Esther 9:13, Question 2. Why does Esther mention the Jews of Shushan specifically?

  • The Maamar Mordechai writes that Esther mentions the Jews of Shushan specifically because they had been under the threat of annihilation the earliest, and had knowingly been suffering under the shadow of death all of this time. It was only fair for them to reap the benefits of the victory first.
  • As understood by Rabbi Jonathan Taub, Malbim notes that this is first time for the remainder of Megillas Esther that Shushan is not called Shushan HaBirah (which he translates as the palace compound). He answers that Esther wanted permission to kill in the city as they had in the palace.
  • In a very different perspective, R’ Shimon Schwab writes that the verse mentions Shushan specifically because the Jews only killed there because they were afraid elsewhere. Esther wanted to show that faith is the thing that helps them. When the Jews do their part, H-Shem will do His part. He continues that this lack of faith is the reason for a Shushan Purim – it is a sign that the Jews in Shushan did not deserve to join the Jews in celebration on the same day.
  • The Ben Ish Chai points out that Shushan (300+6+300+50=656) has the same gematria (and even same letters) as sason (“joy”) (300+300+6+50=656), which is what the Jews experienced (Esther 8:16) upon their miraculous rescue from obliteration.
  • Furthermore, it is also the same gematria as lashon ra (“evil speech”) (30+300+6+50+200+70=656). Evil speech is what Haman tried to use (Esther 3:8) to defame the Jews before Achashverosh when requesting permission to exterminate them.

Esther 4:16, Question 3. Why and how are the Jews expected to fast for Esther specifically?

  • The M’nos HaLevi writes that the reason Esther wanted the Jews to fast for her is, as it says in the Talmud (Baba Kama 92a), when we pray for someone else to have rachamim (“pity”), we earn rachamim, too.
  • R’ Dovid Chadida points out that Esther is really the only person in danger now. The Jews, after all, are only threatened in a year from this point. To answer why Esther wants the people to fast specifically for her, he quotes the Rambam’s commentary on the Mishna (Taanis 1:5) that a city can only establish a fast day for itself for one day. This only applies when it is a city in danger. However, when we pray for one person, the fast can last for multiple days.
  • The Me’am Loez brings another Mishnah (Taanis 2:1) that fasting alone is meaningless; the point is to pray, cry ,and perform teshuva (“repentance”).
  • Esther’s emphasis on fasting is to help the Jews realize that attending Achashverosh’s feast was the act for which they were to repent. Assuming she did not attend the feast, then, Ginzei HaMelech asks why Esther has to fast. He suggests the Jews went to the party because, on some level, they had a lack of faith in their relationship with H-Shem, thinking they were unworthy of His love and concern. According to the Ginzei HaMelech, Esther has been displaying a similar lack of faith in herself.
  • Incidentally, the Ben Ish Chai writes that she asked the Jews to fast eilai, for her, which can be spelled ayin (seventy) lee (“for me”), meaning that she, herself would only fast for seventy hours, which will be explained later, G-d Willing.

Esther 4:14, Question 7. Why does the verse use “kazos” for the second “eis,” instead of “hazos,” as in the first mention?

  • According to Rashi, the word, “kazos” (“like the time”) is in the future tense. Accordingly, Mordechai is reminding Esther that there is no surety in her remaining queen in the future. For all she knows, Achashverosh will get rid of her in the same way he got rid of the last queen. If that would be the case, her effectiveness in defending the Jews has a potential expiration date.
  • According to Ibn Ezra, Mordechai is emphasizing to Esther that this very occasion is the reason why she is in the royal position in which she finds herself.
  • The Ohel Moshe writes that we are all here for one moment, to act in a way that will glorify H-Shem. We are all Divinely placed in the positions in which we find ourselves for a reason – whether we understand that reason, or not.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that Jews in prominent positions should realize that they are only there to make a Kiddush H-Shem.
  • Along the same lines, Vilna Gaon writes that Mordechai is telling Esther that her refusal will not just forfeit a reward, but will also be punished for being responsible for the deaths of the Jews.
  • The Malbim writes that H-Shem always has a set time to rescue the Jews, and Mordechai is telling Esther that this is the time to join in the rescue.
  • According to the Me’am Loez, Mordechai is pointing out that the Jews living in Persia might despair over time, and lose faith in their redemption.
  • Another opinion he brings is that this matter is time-sensitive, as Achashverosh may not have time to send messengers to recall the decree over his giant kingdom. G-d Willing, we will see in the final chapters of Megillas Esther that this concern was legitimate.

Esther 4:14, Question 4. Why does Mordechai say rescue will come from “another place?”

  • When Mordechai says rescue will come from “another place,” he means that rescue will come from H-Shem. He can be confident about this because the Yerushalmi (Simchos 8) quotes a verse (Vayikra 26:44) in saying that H-Shem promised that He would always rescue the Jews.
  • Therefore, the Kissey Shlomo and Dina Pishra write that H-Shem will find a way to rescue His people.
  • According to the Me’am Loez, one of the methods H-Shem could use in stopping Achashverosh is killing him through a rival nation. Mordechai is pointing out to Esther that, as queen, this method would be precarious for her; historically, fates worse than death can await a conquered queen.
  • The Chasam Sofer points out that Makom “place” can mean H-Shem, as we say in the phrase we use to comfort mourners.
  • R’ Moshe Meir Weiss points out that this is another example of Megillas Esther performing mental acrobatics to avoid using H-Shem’s Name.
  • R’ Shmuel Houminer asks why Mordechai is pushing Esther to perform this action. Did he not have faith in H-Shem. He answers that a person is required to have faith in H-Shem, but not trust specifically in his own method of achieving his goal.

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.