Esther 9:29, Question 5. Why does the verse use the word, tokef (authority”)?

  • In Torah Nation (pg. 40-1), R’ Avigdor Miller explains that the verse uses the word, tokef (authority”), because Esther used her authority as queen to make sure the Jews knew the seriousness of their accepting her words.
  • Rashi seems to translate the word as “power,” and explains that the verse is hinting to the power of the Purim miracle’s effect on the principle players of the story, Achashverosh, Mordechai, Haman, and Esther.
  • The Ben Ish Chai suggests that the events in which the different characters rose to power are the reasons for the different opinions in the Talmud’s (Megilla 19a) theoretical discussion regarding the point in Megillas Esther from which one is required to read during the public reading on Purim.
  • M’nos HaLevi writes that Esther needed to reinforce the establishment of Purim with her authority because it may become difficult in future generations to keep the holiday, but it must nevertheless be celebrated.
  • The Midrash (Rus Rabba 2:4) notes that Jews outside of Shushan reacted negatively to the first document, so this second letter needed to be stamped with authority.
  • Malbim, focusing on the fact that the verse says, “kol tofek,” or “all the authority,” explains that the letter needed two different kinds of authority; the throne’s to be published, and Mordechai’s to make it part of the TaNaCh canon.
  • Rav Schwab adds that Esther is called a queen here to give legitimacy to Daryavesh, her descendant.
  • In response to the rabbis’ question in the Talmud (Megilla 7a) about why Megillas Esther needs to be read like a Torah scroll, Esther convinces them that it is much like the Torah in that both are concerned with the war against Amalek. This furthers her argument that Megillas Esther belongs in TaNaCh, since it is written with ruach hakodesh.
  • R’ Elisha Gallico writes that Esther wanted Megillas Esther in TaNaCh because she was married to a gentile, and wanted future generations to know what led to such an unfortunate situation.
  • In Keemu v’Keeblu, Rav Brevda likewise writes that this was the reason it was in Persian’s royal chronicles. Ancient chronicles were often not objective, so the very presence of this story in the royal chronicle was proof that the king approves. Then, rightfully, if we were to be derided for celebrating this holiday, we could respond that “we Jews celebrate because the king celebrates.”

Esther 9:29, Question 3. Why is Megillas Esther attributed to Esther?

  • In the view of the Ohel Moshe, by the verse using the word vatich’tov (“and she wrote”), which is a singular, feminine verb, it intends to emphasize Esther’s role because she risked her life approaching Achashverosh (Esther 4:16) in order to save the Jewish people1.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech wonders why Megillas Esther is attributed to Esther if both she and Mordechai co-authored the work. He suggests that Esther deserves the bulk of the credit because the Talmud (Megilla 7a) records how Esther insisted on Purim’s perpetuity, arguing with the reluctant Sages about writing this book to remember her “for generations.” This is why Megillas Esther is attributed to her.
  • According to the Alshich, another reason why Megillas Esther is attributed to Esther is because it was her idea (Esther 5:4) to have the series of feasts in which she finally accused Haman of his perfidy. to stress that all was ultimately accomplished through the power of prayer.
  • Esther thus added to the text, as the Ginzei HaMelech makes clear, an emphasis of the actions over the events.
  • Furthermore, as R’ Eliyahu Dessler writes, the very fact that Esther began Megillas Esther with the Achashverosh’s feast over a decade before Haman’s decree shows that the threat to our existence started then, as the Jews’ Sages like Mordechai were warning at the time.

1Similarly R’ Chaim Shmulevitz writes in Sichos Mussar (Vayikra) that the name the Torah uses for Moshe out of the ten alternatives listed in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 1:3) is meant to emphasize the mesiras nefesh (“self-sacrifice”) of Basya, the daughter of Pharaoh, who gave him that name.

Esther 9:28, Question 7. Why does the verse state that Purim would not cease?

