Purim

The Hill and the Hole

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Haman & Achashveirosh: 2 forms of antisemitism
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

When Haman offered Achashveirosh 10,000 talents of silver for permission to carry out his genocidal plot against the Jews, the king responded: "The silver is given to you as well as the people, to do with them as you see fit." (Megillat Esther 3:11). He then gave Haman the royal ring as power for his "final solution."

Our Sages compare this scene to a dialogue between a man who had a hill in his field which obstructed his cultivation of it and another who had a similar problem with a deep hole in his field. Each of them longed for what was in the other's field as a solution to his own problem. One day the fellow with the hole approached the hill owner with an offer to buy his hill from him so that he could fill his hole. The hill owner graciously declined the offer of money and gladly allowed him to removed the hill for the benefit of both of them.

Achashveirosh and Haman both hated the Jews, but for opposite reasons. To the haughty king, this wise and noble people represented a hill that threatened his own stature. To Haman they were lowly, contemptible creatures to look down upon as one would a hole in the ground.

In another sense, these two symbols represent two classical approaches to overcoming anti-Semitism throughout the ages. The Jews who believe they are hated because they are different have discovered that assimilation only earns them the disrespect of those they attempt to imitate, who subsequently look down on them even more than before - the hole! Other efforts to win the affection of non-Jews by reminding them how much they owe the Jews who have enriched their commerce, science and arts, only produce an irritating hill of debts which our enemies, like Achashveirosh, are glad to get rid of.

The only real solution is that indicated in the very next lines of gemara commenting on the king's transfer of the ring: "The transfer of this ring achieved more than all of the 48 prophets and seven prophetesses who did not succeed in causing Jews to repent, while this transfer of power did."

  • Megillah 14a

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