Esther 3:8, Question 5. Why does Haman stress that Jewish laws are different from the laws of others?

  • Many cultures in large nations like Achashverosh’s would have their own unique set of rules, customs, and even mores. Here, Haman is stressing that Jewish laws not only different, but even antagonistic to the laws of the land. According to the Talmud (Megillah 13b), Haman is complaining that the Jews “won’t eat our food, won’t marry from us, won’t marry to us.” Haman even uses his knowledge of Jewish law to defame Judaism. He tells the king that if a fly were to touch a Jew’s cup, he would remove it and continue drinking. However, if the king were to touch a Jew’s cup, the Jew would throw the wine away. Alluding to the law of yayin nesech (see Talmud, Avodah Zarah 30a), Haman is telling the king that the Jews view the Persians as unclean (see the Targum Sheini).
  • According to Rav Dovid Feinstein, Haman is saying the Jews view their own laws as superior, and therefore even trumping, the king’s gentile law. On one hand, he is right. Although the Talmud in numerous places (Gittin 10b, Baba Kama 113a, Baba Basra 54b, Nedarim 28a) notes a concept called “dina d’malchusa dina” (“the law of the kingdom is the law”) which means is that Jews are expected to follow the laws of the lands in which we find ourselves, this is only true as long as those laws do not directly contradict Jewish law.
  • On the other hand, as Megillas Sefer learns, Haman is saying that the Jews even go to the extreme measure of mutilating their sons (through circumcision) to avoid intermarrying with the gentiles around us. Poor, little innocent children are cut for their parents’ religious fanaticism. Interestingly, had it not been a command, its cruelty would make it abhorrent. Rav Hirsch (Collected Writings, Volume II, 385) writes, “In exile, in disrepute, tiny to behold, yet always conspicuous, it is a nation which calls attention to itself, prods others into action and yet, despite its dispersal, manages to preserve its unique heritage and even to transmit it from one generation to the other.”
  • The Targum Sheini writes that Haman’s criticism of the Jews here was that the Jews “have warm water in winter and cold water in summer.” The Ben Ish Chai explains that Haman is saying the Jews focus on physical pleasure. He also says notes that the Jews manipulate their own calendars from twenty-nine to thirty days, depending on when they want Rosh Chodesh to fall out. In Haman’s estimation, these designations are arbitrary and to the Jews’ own benefit.
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3 responses to “Esther 3:8, Question 5. Why does Haman stress that Jewish laws are different from the laws of others?

  1. I am beginning to see a comment posted by pro-circs that goes, “People of high quality have their sons circumcised”. A statement like that is white supremos and racist, considering it is mostly white people who circumcise their sons. It is not as common for other races to circumcise their sons. Does that make the rest of us, who are not white, low quality people because if it? Germany made the same mistake of trying to decide who were “high quality people” from 1933 to 1945.
    If I ever set out to prove myself a “high quality person” (which I don’t feel I have to prove anything), I can find ways of doing so rather than to mess up my own child’s genitals. Someone who feels they must prove their self high quality by doing that, lacks quality everywhere else in their life.

    • I was at first considering ignoring your comment since it is so far left-field from the Torah focus of this blog. However, in the hopes of helping you find a way out of your delusion, I do have some things to say. In any discussion, it is important to consider the source. I don’t agree with anybody who circumcises their child for reasons of superiority — or even cultural traditions. As far as I am concerned, the only legitimate reasons for circumcision are medical or the word of G-d. I literally wrote that in my blog on Esther 3:3: “We should also remember that when we fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah, we are listening to the laws of the King. These are not just old customs we do for the sake of cultural continuation. Indeed, if circumcision were anything less than a command of the King, perhaps California would not be so far off the mark for suggesting a law to make the act illegal.” Parenthetically, I am not sure of your source for the statement that “it is mostly white people who circumcise their sons. It is not as common for other races to circumcise their sons.” In my understanding of biology, there is only a human race, and any “us and them” breakdown like “white and black” or “Hutus and Tutsis” are artificial fabrications (http://www.pbs.org/race/000_General/000_00-Home.htm). That’s one of the most profound lessons Malcolm X learned from his haj, as mentioned in his autobiography.

      • My statement came from more than one source, and one observation. One source was from a 1987 segment of the Phil Donahue Show, when they had a talk show on circumcision. Other sources were the input I would hear when some other guys, in the workplace, would get on the topic of circumcision. Some white guys would say, “Yea, I been circumcised”, often talking like they were proud of it. Everyone else would say things like, “Screw that”, or, “How can you even deal with that, man?”, or “My dad didn’t let them do that to me”.
        As for my observation… That was when I was homeless for one month in Memphis Tennessee, ten years ago. I spent one night in a Union Mission shelter (being around all the wrecked lives was so depressing, I didn’t go back). When they had us shower, there was no privacy. We had about 20% white men there, and I noticed almost all of them were circumcised. Every one else was not circumcised. What you actually see for yourself does not lie.
        And how I feel about about medical reasons for circumcision is, the act is so perverted, the perversion of it far outweighs what little medical benefits someone can dream up. I once thought they handed down 20 prison sentences to those who mess with little babies bottoms. I’m sheathed, 58 years old, and never had a health problem from it.

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