Esther 9:27, Question 1. Why does the verse mention establishing before accepting?

כז קִיְּמוּ וְקִבְּלֻ הַיְּהוּדִים ׀ עֲלֵיהֶם ׀ וְעַלזַרְעָם וְעַל כָּלהַנִּלְוִים עֲלֵיהֶם וְלֹא יַעֲבוֹר לִהְיוֹת עֹשִׂים אֵת שְׁנֵי הַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה כִּכְתָבָם וְכִזְמַנָּם בְּכָלשָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה

27. The Yehudim established and accepted on themselves and on their seed and on all who join them, and not to pass over the being of having done these two days as their writing and as their times each and every year.

  • On a simple level, the Maharal writes that the verse mentions establishing before accepting because the Jews established in the year following the Purim story that which they had already accepted in the year of the event.
  • In his commentary on the Torah (Bireishis 6:18), the Ramban explains this phrasing to indicate that the Jews accepted upon themselves and their descendants for perpetuity that which they had already placed upon themselves previously.
  • In a later comment on the Torah (Devorim 27:26), however, the Ramban adds that this verse means that the Jews accepted that Torah and all of her mitzvos are true.
  • The Talmud (Shevuos 39a) quotes the verse in the Torah (Devorim 29:13-14) in which H-Shem establishes a covenant with all of the Jews at that time, and forever. The Talmud then uses the present verse’s phrase of “kimu v’kiblu” (“they established and accepted”) to explain how we could know that future generations of Jews accepted to take on any future, additional mitzvos.
  • The Talmud (Megilla 7a, Makkos 23b) teaches that the Heavenly court established above what was accepted by the Jews below.
    • R’ Shmuel Aharon Rubin explains that this means that Heaven confirmed the earthly ruling – like witnesses – giving it legitimacy.
    • Kol Eliyahu notes that this is the idea behind the Talmud’s (Megilla 7a) proof that Megillas Esther is written with Ruach HaKodesh (see Introduction). Otherwise, how would Mordechai and Esther have known that Heaven accepted the Jews’ pronouncement?
  • The Talmud (Shabbos 88a) tells the story of the Jews’ accepting the Torah at Har Sinai. Once they accepted the Torah with the words (Shemos 24:7) “naaseh v’nishmah” (“we will do and we will listen”), H-Shem lifted a mountain over them, and threatened to drop it over them if they would not accept the Torah. What was the reason for this if they had just done exactly that?
    • Tosfos answers that the Jews accepted the Written Torah with complete enthusiasm, but not the Oral Torah. They re-accepted the Torah in the conclusion of Megillas Esther, when the verse (Esther 9:27) writes “kimu v’kiblu” (“they established accepted”). Many commentators are bothered by the implied coercion in this tactic.
    • Firstly, Rashi (on the Talmud there) notes that the coercion was intended for the Jews to use as defense in the future to lessen any punishment. A Jew thereby always has a ready excuse in the Heavenly court that he never accepted the Torah’s responsibilities willingly.
    • The Sfas Emes notes that the word order parallels “naaseh v’nishmah” (“we will do and we will listen”) (Shemos 24:7). Tosfos explains that, after accepting the Torah, the Jews got scared by the fires around the mountain, and back-paddled, taking back their promise.
    • The Maharal (Tiferes Yisroel 32) argues on Tosfos, saying that the message H-Shem imparted on the Jewish people for the rest of history by holding the mountain over them was that the Torah was not simply a subject that they could accept or not, at their whim – rather, the entire world was only made for the purpose of our serving the Torah, and rejecting it (chas v’Shalom) was not a viable option within the scope of our prerogative. Their re-acceptance in the time of Purim, therefore, was an act of consenting to these terms. The Maharal quotes the Midrash (Tanchuma, Noach 3) that the Jews at Mt. Sinai only accepted the Written Law. This did not include the effort, discipline, study, and observance of the Oral Law. The Maharal continues that coercion was necessary to show the world that accepting the Torah was not just a nice gesture to voluntary accept, but a necessary part of life for the world’s continued existence.
