- 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.
- 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.”
- According to most opinions, including Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Lekach Tov, M’nos HaLevi, R’ Moshe Dovid Valle, and the Vilna Gaon, “the ones who join” are future converts.
- R’ Chaim Kanievsky wonders why Purim is different from other mitzvos that converts need to be mentioned specifically regarding Purim’s celebration. He answers that, even though converts were not party to the miraculous rescue, one’s descendants should be obligated to recite a Thanksgiving Blessing for one’s rescue, as they were affected by it, as well. This is similar to a student showing gratitude for the rescue of his rebbe. Had it not been for the rebbe’s being rescued, the student would not have had access to the World to Come. For this reason, although converts did not experience the miracle of the first Purim, their new people’s having gone through it is reason enough for them to accept the mitzva of celebrating the holiday.
- According to the Ateres Moshe, converts are mentioned here to mirror Moshe’s statement (Devorim 29:14) that the acceptance of the Torah applies equally to those who were there and even those not there.
- In the view of the Midrash Shmuel, converts are not always sincere about their reason for joining the Jewish people. Those who converted in Persia (Esther 8:17), for instance, may have done so in order to save their lives. However, in commemoration of the Persians who converted sincerely then, Purim was accepted as a way to celebrate future sincere converts, as well.
- The Maharal adds that a convert can’t ignore even one rabbinic law, and rabbinic law is a motif throughout Megillas Esther.
- The Vilna Gaon writes that the verse’s account of the Jews “doing what Mordechai wrote” refers to their giving charity and gifts.
- Malbim explains that those Jews residing in the walled cities did not start to celebrate on their own, but only began when Mordechai’s decree went out.
- M’nos HaLevi notes again that by writing it down, Mordechai retroactively transformed the Jews’ voluntary actions into the obligatory mitzvos of Purim.
- R’ Dovid Feinstein adds that although the celebrations of Purim started on the Jews’ initiative, they submitted to the rule (and changes) of the sages.
- The Dena Pishra writes that, at first, the Jews were upset with Mordechai for not bowing down to Haman (Esther 3:2), but now they recognized the wisdom behind Mordechai’s actions.
- R’ Dovid Moshe Valle also points out that the Jews realized now that Mordechai had Ruach HaKodesh because he was able to summarize the events they witnessed into this multi-level text we have before us.
כג וְקִבֵּל הַיְּהוּדִים אֵת אֲשֶׁר–הֵחֵלּוּ לַֽעֲשׂוֹת וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר–כָּתַב מָרְדֳּכַי אֲלֵיהֶם
23. And the Yehudim accepted that which they began to do and that which Mordechai wrote about them.
- In a simple explanation, the Ibn Ezra writes that the verse uses the singular “v’kibel” (“and accepted”) in order to mirror Aramaic grammar.
- However, the Vilna Gaon, Lekach Tov, M’nos HaLevi, Beis Aharon, R’ Moshe Dovid Valle, and the Maharal all write that the verb is in singular because all of the Jews were united.
- The Zohar (II:113b) explains that the Jews trusted Moshe and accepted the Torah, and reaffirmed it at this point. Although Moshe was one man, the Jews’ re-acceptance of the Torah he taught became attached to him, thus necessitating a singular verb.
- According to the Halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 695:4), each Jew is required to send two foods to at least one other Jew on Purim.
- The Peleh Yo’Eitz notes that the best way to perform the mitzva is for a great person to give to a lesser member of society. This would create both joy and the potential for one mitzva to lead to others.
- After all, as the Sfas Emes emphasizes, one of the intents behind this mitzva is to debunk Haman’s slander (Esther 3:8) that Jews are splintered. Besides, acts of chesed are the foundational groundwork for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash (bimheira biyameinu).
- Perhaps this is one reason for the Talmudic opinion (Megillah 7b) that one could also fulfill one’s obligation of mishloach manos by sending Torah.
- Interestingly, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz wrote the oft-quoted M’nos HaLevi as a mishloach manos gift to his in-laws.
