Esther 9:22, Question 4. What does the verse intend by “feasting and joy,” and why?

  • The Talmud (Megillah 7a) learns from the verse’s use of “feasting and joy” that there is a mitzva to drink ad d’lo yada, until one does not know the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai” on Purim. Although this a topic worthy of a much larger Halachic discussion, it should suffice for purposes of understanding this verse to note some varying opinions on this subject.
  • Indeed several Halachic deciders understand this literally as an injunction to become completely drunk on Purim, as is clear from the Rif (Megillah 3b) and the Tur (Orach Chaim 695:2).
  • Among others, the Peleh Yo’eitz warns that, obviously, this drinking should not be done to the point where one would miss any other mitzvos, including praying mincha with proper intent.
  • The Talmud (Pesachim 68b) teaches that holidays from the Torah should be be split evenly – half for H-Shem (i.e. with prayer, learning, etc.), and half for our own pleasure (i.e. eating, resting, etc.). However, even according to an earlier opinion there that all holidays should be completely for H-Shem, this verse’s use of the words “feasting and joy” require Purim to be completely for our pleasure.
  • The Abudraham notes that drinking is such a critical part of celebrating Purim because drinking plays a central role in Megillas Esther, including Vashti’s fall (Esther 1:10), Esther’s rise (Esther 2:18), [the decree to kill the Jews (Esther 3:15),] and Esther’s parties that led to Haman’s fall (Esther 7:1-10).
  • The Midrash Eliyahu writes that we celebrate Purim by drinking because the Talmud (Megillah 13b) relates that Haman slandered the Jews’ drinking practices when he told the king that if a fly were to touch a Jew’s cup, he would remove it and continue drinking. However, if the king were to touch a Jew’s cup, the Jew would throw the wine away, alluding to the Talmudic (Avodah Zarah 30a) law of yayin nesech.
  • The Nesivos Shalom (Purim 57-58) has a very unique reading of this Talmudic passage. He notes that the above cited teaching does not say “livsumei” (“to become intoxicated”) with wine, but rather “livsumei” in Purim. This means that one should get drunk from the day of Purim, itself, similar to the prophet’s (Yeshaya 51:21) description of being “drunk, but not from wine.” Through prayer, Torah study, and acts of kindness, Purim should cause a person to become so “drunk” on the elevated revelations of Purim that one cannot tell the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”
  • Malbim writes that the joy mentioned in the verse parallels “feasting and joy,” while the holiday parallels the sending of gifts. This is so because the very purpose of our lives is to separate ourselves from the physical in an effort to focus on the spiritual. That is the very-same purpose of Yom Tov!
  • Similarly, in Horeb, Rav Hirsch writes that the physical rescue of the day deserved a physical enjoyment.
  • Similarly, in R’ Tzaddok HaKohen’s contrasting between Purim and Chanukah, he focuses on the fact that Chanukah was a struggle between different philosophies, wherein the Hellenists and Greeks did not care if the Jews lived or died as long as they accepted the Hellenistic worldview. Therefore, Jews celebrate Chanukah, which was a spiritual/philosophical victory, in a spiritual manner, with additions to the daily tefillah and the lighting of the chanukiya. Jews celebrate Purim, on the other hand, which was a physical victory, in a physical manner, with feasting and joy.
  • The Bach (Orach Chaim 670) focuses his distinguishing of the two days by noting that the entire Purim story was initiated by the Jews wrongly attending Achashverosh’s feast. He quotes a Braisa that says that the Chanukah story was perpetuated by the Jews’ lack of alacrity and laziness in fulfilling the tamid offering. Therefore, Purim is celebrating with a party to make up for our attending Achashverosh’s party, and Chanukah is celebrated with the lighting of Chanukah lights to make up for the neglecting of the constant fire of the tamid offering.
  • His son-in-law, the Taz (Orach Chaim 670:3), writes that Purim is an open miracle that saved our temporal lives, wheras Chanukah commemorates a relatively hidden, spiritual miracle in the oil lasting longer than expected. Their distinct commemorations, then, are accomplished through the public feasting of Purim and through the relatively private lighting of the Chanukah menorah, respectively.
  • The Sfas Emes adds that our physical pleasure on Purim is also due to the physical nature of Eisav’s (progenitor of Amalek) blessing that Yaakov (progenitor of the Jews) took from him (Bireishis 27:28-29). Furthermore, Yaakov’s attempt to take on Eisav’s physical role in the world is yet another reason for the custom to wear masks on Purim.
  • During a Purim seudah, the Satmar Rebbe once mentioned that one might have thought that Haman’s idol would make the threat to Jewish existence on Purim a spiritual one. However, the physical and spiritual aspects of a Jew are one and the same. After all, a physical body without a soul is a corpse. Accordingly, this is another reason for the custom to drink on Purim – to see beyond the superficial, and realize that our physical health is directly related to our spiritual health.
  • The Ben Ish Chai writes that the mitzvos of the day are intended to make Purim a day of Heavenly purpose of spiritual growth, and not for selfish joy. He bears this out from the fact that the initial letters of the four mitzvos of the day – simcha, mishteh, yom tov, manos – can be seen as an acronym that spells out shamayim (Heaven).
  • Famously, the Ari z”l quotes the Tikkunei Zohar (21) that the holiness of Yom Kippur is due to its being a “yom kiPurim” (“a day like Purim”).
  • The Ohel Moshe suggests that Yom Kippur’s holiness depends on Purim because the Talmud (Taanis 30b) says Yom Kippur was the day on which Moshe came down Mt. Sinai with the second set of luchos (“tablets”). This receiving of the Torah was not complete until the Jews accepted the following of its commands in the days of Purim with the verse’s (Esther 9:27) words “kimu v’kiblu.”
  • On another level, R’ Yitzchak Hutner explains that Purim is similar to Yom Kippur because there is a need on both days to make things right with people. The Mishna (Yuma 8:9) teaches that a person does not gain atonement for the wrongs one caused to another unless one asks for forgiveness from that person. Similarly, on Purim, the sending of mishloach manos is supposed to engender feelings of unity and peace among the Jewish people. This is done in a spiritual manner – by begging for forgiveness – on Yom Kippur, and in a physical manner – by drinking and feasting together – on Purim. In this way, the two holidays compliment each other, and become one powerful entity.
  • On one particular Purim in the Warsaw ghetto, R’ Kolonimus Kalmish (Hy”d) approached a Jew who was understandably not feeling joyous in the midst of terrible atrocity. He told this Jew that the intent of the comparison between Purim and Yom K’Purim is that just like a Jew should feel like there is no choice on Yom Kippur, and one must fast, so too, on Purim, one has no choice – one must have simcha (“joy”)!
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Esther 8:10, Question 2. Why does Mordechai do all of these actions?

