- The Talmud (Megillah 7a) learns from the verse’s use of “feasting and joy” that there is a mitzva to drink ad d’lo yada, until one does not know the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai” on Purim. Although this a topic worthy of a much larger Halachic discussion, it should suffice for purposes of understanding this verse to note some varying opinions on this subject.
- Indeed several Halachic deciders understand this literally as an injunction to become completely drunk on Purim, as is clear from the Rif (Megillah 3b) and the Tur (Orach Chaim 695:2).
- Among others, the Peleh Yo’eitz warns that, obviously, this drinking should not be done to the point where one would miss any other mitzvos, including praying mincha with proper intent.
- The Talmud (Pesachim 68b) teaches that holidays from the Torah should be be split evenly – half for H-Shem (i.e. with prayer, learning, etc.), and half for our own pleasure (i.e. eating, resting, etc.). However, even according to an earlier opinion there that all holidays should be completely for H-Shem, this verse’s use of the words “feasting and joy” require Purim to be completely for our pleasure.
- The Abudraham notes that drinking is such a critical part of celebrating Purim because drinking plays a central role in Megillas Esther, including Vashti’s fall (Esther 1:10), Esther’s rise (Esther 2:18), [the decree to kill the Jews (Esther 3:15),] and Esther’s parties that led to Haman’s fall (Esther 7:1-10).
- The Midrash Eliyahu writes that we celebrate Purim by drinking because the Talmud (Megillah 13b) relates that Haman slandered the Jews’ drinking practices when he told the king that if a fly were to touch a Jew’s cup, he would remove it and continue drinking. However, if the king were to touch a Jew’s cup, the Jew would throw the wine away, alluding to the Talmudic (Avodah Zarah 30a) law of yayin nesech.
- The Nesivos Shalom (Purim 57-58) has a very unique reading of this Talmudic passage. He notes that the above cited teaching does not say “livsumei” (“to become intoxicated”) with wine, but rather “livsumei” in Purim. This means that one should get drunk from the day of Purim, itself, similar to the prophet’s (Yeshaya 51:21) description of being “drunk, but not from wine.” Through prayer, Torah study, and acts of kindness, Purim should cause a person to become so “drunk” on the elevated revelations of Purim that one cannot tell the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”
- Malbim writes that the joy mentioned in the verse parallels “feasting and joy,” while the holiday parallels the sending of gifts. This is so because the very purpose of our lives is to separate ourselves from the physical in an effort to focus on the spiritual. That is the very-same purpose of Yom Tov!
- Similarly, in Horeb, Rav Hirsch writes that the physical rescue of the day deserved a physical enjoyment.
- Similarly, in R’ Tzaddok HaKohen’s contrasting between Purim and Chanukah, he focuses on the fact that Chanukah was a struggle between different philosophies, wherein the Hellenists and Greeks did not care if the Jews lived or died as long as they accepted the Hellenistic worldview. Therefore, Jews celebrate Chanukah, which was a spiritual/philosophical victory, in a spiritual manner, with additions to the daily tefillah and the lighting of the chanukiya. Jews celebrate Purim, on the other hand, which was a physical victory, in a physical manner, with feasting and joy.
- The Bach (Orach Chaim 670) focuses his distinguishing of the two days by noting that the entire Purim story was initiated by the Jews wrongly attending Achashverosh’s feast. He quotes a Braisa that says that the Chanukah story was perpetuated by the Jews’ lack of alacrity and laziness in fulfilling the tamid offering. Therefore, Purim is celebrating with a party to make up for our attending Achashverosh’s party, and Chanukah is celebrated with the lighting of Chanukah lights to make up for the neglecting of the constant fire of the tamid offering.
- His son-in-law, the Taz (Orach Chaim 670:3), writes that Purim is an open miracle that saved our temporal lives, wheras Chanukah commemorates a relatively hidden, spiritual miracle in the oil lasting longer than expected. Their distinct commemorations, then, are accomplished through the public feasting of Purim and through the relatively private lighting of the Chanukah menorah, respectively.
