Song and Celebration
Were Haman's possessions really hung on a tree?
SimchasTorah asked1: In Maoz Tzur ("Rock of Ages"), a song traditionally sung when the Chanuka candles are lit, we sing
רב בניו וקנייניו על העץ תלית
His many sons and his possessions, You hung on a tree
Did we really hang Haman's possessions on a tree?
Alex answered: According to the Sifsei Chachamim2 on Tractate Megillah (p. 50b), this refers to a medallion that Haman wore on his chest, listing all of his treasures (see also Talmud Bavli, Megillah 15b). Presumably, he wore this medallion to the two feasts that Esther made; and since he was taken directly from the second one to be hanged, his "treasures" were hanged together with him, in microcosm.
Yosef added: Most translations I've seen translate these lines differently than you did, mostly referring to his sons as his treasures. For example:
His many sons and his household You hanged on the gallows.
His numerous progeny -- his possessions -- on the gallows You hanged.
Der Söhne Schar, sein teurer Schatz, an seinem Galgen aufgeknüpft.
which means: "His multitude of sons, his dear treasure, were hung on his own gallows."
Hans dyraste egendom, hans många söner, lät du hänga i galgen.
which means: "His most precious property, his many sons, You let hang on the gallows."
msh210 added: Rabbi Efrayim Greenblatt suggests3 that it may refer to Haman's slaves.
wolf2191 suggested: Perhaps this should be read differently: "You wiped out the enemy of his name (including) his many children and possessions, You hung him on a tree."
- Original question: "Were Haman's possessions hung on a tree?" mi.yodeya.com/q/4519
- "Lips of the Wise," a late 20th-Centrury commentary on Talmud by R' Avraham Abba Hertzel
- Riv'vos Efrayim, vol. 8, number 267
What does Purim have to do with Maoz Tzur?
SimchasTorah asked1: The song Maoz Tzur contains references to Purim, such as in the fourth stanza:
כְּרוֹת קוֹמַת בְּרוֹשׁ בִּקֵּשׁ אֲגָגִי בֶּן הַמְּדָתָא
[Haman] the Aggagite, the son of Hamedasa, attempted to cut down the cypress [Mordechai]
What does this have to do with Chanuka, and why is it placed in Maoz Tzur?
Gershon Gold answered: Maoz Tzur actually mentions all four exiles. The second stanza discusses the exile in Egypt:
חַיַּי מָרְרוּ בְּקוּשִׁי בְּשִׁעְבּוּד מַלְכוּת עֶגְלָה.....חֵיל פַּרְעֹה וְכָל זַרְעוֹ יָרְדוּ כְאֶבֶן בִּמְצוּלָה
They embittered my life with hard labor, in the slavery of the kindgom of the calf [Egypt]....the army of Pharaoh and all his sons, were sunk in the sea
The third stanza discusses the exile in Babylon:
קֵץ בָּבֶל זְרֻבָּבֶל לְקֵץ שִׁבְעִים נוֹשָׁעְתִּי
The end of (the exile) in Babylon ended with Zerubavel; I was save at the end of 70 years.
The fourth stanza, as you noted, discusses the exile of Madai, in which the Purim story occurred.
The fifth stanza talks about the Chanuka story:
יְוָנִים נִקְבְּצוּ עָלַי אֲזַי בִּימֵי חַשְׁמַנִּים
The Greeks gathered against me, at that time in the days of the Chasmonaim
The final stanza (which was probably by a different author), is a prayer to God to redeem us from the exile that we are currently in, that of Edom.
So we see that Maoz Tzur isn't just about Chanuka -- it's a song that lists all of exiles that we were in, and ends with a prayer for the final redemption.
- Original question: "Maoz Tzur & Purim" mi.yodeya.com/q/4393
Making a meal into a "Meal of Mitzvah"
Yehoshua asked1: We find that the Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) writes2
וְנוֹהֲגִין לוֹמַר זְמִירוֹת וּשְׁבָחוֹת בַּסְּעֻדּוֹת שֶׁמַּרְבִּים בָּהֶם, וְאָז הָוֵי סְעֻדַּת מִצְוָה
We are accustomed to say songs and praises to the meals that we add [on Chanukah], and then they become Meals of Mitzvah.
The Magen Avraham comments on this (Comment 4), that similarly, at the wedding of the daughter of a Torah scholar to a non-learned individual, that the wedding feast can be transformed into a Meal of Mitzvah with the addition of songs and praise.
Are these the only two feasts that can be made into Meal of Mitzvah by adding "זמירות ושבחות," or can this be done at any meal?
If these feasts are unique, what is the added factor that, together with songs and praise, makes the meal into a Meal of Mitzvah?
LazerA said: After introducing the basic reasons for Chanukah, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch3 writes:
ולכן י"א שמצוה להרבות קצת בסעודה בחנוכה, ועוד מפני שמלאכת המשכן נגמר בימים אלו, ויש לספר לב"ב ענין הניסים שנעשו לאבותנו בימים האלו, ומ"מ לא הוי סעודת מצוה אא"כ אומרים בסעודה שירות ותשבחות
Therefore, some say that there is a mitzvah to increase somewhat in feasting, and also because the work of the mishkan (Tabernacle) was completed at this time. A person should recount to his household the miracles that happened for our ancestors during these days. Nevertheless, it is not a Meal of Mitzvah unless songs and praises are said by the meal.
This implies that the meals of Chanuka are Meals of Mitzvah in their own right, but not completely -- they need the songs and praises to seal the deal.
Therefore, meals that only have the songs and praises, but don't have the added reasons of commemorating the mishkan and the miracles of Chanuka, would not be considered to be Meals of Mitzvah by just adding songs and praises.
This conclusion is supported by the Mishna Berura4, who writes5:
ואז הוי סעודת מצוה - ר"ל בצרוף זה. ... וכתב הרש"ל שכל שעושה כדי ליתן שבח למקום או לפרסם הנס או המצוה הכל סעודת מצוה
"And this is is a Meal of Mitzvah" - Meaning, in combination with this. ... And the Maharshal writes that any [meal] made to give praise to God, or to publicize the miracle, or to publicize the mitzvah, is a Meal of Mitzvah.
- Original question: "Making a Seudah into a 'Seudas Mitzvah'" mi.yodeya.com/q/22726
- In his gloss to Shulchan Aruch OC 670:2
- Mid-19th Century summary of the Shulchan Aruch by R' Shlomo Ganzfried
- "Clarified Teaching," an early 20th Century commentary on Shulchan Aruch, by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan
- Comment #9, there
Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200