Esther 9:22, Question 6. What does the verse intend by “gifts to the poverty-stricken” and why?

  • According to the Halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 694:1), each Jew is required to send two matanos la’evyonim, charitable gifts, to at least two poverty-stricken Jews on Purim.
  • The Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Megillah 2:17) points out that the more poor people one sends to, the better. In fact, he writes (ibid. 2:16) that it is better to spend more money on the gifts to the poor than on any other mitzva of Purim.
  • This idea is echoed in the Mishna Berura (694:3). Furthermore, as opposed to standard charitable contributions, we are to give liberally and with no investigations as to the veracity of the poor person’s claim needed.
  • The Chasam Sofer explains that the reason that we even give to the undeserving is because we were not entirely deserving of being saved in the Purim story.
  • The Klausenberger Rebbe explains that another reason for not needing to investigate is that we should not worry about where the money is going because H-Shem reversed the situation described by the Midrash (Esther Rabba 7:25) that the gentiles teasing the Jews that they would kill them and said, “we’ll take your money.” Since this fear was reversed, on Purim we should not worry where our wealth is going.
  • R’ Shmuel de Ozeida notes that there is a missing letter vuv in evyonim (“poverty-stricken”) to hint to this same idea that we do not need to investigate if the person is completely poor enough to be Halachically considered an evyon.
  • The Dena Pishra explains the inordinate focus on the poor on Purim as indicative of the fact that everyone was saved on Purim – rich and poor.
  • The Ben Ish Chai quotes the Midrash (Esther Rabba 7:23) that Haman mocked Pharaoh that he only killed the males (Shemos 1:16). Therefore, writes the Bein Ish Chai, the Halacha requires us to give matanos la’evyonim to two people because Haman, on the contrary, wanted to kill males and females.
  • The Peleh Yo’Eitz explains that this gift is meant to help the poor celebrate Purim, and not even worry about the upcoming costs of Pesach. Also, it would help strengthen the emunah of the poor, who regularly rely on the rich, and the rich rely on H-Shem.
  • The is similar to the anecdote when Mayer Anschel Rothchild was asked how he could shovel so much money to charity, and he famously quipped, “ G-d has a bigger shovel.”
  • The Gerrer Rebbe quotes the Talmud (Megillah 7b) that we are supposed to skip Torah learning and even prayer for the public reading of Megillas Esther on Purim, however chesed cannot be pushed aside. Of the three legs on which the world stands according to the Mishna (Avos 1:2), chesed cannot be removed for the world to remain.
  • The Alshich writes that one should mentally intend to give matanos la’evyonim in the merit of Moshe.
  • Rav Dan Segal notes that the mere idea that Moshe Rabbeinu requires our efforts in his honor demonstrates that we have so little idea of the heavenly impact of our actions.
  • To demonstrate a similar powerful idea, the Ben Ish Chai points out that the gematria of matanos (“gifts”) (40+400+50+6+400=896) is the same as manos (“gifts”) (40+50+6+400=496) and 400.
  • The number 400 in the Zohar (I:123b) represents evil influences. The verse uses this particular word for gifts to emphasize that giving matanos la’evyonim can provide us with the spiritual power to fight off unholy forces.
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Esther 9:22, Question 5. What does the verse intend by “sending gifts,” and why?

