Esther 9:31, Question 2. To what fasts does the verse refer, and why?

  • On a simple level, the Ibn Ezra, Rambam (Mishneh Torah Hilchos Taanios 5:5), and Me’am Loez write that the fast to which this verse refers is the fast of Esther. However, according to the Talmud (Megilla 16b), these words are meant to be read with the beginning of the next verse. Therefore, it was through both fasting and Esther’s words that the Jews earned the merit to be rescued from total annihilation.
  • The M’nos HaLevi writes that this means that, just as the Jews accepted upon themselves the fasts of the prophets and fasting for the Temple’s destruction, they accepted Purim with all of its rules.
  • As Malbim explains, Esther and Mordechai used the prophet’s (Zecharya 8:19) establishing other fasts as proof that holidays can be established without violating the Torah’s (Devorim 4:2, see Ramban there) prohibition against bal tosif (“adding to the Torah’s existing laws”).
  • The Ginzei HaMelech notes the correspondence between Purim and fast days. He relates it to Yalta’s saying in the Talmud (Chulin 109b) that the Torah permits everything it forbids. In other words, the joy of Purim counterbalances the sadness of the fast days, zeh l’umas zeh.
  • This fits well with the Ksav Sofer noting the Talmud’s (Taanis 29a) parallel between the months of Adar and Av; just as mishenichnas Adar, marbin b’simcha (“when Adar begins, we increase our joy”), so too mishenichnas Av, mimaatin b’simcha (“when Av begins, we decrease our joy”).
  • The Sfas Emes notes a similar parallel between Purim and Yom Kippur by applying the words of the wisest of all men (Mishlei 18:21) that maves v’chaim b’yad halashon (“death and life are controlled by the tongue”). In other words, H-Shem’s judging the Jews occurs on both days, and is manifest in how we utilize our power of speech to maintain peace and unity.
  • Furthermore, the Maharal adds that we would logically assume Purim should be a time for fasting, considering the reasons H-Shem had for annihilating us. Instead we customarily drink ad d’lo yada to sublimate our logic in order need to recognize that our salvation does not come from our effort, but from H-Shem’s help.
  • Either way, fasting led to the Purim miracle, so R’ Moshe Dovid Valle notes that the word hatzomos (“the fasts”) is written in plural because an individual may choose to fast all three days of Purim (Taanis Esther, Purim, and Shushan Purim), but this is not for the masses.

Esther 9:26, Question 2. Why did they decide on Purim for the name of this holiday?

  • The Me’am Loez writes that they decided on the name of the holiday being Purim because the lots being rolled in Nissan, and coming up with the date in Adar eleven months later gave the Jews time to pray and to repent.
  • Furthermore, Adar had previously had no other holidays, so Purim’s falling out then made it stand out more conspicuously as a holiday, receiving the attention it deserves.
  • Also, the Vilna Gaon and Malbim point out that the lots pointed to a potentially bad fortune, but H-Shem reversed it to a good fortune.
  • In quoting Rabbeinu Yona’s Shaarei Teshuva (2:4), the Ginzei HaMelech notes that just as sin can be transformed to a mitzva status if the sin leads to teshuva (“repentance”), so too the lots lead directly to the Jews’ redemption.
  • The Ksav Sofer supports this point by writing that in calling the day Purim, we celebrate the pain suffered by the Jews at this time, since it led directly to their re-acceptance of Torah (Esther 9:27).
  • Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote that the message to be learned from this is that one should never overconfident of one’s “lot,” thinking that one’s greatness in Torah knowledge or observance will necessarily parry off the Evil Inclination. Rather, even such a person should be always mindful of one’s potential to fall prey to one’s natural, animalistic urges.

Esther 9:22, Question 2. To what sorrow does the verse refer?

  • The Ksav Sofer writes that the sorrow to which the verse refers was the sadness felt for Moshe’s death (Adar 7). This is because people at the time feared that the Torah would be forgotten. This is what the Talmud (Bava Basra 75b) implies by quoting the leaders of the time as saying, “Woe onto us that Moshe’s face is like the sun, and Yehoshua’s is like the moon!” They were, however, incorrect in their estimations, as Yehoshua proved to be a faithful conductor of Moshe’s teaching, as testified to in the Mishna (Avos 1:1).
  • Furthermore, the Jews’ re-acceptance of the Torah on Purim, as seen from the words kimu v’kiblu (“they established and accepted”) (Esther 9:27) demonstrates that the Torah of Moshe did not die (chas v’Shalom) with him.
  • Furthermore, the Maharal opines that since Adar is the end of the annual cycle of months, Adar would spell the end of the Jews.