- In Eparyon, Rav Ganzfried, author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, considers mishloach manos as a cunning way to give charity. Since all people will be giving gifts to their friends, the poor would not feel embarrassed by accepting a handout. This also explains why the order of the mitzvos listed in this verse seems out of order, with the more important mitzva of tzedaka being mentioned last.
- The Sha’arey Simcha writes that the reason for this order is that it is debatable which miracle was greater: the destruction of our enemies or the raising of the Jews. Therefore, there are two mitzvos, paralleling each of these miracles, respectively.
- The Ohel Moshe notes that, as opposed to other Holy Days, where the mitzvos of the day (i.e. lulav, matza, shofar, etc.) are only relevant for those days, Purim’s mitzvos (i.e. tzedakah, chesed, learning Megillas Esther, etc.) are relevant all year long.
- R’ Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtza says that the implication of the word “re’eyhu” (“his fellow”) is that every Jews is considered worthy of receiving mishloach manos on Purim in H-Shem’s Eyes.
- The Chasam Sofer was asked if mishloach manos are Halachically for increasing unity or to help all Jews have the minimal means with which to celebrate. If it is for unity, then it is for the benefit of the giver; if it is to allow everyone to celebrate, it is for the receiver. A practical difference would be in a case where someone refuses to accept. In such a case, has the sender fulfilled one’s obligation? If it is for the giver, the answer is yes, whereas if it is for the receiver, the answer is no.
- Once, when about to receive mishloach manos, the Brisker Rav looked outside to check if it was yet sunset, and thus no longer Purim. He was willing to accept mishloach manos for purposes of the mitzva, but was unwilling to accept it as a regular gift, in fulfillment of the words of the wisest of men (Mishlei 15:27) that one “who hates gifts lives.”
- Regarding the unique language of this verse, the Ben Ish Chai notes that the gematria of manos (“gifts”) (40+50+6+400=496) is the same as the 50 cubits of Haman’s gallows with the word maves (“death”) (40+6+400=446), meaning that this mitzva is intended to remind us of Haman’s plan to kill Mordechai.
- 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.
יב וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְאֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה הָרְגוּ הַיְּהוּדִים וְאַבֵּד חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת אִישׁ וְאֵת עֲשֶׂרֶת בְּנֵי–הָמָן בִּשְׁאָר מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ מֶה עָשׂוּ וּמַה–שְּׁאֵלָתֵךְ וְיִנָּתֵן לָךְ וּמַה–בַּקָּשָׁתֵךְ 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.
ו וּבְשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה הָרְגוּ הַיְּהוּדִים וְאַבֵּד חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת אִישׁ
6. And in Shushan the capital, the Yehudim killed and destroyed five hundred man.
- The M’nos HaLevi translates habira, not as “the capital,” but as the “palace,” so the verse is intimating, according to R’ Yosef Gakon, how safe the Jews felt in the palace compound to have killed 500 servants of the king in his presence.
- Similarly, the Ibn Ezra adds that, outside Shushan, the Jews feared the influence of Haman and his sons.
- Interestingly, the Vilna Gaon notes that the verse uses the word vi’abed (“and destroyed”) because the Jews destroyed the property of their enemies. The reason for this is to assist the Persians in forgetting this event ever took place. Nations in general have poor memories, and the lack of physical reminders can help avoid the anti-Jewish sentiment this massacre could later conjure.
ה וַיַּכּוּ הַיְּהוּדִים בְּכָל–אֹיְבֵיהֶם מַכַּת–חֶרֶב וְהֶרֶג וְאַבְדָן וַיַּעֲשׂוּ בְשׂנְאֵיהֶם כִּרְצוֹנָם
5. And the Yehudim struck all of their enemies striking of the sword, and killed, and destroyed, and they did with their adversaries as they wanted.
- Like the Vilna Gaon’s answer to a similar question earlier (Esther 9:1), the M’nos HaLevi says that an oyeiv (“enemy”) hates openly and a soneh (“adversary”) hates secretly. The secret enemy is far more dangerous, as it is difficult to predict an attack from a hidden foe.
- Malbim, however, reverses these definitions, and suggests that the hidden enemies were not killed, but were merely humiliated.