Esther 9:31, Question 2. To what fasts does the verse refer, and why?

  • On a simple level, the Ibn Ezra, Rambam (Mishneh Torah Hilchos Taanios 5:5), and Me’am Loez write that the fast to which this verse refers is the fast of Esther. However, according to the Talmud (Megilla 16b), these words are meant to be read with the beginning of the next verse. Therefore, it was through both fasting and Esther’s words that the Jews earned the merit to be rescued from total annihilation.
  • The M’nos HaLevi writes that this means that, just as the Jews accepted upon themselves the fasts of the prophets and fasting for the Temple’s destruction, they accepted Purim with all of its rules.
  • As Malbim explains, Esther and Mordechai used the prophet’s (Zecharya 8:19) establishing other fasts as proof that holidays can be established without violating the Torah’s (Devorim 4:2, see Ramban there) prohibition against bal tosif (“adding to the Torah’s existing laws”).
  • The Ginzei HaMelech notes the correspondence between Purim and fast days. He relates it to Yalta’s saying in the Talmud (Chulin 109b) that the Torah permits everything it forbids. In other words, the joy of Purim counterbalances the sadness of the fast days, zeh l’umas zeh.
  • This fits well with the Ksav Sofer noting the Talmud’s (Taanis 29a) parallel between the months of Adar and Av; just as mishenichnas Adar, marbin b’simcha (“when Adar begins, we increase our joy”), so too mishenichnas Av, mimaatin b’simcha (“when Av begins, we decrease our joy”).
  • The Sfas Emes notes a similar parallel between Purim and Yom Kippur by applying the words of the wisest of all men (Mishlei 18:21) that maves v’chaim b’yad halashon (“death and life are controlled by the tongue”). In other words, H-Shem’s judging the Jews occurs on both days, and is manifest in how we utilize our power of speech to maintain peace and unity.
  • Furthermore, the Maharal adds that we would logically assume Purim should be a time for fasting, considering the reasons H-Shem had for annihilating us. Instead we customarily drink ad d’lo yada to sublimate our logic in order need to recognize that our salvation does not come from our effort, but from H-Shem’s help.
  • Either way, fasting led to the Purim miracle, so R’ Moshe Dovid Valle notes that the word hatzomos (“the fasts”) is written in plural because an individual may choose to fast all three days of Purim (Taanis Esther, Purim, and Shushan Purim), but this is not for the masses.

Esther 9:26, Question 2. Why did they decide on Purim for the name of this holiday?

  • The Me’am Loez writes that they decided on the name of the holiday being Purim because the lots being rolled in Nissan, and coming up with the date in Adar eleven months later gave the Jews time to pray and to repent.
  • Furthermore, Adar had previously had no other holidays, so Purim’s falling out then made it stand out more conspicuously as a holiday, receiving the attention it deserves.
  • Also, the Vilna Gaon and Malbim point out that the lots pointed to a potentially bad fortune, but H-Shem reversed it to a good fortune.
  • In quoting Rabbeinu Yona’s Shaarei Teshuva (2:4), the Ginzei HaMelech notes that just as sin can be transformed to a mitzva status if the sin leads to teshuva (“repentance”), so too the lots lead directly to the Jews’ redemption.
  • The Ksav Sofer supports this point by writing that in calling the day Purim, we celebrate the pain suffered by the Jews at this time, since it led directly to their re-acceptance of Torah (Esther 9:27).
  • Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote that the message to be learned from this is that one should never overconfident of one’s “lot,” thinking that one’s greatness in Torah knowledge or observance will necessarily parry off the Evil Inclination. Rather, even such a person should be always mindful of one’s potential to fall prey to one’s natural, animalistic urges.

Esther 9:22, Question 1. Why does the verse use the phrase “the month on which changed…” instead of explicitly using the name, Adar?

כב כַּיָּמִים אֲשֶׁרנָחוּ בָהֶם הַיְּהוּדִים מֵאוֹיְבֵיהֶם וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב לַעֲשׂוֹת אוֹתָם יְמֵי מִשְׁתֶּה וְשִׂמְחָה וּמִשְׁלוֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיֹנִים

22. Like the days on which the Yehudim rested from their enemies and the month which was switched for them from sorrow to joy and from mourning to holiday to do on them days of feasting and joy and sending gifts each man to his fellow and gifts to the poverty-stricken.

