31. To establish these days of the Purim in their times as they were established on them by Mordechai the Yehudi and Esther the queen, and as they established on their souls and on their seed words of the fasts and their crying out.
It is difficult to imagine, but Purim was seen as an innovation. Esther and Mordechai had to push for it, especially with those Jews living in the outskirts who did not feel either the immediate threat, nor the miraculous salvation.
Yeetav Leiv writes that this verse’s focus on Purim’s establishment was meant to encourage people to perform it as Esther and Mordechai did it – with intent to celebrate it for the sake of Heaven.
The Talmud (Megilla 2a) begins its discussion of the mitzva to read Megillas Esther by writing that this verse refers to times because Purim is celebrated by different groups in different times. For instance, villages, big cities, and walled cities all fulfill their obligation of publicly reading Megillas Esther for Purim on various days between Adar 11 and 15.
There being five different days on which to celebrate this aspect of Purim, the Na’os HaDesheh (288) finds a hint in the fact that the word kayam (“establish”) is used five times in Megillas Esther (9:21, 9:27, 9:29, 9:31, and 9:32).
Furthermore, there are five minatzpech (final letters “םןץףך”), which traditionally represent the five exiles (Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome) the Jews have endured because they are end letters, and we pray for the end of our long exile.
R’ Yechezkiel Abramsky tells the story of the Vilna Gaon’s grandson, who lived in Warsaw. Somebody asked him for an example of what made his grandfather so great. He answered that, as a child, the Vilna Gaon was asked why the first Mishna in Megilla (1:1) says lo pachos v’lo yoser (“no more and no less”) regarding the days to read Megillas Esther, but the Mishna in Shabbos (19:5) does not use the phrase regarding the various days on which a bris (“circumcision”) can be performed. The person asking began giving the Vilna Gaon’s grandson a brilliant one-hour answer. “Very nice,” he said, “but my grandfather answered better.” The questioner asked to be given time to think about it and come back with another answer. Three days later, he came back with a longer answer. Again, the Vilna Gaon’s grandson said, “Very nice, but my grandfather answered better. The answer is that both sources indeed use that phrase.” Often, the correct answer requires one to go back to basics. Like an IT support adviser’s first question to a customer, “Is your machine plugged in?”, the Talmud (Shabbos 32a) advises travelers to stay safe on a journey by checking the safety of the boat instead of prayers and incantations.
The Maharsha adds that Purim is a powerful time to pray and say Tehillim. In fact, the Me’am Loez finds a hint to this in the final letters of a phrase in this verse v’al zaram divreihatzomos (“and on their seed words of the fasts”), which spell out Tehillim when re-ordered.
The Meshech Chochmoh writes that the verse needed to mention times in order to contradict those people who wanted to place Purim on the exact time when Haman planned to kill the Jews, which would start in the daytime like the gentile calendar. Rather, Purim needs to follow the Jewish calendar – starting at night.
According to Sifsei Chachamin, the verse repeats the name of the holiday because Purim is mentioned in Megillas Esther by name five times. One reason for this is that there are five unique mitzvos of the day: matanos la’evyonim, mishloach manos, the public reading of the Megillas Esther, the feast, and possibly the saying of “al hanisim” in our prayers. As mentioned earlier, the Mishna (Megilla 1:1) teaches that there are a total of five days when it is possible to fulfill one’s obligation of hearing the annual public reading of Megillas Esther. However, it will not cease (be kept completely) for two of those days. For that reason, the word is written in its complete form twice.
28. And these days should be remembered and performed in each generation and generation, family and family, state and state, and city and city. And these days of the Purim shall not pass from before the Yehudim, and their remembrance shall not end from their seed.
According to the Talmud (Megilla 20a), the verse uses the plural vimei (“and days”) because the public Purim reading of Megillas Esther in the daytime cannot begin until sunrise, and can last the entire day until sunset.
R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that the plural implies both Adar 14th and 15th, or both Purim and Shushan Purim.
The Ben Ish Chai, however writes that the plural alludes to 11th – 15th of Adar, days on which the Mishna (Megilla 1:1) teaches that the public reading of Megillas Esther for Purim can theoretically be validly performed under various circumstances.
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.