Esther 10:3, Question 3. Why does the verse say Mordechai is only popular with “most?”

  • Ibn Ezra explains that the verse says Mordechai is only popular with “most” because it is impossible to be popular with everyone.
  • The Nechmad M’Zahav adds that the reason for this is because it is impossible for a person doing everything purely for the sake of H-Shem to not offend somebody at some point.
  • On the other hand, Alshich writes that, usually, leaders have enemies, but Mordechai had none.
  • R’ Yehonason Eibshutz explains that this verse, having been authored by Mordechai, displays his intense humility, not wanting to sound like everybody loved him.
  • On the same note, the Ohel Moshe quotes the Alter from Kelm as saying this verse displays Mordechai’s dedication to truth, wherein he cannot in full conscience say all people liked him. However, the Talmud (Megilla 16b) writes that some members of the Sanhedrin split from Mordechai because they felt his political position caused him to neglect Torah study. In fact, in Ezra (2:2), written only a few years after the Purim story, Mordechai is only mentioned fourth or fifth in the list of scholars. Ohel Moshe applies to Mordechai the Mishna (Avos 3:5) that teaches that anyone who throws off the yoke of Torah, adds the yoke of government. This is based on the opinion listed in Torah Temimah that learning Torah is greater than saving lives.
  • Alshich explains that Mordechai disagreed with the Sanhedrin, arguing that saving lives is more important. R’ Avigdor Boncheck notes that this classic argument demonstrates the tug we all naturally feel between mitzva of learning and the mitzva of pekuach nefesh (“recuing lives”).
  • As R’ Dovid Feinstein notes, devoting oneself “totally to Torah still commands greater respect among the Jewish people.”
  • R’ Mendel Weinbach agrees and points out that “if one Jew must sacrifice his learning in order to save lives while another can continue learning undisturbed, the latter is greater.”
  • Ohel Moshe quotes R’ Moshe Feinstein (Kol Ram) as saying that for a great need, a talmid chacham (“Torah scholar”) can stop learning and will get reward, but not as much had he remained entrenched in study had the situation not taken him away.
  • R’ Mordechai Gifter adds that, in such a situation, a scholar taken from his learning should still be reviewing Mishnayos by heart while engaged in these other, emergency matters.
  • Ohel Moshe quotes a story from R’ Meir Isaac Maalin, that when he was learning in the Mir, he saved two lives from drowning. The mashgiach, R’ Yechezkiel Levenstein, praised him. He told him that in the merit of his actions, he will not ever sin, because the Mishna (Avos 5:18) promises that someone who strives to fulfill the needs of the masses is saved from all sin.
  • R’ Bogomilsky asks, however, if Mordechai’s popularity is not a bit of a negative note on which to end Megillas Esther. He answers that it is in fact not negative; though he was hated by some, Mordechai responded by still loving every Jew.

Esther 10:2, Question 2. Why does Achashverosh have this information written down?

  • According to R’ Elisha Galico, Achashverosh had this written down for posterity in order to teach his successors to be good to the Jews. The message was clear: “Achashverosh promoted Mordechai, so he was rewarded by H-Shem.”
  • R’ Yechezkiel Abramsky points out that Megillas Esther is not a history book, so the verse mentions chronicles because students of history can look there to research the actual events. Accordingly, Megillas Esther is meant to teach that H-Shem watches His people, even when He seems hidden.

Esther 10:1, Question 2. Why does Achashverosh charge taxes, and why does TaNaCh mention this?

  • The Talmud (Chagiga 8a) writes that mas, the word used here for taxes, indicates a secular/political tax, rather than a religious one.
  • This seemingly irrelevant event may be included in Megillas Esther because, as R’ Avigdor Miller writes in Torah Nation, this verse gives honor to Persians, and could be an additional proof that the sefer was not written later, as fools claim.
  • The Akeidas Yitzchak adds that this is mentioned here to contrast Jewish leaders with gentile leaders. Jewish leaders focus on what is best for their constituents, whereas gentile leaders typically attempt to benefit from their charges. This is especially unjust considering the Ibn Ezra’s opinion that the taxes were even placed on nations not under Achashverosh’s control.
  • The Vilna Gaon notes that the gematria of mas (“tax”) (40+60=100) and the gematria of vi’iyey (“and islands”) (6+1+10+10=27) supports the Midrash that says that of Achashverosh’s 127 states (Esther 1:1), 100 were on land and 27 were islands.
  • The Talmud (Megilla 11a) teaches that Achachverosh felt the need to tax because the economy of Persia began to suffer. Despite the vast wealth Achashverosh displayed earlier (Esther 1:4), he lost much of it.
  • According to the Rokeach, this tragic loss is hinted to in the last letters of the words “es osher kivod” (“the wealth of the glory”) in that verse, which spell teired (“you will go down”).
  • Perhaps this can be explained by the the Targum’s opinion that Achashverosh exempted the Jews from paying taxes, and was compelled to increase the taxes of all other citizens to make up the difference.
  • According to Shelom Esther, Achashverosh was concerned that pro-Haman forces were still plotting rebellion. The taxes were meant to see if any group refused or delayed. That was one way to weed out any potential traitors.
  • Finally, R’ Moshe Dovid Valle notes that, as this verse mentions the word melech (“king”), it references H-Shem, the King of kings. He approved of Achashverosh’s taxes because He wanted the gentiles to feel how the Jews suffered.