  • According to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:4), the verse uses the phrase “the month on which changed…” instead of explicitly using the name, Adar, because if Purim theoretically fell on Shabbos (as was possible before Hillel the Younger developed our calendar system), not to mix the rabbinic holiday of Purim with the Torah-level obligations of Shabbos. Although it would not push off our obligations on that day, they would be somewhat compromised. To emphasize that the important aspect of this is the month when this event occurred, the verse does not state the fact that it is Adar.
  • Furthermore, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:1) also says that the entire month is fitting for Megillas Esther to be read publicly.
  • The Vilna Gaon notes this is why the Talmud (Taanis 29a) famously says that when the month of Adar (and specifically not Purim) comes in, we increase our joy.
  • The Ibn Ezra says that part of the reason for this is that sometimes Purim is not Adar, but rather in Adar Sheini. If the verse would have explicitly said Adar, Purim would have to be in the first Adar during leap years.
  • The Maharal emphasizes that Haman was so overjoyed when the lot fell on Adar because it is the last month of the Jewish year, and has the spiritual potential to be an end, in the negative sense.
  • R’ Chaim Kanievsky explains that the verse’s focus is on reversal because H-Shem can reverse anything, even those astrologically set “times.” After all, Haman’s choice of Adar as the month to attack the Jews was partially due to our supposed spiritual vulnerability.

Esther 9:15, Question 1. What is the significance of the number of dead?

טו וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ הַיְּהוּדִיים [הַיְּהוּדִים] אֲשֶׁרבְּשׁוּשָׁן גַּם בְּיוֹם אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לְחֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר וַיַּהַרְגוּ בְשׁוּשָׁן שְׁלשׁ מֵאוֹת אִישׁ וּבַבִּזּה לֹא שָׁלְחוּ אֶתיָדָם

15. And the Yehudim who were in Shushan gathered also on the fourteenth of the month of Adar. And they killed in Shushan three hundred man. And in their spoils they did not send their hands.

  • The Targum Sheini indicates that the three hundred mentioned in this verse were all leaders among Amalek. It continues that Zeresh ran away (see # 521 above) together with 70 remaining sons of Haman, Shimshi was killed in battle, and Haman’s other sons were among the 300 killed. The point is that nobody left alive could positively be traced to Haman’s family. He was wiped out mida kineged mida, as he had planned to do to the Jews.
  • Maamar Mordechai writes that these 300 came to fight in order to avenge the death of Haman, their former leader.
  • On the other hand, Yad HaMelech explains that fewer people were killed because they were afraid of the Jews’ military prowess.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech notes that the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Megillah 1:5) states that Shushan Purim is fully celebrated as Purim on the fifteenth of Adar in cities that were walled from the days of Yehoshua. The Ginzei HaMelech explains that this is the reference point because in the days of Yehoshua (Yehoshua 11:20), too, H-Shem instilled a false sense of confidence into the minds of the Jews’ enemies. Similarly, these 300 enemies illogically felt emboldened to do battle against the Jews despite the obvious fallacy of their imagined success. The prophet (Yechezkiel 39:2-3) promises that a similar incident will happen in the time of Moshiach, bimheira biyameinu.
  • Bireishis Rabbasi (Bireishis 45:22) notes that these 300 enemies were killed in the merit of the 300 silver coins Yosef gave Binyamin.

Esther 9:1, Question 3. To which turnaround does the verse refer?

  • The Midrash (Esther Rabba 10:10 and a number of other Midrashim) teaches that the turnaround mentioned in this verse refers to all of Haman’s plans – from the queen whom Haman installed for more power taking his power, to the tree he prepared for Mordechai becoming the one on which he was hanged, to the wealth he gathered becoming Mordechai’s property, to the honors he wanted being given to his enemy, to the date Haman picked for the Jews’ extermination becoming the date of their success – absolutely everything backfiring.

  • The Kol Reena points out that the reason for Haman’s thinking of Adar as the ideal month to wipe out the Jews was that Moshe died on that month. Ironically, Moshe’s merits are what protected them.

  • R’ Hutner notes that even the misuse of Temple vessels (Esther 1:7) in order to show that it would never be rebuilt was turned around because the Purim story led to the Beis Hamikdash being rebuilt.

  • The Dubno Maggid writes that this turnaround shows how much hate Haman had. After all, the Talmud (Brachos 7a) teaches that we can see the evil that Bilam intended from the diametric opposite good with which he blessed the Jews. Here, too, Haman’s hate can be seen from the positive turnaround that resulted.

