Esther 9:20, Question 2. Why does the verse specify that the books are sent near and far?

  • In his introductory comments on the Talmudic tractate Megillah, the Ramban explains that the idea behind sending the books near and far means that they were sent through the entire expanse – from Hodu to Cush (Esther 1:1) – of Achashverosh’s kingdom.
  • Me’am Loez suggests that they were even sent to other countries.
  • The Dena Pishra explains that since Mordechai’s goal was to create a feeling of achdus (“unity”), he even wanted to reach those Jews whose lack of faith and subsequent fear motivated them to flea battle.
  • Rav Schwab, however, understands “close” as those Jews who were living in Shushan and celebrating on the 14th of Adar, whereas “far” refers to those Jews who returned to Eretz Yisroel and celebrated Shushan Purim on the 15th of Adar in the only place where one must certainly do so – the holy city of Yerushalayim.
  • The Sha’ar Yissachar writes that the books were sent near and far so no Jew could ever devise the excuse that they are too far from holiness. Rather, the near and far have equal access to the holiness that emanates from Purim.
  • Keser Shem Tov quotes that Talmudic (Megillah 17a) rule that Megillas Esther on Purim must be read as written, and not backwards. The Keser Shem Tov then wonders why anybody would think to read it backwards. He posits that the Talmud means that nobody should ever consider the Purim story as some ancient, historic event without real relevance to our lives.

Esther 5:10, Question 2. Why does Haman restrain himself?

  • As Rashi said above, Haman’s motivation was fear of retribution without the king’s explicit permission.
  • The reason for this is, ironically, his own participation in creating a law that women have to listen to their husbands (Esther 1:22). As the Malbim wrote there, the necessity to sign such a truism into law put into question any other otherwise immutable ideas. Even a minister being disrespected did not act without the king’s command.
  • According to Rebbetzin Heller, the reason Haman restrains himself is that a good retaliation requires careful planning.
  • The Baal HaTurim (on Bireishis 43:31) points out that the word vayisapek (“and he restrained himself”) is used only twice in TaNaCh. The first is where Yosef restrains himself from revealing himself to his brothers. Just as in the Yosef story, the predicament was precarious but ended positively, so too in this story, self-restraint leads to national joy for the Jews. The Ramban’s definition (on Vayikra 19:2) of becoming holy is to restrain oneself and not to over-indulge.

Esther 5:9, Question 2. Why does the verse describe Haman’s joy in two ways?

  • The Alshich notes that, for someone who should be planning the details of his newly-signed decree to annihilate the Jews, Haman’s reaction is inappropriate, and is therefore another example of H-Shem guiding the behavior of people. H-Shem calmed Haman, giving him the opportunity to make mistakes only blasé, overly confident people make. H-Shem does not control our actions, but He can control our attitudes by removing our worries.
  • The Vilna Gaon writes that joy refers to physical joy, and a good heart is an internal pleasure.
  • The M’nos HaLevi writes that the two adjectives refer to two different attitudes simultaneously occurring in Haman’s mind. The first happiness came with his taking pride in the fact that only he was invited to private, royal feast. The other feeling was satisfaction from his meal. This was no mundane emotion, as we know that food has a powerful affect on behavior.
  • The Kedushas Levi notes that Scripture usually reserves this kind of phraseology of being satisfied for the righteous. Its use here for Haman seems unusual. The Tiferes Shlomo answers with a spiritual answer that the Talmud (Gitin 57b) says that Haman’s descendants learn Torah in Bnei Brak. Considering that Amalek cannot convert, and that Haman’s sons all die, this is indeed strange. Firstly, it is possible Haman’s sons had children before they were killed. As evil as he was, some of the holiness from the meal prepared by Esther rubbed off on him. Holiness never goes away. It can be mishandled, as potential can be ignored.

Esther 2:16, Question 1. Why does the verse emphasize that Esther was taken?

טז וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶלהַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אֶלבֵּית מַלְכוּתוֹ בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָעֲשִׂירִי הוּאחֹדֶשׁ טֵבֵת בִּשְׁנַתשֶׁבַע לְמַלְכוּתוֹ

16. And Esther was taken to the king Achashverosh to the house of his kingship in the tenth month, which is the month of Teves, in the seventh year of his rule.

  • The Malbim says that Esther had to be taken because she put up a fight, and had to go by force. Despite the fact that all should seem lost for an ordinary person in this position, the Vilna Gaon points out that what makes Esther a righteous woman is that she continued to fight to preserve her purity when it was a foregone conclusion that all was lost.
  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 6:10) interprets “vitilakach” as meaning “acquired,” and says the courtiers of the palace auctioned off the privilege to bring Esther to the king. Everybody seemed to see something special in her (as we said in the last post), and assumed she would be the future queen.
  • There is an idea mentioned in the Zohar called “Nitotzei Kedusha” (“sparks of holiness”). When a person errs in behavior, that person’s soul loses some spiritual potential, and these are called sparks of holiness. Being holy, these sparks are immortal, and, according to the AriZal, it becomes the task of all people to collect these sparks with positive actions. The Jews living through the Persian exile seemed to commonly practice intermarriage (Ezra 10:2). Therefore, the Sfas Emes posits that the great Esther’s marrying Achashverosh rectified the sin of intermarriage as a way to gather all of those nitzotzei kedusha.