Esther 8:17, Question 1. What do these expressions of happiness signify in this verse?

יז וּבְכָלמְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה וּבְכָלעִיר וָעִיר מְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר דְּבַרהַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָתוֹ מַגִּיעַ שִׂמְחָה וְשָׂשׂוֹן לַיְּהוּדִים מִשְׁתֶּה וְיוֹם טוֹב וְרַבִּים מֵֽעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ מִתְיַהֲדִים כִּינָפַל פַּחַדהַיְּהוּדִים עֲלֵיהֶם

17. And in each every state, and in each and every city – any place where the word of the king and his law was revealed – there was happiness and joy to the Yehudim, a feast and holiday. And many from the nations of the land became Yehudim because the fear of the Yehudim fell upon them.

  • The Ksav Sofer points out that the repetition of “happiness and joy” in this verse connotes the high degree of happiness present on Purim due to re-acceptance of Torah (Esther 9:27).

  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle notes that these four expressions of happiness are intended to stand in marked contrast to the four expressions of sadness (Esther 4:3) – evel (“mourning”), tzom (“fasting”), bechi (“crying”), and misped (“eulogy”) – used earlier when knowledge of Haman’s decree became known.

  • The Ben Ish Chai points out that, taken together, the first letters of the words magiya simcha v’sasson la’Yehudim (“there was happiness and joy to the Yehudim”) form a rearranged acronym for shalom (“peace”). This is because joy and happiness is only fully realized in peace.

Esther 8:15, Question 2. Why does the verse say Shushan is happy now?

  • Malbim points out from the next verse (Esther 8:16) that specifies that the Jews were happy, that this verse seems to imply that the non-Jews were happy. In reference to this, he quotes the verse (Mishlei 29:2) that the elevation of the righteous brings gladness to the people.

  • The Ben Ish Chai and the Ksav Sofer point out that the verse uses two expressions, tzahala (shouting) and simcha (joy), in describing Shushan’s happiness. One is for the happiness the general population felt about the death of Haman, and the other was for the happiness they felt over Mordechai’s honors.

  • Megillas Sesarim explains these two expressions as describing “the brightening of the face and the joy of the heart.” In other words, there were two different feelings: one was a physical show of joy and the other was an internal feeling of joy.

  • The Ibn Ezra writes that tzahala is a cognate of the Hebrew word for brightness. He explains that the verse uses it here in the sense of the hopefulness of a person sitting in darkness when the light begins to shine.

  • Maamar Mordechai writes that people are usually unsure of new, untested officials. Here, nobody was nervous because Mordechai was a known and trusted entity.

  • Class Participant YML suggests that maybe other ethnic minorities in the kingdom felt encouraged when they saw that even a Jew could be elevated in Achashverosh’s kingdom.

  • R’ Dovid Feinstein explains that the entire city of Shushan was happy that a Jew was elevated because Jews are often instrumental in commerce, and their security would thus presage a country’s financial security. Many countries in history that exiled its Jewish population had to deal with major financial crises immediately afterward.

  • Dina Pishra writes that the verse is using hyperbole to describe the salvation of the Jews being so complete that even the stones of the city were rejoicing.

  • On a deeper level, the Ginzei HaMelech writes that this does not have to be seen as hyperbole. Rather, as the R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzzato in Mesillas Yesharim (Chapter 1) explains, the entire world was given to man for its proper usage, and is thus physically affected by mankind’s spiritual behavior. This is the reason for the world to have been destroyed by the Flood when the people sinned. Here, too, the world, and Shushan specifically, rejoiced as a byproduct of man’s spiritual elevation.

  • Yosef Lekach writes that Shushan’s joy is described as a contrast to Mordechai’s worries. His concern was the Midrashic (Bireishis Rabba 84:3) statement that “there is no rest for the righteous.” He anticipated that this time of peace and contentment meant to him that he had to find more positive actions to perform and new evils to combat.