  • According to the Halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 695:4), each Jew is required to send two foods to at least one other Jew on Purim.
  • The Peleh Yo’Eitz notes that the best way to perform the mitzva is for a great person to give to a lesser member of society. This would create both joy and the potential for one mitzva to lead to others.
  • After all, as the Sfas Emes emphasizes, one of the intents behind this mitzva is to debunk Haman’s slander (Esther 3:8) that Jews are splintered. Besides, acts of chesed are the foundational groundwork for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash (bimheira biyameinu).
  • Perhaps this is one reason for the Talmudic opinion (Megillah 7b) that one could also fulfill one’s obligation of mishloach manos by sending Torah.
  • Interestingly, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz wrote the oft-quoted M’nos HaLevi as a mishloach manos gift to his in-laws.
  • In Eparyon, Rav Ganzfried, author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, considers mishloach manos as a cunning way to give charity. Since all people will be giving gifts to their friends, the poor would not feel embarrassed by accepting a handout. This also explains why the order of the mitzvos listed in this verse seems out of order, with the more important mitzva of tzedaka being mentioned last.
  • The Sha’arey Simcha writes that the reason for this order is that it is debatable which miracle was greater: the destruction of our enemies or the raising of the Jews. Therefore, there are two mitzvos, paralleling each of these miracles, respectively.
  • The Ohel Moshe notes that, as opposed to other Holy Days, where the mitzvos of the day (i.e. lulav, matza, shofar, etc.) are only relevant for those days, Purim’s mitzvos (i.e. tzedakah, chesed, learning Megillas Esther, etc.) are relevant all year long.
  • R’ Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtza says that the implication of the word “re’eyhu” (“his fellow”) is that every Jews is considered worthy of receiving mishloach manos on Purim in H-Shem’s Eyes.
  • The Chasam Sofer was asked if mishloach manos are Halachically for increasing unity or to help all Jews have the minimal means with which to celebrate. If it is for unity, then it is for the benefit of the giver; if it is to allow everyone to celebrate, it is for the receiver. A practical difference would be in a case where someone refuses to accept. In such a case, has the sender fulfilled one’s obligation? If it is for the giver, the answer is yes, whereas if it is for the receiver, the answer is no.
  • Once, when about to receive mishloach manos, the Brisker Rav looked outside to check if it was yet sunset, and thus no longer Purim. He was willing to accept mishloach manos for purposes of the mitzva, but was unwilling to accept it as a regular gift, in fulfillment of the words of the wisest of men (Mishlei 15:27) that one “who hates gifts lives.”
  • Regarding the unique language of this verse, the Ben Ish Chai notes that the gematria of manos (“gifts”) (40+50+6+400=496) is the same as the 50 cubits of Haman’s gallows with the word maves (“death”) (40+6+400=446), meaning that this mitzva is intended to remind us of Haman’s plan to kill Mordechai.

Esther 9:16, Question 2. What is the significance of the number of dead?

  • The Targum writes that the significance of the number (75,000) of dead indicates that this is the number of Amalek’s descendants.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein notes that although this seems like a large number, mathematically the 75,000 enemies would only be a little under 600 people from each of the 127 states.
  • Another significance to this number is noted by the Midrash (Bireishis Rabba 39:13) where it points out that Esther was 75 years old when she became queen of Persia. In her merit, these 75,000 enemies were killed.
  • Perhaps this is reiterated in the fact that the Nachal Eshkol noted that the im hakollel gematria of Hadassa (5+4+60+5(+1) = 75) is equivalent to the Ben Ish Chai’s calculation of the gematria of the Yehudim (10+5+6+4+10+40=75).

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 9:1, 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 2. What do these different expressions signify?