  • The Maharal notes a principle of physics that when one throws a rock against a wall, it bounces back somewhat. One could measure the level of Haman’s hate from the force with which Haman was punished. As the Torah (Devarim 19:19) commands regarding false witnesses, Haman got back an equal measure of what he intended against the Jewish people.

  • The Dubno Maggid also writes that Haman’s failed decree exposed the Jews’ enemies, who likely gathered arms in preparation for the attack, and this effectively made it easier to expose these Jew haters. Similarly, Yehu gathered together worshipers of Baal by promising a demonstration of his tremendous worship as a ruse to capture them and punish them for idolatry (Melachim 2 10:19).

  • R’ Shmuel Aharon Rubin writes that when the Talmud (Megillah 10b) says “we were slaves, but H-Shem did not abandon us,” it is in relation to the Purim story. He explains that we were like slaves because the Talmud (Kiddushin 36a) says that the Jews are called the children of H-Shem when they fulfill His Will, and are called slaves when they do not. The Jews’ attendance at Achashverosh’s feast demonstrates that they were not fulfilling H-Shem’s directive, but He nevertheless “did not abandon” the Jews.

  • R’ Hutner adds that since the existence of the Jews is without limit, rejoicing on Purim is also without limit. There is a famous story of a friend of mine who had gone missing the day after Purim. He was eventually found on a Sunday night after he had fallen on a hike on Friday. Without nutrition since Friday, he was only able to survive because the day previous was Purim, and the person sitting next to him at the Purim seudah kept piling food onto his plate to encourage him to eat without restraint in fulfillment of the above dictum.

Esther 9:1, Question 1. Why does the verse stress that this occurred on the 13th of Adar?

פרק ט

א וּבִשְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ הוּאחֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁה עָשָׂר יוֹם בּוֹ אֲשֶׁר הִגִּיעַ דְּבַרהַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָתוֹ לְהֵעָשׂוֹת בַּיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר שִׂבְּרוּ אֹיְבֵי הַיְּהוּדִים לִשְׁלוֹט בָּהֶם וְנַהֲפוֹךְ הוּא אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁלְטוּ הַיְּהוּדִים הֵמָּה בְּשׂנְאֵיהֶם

Chapter 9

1. And in the twelfth month – which is the month of Adar – on the thirteenth day of it, the word and law of the king were revealed to perform on that day that which was planned by the enemies of the Yehudim to conquer them. And it was turned around that the Yehudim conquered their haters.

  • According to Midrash Shmuel, the verse stresses that this occurred on the 13th of Adar because it was a miracle that so much time time passed since Sivan, and Achashverosh still hadn’t changed his mind despite the fact that the Talmud (Megillah 15b) describes him as fickle. He often changed his opinion on various important issues, including his feelings for his wife.

  • According to the Ben Ish Chai, the significance of the 13th because it shares the same gematria as echad (1+8+4=13) (“one”). Only H-Shem is One (Devarim 6:4), and the verse then teaches that H-Shem always saves His people.

Esther 8:16, Question 1. Why does the verse use the past tense form of hayta (”was”)?

טז לַיְּהוּדִים הָיְתָה אוֹרָה וְשִׂמְחָה וְשָׂשׂן וִיקָר

16. And to the Yehudim, there was light, and happiness, and joy, and glory/honor.

  • The Chida quotes from Midrash Eliyahu that when Haman threw lots to determine the best day to annihilate the Jews (Esther 3:7), he was happy because that was the month when Egypt experienced the ninth plague of darkness1. To his understanding of black magic, this meant that this was the opportune time to conquer the Jews. However, the Torah (Shemos 10:23) testifies that there was, indeed, light for the Jews. Since the Jews had “hayta” light at that historic juncture, Haman’s very source of joy was due to his misunderstanding.

1This calculation is based on the idea that each plague in Egypt lasted one month, including the preparation, warning, the plague itself, and the immediate aftermath. Since the tenth plague occurred in Nisan, the ninth plague should have occurred one month earlier, in Adar.

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Esther 3:7, Question 6. Why does the verse mention that Adar is the twelfth month?

Every now and again, the Jewish calendar requires us to add an extra “leap” month. The Tosefta on Sanhedrin points out that if we were to add a thirteenth month anywhere else in the Jewish calendar in the process of adding this month, Adar would no longer be the twelfth month. That would contradict this Scriptural verse. Therefore, this verse forces Adar to always be the twelfth month.

Esther 3:7, Question 5. Why does the lot fall on the month of Adar?

