- The Talmud (Megillah 5b) explains each of the different expressions for this holiday to mean a different method for celebrating the day. Simcha (“joy”) is interpreted as not giving eulogies (in the event of a death); v’mishteh (“and feasting”) is interpreted as prohibiting fasting; and v’yom tov (“and the holiday”) is interpreted as prohibiting work on Purim. Later, the Talmud (Megillah 7a) interprets the phrase mishloach manos (“sending gifts”) as the requirement to send through a messenger at least two kinds of food to at least one friend.
- The Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Megillah 2:15) writes that even two poor people are required to send another poor person some food to fulfill their obligations.
- The Trumas HaDeshen writes that the exchange of food is intended to make sure everyone has enough for the feast.
- M’nos HaLevi writes that we send gifts to promote friendship because achdus (“unity”) rescued the Jews.
- The Midrash HaGadol on Devarim points out that this demonstrates the greatness of chesed because we were rescued because of it.
- Ginzei HaMelech writes that we use a messenger because this shows achdus (“unity”) in requiring another person to get involved in this mitzva. Similarly, he points out, this is why Megillas Esther always uses Yehudim for Jews, since the root of that word is echad, one. Furthermore, the giving of gifts through messengers acts as an additional tikkun for Yaakov’s giving gifts (Bireishis 32:14-17) to Eisav, the ancestor of Amalek, through messengers.
- The Vilna Gaon and Midrash Shmuel note that the Jews’ celebrating in this way parallels the three parts of Haman’s plan (Esther 3:13); the joy serves to counteract Haman’s plan to destroy the Jews, the feasting serves to counteract Haman’s plan to kill the Jews, and the Yom Tov serves to counteract Haman’s plan to annihilate the Jews.
- The Vilna Gaon writes that, eventually, Purim was not accepted as a full Yom Tov because that would keep people from performing the other mitzvos of Purim.
Mendel Weinbach writes that this holiday was established on the day they rested rather than the day of the miracle because Heaven does not enjoy even our enemies’ deaths.
- The Ran notes that there is a concept (Bamidbar 15:16) that there is one Torah and one law for all Jews. In other words, there should ordinarily be only one day for all Jews to celebrate together. For this reason, Mendel Weinbach notes, usually, according to Halacha (Mishna Berura 688:12), where one spends Purim determines when one will celebrate it. For example, a Jew visiting a walled city temporarily nevertheless celebrates it there for purposes of achdus (“unity”).
- R’ Betzalel haKohen of Vilna, however, writes that this distinction is meant to stress that Purim is a d’rabbanan (“rabbinic”) holiday, since the Torah’s (Devarim 13:1) prohibition to add to the given mitzvos only applies to d’oraisa (“Scriptural”) laws.
- A story is told of a visitor from Bnei Brak in the home of R’ Shlomo Bloch in Yerushalayim. R’ Bloch invited him to drink at his Purim feast (on Shushan Purim), but since he had already drunk the previous day, the visitor argued that he had already fulfilled the mitzva of drinking on Purim. R’ Bloch retorted, “You may have fulfilled Purim, but you can still fulfill the mitzva of feeling another Jew’s joy.”
- The Chasam Sofer gives another reason to have two days of Purim – to avoid bitul Torah. Since the Mishna (Avos 1:2) teaches that Torah is one of the three foundations upon which the world stands, if there were (chas v’Shalom) one moment when nobody was learning Torah, the world would cease to exist immediately. With the advent of Shushan Purim, while one group is drinking and celebrating, the other group can uphold the world by learning.
יט עַל–כֵּן הַיְּהוּדִים הַפְּרָוזִים [הַפְּרָזִים] הַיּשְׁבִים בְּעָרֵי הַפְּרָזוֹת עֹשִׂים אֵת יוֹם אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לְחֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר שִׂמְחָה וּמִשְׁתֶּה וְיוֹם טוֹב וּמִשְׁלוֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ
19. Therefore, the unfortified Yehudim in the unfortified cities made the fourteenth day of the month of Adar [a day of] joy, feasting, and holiday, and from sending gifts a man to his fellow.
- According to Rashi, quoting the Talmud (Megillah 2b) “unfortified cities” are those that were not surrounded by walls in the days of Yehoshua.
- The Ziv HaMinhagim writes that this definitely includes only Yerushalayim. There is a doubt regarding Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beit Sha’an, Gush Khaloav, Hebron, Haifa, Tiberias, Jaffa, Lod, Gaza, Acco, Safed, Ramleh, and Shechem.
- R’ Ovadya of Bartenura explains that the times of Yehoshua are the reference point for the definition of walled cities in order to remind us of the root hatred of Amalek is their attacking us when we were leaving Mitrzrayim, when they battled Yehoshua.
- The Sfas Emes adds that, by recalling Yerushalayim, we remember that the purpose of Purim was the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.
- Rav Gallico stresses that the verse mentions the Yehudim celebrating to point out that they did so despite their necessary exhaustion.
- With the Jews in Shushan still struggling, the Ginzei HaMelech notes, the Jews’ celebration of persumei nisa (“publicizing the miracle”) and feasting was intended to inspire the remaining Jewish warriors.
יח וְהַיְּהוּדִיים [וְהַיְּהוּדִים] אֲשֶׁר–בְּשׁוּשָׁן נִקְהֲלוּ בִּשְׁלשָׁה עָשָׂר בּוֹ וּבְאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר בּוֹ וְנוֹחַ בַּחֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בּוֹ וְעָשׂה אֹתוֹ יוֹם מִשְׁתֶּה וְשִׂמְחָה
18. And the Yehudim who were in Shushan gathered on the thirteenth of it and on the fourteenth of it and were relieved on the fifteenth of it. And they made it a day of feasting and joy.
- According to the Maharal, the Masoretic spelling of “Yehudim” with two letters yud because the first yud indicates genealogy. The second yud makes it plural. In actual fact, the word needs both yuds, and is written out in this full form to indicate that these Jews were completely dedicated to battle for H-Shem.
- In his introduction to Yosef Lekach, Rav Eliezer Ashkenazi notes that a significant difference between Chanukah and Purim is that one is not required to celebrate Chanukah with a feast, per se. Since there were Jews still perishing in battle on Chanukah, we cannot institute a national feast. On Purim, however, the celebration requires both feasting and joy because not one single Jew died.
- According to the Ben Ish Chai, we need both actions to celebrate both the spiritual renewal, and the physical safety.
- The Sfas Emes emphasizes this by noting that, grammatically, the verse uses the word v’aso (“and he made”), implying that H-Shem made this into a day of joy and celebration.
- R’ Yitzchak Hutner notes that any holiday from the Written Torah requires a degree of joy, as the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yom Tov 6:18) makes clear. The holidays from the Oral Torah require drinking. Since this holiday contains aspects of both the Written and Oral Torahs, Purim requires both joy and feasting.