Esther 9:32, Question 3. Why does the verse repeat the acceptance of the holiday?

  • Malbim writes that the verse repeats the acceptance of the holiday because the Sages agreed to Esther’s request.
  • Interestingly, the Lekach Tov points out that there are a total of 12 mentions throughout Megillas Esther of accepting Purim. This hints to the 12 tribes of Yisroel, and shows once again how important achdus (“unity”) was to the Jews’ salvation at this time.

Esther 9:32, Question 2. Why is the “statement” attributed to Esther?

  • The Maharal explains that, on a simple level, the “statement” is attributed to Esther to emphasize that her status as queen of Persia aided in Purim’s being accepted.
  • Furthermore, Kedushas Levi points out that Esther actually argued with the Sages who wanted Purim on Nisan 16, since that was the actual day when Achashverosh punished Haman, and put an end to his plot. She argued that if Purim will then remain on the same day as Pesach, it would not be as obvious, and will end up being forgotten.
  • R’ Yehonason Eibshutz notes that her self sacrifice is the reason for Esther’s being credited with the holiday and book in TaNaCh.
  • The Ben Ish Chai finds an allusion to this in “Eishis Chayil,” Shlomo haMelech’s praise of great women. The verse there (Mishlei 31:31), the gematria of yadeha (“her hand”) can be broken up into yad (10+4=14) and eha (10+5=15), alluding to the 14th and 15th of the month of Adar, both established by Esther’s hand.

Esther 9:32, Question 1. To what “statement” does the verse refer?

  • Rashi writes that the statement to which the verse refers is the Talmud’s (Megilla 7b) report that Esther requested the Sages to allow Megillas Esther to be accepted into TaNaCh in order to be remembered for generations.
  • Malbim also writes that this statement was her argument for a Purim holiday.
  • The Sfas Emes writes that the very transferring of Esther’s words symbolize the Oral Law inherent in the mitzvos of Purim. This helped inspire the establishing of the Anshei Kineses haGedola (“Men of the Great Assembly”) and began an era of increased Torah study.

Esther 9:31, Question 1. Why does the verse mention Purim being established in these times?

31. To establish these days of the Purim in their times as they were established on them by Mordechai the Yehudi and Esther the queen, and as they established on their souls and on their seed words of the fasts and their crying out.

  • It is difficult to imagine, but Purim was seen as an innovation. Esther and Mordechai had to push for it, especially with those Jews living in the outskirts who did not feel either the immediate threat, nor the miraculous salvation.
  • Yeetav Leiv writes that this verse’s focus on Purim’s establishment was meant to encourage people to perform it as Esther and Mordechai did it – with intent to celebrate it for the sake of Heaven.
  • The Talmud (Megilla 2a) begins its discussion of the mitzva to read Megillas Esther by writing that this verse refers to times because Purim is celebrated by different groups in different times. For instance, villages, big cities, and walled cities all fulfill their obligation of publicly reading Megillas Esther for Purim on various days between Adar 11 and 15.
  • There being five different days on which to celebrate this aspect of Purim, the Na’os HaDesheh (288) finds a hint in the fact that the word kayam (“establish”) is used five times in Megillas Esther (9:21, 9:27, 9:29, 9:31, and 9:32).
  • Furthermore, there are five minatzpech (final letters “םןץףך”), which traditionally represent the five exiles (Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome) the Jews have endured because they are end letters, and we pray for the end of our long exile.
  • R’ Yechezkiel Abramsky tells the story of the Vilna Gaon’s grandson, who lived in Warsaw. Somebody asked him for an example of what made his grandfather so great. He answered that, as a child, the Vilna Gaon was asked why the first Mishna in Megilla (1:1) says lo pachos v’lo yoser (“no more and no less”) regarding the days to read Megillas Esther, but the Mishna in Shabbos (19:5) does not use the phrase regarding the various days on which a bris (“circumcision”) can be performed. The person asking began giving the Vilna Gaon’s grandson a brilliant one-hour answer. “Very nice,” he said, “but my grandfather answered better.” The questioner asked to be given time to think about it and come back with another answer. Three days later, he came back with a longer answer. Again, the Vilna Gaon’s grandson said, “Very nice, but my grandfather answered better. The answer is that both sources indeed use that phrase.” Often, the correct answer requires one to go back to basics. Like an IT support adviser’s first question to a customer, “Is your machine plugged in?”, the Talmud (Shabbos 32a) advises travelers to stay safe on a journey by checking the safety of the boat instead of prayers and incantations.
  • The Maharsha adds that Purim is a powerful time to pray and say Tehillim. In fact, the Me’am Loez finds a hint to this in the final letters of a phrase in this verse v’al zaram divreihatzomos (“and on their seed words of the fasts”), which spell out Tehillim when re-ordered.
  • The Meshech Chochmoh writes that the verse needed to mention times in order to contradict those people who wanted to place Purim on the exact time when Haman planned to kill the Jews, which would start in the daytime like the gentile calendar. Rather, Purim needs to follow the Jewish calendar – starting at night.

