לִטְבּוֹעַ: to drown, sink
If you have ever witnessed a total solar eclipse, you will no doubt be amazed at this spectacular act of nature, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself how the mechanics of it all comes about?
The remarkable answer is that while the moon is exactly 1/400ththe size of the sun, its distance from the earth is exactly 1/400ththe distance of the sun from the earth. Indeed a most unlikely coincidence, although real, this perfect fit of lunar and solar discs is more aptly engineered to be an optical illusion designed especially from the perspective of a human being, because it only works from the viewpoint of man standing on the earth’s surface. We, though, call it nature.1
הַטֶבַעandאֶ-לֹהִיםhave the same gematriaof eighty-six. The name of י-ה-ו-הrepresents the aspect of Hashem, Who transcends this world, whereas the nameאֶ-לֹהִיםrepresents the aspect of Hashem Whose powers control the order of the natural world. These two aspects of Hashem’s names are said in the Shema. When we read the Shema, we could understand it in the following way:
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל ה’אֶ-לֹהֵינוּ ה’אֶחָד — Listen all of you, people of Israel,
ה’ — Hashem who transcends this world
אֶ-לֹהֵינוּ — [is] the power that controls nature;
ה’אֶחָד — Hashemי-ה-ו-ה, who transcends the world, and אֶ-לֹהִים, the powers that control nature, are one.
Everything we see is Hashem, only that Hashem masks Himself within nature.
Rav Shimshon Pincus, in his seferon Purim, gives a wonderful analogy on how to perceive the world. When you go to the local store to buy some milk, along with the bag of milk that you end up buying are another 500 bags of milk. You can therefore look at the situation in one of two ways: Either Hashem has organized that there will be enough milk to fulfill the needs of many, including you, or Hashem has arranged one particular bag of milk especially for you but wishes to hide Himself, so He arranges that there will be another 500 bags.
Purim is the day to overturn the way one looks at the world, נַהַפֹךְ הוּא, and see the true reality that Hashem loves you and has placed you in this world to play with Him within nature. The nature of the game is “hide-and-seek,” and your mission is to seek Him out.
When we dress up on Purim and put on masks, we somehow get in touch with the fact that Hashem too is wearing the mask of nature, and weמְגַלֶה/reveal (from the word megillah) to ourselves the truth that we are the stars in Hashem’s “all-star” show. Everything revolves around the Jewish People; all the eyes of the world are focused on us because we are Hashem’s stars, the leading role.
Gil Locks, in his book One, also gives a wonderful analogy. Hashem wants to share His goodness, so He invites everyone to a big feast. Everyone is sitting around the table wearing a mask, having a great time. At the end of the meal, Hashem, the baal habayis,tells us to take off our masks. When we all take off our masks, we realize we are all one.
The connection of טֶבַע/natureto מַטְבֵּעַis that just like a coin is imprinted with the king’s signature on the face of the coin, so too Hashem has imprinted his signature within nature. Either you see it or you don’t.
לִטְבּוֹעַ: To Drown, Sink
The imprint on a coin is נִטְבַּע/sunken into its surface. As we have said above, Hashem has sunken His impression within nature. There are places in the world, some more than others, where Hashem has sunken Himself into nature to the point where it is very hard to see Him. One of those places in the times of the Tanach was Egypt. Egypt is represented by the עֵגֶל/calf, which comes from the word מַעַגַל/circle.2The circle has no beginning and no end, and like the שָׁנָה/year, it just goes around and around without שִׁנוּי/change. The sun was one of the main gods in Egypt, representing the idea of an unchanging world, as it says in Koheles:אֵין כָּל חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשֶׁמֶשׁ/there is nothing new under the sun.3The letter ס/samech, which is in itself a circle, first appears in the Torah in connection with the Nile River: הוּא הַסֹּבֵב אֵת כָּל אֶרֶץ הַחֲוִילָה/which circles the land of Chavilah, known as Egypt.4The Nile, another Egyptian god, was worshipped for being the main source of water. Egypt, with all its gods, was a G-d-forsaken place,נִטְבַּע/sunken within the unchanging cycle we call טֶבַע/nature. It comes as no surprise that Pharaoh and his army wereנִטְבַּע/drowned in the Yam Suf, a fitting end to a people who worshippedטֶבַע/nature.
Just like a ring is circular, so too nature is circular. The sun and the planets are round, whereas all that is square in the world is manmade. Have you ever seen a square pebble washed up on the beach?
