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Parable of the Month March: Combining the Serious and the Funny in a Purim-Mashal

The Jewish holiday of Purim falls on the 14th of the Jewish month Adar. This year, this is on March 10. On Purim, the biblical book of Esther is read. The story of Esther remembers the saving of the Jewish in Persia during the reign of Ahasuerus. The story is probably legendary, because none of the names and dates correspond with either biblical chronology or historical data. However, the story of persecution and, fortunately also survival, is an ever-actual one. Purim is a happy holiday, celebrated with food, drinks and laughter. Like Purim, the following mashal combines the serious and the funny.

Ahasuerus responded to Haman’s request: “And the king said to Haman: The silver is given to you; the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you” (Esther 3:11).

Rabbi Abba said: The actions of Ahasuerus and Haman can be understood with a parable; to what may they be compared? To two individuals, one of whom had a mound in the middle of his field and the other of whom had a ditch in the middle of his field, each one suffering from his own predicament. The owner of the ditch, noticing the other’s mound of dirt, said to himself: Who will give me this mound of dirt suitable for filling in my ditch; I would even be willing to pay for it with money, and the owner of the mound, noticing the other’s ditch, said to himself: Who will give me this ditch for money, so that I may use it to remove the mound of earth from my property?

At a later point, one day, they happened to have met one another. The owner of the ditch said to the owner of the mound: Sell me your mound so I can fill in my ditch. The mound’s owner, anxious to rid himself of the excess dirt on his property, said to him: Take it for free; if only you had done so sooner. Similarly, Ahasuerus himself wanted to destroy the Jews. As he was delighted that Haman had similar aspirations and was willing to do the job for him, he demanded no money from him. (Mishnah Megilla 14a)

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