- The Sfas Emes adds that our physical pleasure on Purim is also due to the physical nature of Eisav’s (progenitor of Amalek) blessing that Yaakov (progenitor of the Jews) took from him (Bireishis 27:28-29). Furthermore, Yaakov’s attempt to take on Eisav’s physical role in the world is yet another reason for the custom to wear masks on Purim.
- During a Purim seudah, the Satmar Rebbe once mentioned that one might have thought that Haman’s idol would make the threat to Jewish existence on Purim a spiritual one. However, the physical and spiritual aspects of a Jew are one and the same. After all, a physical body without a soul is a corpse. Accordingly, this is another reason for the custom to drink on Purim – to see beyond the superficial, and realize that our physical health is directly related to our spiritual health.
- The Ben Ish Chai writes that the mitzvos of the day are intended to make Purim a day of Heavenly purpose of spiritual growth, and not for selfish joy. He bears this out from the fact that the initial letters of the four mitzvos of the day – simcha, mishteh, yom tov, manos – can be seen as an acronym that spells out shamayim (Heaven).
- Famously, the Ari z”l quotes the Tikkunei Zohar (21) that the holiness of Yom Kippur is due to its being a “yom kiPurim” (“a day like Purim”).
- The Ohel Moshe suggests that Yom Kippur’s holiness depends on Purim because the Talmud (Taanis 30b) says Yom Kippur was the day on which Moshe came down Mt. Sinai with the second set of luchos (“tablets”). This receiving of the Torah was not complete until the Jews accepted the following of its commands in the days of Purim with the verse’s (Esther 9:27) words “kimu v’kiblu.”
- On another level, R’ Yitzchak Hutner explains that Purim is similar to Yom Kippur because there is a need on both days to make things right with people. The Mishna (Yuma 8:9) teaches that a person does not gain atonement for the wrongs one caused to another unless one asks for forgiveness from that person. Similarly, on Purim, the sending of mishloach manos is supposed to engender feelings of unity and peace among the Jewish people. This is done in a spiritual manner – by begging for forgiveness – on Yom Kippur, and in a physical manner – by drinking and feasting together – on Purim. In this way, the two holidays compliment each other, and become one powerful entity.
- On one particular Purim in the Warsaw ghetto, R’ Kolonimus Kalmish (Hy”d) approached a Jew who was understandably not feeling joyous in the midst of terrible atrocity. He told this Jew that the intent of the comparison between Purim and Yom K’Purim is that just like a Jew should feel like there is no choice on Yom Kippur, and one must fast, so too, on Purim, one has no choice – one must have simcha (“joy”)!
- M’nos HaLevi explains that Mordechai wrote into law what the Jews were already doing, and this is what the verse means by saying that these actions were being “done.”
- Class Participant BR suggests that the plural hints that there are two days on which one should celebrate Purim, Purim itself and Shushan Purim.
- The Sfas Emes writes that this also includes the mitzva of reading Megillas Esther on Purim for annual inspiration. Furthermore, reading Megillas Esther allows one the ability to appreciate the depth of the Purim miracle.
כב כַּיָּמִים אֲשֶׁר–נָחוּ בָהֶם הַיְּהוּדִים מֵאוֹיְבֵיהֶם וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב לַעֲשׂוֹת אוֹתָם יְמֵי מִשְׁתֶּה וְשִׂמְחָה וּמִשְׁלוֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיֹנִים
22. Like the days on which the Yehudim rested from their enemies and the month which was switched for them from sorrow to joy and from mourning to holiday to do on them days of feasting and joy and sending gifts each man to his fellow and gifts to the poverty-stricken.
- According to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:4), the verse uses the phrase “the month on which changed…” instead of explicitly using the name, Adar, because if Purim theoretically fell on Shabbos (as was possible before Hillel the Younger developed our calendar system), not to mix the rabbinic holiday of Purim with the Torah-level obligations of Shabbos. Although it would not push off our obligations on that day, they would be somewhat compromised. To emphasize that the important aspect of this is the month when this event occurred, the verse does not state the fact that it is Adar.