    • However, the Ramban and the Ran learn this passage as H-Shem threatening the Jews that if they do not accept the Torah, they would not receive Eretz Yisroel. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 105a) quotes the prophet (Yechezkiel 20:32) that “what comes to your mind shall definitely not occur; in that which you say, ‘We will be like the nations, like the families of the lands, to serve wood and stone.’” The Talmud explains that – like the other nations of the world – once the Jews were no longer in their land, they felt that they were no longer responsible to keep Torah. They realized the error of this philosophy after the Purim miracle, leading to their re-acceptance of the Torah.
    • The Ritva points out that such is just the weak argument of the heretic. The Talmud’s statement means that even if there was coercion, it was re-accepted on Purim.
    • In the “Drashos” section of Oneg Yom Tov, the author writes that just as a marriage could theoretically be annulled by a precondition, so too one could argue that the Jews accepted the Torah at Sinai under the precondition of receiving the land of Israel. This precondition was annulled by the Jews’ renewed acceptance in Persia.
    • The Torah Temimah and the Rayach Dodayim both point out that the word order of “established and accepted” implies that one should first accept, and only then fulfill the Torah.
    • The Chofetz Chaim writes that the generation of the desert was not reluctant to accept the Torah, but was merely concerned about the difficulties to be endured by future generations of Jews keeping the Torah through their future exiles. They knew that the Torah’s many mitzvos would effectively alienate us from our surrounding neighbors. Purim proves that the Jews can keep the Torah even in the most hostile of environments. As the Sages say, the Torah protects us and rescues us. The Torah is not counterproductive to our survival in exile – quite the opposite; the Torah is our key to continued existence.
    • The Dubno Maggid quotes a Talmudic (Yerushalmi Megilla 1:5) debate between H-Shem and the gentile nations. The nations ask, “why did You not lift mountain over our heads? We would have accepted the Torah, too!” In response, the Dubno Maggid tells a parable about two fathers who come to a doctor with their two sons. Both boys refuse to eat, the first one being sick, and the other who is weaning. The doctor tells the father of the sick boy to keep his son away from food and that will force him to eat on his own when he becomes hungry. The doctor tells the father of the weaning boy to force open the boy’s mouth, and to stuff the most delicious foods into it. When the fathers showed surprise regarding the two different suggestions for seemingly the same ailment, the doctor explained that the sick child’s body is repulsed by food, and he needs to stay away from food that can otherwise cause him harm. The weaning child, however, has never had solid food before, and must be force-feed in order to taste food’s sweetness. Like the sick boy, H-Shem knew that the that the gentiles would not appreciate Torah anyway, so He kept it away from them. Furthermore, similar to a weaning boy, the Jewish people were simply unaccustomed to Torah, and needed to be somewhat forced into accepting it. After experiencing its sweetness, the Jews would naturally choose to continue on the right path.
    • In the view of the Sfas Emes, during the first acceptance, the Jews only accepted the Torah verbally – not in hearts, as is hinted to by our singer (Tehillim 78:36) “they tried to trick Him with their mouths.” The situation was very different in Persia, where their hearts were completely invested. He also notes that, just like first acceptance followed the defeat of Amalek, so too in Persia.
    • R’ Yisroel Simcha Schorr notes that, interestingly, the Mishna’s three day allowance to publicly read Megillas Esther for Purim (Megilla 1:1) parallel the three days of preparation the Jews needed to receive the Torah.
    • Perhaps all of this is why, as R’ Dovid Feinstein writes, anyone who wants to join Jews must first accept Purim.
    • Rav Shach writes in Mach’shavos Mussar that, since Purim is an appropriate time to re-accept the Torah, it should be celebrated with learning – not drunken revelry.
    • R’ Henoch Leibowitz notes that at the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai, since so much time (49 days) passed since miracles in Mitzrayim, it was difficult for person to wake oneself up.
    • On these points, Tefillas Chana says that the Jews accepted the Torah because they realized that everything, even nature, is from H-Shem.
    • R’ Yaakov Kaminetsky explains the significance of this acceptance of Torah. Miracles are, after all, easy to accept as G-dly, but seeing H-Shem’s guiding Hand in nature leaves a far more lasting impression.

