NOAH’S ARK AND HAMAN’S GALLOWS
October 21, 2014
Rabbi H. Greenberg in #945, Noach, Parsha Thought, Purim

One of history’s most famous construction projects was the building of Noah’s Ark, through which he and civilization itself were saved from the flood that destroyed every other living creature in the world.

A BOARD FROM THE ARK

This Ark served another purpose much later in history which is not as well-known as the Flood story. In the Biblical account, the Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat where it remains until this very day. However, according to one Midrashic account, the Ark served a crucial function close to 1,500 years later. When Haman sought to have Mordechai hanged he sent his son Parshandasa to fetch a board from Noah’s Ark to use in constructing the gallows. It was on this very board that Haman himself was hanged!

Without too much probing beneath the surface we can see a correlation between these two disparate events:

The Ark saved humanity and the Ark saved the Jewish people from annihilation at the hands of the wicked Haman.

We must, however, delve even more deeply for a better understanding of the contribution of the Ark to the hanging of the Jewish nation’s arch enemy, Haman. Why was it so crucial for Haman to meet his end with a remnant of the Ark? And why was Haman so intent on hanging Mordechai with this board?

FOUR SOURCES OF HAMAN’S GALLOWS

A survey of Midrashic literature yields at least three additional views on the source of the gallows upon which Haman was hanged.

According to Pirkei d’R’ Eliezer, the lumber for the 50 cubit tall gallows was taken from the Holy of Holies, the innermost and most holy section of the Beis HaMikdash.

According to another Midrash, the gallows were prepared by G-d in the “Six Days of Creation.”

According to the Talmud, Haman’s name is hinted in the verse which quotes G-d’s admonition to Adam: “Have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” The phrase “Hamin-have…from” shares the consonants of the name Haman. Hence Haman’s name is associated with the Tree of Knowledge, intimating that his gallows were connected to this infamous tree.

Haman’s gallows are associated with many historical events: The first week of creation, the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Noah’s Ark and the Holy of Holies.

How can we thematically connect the four sources of Haman’s gallows?

 THE ARK: “THE WOLF AND THE LAMB”

To answer this question we must refer to Chassidic literature which compares the Ark to the future Messianic Age when the entire world will experience total peace and unity. This phenomenon, in miniature form, existed in the Ark. The creatures and eight humans that populated the Ark coexisted peacefully. Consequently, the Ark should therefore not be viewed solely as a reminder of the destruction caused by the flood but primarily as a reminder of how perfect the world could and will be.

We can now understand why Haman wanted a board from the Ark for his gallows and why he was ultimately hanged on it. In Haman’s diabolically evil mind, the Ark symbolized utter destruction and devastation. For him this bode well for the execution of his plan. Not only would the hanging of Mordechai be a victory for him, he believed that it would portend an even greater victory: extermination of Mordechai’s people. Haman knew very well that the leader of a generation represents and incorporates all of the generation. Haman assumed that if he could rid himself of Mordecai the leader he could also rid himself of all of Mordechai’s people. Haman reasoned that the best omen for their destruction would be for Mordechai to hang on a remnant of the Ark that symbolized and was associated with utter destruction. That would augur well for the fruition of his diabolical plan.

Haman could not have been more wrong. The boards of the Ark symbolized the salvation of the world so that it could continue to exist and fulfill G-d’s purpose in Creation. It epitomized the highest ideal of unity that characterizes the Messianic Age, when G-d’s plan will come to pass. The Ark that Haman scavenged to construct his gallows symbolized the survival of Mordecai and the Jewish people, just as the Ark allowed for the survival of the world to ensure the endurance of G-d’s plan leading to the Messianic Age.

We can now see that all the opinions about the source of Haman’s gallows revolve around one central point: overcoming the obstacles to the fulfillment of G-d’ plan for the world.

