How to hang Haman

  • ParshaRabbiWineberg
Someone once asked: “What is the difference between ignorance and apathy?" The reply came quickly: “I don’t know and I don’t care!"

What is humanity's most dangerous character trait? Which human failing most threatens our historic charge to bring G-dliness into the world?

Put differently, who is a greater threat to our national project, Haman or Achashverosh?

The Talmud in Tractate Megillah tells that they both equally hated the Jews. Yet, Haman is hanged and portrayed as the ultimate villain; a caricature of the anti-Semite for all time. And all the while Achashverosh - who gives Haman initial authority to implement his Final Solution, and profits from it nogal - is given a pass. A “get out of jail free” card in Jewish history!

Achashverosh was a boor, a simple stable boy who through sheer luck rose to the greatest office of the land. Indeed, Jewish scholarship portrays him as a bumbling fool, who waffles on existential matters of state.

But Haman is a descendant of Agag, king of Amalek, the eternal enemy of our people. “Zachor - remember that which Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt.”

In a special pre-Purim reading this Shabbat, the Torah instructs us to erase any memory of Amalek, “from the face of the earth”. Amalek is synonymous with cynicism; a people who snipe at the Jews, “just because”.

Legend has it that the chief rabbi of pre-state Palestine, Harav Kook, Zatzal, was once challenged by a British official about the Jews’ devotion to the Western Wall. “After all,” he sneered, “it’s just a bunch of stones.”

“Let me explain”, responded the Chief Rabbi. “In this land everything is not as it seems. You see, some hearts are made of stone, and some stones actually have a heart.”

Ignorance is a terrible malady, yet it is correctable. But cynicism is a rot that eats away at the soul. The cynic’s only goal is to destroy the other, it has no interest in anything constructive. There is no correcting a cynic. As Rav Kook demonstrated in his response, the only effective way is to call it out for what it is: heartless, apathetic.

Ignorant Achashverosh and cynical Haman represent two distinct internal threats to our people. With Achashverosh we could “make a plan”. Cynicism (not to be confused with scepticism), on the other hand, is a deadly character trait, with no positive side-effects. So, hang your inner Haman on the highest tree and let your inspiration shine forth.

Happy Purim!


  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
    Toolbar's wrapper 
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.


Follow us on