  • M’nos HaLevi writes that the verse mentions that Mordechai does all of these actions to demonstrate Mordechai’s enthusiasm to be involved in every part of the mitzvah of saving the Jews. When great leaders in our history get involved in a mitzvah, they put all of their energies into the project. R’ Moshe Feinstein often had to let down organizations by saying he could not be on their boards because he was not content to be a figurehead – he used his priceless time and abilities to be involved in every aspect of the operations, including planning, payroll, bookkeeping, organizing, and even decorating.
  • One may wonder if this goes counter to the idea of zrisus (“alacrity”). After all, perhaps if Mordechai had delegated some responsibilities, Jewish lives would have been saved sooner. In Alei Shor, R’ Shlomo Wolbe explains that zrisus does not always mean doing things quickly; rather, it can mean doing things efficiently, properly, and with care.

Esther 6:10, Question 1. Why does Achashverosh tell Haman to hurry?

י וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהָמָן מַהֵר קַח אֶתהַלְּבוּשׁ וְאֶתהַסּוּס כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ וַעֲשֵׂהכֵן לְמָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי הַיּוֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אַלתַּפֵּל דָּבָר מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ

10. And the king said to Haman, “Hurry! Take the clothing and the horse of which you spoke, and do so to Mordechai the Yehudi who sits in the gate of the king. Do not drop anything from all that you said.”