IN THE BEGINNING

The gallows that abruptly ended Haman’s attempt to destroy the very people chosen to implement G-d’s plan for Creation, originated in the very act of Creation. When G-d created the world, He did it so that the world would eventually become a dwelling-place for G-d. It stands to reason that every major event associated with His Master Plan was already implicit in the very first week of Creation. This is similar to a human builder who sets forth the goal of his project at the very outset. In addition, he plans at the start for any contingent elements necessary for the project’s ultimate success.

During the first week of Creation G-d established that the purpose of Creation was B’Reishis. Rashi translates this opening word to mean “Because of the two primary entities, Torah and Israel, G-d created the world.” The purpose of Creation will be fulfilled when Israel receives and then fully implements the Torah, the Master Plan for existence.

However, in order for the Jewish people to execute G-d’s plan they must survive. We recite in the Hagada, “In every generation they stand up against us to destroy us.” However, the conclusion of that refrain is, “and G-d saves us from their hands.” The instrument of G-d’s salvation of the Jewish people and continuation of His plan for the world must be present in the very genesis of the Creation. And, indeed, it was present in the creation of the gallows upon which Haman, the scion of Amalek, would be hanged. This outcome demonstrated that all the other “Haman’s” of the world would fail too. The power that guarantees this salvation has been present since the very beginning of existence. This powerful fact drives the Midrash’s statement that the Ark board came into existence during the Six Days of Creation.

THE TEST

Once the world was completed by the creation of Adam and Eve, G-d gave humanity, to whom he would eventually entrust His Master Plan, a test commandment: Do not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. The disobedience of Adam and Eve set back the timetable for implementation of G-d’s Master Plan. Indeed, from that time onward, everything seemed to have gone downhill until the time of the Great Flood. Here we can detect a “Haman” effect: the undermining of G-d’s Master Plan. This is the reason we associate Haman with the Tree of Knowledge and Adam and Eve’s partaking of it.

However, as bad as their transgression seemed to be in terms of frustrating G-d’s will, there was a silver lining, or perhaps even more, a hidden blessing. If evil had not mixed with good in our world as a result of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, there would have been no challenge for humanity to overcome and the world would not have been the lowly world in which G-d desires to dwell. Indeed, the Midrash describes G-d’s purpose for Creation as a desire to dwell in the “lowliest” of realms. That suggests that He wanted a world that harbored evil, and that by following His Master Plan we are intended ultimately to overcome this evil. Our triumph over evil will make this world an inviting world for G-d. This entire episode, therefore, can be seen as the seeds for the narrative of Mordechai’s salvation rather than the threat to him.

REHABILITATION

The next stage in G-d’s Master Plan was the Flood. On one hand, it destroyed the evil that had permeated the Earth up to then and prepared the world for its rehabilitation. Towards that end, G-d gave Noach the so called “Seven Noachide Commandments,” which are geared to making this a civilized and habitable world. This set of basic commandments served as preparation for Sinai, when G-d would give Israel His Master Plan: the Torah. And, as stated, the Ark was a model of what the entire world would look like when the Master Plan is finally implemented in the Messianic Age.

Hence, the hanging of Haman — who represented the greatest threat of his age to the Master Plan, with his diabolical plan to hang Mordechai and annihilate the entire Jewish people — can be traced back to Noach’s Ark. The Ark and the gallows both reversed a potential for evil to challenge and frustrate G-d’s plan.

Finally, the Midrash which states that Haman’s gallows were built with materials taken from the Holy of Holies can be understood in light of the foregoing analysis.

The gallows that destroyed Haman represents the force that will enable us to rebuild the Beis HaMikdash, the place where G-d’s presence was pronounced, and is the paradigm for G-d’s expectation for the entire world. Haman saw a Temple in ruins and thought that use of its remains would ensure his success in further destroying G-d’s plan. G-d saw it, contrarily, as a sign that His plan for the world to become His dwelling place would indeed come to fruition. Our Sages teach us that the destruction of the seed of Amalek will precede the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. It is from the Beis HaMikdash that the G-dly spirit will spread to the entire world, which will finally resemble the Ark with its peaceful and unified atmosphere. 

 

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
See website for complete article licensing information.