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 9:3, Question 2. Why does the verse stress that these people feared Mordechai?

  • The Vilna Gaon writes that this verse stresses that these people feared Mordechai, as opposed to the general populace mentioned in the previous verse. This was a more powerful deterrent because the officials knew how Mordechai’s power translated in the inner circles of the palace.
  • Malbim adds that, having the more detailed versions of the original decree, these officials had to choose between supporting the enemies or the Jews. Because they feared Mordechai, they decided to do the politically expedient thing – nothing.

Esther 8:17, Question 3. What is “fear of the Yehudim?”

  • In a simple explanation, the Alshich writes that the fear felt by the gentiles was the fear of being killed. This is the reason for the verse using the word nafal (“fell”). After all, the emotion of fear existed already because of Jews’ impending extermination, and it now “fell” onto the gentiles.

  • However, the Rema in Mechir Yayin interprets their fear specifically as that for the G-d of the Jews.

  • The Chasam Sofer explains that the “pachad Yehudim” (“fear of the Jews”) that inspired their conversion can be interpreted as fearing what the Jews fear, which is only H-Shem. Let us hope for the day to come soon on which, as the prophet (Yirmiya 33:9) promises us, all the peoples of the earth will fear and tremble over all the goodness and peace H-Shem establishes.

Esther 7:8, Question 1. How and why does Haman fall on the bed?

ח וְהַמֶּלֶךְ שָׁב מִגִּנַּת הַבִּיתָן אֶלבֵּית ׀ מִשְׁתֵּה הַיַּיִן וְהָמָן נֹפֵל עַלהַמִּטָּה אֲשֶׁר אֶסְתֵּר עָלֶיהָ וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ הֲגַם לִכְבּוֹשׁ אֶתהַמַּלְכָּה עִמִּי בַּבָּיִת הַדָּבָר יָצָא מִפִּי הַמֶּלֶךְ וּפְנֵי הָמָן חָפוּ

8. And the king returned from the garden of his house to the house of the wine feast. And Haman is falling on the bed on which is Esther. And the king said, “Also to attack the queen with me in the house?!” The word went out from the mouth of the king, and Haman’s face was covered.