  • The Talmud (Megilla 7a) uses this verse as a proof that Megillas Esther was written with Ruach haKodesh since Mordechai and Esther would have no other way to know that the holiday of Purim would never cease.
  • However, Midrash Shmuel explains that this verse is a prayer that Purim not be forgotten.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech writes that the holiday is forever because of Purim’s being the Jews’ re-acceptance of the Torah.
  • The Kedushas Levi writes that the holiday will never be nullified because Haman was from Amalek, and H-Shem promises “yad al keis ka” (“My Hand is on the throne of H-Shem”) (Shemos 17:16) that He will battle Amalek forever.
  • The Ohel Moshe notes that in the verse (Tehillim 137:5) “im eshkecha yerushalayim, tishkach yimini” (if I forget you, Yerushalayim, forget my right hand), Yerushalayim stands for Purim, and the right hand (yimini) represents Mordechai, who is called “ish yimini.”
  • The Baal Shem Tov writes that every generation will witness miracles.
  • On that note, R’ Avraham Yehoshua Heshel (Aptor Rav) and R’ Baruch of Mezibudzh explain the Talmud’s (Megilla 17a) warning against reading Megillas Esther “by heart” really means not seeing today’s miracles.
  • According to the Talmud (Yerushalmi Megilla 1:5) and the Midrash (Mishlei 9:2), even when other moadim (holidays) will go away in the time of Mashiach, we will still have Purim.
  • The HaSheol U’Mayshiv even explains the requirement to read Megillas Esther in the night of Purim represents Purim’s existence in exile, whereas the requirement to read Megillas Esther in the the daytime of Purim represents Purim continuing into the days of Mashiach.
  • According to Ohel Moshe, this also explains the difference between Jews and their seed mentioned in this verse. After all, are they not the same people? Rather, Jews keep Purim now, and their seed will do so in time of Mashiach.
  • On the other hand, R’ Chaim of Volozhin explains that Mashiach will come when all of the moadim (times) when he was predicted to come will pass. He will finally come when the same Jew-hate as existed in the time of Purim.
  • The Chafetz Chaim adds that the other holidays will not be literally nullified. Rather, we will give Purim more importance because it is the only time H-Shem saved the Jewish people from total destruction.
  • R’ Hutner explains that two people who are tasked with identifying a certain individual in the night. Giving one a flashlight would be a faster, more efficient method than training the other one’s ears to find the person. Although it is a good life skill, it is not the most effective method for accomplishing the task at hand. Similarly, the holidays provide light in exile in the relatively short-term. Purim, on the other hand, has the ability to train our senses to recognize H-Shem in nature, and that is an eternal possession.
  • The Dubno Maggid suggests that the reason why Purim will never cease is because the days themselves arouse the forces put into them during miracle. He provides an analogy of a king who is walking with two servants. If one were to become desperately thirsty, should the king send the remaining servant on the fastest horse in search of water, or should he order him to dig a well? From the perspective of the immediate, current situation, either option has equal potential. From the perspective of the future, however, whereas the water brought by horse has no future benefit, the dug well can provide water to other thirsty people for generations to come. A person desperate from thirst, upon finding the well, may even praise the king who ordered this well dug, for the act is enduring. By injecting certain periods of time, like Purim, with blessing from which we may benefit, H-Shem has inspired the greatest poet to sing (Tehillim 118:1) that H-Shem’s kindness “endures forever.”

Esther 9:26, Question 3. Why is the name, Purim, written in the plural?

  • According to R’ Yehonason Eibshutz, Purim is written in the plural because Haman made multiple lots according to the Midrash (Esther Rabba 7:11), hoping for the lots to fall on an auspicious day.
  • Echoing the scientific method, HaShoel U’Mayshiv similarly remarks that one can only be confident with the results of lots if they they are successfully rolled repeatedly.
  • The Maharal, however, writes that Purim is plural because it is commemorated on two days, the 14th and Shushan Purim on the 15th of Adar.
  • In R’ Shimon Schwab’s opinion, Purim is plural because we commemorate both Haman’s pur, and our own, as in the words of the piyut, “the pur of Haman was overturned by our pur.” This further explains the previous verse (Esther 9:25) which says the that Haman’s evil designs were returned onto his head.

Esther 9:24, Question 5. Why does the verse repeat Haman’s plan to annihilate the Yehudim?

Besides what was mentioned, another reason for the verse to repeat Haman’s plan to kill off the Jews was to emphasize the impermanent nature of such human decrees. As has been mentioned earlier, the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 1057:6) says that the decree was written in clay rather than in blood, so the Jews’ prayer could still rescue them.