Just like Hashem signs his name within nature, so too a ring can be used as a signet ring. Whoever the king chooses to give his ring to has the power to rule over everything, becoming מִשְׁנֶה לְמֶלֶךְ/second only to the king. There are three occasions in Tanach where the king gives over his ring: the first time is to Yosef, the second time is to Haman, and the last to Mordechai. When it is given to Yosef, the verse says the following:
וַיָּסַר פַּרְעֹה אֶת טַבַּעְתּוֹ מֵעַל יָדוֹ וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ עַל יַד יוֹסֵף
And Pharaoh removed his ring from upon his hand and placed it on the hand of Yosef.5
When it is given to Haman, however, there is a change in the language:
וַיָּסַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶת טַבַּעְתּוֹ מֵעַל יָדוֹ וַיִּתְּנָהּ לְהָמָן
And the king removed his ring from upon his hand and gave it to Haman.6
The difference between the two verses is that the king placed the ring on the hand of Yosef, whereas with Haman, the ring was given to him and he placed it on himself. The difference, although subtle, is quite significant. Rashi, in his commentary to the verse regarding the giving of the ring to Yosef, says it was an אוֹת/sign of greatness. With regards to Haman, Rashi makes no comment to the ring being a sign of greatness. Since Haman had no inherent greatness, he had to put the ring on his own hand, whereas with Yosef, who exemplified greatness, the ring was placed on his hand by the king himself. A subtle difference, but really worlds apart.
When it comes to Mordechai, the verse says the following:
וַיָּסַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶת טַבַּעְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱבִיר מֵהָמָן וַיִּתְּנָהּ לְמָרְדֳּכָי
And the king removed his ring that he passed over to Haman and gave it to Mordechai.7
One may ask why, since Mordechai too exemplified greatness, the ring was not directly placed on his hand by the king as it was with Yosef. The reason is that previously it was not on the hand of the king, but it was merely transferred from the hand of Haman to the hand of Mordechai.
There is an expression “how the mighty have fallen.” This was Haman. Someone who is not inherently great cannot sustain his position. Haman fell because he could not stand the fact that Mordechai the Jew would not bow down to him. Even though Haman was extremely wealthy, had great honor, and was second to the king, it was not enough. Instead of focusing on all the good that he had, he focused his attention on what he lacked. The same is true with Adam and Chava; the whole world was open to them, and yet they focused on their limitations.
The Gemara in Megillahasks: where is Haman found in the Torah? Hamin Ha’Eitz, referring to the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad. There is one more place where Haman is explicitly mentioned in the Torah —where the Bnei Yisrael complain about the manna: וְעַתָּה נַפְשֵׁנוּ יְבֵשָׁה אֵין כֹּל בִּלְתִּי אֶל הַמָּן עֵינֵינוּ/and now our souls are parched, there is nothing but the manna.8Again, instead of focusing on all the good that Hashem had given them, they chose to focus on their lack.
This is the middahof Haman, the Amalek within us, who denies the workings of Hashem. The true reality is that all that we have right now is perfectly measured out for us by Hashem to facilitate all of our needs. However, the Amalek within us deceives us into thinking that we are nevertheless lacking something essential.
בָּרוּךְמָרְדְּכַי,אָרוּר הָמָן/ blessed is Mordechai, cursed is Haman. Both are given authority by the king, which is really Hashem. Sometimes the ring is in the hands of מָרְדְּכַי,and sometimes it is in the hands of הָמָן, but it is all in the name of the King. The ring on one hand is to get the Jewish People to do teshuvah, i.e., when we have lost Hashem to doubt and He sends עַמָלֵק, e.g., Hitler, to wake us up. On the other hand, when we are doing Hashem’s will, we are in the blessed safe hands of מָרְדְּכַי.
Not only did Hashem give the טַבַּעַת/the signet ring to Mordechai, Haman, and Yosef, He also gave it to each and every one of us. We are the children of אַבְרָהָם,יִצְחָק,וְיַעַקֹב;we all have the ability to achieve greatness and become second to the King. We are Hashem’s chosen nation, where we are obligated to choose to see beyond טֶבַע/nature, to see beyond the world of Egypt. Instead of leading an accursed life like Haman and focusing on our lackings, we can choose to focus on the good and lead a blessed life.
We are no less than Hashem’s signatories in the world. Every time we go against our nature, we sign Hashem’s name in the world — “All in the name of the King.”
2See above, Parshas Pikudei.
4See Ramban to Bereishis2:11.