתא יומי ותלתא לילוותא איהו בזקיפא ואנן בשיפולא וכי תימא לא מסגיא ספינתא טובא כי אתא רב דימי אמר כמיחם קומקומא דמיא מסגיא שתין פרסי ושאדי פרשא גירא וקדמה ליה ואמר רב אשי ההוא גילדנא דימא הואי דאית ליה תרי שייצי
The Maharsha explains: Navigating between the two fins of the fish refers to the two possible outcomes in the story of the Purim, either the Amalekites would triumph and destory the Jews or the Jews would triumph and destory the Amalekites. The fact that that this maneuver lasted three days alludes to the fact that the Jews fasted three days in the Book of Esther in order to repent so that they may merit redemption from the plot of Haman. The fish swimming erect/upstream refers to the gallows which Haman had built upon which he planned to hang Mordechai. While the boat sailing downstream refers to Mordechai who "lowered" his stature with his acts of humility.

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