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.

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 9:12, Question 1. How does Achashverosh feel about his dead citizens?

יב וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְאֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה הָרְגוּ הַיְּהוּדִים וְאַבֵּד חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת אִישׁ וְאֵת עֲשֶׂרֶת בְּנֵיהָמָן בִּשְׁאָר מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ מֶה עָשׂוּ וּמַהשְּׁאֵלָתֵךְ וְיִנָּתֵן לָךְ וּמַהבַּקָּשָׁתֵךְ עוֹד וְתֵעָשׂ

12. And the king said to Esther the Queen, “In Shushan the capital, the Yehudim killed and destroyed five hundred man and the ten sons of Haman. In the remaining states of the king, what did they do? What do you ask and it will be given you. And what do you request more and it will be done.”

  • In the first half of this verse, the tone seems to imply that Achashverosh was upset about the casualties. In fact, the Midrash Lekach Tov writes that Achashverosh was actually upset about his dead citizens, but H-Shem controls leaders, as the verse (Mishlei 21:1) teaches that the hearts of kings are in the Hands of H-Shem.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein points out that the tone of the second half of the verse certainly sounds as though Achashverosh seems unaffected by this loss of life.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 16b) describes this sudden change of heart as an angel “slapping him on his lips.”
  • R’ Mendel Weinbach suggests that such a slap has this effect because Achashverosh suddenly felt Heaven did not want him speaking in an upset manner toward Esther. It literally hurt to speak the way he had been.
  • Interestingly, the Midrash (Bireishis Rabba 92:7) notes this verse as one of ten kal v’chomer (“a fortiori”) arguments in TaNaCh. In other words, if the Jews killed 500 people in Shushan, how much more likely did they kill more elsewhere!
  • In fact, the Alshich points out that Achashverosh must have been thinking that if so many were killed in Shushan – where the informed public was ready for a fight – how much more-so in other parts of the kingdom!
  • On the other hand, the M’nos HaLevi quotes R’ Gakon’s opinion that the bloodthirsty Achashverosh was disappointed that such a relatively small number of his people were killed after the Jews had from Pesach until Adar 13th to prepare for battle. This is why he asked if he could do more to help.
  • Malbim explains that Achashverosh did not know there would be so many Jew-haters. From a place of genuine concern, he offers Esther more help.

Esther 9:5, Question 2. Why does the verse mention different methods of killing?

  • According to the Midrash, the Jews killed the enemies inside their houses with the sword, but killed those who were outside with other methods. Those who were hiding needed to be brought out to the battlefield.
  • The Alshich explains that some gentiles openly threatened the Jews, while others harbored hate privately. Each group received a punishment commensurate with their behavior – some were wounded with the sword, some were killed, and yet others were destroyed together with their possessions.
  • The Maharal points out that hitting the enemies with the sword could potentially kill them, and once they are killed, they may need to be buried. But once they are destroyed, the enemies are gone.
  • R’ Moshe Katzenellenbogen writes that, in big cities, Jews could only kill bigger, more obvious enemies. In the smaller cities, the Jews stripped the weaker leaders of their power and humiliated them.
  • The Vilna Gaon explains these three methods were utilized at different stages of the battle. During the first stage, the Jews used swords, then graduated to burning those hiding out of the buildings, and finally arrested the residents.
  • The Ben Ish Chai points out that the rearranged initial letters (not counting the article letter vuv‘s) of makas cherev vi’hereg vi’avdal (“striking of the sword, and killed, and destroyed”) spell out the word emcheh (“I will destroy”). H-Shem (Shemos 17:14) uses this very word in His promise to eradicate Amalek, the nation responsible for this massacre. He also points out that these three expressions parallel Haman’s plan (Esther 3:13) to kill, destroy, and annihilate the Jews. The Jews merited to overcome this triple fate by fasting for three days (Esther 4:16).
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that the destruction in this verse refers to the Jews destroyed the property of their enemies. This was done to demonstrate that their intent was not to conquer the wealth of others. Perhaps this was also intentionally contrary to Achasverosh’s order (Esther 4:11) in order to have the excuse that they could not take the possessions, since they were destroyed.