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Cursed Is Haman, Part Of Our Avoda
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

The goal is for “Mordechai” and “Haman” to work together, ultimately demonstrating that “there is none but Him”…

 The following account was related to me by Rabbi Yaakov Gansberg:

The story opens in Russia, at a time when the secret police were relentlessly pursuing the “Schneersons” and everyone else associated with them. Many Lubavitchers were arrested, while others were sent into exile. Still others disappeared without a trace, never to be heard from again. The ones who remained lived in constant fear, never knowing when their turn might come.

Despite the atmosphere of terror and intimidation, and the fact that participants in any innocent gathering could be immediately arrested for unlawful assembly, Chassidim never stopped acting as Chassidim. Minyanim continued to meet, shiurim were given, and of course, farbrengens continued to be held on special occasions.

I’d like to quote from a book written by the late Rabbi Shmaryahu Noach Sassonkin, entitled My Memoirs, that depicts the nature of farbrengens in the old days in Russia.

“There were many people who warned us Chassidim against having too much mesiras nefesh, insisting that it placed our lives in unnecessary danger. It’s one thing to have mesiras nefesh for davening or learning Torah, or for Shabbos or the chinuch of our children, they claimed. In those cases mesiras nefesh is worthwhile, and brings great spiritual benefit. But why endanger yourselves just to farbreng together? Wouldn’t it be prudent to forgo such gatherings until the danger has passed?”

[Note: It should be pointed out that in those days, farbrenging involved a lot less talking and a lot more singing than nowadays. Furthermore, before the g’zeira against drinking too much alcohol was issued, it was not unusual for participants at farbrengens to pour out their hearts without constraint.]

Rabbi Sassonkin concludes:

“The facts reveal that almost all of those who attended farbrengens were able to withstand the trials and tribulations of the Soviet era and remained frum, whereas most of those who didn’t attend eventually succumbed to the pressure and caved in…”

 Reb Yaakov Gansberg’s story illustrates that same mesiras nefesh:

As Purim approached, it never occurred to us not to have a farbrengen. We were a sizeable group, including Reb Mendel Futerfas, who lived in a suburb right outside Moscow. It was decided that we would meet in a certain house; if my memory serves me right, it was the house in which the mashpia Rabbi Nissan Nemenow was then staying.

In those days, in the middle of the Second World War, disorder ruled in Russia. Bands of thieves and robbers roamed about freely, exploiting the lawless situation. There was no one to complain to, no system of justice at all. Things got so bad that it was often dangerous just to leave the house. The gypsies were the worst of all. Unusually tall and physically robust, they excelled in their chosen line of work. And as always, Jews were the first victims.

Nonetheless, no power in the world could prevent us from farbrenging on Purim. Not the secret police, and surely not the threat of violent gypsies.

We had almost reached our destination when we were suddenly attacked. The gypsies were armed with knives and hatchets, and a variety of other frightening-looking weapons. Our group began to scatter, screaming at the top of our lungs for help.

But not everyone succeeded in running away. I was seized by a giant gypsy, who proceeded to squeeze the life out of me and almost broke my ribs. At that moment, which lasted an eternity, I was sure it was all over. The world that is entirely good seemed to beckon…

Everyone was yelling and screaming, but this was not so unusual a sight as to draw attention. Drunken peasants were always acting rowdy on the streets. Since it was Purim, our friends already inside the house might not even realize the seriousness of the situation.

When Reb Mendel saw what was happening to me, he didn’t hesitate. Reb Mendel was then still relatively young, and a lot stronger than I was. Without further ado, he jumped on the giant and caught him by surprise.

The gypsy, surprised and angered by the attack, momentarily lessened his grip on me and turned his attention to Reb Mendel. I quickly ran away, but now Reb Mendel was caught. The enraged robber took out his knife.

Mustering all his strength, Reb Mendel bit down on the man’s finger. He bit and bit until…the finger came off.

The gypsy was in so much pain that he forgot about Reb Mendel, who took the opportunity to dive into a huge mound of snow. Aroused by their fellow bandit’s cries, all the other gypsies came running over with murder in their hearts. Again and again they thrust their knives into the snow, determined to find the Jew. Reb Mendel bore a scar on his face for the rest of his life after this incident. Thank G-d, a crowd gathered, and the band of gypsies gave up their search and dispersed.

