What Went Wrong With Haman’s Lots

PurimBurst, 1992 / 5752
Sarah Yehudit Schneider

Based on a teaching of R. Tsadok HaKohen[1]

Even when black magicians cast lots, it is not from belief in chance, in the sense of slipping outside the scope of cosmic influence.  Most magical practices—crystal balls, tarot, tea leaves, etc.,—are based upon reading meaning and significance into these “chance” events.  They believe that their gods or guardian angels communicate through these apparently random happenings.  And so it says that Haman rejoiced when his pur landed on Adar.[2]  Obviously he felt that the lots had succeeded in drawing forth cosmic assistance for his evil scheme.

In fact, lots (purim) are our primary means of accessing pure Divine influence, of evoking guidance untainted by personal attachments and preconceptions.  Once the die leave the hand, our control over the result is severed.  In that moment the ego-mind drops its reigns and lets its Higher Power steer the coach.

This act of ayin, or self-negation below arouses the level of Divine Ayin (the most transcendent and unknowable “head” of Divinity) above.[3]  The lots worked.  They did exactly this.  What Haman didn’t realize is that this Force, once unleashed, only serves good.  No matter what you asked, the lots answer only one question: How, at this crossroads, can I best serve G‑d’s vision of personal and messianic redemption?  Which option best furthers the glorious revelation of Divine perfection?

This explains a perplexing incident in Biblical history.[4] When Joshua led the people in their first battles to conquer the land of Israel, HaShem promised them an unbroken succession of victories with one stipulation: He forbid the taking of booty from their adversaries. Unbeknownst to anyone, Achan disobeyed and for this the Jews suffered a bitter and humiliating defeat in their next battle. Joshua, not knowing that one of the soldiers had broken the no-booty clause, was shocked by HaShem’s betrayal.  He sought an explanation for HaShems breach of promise which had assured their certain victory. HaShem responded, “Israel has sinned.”  Joshua asked who, specifically, had sinned.  HaShem said, “Am I an informer?  Go and cast lots.”[5]

Rav Tsadok HaKohen asks what difference it makes whether HaShem reveals the culprit through prophesy or through lots. We, as Jews, use lots as a means of revealing Divine Providence.  “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole of the decision is from the Lord.”[6]  Why did HaShem consider it “talebearing” to reveal Achan’s identity through prophesy, but felt comfortable doing so through lots?

Lots access the level of Ayin, where there is only G‑d and nothing happens outside HaShem’s will.  This means that in Ayin there is only mitzvah, for the very definition of sin as an act that crosses HaShem’s will has no meaning there.  In Ayin it becomes crystal clear that even Haman’s machinations were a throne for good and HaShem was pulling the strings all along.  In Ayin the Haman in each of our hearts gets whitened and elevated and its sins are turned to merits and actually get counted for good.[7]  Thus when, from the place of Ayin, HaShem identifies Achan as the culprit, it is not talebearing.  For Ayin sees to the final perfection of things, where there is no longer sin, for all has been transformed into holiness.

On Purim the holy lights of Ayin shine through the world.  May we offer our life as lots, always seeking the option that serves G‑d’s highest good.

[1] R. Tsadok HaKohen, Tsidkat HaTsadik, Pri Tsadik, II:Shushan Purim, 2.

[2] TB Megilla 13b.

[3] See PurimThemes, p. ‎5.

[4] Joshua 7.

[5] TB Sanhedrin 43b.

[6] Mishley 16:33.

[7] It is important to remember that this transforming of sin into merit only happens after a long and grueling process of purgation and teshuva.

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