  • According to Malbim, since the previous verse (Esther 8:15) testifies to the fact that everybody was happy, the various expressions in this verse underscore the fact that the Jews were especially joyous.
  • Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Collected Writings, Volume III, 405) writes that this verse demonstrates that the Jews could now survive any difficulty in history because they “preserved their own light and joy.”
  • The Rambam (Perakim Hatzlacha, Chapter 2) emphasizes that all of the good that the Jews received was due to their return to Torah. Based on this, the Binyan Shlomo points out that it is a very praiseworthy custom to learn Torah on the holiday of Purim (see Rema, Orach Chaim 695:2).
  • The Sharis Yosef teaches that objects going from darkness to light is yet another source for the custom to wear costumes on Purim.
  • The Talmud Yerushalmi (Brachos 1:1) writes that this description mirrors how the Jews will be redeemed with the coming of Moshiach.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 16b) interprets this verse’s expressions thus: light is Torah; happiness is Yom Tov; joy is circumcision; and glory is tefillin.
  • Rashi comments on the Talmud that Haman made decrees forbidding Jews from fulfilling these mitzvos. The Yad HaMelech points out that Jews may have neglected circumcision at that time, as they sometimes have done on times of persecution to pass as non-Jews.
  • The Megillas Sesarim writes that Mordechai’s wearing tefillin earlier (Esther 8:15) put that mitzva back in vogue.
  • Rav Shimon Schwab finds it impossible for the Jews to have been successfully banned from these mitzvos, en masse. Rather, he explains that the Jews at that time studied Torah, but without light; they commemorated holidays, but without happiness; they performed circumcisions, but without joy; they wore tefillin, but without glory. Without caring, without thinking, and without these precious mitzvos affecting their souls.
  • Rav Yehonason Eibshutz points out that it is a natural, human reaction for the emotional impact of an event to fade in subsequent anniversaries of that event. For instance, as happy as a child’s birthday celebration may be, it pales in comparison to the happiness felt at the actual successful birth. However, when that event is attached to a mitzva that is repeated every year, the original happiness felt at the event is retained (and perhaps enhanced) with the performance of the mitzva. This is the reason for the Talmud to equate happiness with Yom Tov; with each occurrence of Purim, its mitzvos reignite its accompanying joy.
  • The Sfas Emes asks a fundamental question: why does the verse uses metaphors instead of explicitly writing that the Jews garnered Torah, Yom Tov, circumcision, and tefillin? He answers that, with the miracle of Purim, the Jews recognized the real nature of light, happiness, joy, and glory; light comes from Torah, happiness comes from Yom Tov, joy comes from circumcision, and glory comes from tefillin.
  • The Ohr Gedalyahu adds that all of these misapplied emotions point to the Jews’ ancient battle against Amalek, a nation described (Devarim 25:17) as having cooled us. Amalek wins when Jews perform mitzvos without an accompanying fire of emotion. He quotes the Sefer Yetzira that the month of Adar is represented by the letter kuf, meaning kedusha (“holiness”), which he defines as keeping something special and invigorating.
  • The Ohel Moshe similarly writes that simcha (“happiness”) is the antidote to Amalek’s cooling effect. The Vilna Gaon notes that all four of these mitzvos – Torah, Yom Tov, circumcision, and tefillin – are regularly called osos (“signs”) and eidus (“testimonies”). He explains that these all testify that there is one G-d, and that the Jewish people are uniquely His people. He adds that taking the first letters (roshei teivos) of the words ora (“light”), simcha (“happiness”), sasson (“joy”), and yikar (“glory”) – aleph, sin, sin, and yud respectively – produces a gematria (1+300+300+10=611) equal to that of Torah (400+6+200+5=611). He continues by quoting a cryptic Talmudic tale (Sukkah 48b) about a character named Sasson speaking with another named Simcha. In this piece of Aggadeta, the two are trying to outdo each other by quoting verses throughout TaNaCh in which one or the other appears first. When Sasson and Simcha finally consult with Rebbe Abahu, he tells them that if a person has a water flask but never fills it, but merely keeps it next to him, he will die of thirst.
  • The Vilna Gaon’s explanation is beyond the author’s erudition and the scope of this work, but the Shem M’Shmuel explains that conversation by distinguishing between the exact spiritual nature of these two almost synonymous emotions, happiness and joy. He writes that happiness is the emotion felt after careful planning yields a successful result, whereas joy is the emotion felt when one experiences an unexpected windfall. The debate between Sasson and Simcha, then, is whether success is better felt in the former type of situation, or the latter. For instance, should an organization carefully plan its charitable giving, or bypass the planning and initiate the giving as quickly and haphazardly as possible? Having one necessarily means lacking the other. Rebbe Abahu’s allegoric answer, then, is that there needs to be spiritual content (water) inside the emotion (water flask) to gain anything beyond failure (thirst). Therefore, in our verse, the Jews had both emotions – happiness from the prearranged success, and joy from the unexpected success.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech wonders why the great mitzvah of teshuva (“repentance”) seems missing in this list of mitzvos the Jews are performing. After all, the Talmud (Megillah 14a) says that Achashverosh giving his signet ring to Haman created the greatest wave of teshuva in history. He answers that exactly these mitzvos are actual teshuva! Sitting around feeling sorry is not genuine repentance; improving our performance of H-Shem’s service is how we return to Him.

Esther 8:13, Question 3. Why is mi’oiveihem (“from their enemies”) spelled deficiently?

  • Perhaps mi’oiveihem (“from their enemies”) is spelled deficiently without a letter vuv because the gematria (40+1+10+2+10+5+40=108) is the same as the word chamas (“corruption”) (8+40+60=108) and limabul (“to a flood”) (30+40+2+6+30=108). In the story of Noach, the Torah (Bireishis 6:13) tells us that when the world became filled with chamas, H-Shem decided to punish it with a flood. The hatred that comes along with creating enemies necessitates a strong Heavenly response to put the world back in the proper order.