- Furthermore, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:1) also says that the entire month is fitting for Megillas Esther to be read publicly.
- The Vilna Gaon notes this is why the Talmud (Taanis 29a) famously says that when the month of Adar (and specifically not Purim) comes in, we increase our joy.
- The Ibn Ezra says that part of the reason for this is that sometimes Purim is not Adar, but rather in Adar Sheini. If the verse would have explicitly said Adar, Purim would have to be in the first Adar during leap years.
- The Maharal emphasizes that Haman was so overjoyed when the lot fell on Adar because it is the last month of the Jewish year, and has the spiritual potential to be an end, in the negative sense.
- R’ Chaim Kanievsky explains that the verse’s focus is on reversal because H-Shem can reverse anything, even those astrologically set “times.” After all, Haman’s choice of Adar as the month to attack the Jews was partially due to our supposed spiritual vulnerability.
כא לְקַיֵּם עֲלֵיהֶם לִהְיוֹת עֹשִׂים אֵת יוֹם אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לְחֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר וְאֵת יוֹם–חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בּוֹ בְּכָל–שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה
21. To establish on them to make the doing of the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and the fifteenth day of it in every year and year.
- The Ginzei HaMelech notes that the word, kayam (“established”) is used ten times in Megillas Esther. This parallels the Ten Commandments in order to demonstrate that Purim is an extension of the fulfillment of the Torah, not an addition to it.
- In Chiddushei HaLeiv, R’ Hanoch Leibowitz quotes the Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:5) which says that 85 elders, among whom were 30 or more prophets, struggled with fitting the addition of Purim with the idea behind the words (Vayikra 27:34) “these are the mitzvos.” which do not allow for adding new mitzvos. R’ Leibowitz notes that these wise people were said to “struggle” over these words because that is what great leaders and Halachic deciders to – they struggle. He quotes the Chut HaMeshalesh (8) of R’ Chaim Volozhinner in which the author writes that he struggled to free a particular agunah (“married woman whose missing husband had not granted her a divorce”) to remarry. R’ Leibowitz notes that, beyond the intellectual logic and knowledge to figure out a law, a posek needs to have an overwhelming desire to help others, and to struggle for them, and this is why the verse stresses that such a leader – Mordechai – established these holidays for his flock.
- 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.
כ וַיִּכְתֹּב מָרְדֳּכַי אֶת–הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וַיִּשְׁלַח סְפָרִים אֶל–כָּל–הַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בְּכָל–מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ הַקְּרוֹבִים וְהָרְחוֹקִים
20. And Mordechai wrote these things and sent books to all of the Yehudim in all of the states of King Achashverosh, the near and the far.
- Malbim says that what Mordechai wrote were the details of what occurred, since he was concerned that Jews outside of Shushan knew very little about the miraculous success of the Jews of Shushan.
- According to Rashi, what Mordechai wrote is the content of Megillas Esther, exactly as it appears today.
- The Ibn Ezra wrote down the reason for the previously mentioned joy.
- Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer writes that Mordechai wrote this down as the head of the Sanhedrin.
- The Vilna Gaon explains that this means that he wrote the Halachic details of how to properly commemorate Purim, with what can and cannot be done on this day.
- R’ Dovid Feinstein emphasizes that Mordechai is making the changes for the holiday that the Jews had accepted upon themselves spontaneously.
- R’ Elisha Gallico notes that it is so important to remember the real source of Purim, there are two readings of Megillas Esther every Purim. This is why Moredechai did not make Purim an actual Yom Tov in order to allow the Jews to perform the other mitzvos of the day.
- The Oznei Yehoshua notes that if we had Purim without its rules, we would end up having an empty, meaningless holiday. As it stands, Purim is the epitome of giving in the Jewish community.