  • Maamar Mordechai points out that, when the Jews were in Egypt, the ten plagues occurred for one month each. That being the case, the second to last plague, that of darkness, happened one month before Passover, which would mean it fell in Adar. Haman assumed the darkness was a plague that hurt the Jews since so many of them died then (see Rashi to Shemos 10:22 and 13:18). After all, four fifths of the Jews died in Egypt because they did not believe in their upcoming rescue. H-Shem killed these unfortunates during the plague of darkness to avoid the Egyptians seeing this, and assuming the Jews’ G-d is no longer with them.1 The Jews in Persia, by attending Achashverosh’s party, indicated that they, too, lost faith in their redemption, and this is why the lots falling on Adar so pleased Haman.
  • Adar is also the month when Moshe died. According to the Talmud (Megillah 13b), Haman knew this because it is so written in the end of Devarim (34:8) and can be calculated from the book of Yehoshua. According to our tradition, the seventh of Adar, his date of death, is also his date of birth. Rabbi Mendel Weinbach writes that Haman did not know this because, as opposed to his date of birth, his date of death is only found in the Oral Torah.
  • The Abudraham calculates that Adar 13 would mark the end of the seven-day mourning period (shiva) for Moshe. According to the Maharsha, that seven-day period of mourning continues in some mystical way the merits of the mourned. After that point, the dead only receive merit of others step up to take over their spiritual roles. Interestingly, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein notes that, Moshe having been born on 7 Adar, his bris (circumcision) would have been on 14 Adar, Purim!2

1It bespeaks a certain callousness that the Egyptians seemed not to notice the sudden disappearance of several million people.

2However, since Moshe was born complete and circumcised (Talmud, Sotah 12a), his bris would only require a symbolic pin-prick of blood called “hatafas dam bris” (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 262:1 and 264:1), and this procedure would not be help on a Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 260:2 and 263:1). Therefore, Moshe’s symbolic bris was held on the following day, Shushan Purim.

Esther 3:7, Question 2. Why does Haman feel the need to cast lots?

  • Haman’s motivation for casting lots depends on what those lots were. According to the Vilna Gaon, Haman wanted to see when his plan would be most spiritually effective. He wanted to find the time that the Jews were at their spiritual weakest. He found Adar appealing because the Jews had no Holy Day for which to prepare, and no special merit to protect them, so were thus spiritually weak then. If that is the case, why then was Haman not successful? Because, says the Vilna Gaon, “ein mazal b’Yisroel” (“Jews have no [effects of] constellations”) (Talmud, Shabbos 156a). What this means is that, with Torah, Jewish people can channel the natural astrological influence of the horoscope.
  • If these lots are like our contemporary dice, opposite sides add up to seven. One is opposite to six, four is opposite to three, etc. Midrash Talpios says that, instead of numbers, Haman’s dice have Hebrew letters. Therefore, in gematria, if there is an aleph on one side, its opposite side had a vuv. Haman cast the dice three times. The dice read aleph, then gimmel, then gimmel again. This spells “Agag,” king of Amalek conquered by King Shaul (as mentioned previously). On the bottom of that combination would be a vuv, daled, and daled. A combination of these letters spells “David,” and Haman thought this meant Agag would succeed against David. In other words, Haman was under the impression that the lots he rolled predicted his victory over the Jews.
  • Ben Ish Chai says that Haman was so arrogant that he did not even consider the letters spelling out David. Rather, Haman was too busy noticing that the gematria of David (4+6+4) is 14, with a mispar katan1 of five. The mispar katan of Haman’s name is also five (5+40+50=95).
  • According to Rabbi Yehonason Eibshutz, Haman’s lottery consisted of his writing on separate papers all of the days of the year. After he chose a particular date (Adar 13th), he wanted to verify that this was not just a random date. He then got twelve papers with the twelve months of the year. That paper matched up to Adar. Class participant RS pointed out that the days of the solar year are also 365, which also has a mispar katan equal to Haman’s name.
  • Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi says Haman realized that the Jews were weak and in exile. He threw lots to find his one spiritual strength in relation to the spiritual strength of the Jewish people.

1A “mispar katan” is a form of gematria in which one adds all the numerals in a number until one arrives at a one-numeral number. For instance, the mispar katan of 19 is 1+9, which is 10. Since this is not a single-numeral number, the process is repeated with these numerals thus: 1+0, until one arrives at 1. Therefore, the mispar katan of 19 is 1.