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 9:22, Question 4. What does the verse intend by “feasting and joy,” and why?

  • 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”)!

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 9:19, Question 2. Why are there, in effect, two Purims?

  • The Ran notes that there is a concept (Bamidbar 15:16) that there is one Torah and one law for all Jews. In other words, there should ordinarily be only one day for all Jews to celebrate together. For this reason, Mendel Weinbach notes, usually, according to Halacha (Mishna Berura 688:12), where one spends Purim determines when one will celebrate it. For example, a Jew visiting a walled city temporarily nevertheless celebrates it there for purposes of achdus (“unity”).
  • R’ Betzalel haKohen of Vilna, however, writes that this distinction is meant to stress that Purim is a d’rabbanan (“rabbinic”) holiday, since the Torah’s (Devarim 13:1) prohibition to add to the given mitzvos only applies to d’oraisa (“Scriptural”) laws.
  • A story is told of a visitor from Bnei Brak in the home of R’ Shlomo Bloch in Yerushalayim. R’ Bloch invited him to drink at his Purim feast (on Shushan Purim), but since he had already drunk the previous day, the visitor argued that he had already fulfilled the mitzva of drinking on Purim. R’ Bloch retorted, “You may have fulfilled Purim, but you can still fulfill the mitzva of feeling another Jew’s joy.”
  • The Chasam Sofer gives another reason to have two days of Purim – to avoid bitul Torah. Since the Mishna (Avos 1:2) teaches that Torah is one of the three foundations upon which the world stands, if there were (chas v’Shalom) one moment when nobody was learning Torah, the world would cease to exist immediately. With the advent of Shushan Purim, while one group is drinking and celebrating, the other group can uphold the world by learning.

Esther 6:13, Question 3. Why do Haman’s advisers speak first?

  • In the previous event in which Haman asked advice from his loved ones (Esther 5:10), Zeresh spoke first.
  • The Dena Pishra points out that here, Haman’s advisers speak first because Haman held Zeresh responsible for what he now considered bad advice.
  • According to the Sfas Emes, that verse called them “loved ones” and this verse calls them “advisers” because these were fair-weather friends, jumping on Haman’s bandwagon in the height of his rise to power, but are just advisers during his fall. He quotes the Mishna (Avos 5:6) that a love that is attached to a reason, once that reason goes away, that love disappears.
  • The Maharal notes that Haman’s male friends, like any good friend, were required for critical statements. The type pf woman Haman would marry is supposed to be his equal, not pointing out his flaws. The Maharal quotes a seeming contradiction between one Talmudic statement (Bava Metzia 59a) that says listening to one’s wife’s advice can lead a man to gehinom, or Hell, and another Talmudic statement (Ibid.) that advises a man with a short wife to bend to hear her advice. The Talmud explains that taking a wife’s advice in religious matters leads a man to gehinom, whereas taking her advice in worldly matters is worth bending for. The Maharal explains that, although there are exceptions, women then did not typically study Talmudic discourse, so taking their advice in that abstract, logical area would be foolish. A man should listen to his wife about the practical, worldly, real-life matters.