  • According to Me’am Loez, Achashverosh rushed Haman because he does everything quickly. He rushed unthinking and headlong into every endeavor so far, from ridding himself of Vashti to signing the edict to massacre the Jews and every action in between.
  • Perhaps, as a former general, acting quickly is essential for Achashverosh’s character. The Alshich writes that Achashverosh rushes Haman because he was angry with him.
  • The Yosef Lekach bases his answer on the idea that Achashverosh’s sleep was troubled due to his not identifying Esther’s request. He thought to himself, “If Esther is requesting that I honor Mordechai for saving my life, I need to hurry to get that done before the second party tonight.”
  • Class Participant KL suggested that Achashverosh was rushing Haman to show his alacrity to do this, thereby proving to Esther that he would be doubly zealous to perform her request, whatever that might be.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech says Achashverosh was rushing Haman because he was afraid he might otherwise change his mind.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech also mentions that Achashverosh may have had some compassion for Haman’s self-esteem at this point, and wanted this demeaning act to be performed earlier in the morning, before most people were awake to see it. As we shall see in the next verse (iy”H), Mordechai will delay matters in order to subvert this plan.
  • According to the Vilna Gaon, Achashverosh was concerned of a conspiracy between Mordechai, Esther, and Haman to kill him. Therefore, he wanted Mordechai to be honored quickly to get it out of the way.
  • R’ Yehonoason Eibshutz says Achashverosh was in a hurry because he was aware of a prophecy that a Jew would be wearing the crown of Persia. Indeed, Darius II, the son of Esther would be the next king.

Esther 4:7, Question 1. What does the verse mean that Mordechai relates “what happened to him?”

ז וַיַּגֶּדלוֹ מָרְדֳּכַי אֵת כָּלאֲשֶׁר קָרָהוּ וְאֵת ׀ פָּרָשַׁת הַכֶּסֶף אֲשֶׁר אָמַר הָמָן לִשְׁקוֹל עַלגִּנְזֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ בַּיְּהוּדִיים [בַּיְּהוּדִים] לְאַבְּדָם

7. And Mordechai told him all that happened to him and the account of the silver that Haman said to weigh out on the king’s treasury in the Yehudim to annihilate them.

  • According to M’nos HaLevi, when the verse says that Mordechai related to Hasach “what happened to him,” it means that Mordechai told him absolutely everything – his refusal to bow to Haman, the Jews’ sin, and even the answer from the three students cited earlier.
  • Megillas Sesarim points out that Mordechai emphasized that this was happening to him personally because he felt responsible for this turn of events. Therefore, due to the Talmudic concept of “ein kateigor naaseh sineigor” (“the prosecutor cannot be the defender”) (see Rosh HaShanah 26a), Mordechai needed Esther to act in his stead.
  • Other commentators focus on alternative meanings to the Hebrew word karahu, “what happened to him.” For instance, the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 8:5) writes that Mordechai was telling Esther that a descendant of the nation that which karcha, “happened upon” (Devarim 25:18) the Jewish people in the desert, had launched an attack. That verse is explicitly about Amalek, ancestor of Haman. This is important, writes the Ginzei HaMelech, because Mordechai was indicating that the Jewish people were being punished by a specific enemy for a specific sin. In other words, since H-Shem gave Amalek permission, as it were, to attack the Jews for their laxity in Torah study (see Rashi to Shemos 17:8), Mordechai recognized that the solution to Haman’s threat was to infuse the Jewish people with a rejuvenated alacrity.
  • Besides the cause, this word also alludes to the manner in which this threat may be annulled – nature. The Ohel Moshe quotes the Yismach Yisroel that every battle between the Jewish people and Amalek involved nature. In the first battle, Moshe’s ordering Yehoshua to draft men to fight (Shemos 17:9) showed a stark contrast to the miraculous defeat of the Egyptians at the Sea of Reeds. The constant battle against Amalek cannot be miraculous, since H-Shem would never command us to perform something we naturally could not do.
  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 8:5) also opines that in the words “what happened to him,” Mordechai was referring to the dream he dreamed ten years earlier, alluding to the Jewish people facing mortal danger1.
  • According to the Torah Temimah, the reason Mordechai received this message in the form of a dream is because dreams generally feel as though they are b’mikra, a natural happenstance occurrence.

1The entire text of the Midrash gives the details of the dream: Behold! There was a great, strong noise and terror on the land, and fear and trembling on all its inhabitants. And behold, two great dragons, and they yelled at each other and waged war. And after hearing their voices, the nations of the land fled. And behold! Among them was one small nation. And all of the other nations rose up against the small nation to destroy its memory from the land. On that day, there was darkness over the entire world, and they bothered the small nation greatly, and they cried out to H-Shem. And the dragons warred with violent hate, and there was nothing separating them. And Mordechai saw: Behold! One small spring of water passed between these two dragons, and separated between them, from the war that they were fighting. And the spring strengthened. It flowed as strongly as the great [Mediterranean] sea. It spilled over the entire land. And he saw the sun shining over the entire land and bringing light to the world. The small nation was rising. And the big nations were brought low. And Behold! There was peace and truth throughout on the entire land.