  • Rashi notes that people in those days reclined on beds or couches during meals, as was mentioned earlier (see Esther 1:16).
  • The Talmud (Megillah 12a) pointed out that during Achashverosh’s party in the beginning of the story, that the couches were designed to be equal in order to avoid jealousy. Here, ironically, the couch provokes the epitome of jealousy.
  • In a simple explanation of this verse, the Ibn Ezra writes that Haman was merely beseeching Esther, and fell from fear when Achashverosh entered.
  • Similarly, the Vilna Gaon states that because Haman was so deeply saddened, he could not stand.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein stresses that, had Haman been simply begging for his life, he would have been on the floor, so an explanation beyond the simple understanding is in order.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 16a) is bothered by the verse’s use of the present tense nofal (“is falling”) instead of nafal (“fell”). It records that when Achashverosh returned from his garden, an angel was in the process of pushing Haman onto Esther’s bed. Achashverosh yelled, “Woah onto me in my house and woah onto me outside.”
  • R’ Avigdor Bonckek explains that the use of the present tense is meant to express the mental image in our minds like an ongoing event.
  • The Baal HaTurim, in his commentary on the Torah (Bereishis 48:2) points out the phrase “al hamita” (“on the bed”) is used in TaNaCh twice – here, and in reference to Yaakov giving his blessing to his grandchildren through Yosef, Menashe and Efrayim. This is meant to contrast the righteous, who lift themselves up even at their weakest moments (as Yaakov raised himself from his deathbed to bless his progeny), to the wicked, who fall even when they are at highest peak of their success (as Haman fell from the king’s grace).
  • The Talmud (Pesachim 100a) uses the phrase “hagam lichvosh es hamalka imi babayis” (“also to attack the queen with me in the house”) to criticize someone who follows the opinion of Rabbi A in the presence of Rabbi B when those opinions conflict. Similarly, Rabbi Paysach Krohn tells a story of the Klausenberger Rebbe who prayed one late afternoon at the grave of the tanna R’ Yehuda bar Ilai outside Meron in Eretz Yisrael. In the evening, the rebbe became unusually downcast. When he was asked about his sudden change of mood, he explained that the R’ Yehuda bar Ilai’s opinion was that mincha needed to be prayed earlier, and “hagam lichvosh es hamalka imi babayis!”
  • The Talmud (Sanhedrin 105a) tells us that a proof to the idea that the wicked Bilam performed magic through immoral acts is the fact that the Torah (Bamidbar 24:4) records that he called himself “fallen.” This bears a marked similarity to Haman’s situation in this verse, in which he falls. Falling onto a bed is a reference to falling into immorality.
  • The Maharal suggests that Haman fell over the bed because he could not see it due to his embarrassment. He refers us to the Talmud (Bava Metzia 59a) that teaches that embarrassed people behave clumsily.
  • Perhaps he could not see the bed because his inflated ego caused his head to be perpetually in the air, even as he is about to die.
  • The Ma’amar Mordechai points out that Haman knew that Achashverosh would get jealous if he saw Haman and Esther together, and, knowing that he was as good as dead already, he tried to take Esther down with himself.
  • The author of the website doreishtov.blogspot points out that the Talmud calls the holiday of Purim by the name, “Puraya,” which also means “bed” in Aramaic. He suggests that this event of Haman falling on Esther’s bed is more central to the story from which the holiday comes than the lots that Haman threw.
  • The Sfas Emes points out that Haman fell twice, once here, and again when his followers fall on the thirteenth of Adar. The Sfas Emes continues that these multiple falls were foreshadowed when Haman’s advisers said (Esther 6:13) “nafol tipol” (“falling you will surely fall”). The Sfas Emes concludes that this also foreshadows the ultimate downfall of Amalek at end of history as promised in the Torah (Bamidbar 24:20), it should be in our days.

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 4:3, Question 3. Why does the verse call the Jews’ mourning “great?”

  • In its classically sarcastic tone, the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 8:2) asks if there is such a thing as a mourning that is not great. After all, any mourning is painful. Naturally, after seven days, our personal mourning diminishes to some degree as we come to grips with the fact of the loss we are experiencing. In this case, however, the mourning only intensified as the Jews continued moving forward toward the day set for their annihilation. The Midrash adds that, in normal mourning, there is comfort in the fact that the deceased left someone behind. Here, again, nobody is expected to remain behind as Haman has decreed the deaths of women and children along with everyone else.
  • Rav Henoch Leibowitz cites a story in the Talmud (Brachos 60a) in which Rebbe Yishmael calls a student a sinner merely because the student was agitated. The only thing about which a person should be nervous is if that person performed enough good deeds. A person nervous about anything else is simply not living – constantly in the grips of fears and anxieties that prevent that person from enjoying the blessings of life. The Jews’ mourning here, too, is great in the sense of its quality. It was the fear of the righteous, the concern he felt if he had done enough good on his level. They were mourning for the right reasons, and that is why the verse calls their mourning “great.”

Esther 4:3, Question 1. Why does the verse use the word “makom” (“place”) in addition to “every state?”

ג וּבְכָלמְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה מְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר דְּבַרהַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָתוֹ מַגִּיעַ אֵבֶל גָּדוֹל לַיְּהוּדִים וְצוֹם וּבְכִי וּמִסְפֵּד שַׂק וָאֵפֶר יֻצַּע לָֽרַבִּים

3. And in each and every state – place where the word of the king and his rule reached – was a great mourning to the Yehudim, and fasting, and crying, and eulogy. Sack and ash was spread under most.

On a simple level, the Yad HaMelech brings that, the further away from Shushan that a Jew found himself, the more scared he would be after learning of the decree. After all, the limited power of the king there would make it more difficult to control the anti-Semitic masses eager to jump at the chance to kill Jews in those locations.