Esther 9:29, Question 5. Why does the verse use the word, tokef (authority”)?

  • In Torah Nation (pg. 40-1), R’ Avigdor Miller explains that the verse uses the word, tokef (authority”), because Esther used her authority as queen to make sure the Jews knew the seriousness of their accepting her words.
  • Rashi seems to translate the word as “power,” and explains that the verse is hinting to the power of the Purim miracle’s effect on the principle players of the story, Achashverosh, Mordechai, Haman, and Esther.
  • The Ben Ish Chai suggests that the events in which the different characters rose to power are the reasons for the different opinions in the Talmud’s (Megilla 19a) theoretical discussion regarding the point in Megillas Esther from which one is required to read during the public reading on Purim.
  • M’nos HaLevi writes that Esther needed to reinforce the establishment of Purim with her authority because it may become difficult in future generations to keep the holiday, but it must nevertheless be celebrated.
  • The Midrash (Rus Rabba 2:4) notes that Jews outside of Shushan reacted negatively to the first document, so this second letter needed to be stamped with authority.
  • Malbim, focusing on the fact that the verse says, “kol tofek,” or “all the authority,” explains that the letter needed two different kinds of authority; the throne’s to be published, and Mordechai’s to make it part of the TaNaCh canon.
  • Rav Schwab adds that Esther is called a queen here to give legitimacy to Daryavesh, her descendant.
  • In response to the rabbis’ question in the Talmud (Megilla 7a) about why Megillas Esther needs to be read like a Torah scroll, Esther convinces them that it is much like the Torah in that both are concerned with the war against Amalek. This furthers her argument that Megillas Esther belongs in TaNaCh, since it is written with ruach hakodesh.
  • R’ Elisha Gallico writes that Esther wanted Megillas Esther in TaNaCh because she was married to a gentile, and wanted future generations to know what led to such an unfortunate situation.
  • In Keemu v’Keeblu, Rav Brevda likewise writes that this was the reason it was in Persian’s royal chronicles. Ancient chronicles were often not objective, so the very presence of this story in the royal chronicle was proof that the king approves. Then, rightfully, if we were to be derided for celebrating this holiday, we could respond that “we Jews celebrate because the king celebrates.”

Esther 9:29, Question 3. Why is Megillas Esther attributed to Esther?

  • In the view of the Ohel Moshe, by the verse using the word vatich’tov (“and she wrote”), which is a singular, feminine verb, it intends to emphasize Esther’s role because she risked her life approaching Achashverosh (Esther 4:16) in order to save the Jewish people1.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech wonders why Megillas Esther is attributed to Esther if both she and Mordechai co-authored the work. He suggests that Esther deserves the bulk of the credit because the Talmud (Megilla 7a) records how Esther insisted on Purim’s perpetuity, arguing with the reluctant Sages about writing this book to remember her “for generations.” This is why Megillas Esther is attributed to her.
  • According to the Alshich, another reason why Megillas Esther is attributed to Esther is because it was her idea (Esther 5:4) to have the series of feasts in which she finally accused Haman of his perfidy. to stress that all was ultimately accomplished through the power of prayer.
  • Esther thus added to the text, as the Ginzei HaMelech makes clear, an emphasis of the actions over the events.
  • Furthermore, as R’ Eliyahu Dessler writes, the very fact that Esther began Megillas Esther with the Achashverosh’s feast over a decade before Haman’s decree shows that the threat to our existence started then, as the Jews’ Sages like Mordechai were warning at the time.

1Similarly R’ Chaim Shmulevitz writes in Sichos Mussar (Vayikra) that the name the Torah uses for Moshe out of the ten alternatives listed in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 1:3) is meant to emphasize the mesiras nefesh (“self-sacrifice”) of Basya, the daughter of Pharaoh, who gave him that name.