Reb Mendel Futerfas saved my life. It was a demonstration of pure and unadulterated mesiras nefesh mesiras nefesh without any considerations whatsoever.

* * *

The festival of Purim has just passed, the time when it is a mitzva to drink ad d’lo yada. More than any other holiday, Purim symbolizes absolute mesiras nefesh, the need to rise above all calculation and consideration.

Thus it is both timely and appropriate that we review what the Rebbe said about Purim in 5752, and heed his directives. For, as is known, der Rebbe hot altz bavorent – the Rebbe forewarned everything. His words contain “the answers to all the questions being asked,” as he stated in 5710.

Mordechai, the Rebbe explained, is the epitome of the concept of “he would not bow down, nor would he kneel” to worldly matters. A Jew pays no attention to what the world dictates. To the Jew, anything other than G-dliness is avoda zara, extraneous and irrelevant to his mission in the world.

The Jew has only one avoda. (“The only avoda that remains is to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu in actuality.”) Anything that does not pertain to that avoda, even if it was relevant at a different time and is actually holy, is “an avoda that is extraneous to him.” At present, we have only one mission to fulfill. Any diversion from that path, no matter how minor or seemingly justified, misses the point.

Now let us consider Haman. We’re not talking about a Haman who looks like a murderer and walks around with a knife dripping blood; we’re talking about a Haman who wears a silk kapote and “sticks out his hooves as if to say, ‘See how kosher I am.’”

“You have to take the world into consideration,” this Haman says. “You can’t bang your head against the wall and tell the world what the Rebbe said, exactly as he said it. You have to compromise, soften it a little. The world still isn’t a proper vessel; no one is going to accept your message.” Haman can even bring you proof from the Torah that he is right!

The difference between Mordechai and Haman lies in their basic outlook on the world. Each one functions according to a different principle.

To Mordechai, the only important thing is to fulfill the will of G-d. He is uninterested in anything else; nothing else matters — “He would not bow down, nor would he kneel.”

To Haman, the decisive factor is the world. The world determines what he says and how he acts.

However, the Torah teaches that both of them are right! In the Megilla we read “that they should do according to every man’s will” – the will of Mordechai, “ish Yehudi – there was a Jewish man,” together with the will of “ish tzar ve’oyeiv – the man who is the adversary and enemy”!

For despite the fact that Haman’s fundamental premise is wrong (“rachmana litzlan” the Rebbe said!), the way for us to attain our ultimate objective is by injecting Mordechai’s will into the will of Haman.

In practical terms, this means knowing that although the only consideration is doing what G-d wants, when we act b’derech ha’teva (through natural means), the world absorbs the G-dliness in a more internal manner, and actually helps Mordechai fulfill his mission!

The resulting blend should be so complete and seamless “that one doesn’t know the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.’” For “cursed is Haman” is also part of G-d’s desire that Mordechai create “a dwelling place for G-d in the lower realms” – precisely within the natural order.

* * *

Whenever Haman tries to assert himself and demands that we take the world into consideration, he must be immediately put in his place. Haman cannot be the boss; we cannot “bow down or kneel to him.”

Haman must be “hanged on the tall gallows 50 cubits high” – symbolic of the Shaar HaNun – the Fiftieth Gate. Haman must be made to understand that the basic existence of the Jew transcends the natural order.

We are victorious over klipa, the forces of evil, when Haman is subservient and willingly subjects himself to holiness. The ultimate objective is to use the world as a tool with which to further Mordechai’s will and imbue the lower realms with sanctity.

Haman’s function is to transmit the message of “blessed is Mordechai” to the world at large, to those who can understand only his language of worldly matters. Even klipa can be used for a higher purpose; indeed, this is the entire purpose of creation.

When there is no distinction between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai,” the underlying oneness of existence is revealed. “Everything is G-dliness, and G-dliness is everything.” The whole works in tandem, ultimately bearing witness to the fact that “there is nothing else but Him.”

There is only one avoda left – to actually greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu. We will not be deterred.



Haman says, “You can’t tell the world what the Rebbe said, exactly as he said it. You have to compromise, soften it a little...”





When there is no distinction between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai,” the underlying oneness of existence is revealed.



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