- The Talmud (Megillah 5b) explains each of the different expressions for this holiday to mean a different method for celebrating the day. Simcha (“joy”) is interpreted as not giving eulogies (in the event of a death); v’mishteh (“and feasting”) is interpreted as prohibiting fasting; and v’yom tov (“and the holiday”) is interpreted as prohibiting work on Purim. Later, the Talmud (Megillah 7a) interprets the phrase mishloach manos (“sending gifts”) as the requirement to send through a messenger at least two kinds of food to at least one friend.
- The Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Megillah 2:15) writes that even two poor people are required to send another poor person some food to fulfill their obligations.
- The Trumas HaDeshen writes that the exchange of food is intended to make sure everyone has enough for the feast.
- M’nos HaLevi writes that we send gifts to promote friendship because achdus (“unity”) rescued the Jews.
- The Midrash HaGadol on Devarim points out that this demonstrates the greatness of chesed because we were rescued because of it.
- Ginzei HaMelech writes that we use a messenger because this shows achdus (“unity”) in requiring another person to get involved in this mitzva. Similarly, he points out, this is why Megillas Esther always uses Yehudim for Jews, since the root of that word is echad, one. Furthermore, the giving of gifts through messengers acts as an additional tikkun for Yaakov’s giving gifts (Bireishis 32:14-17) to Eisav, the ancestor of Amalek, through messengers.
- The Vilna Gaon and Midrash Shmuel note that the Jews’ celebrating in this way parallels the three parts of Haman’s plan (Esther 3:13); the joy serves to counteract Haman’s plan to destroy the Jews, the feasting serves to counteract Haman’s plan to kill the Jews, and the Yom Tov serves to counteract Haman’s plan to annihilate the Jews.
- The Vilna Gaon writes that, eventually, Purim was not accepted as a full Yom Tov because that would keep people from performing the other mitzvos of Purim.
יג וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר אִם–עַל–הַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב יִנָּתֵן גַּם–מָחָר לַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בְּשׁוּשָׁן לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּדַת הַיּוֹם וְאֵת עֲשֶׂרֶת בְּנֵי–הָמָן יִתְלוּ עַל–הָעֵץ
13. And Esther said, “If it is good for the king, give also tomorrow to the Yehudim who are in Shusham to do according to today’s law, and the sons of Haman hang on the tree.”
- In a move reminiscent of her request (Esther 5:8) for a second party (also requesting it for “tomorrow!”), given the opportunity to ask of anything from the king, Esther asks for a seeming repeat of the previous day.
- M’nos HaLevi explains that this would give the opportunity to kill more of the Jews’ enemies, avoiding the possibility of their getting revenge.
- According to the Ben Ish Chai, Esther wanted two days to mirror the two days Haman planned in his decree – one day to kill off the people, and the second day to take their belongings.
- The Megillas Sesarim notes that the Jewish court met in Shushan, as is evident from the fact that Mordechai (who was on the court) lived there, and the Talmud (Megillah 12a) says Achashverosh consulted the Jewish scholars regarding Vashti’s behavior. That being the case, the Shechina had some influence in Shushan since the Talmud (Brachos 6a) teaches that the Shechina resides where a Jewish court judges. Esther felt that the Shechina left as soon as Haman made the decree to kill the Jews. The second day was intended to allow for the Shechina to return.
- The Ginzei HaMelech posits that Esther requested a second day to effect a tikkun for the mistake of Shaul in letting Agag live. He quotes the Pachad Yitzchak, who writes that there were previously two wars with Amalek, a defensive one when they attacked in the time of Moshe (Shemos 17:8-16), and an offensive battle in which H-Shem commanded their eradication in the time of Shaul (Shmuel 1 15:1-9). The first day symbolizes that first war because it was also defensive. The requested second day would represent the second, offensive, war. He adds that since the word, melech also represents H-Shem, Esther is asking the Creator for a future (as Rashi defines machar (“tomorrow”)) directive to destroy Amalek, in the days of Moshiach.
- Rav Shlomo Brevda (zt”l) writes that Esther asked for a second day so that people would not say that Haman’s erred in his interpretation of astrology in choosing the 13th of Adar. Esther wanted it to be crystal clear that, although Haman’s astrological skills were perfectly accurate, H-Shem changed the decree to save the Jews.
Rashi translates the unusual verb misyahadim as “converted.” Seemingly, because of their fear of Jewish reprisal, many gentiles converted to Judaism.
Agaddas Bireishis (15) explains that non-Jews always want to convert to Judaism whenever the Jews are fulfilling their responsibilities to H-Shem.
The Alshich points out that this shows a sharp contrast between the Jews and gentiles. When faced with annihilation, the Jews strengthened their faith with teshuva (“repentance”), whereas the gentiles abandoned the empty faiths of their powerless gods.
The Ginzei HaMelech wonders why this contrast occurred at this point, and not in Moshe’s time. In other words, one would expect a lot more converts during the Jews’ exodus and miraculous stay in the desert. He answers that there were so few converts in Moshe’s time because the Talmud (Shabbos 88a) teaches that the Jews were coerced then to accept the Torah. One needs to feel inspired to inspire others, as the Jews felt at the end of the Purim story.
The Ralbag disagrees with Rashi’s translation, and suggests that they did not convert, but merely pretended to be Jews.
The Vilna Gaon explains that they did not really convert because they would have been motivated by fear.
After all, Meseches Geirim (1:7) writes that if a person’s motivation for conversion to Judaism is women, love, or fear, their act is not considered a real conversion.
Interestingly, according to R’ Moshe Dovid Valle, Mordechai accepted even the insincere converts, just as had Moshe when accepting the eruv rav, Egyptians who converted to Judaism insincerely when they saw that the Jews were successfully and miraculously leaving Egypt. According to him, their descendants caused problems during second Beis HaMikdash.
However, according to M’nos HaLevi, they were not accepted because the Talmud (Kiddushin 70a) writes that converts can be difficult to the Jews. He continues that these gentiles nevertheless dressed in Jewish clothing. The Sfas Emes notes that this is yet another source for the custom to masquerade on Purim.
In Likkutei Sichos, the Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that “am ha’aretz” can represent the “basic, fundamental human.” In other words, basic human behavior like sleeping, eating, etc. are obviously applicable to both Jews and gentiles, alike. The actions are the same, but there are different attitudes. For instance, a Jew is required to eat with appreciation and with intent to have a closer bond with H-Shem, to sleep in order to better perform mitzvos the next day, etc. Therefore, even in base, human behaviors, these particular gentiles acted like Jews.
- In the previous circumstance in which Haman asked his family and friends for advice (Esther 5:10), he had to summon them. According to Ibn Ezra, Haman did not need to call for them now because, after having recommended hanging Mordechai and going to Achashverosh, they stayed around to see the results of their advice.
- The M’nos HaLevi suggests that they had left, but returned to comfort Haman upon death of his daughter and the other terrible events of the day. He also writes that Haman only told Zeresh, but word spread.
- M’nos HaLevi writes that Haman thinks that Achashverosh is referring to him because Achashverosh would only want to honor someone who already has money, so it had to be Haman.
- The Iturrei Torah gives a more drush explanation. Haman focused on the fact that Achashverosh used the word “ish” (“man”). Since the Talmud (Megillah 12a) notes that Haman is called an ish, he assumed the king was referring to him. It happens to be that the same source calls the actual deserving honoree, Mordechai, an ish, as well.
- Perhaps Haman also considered that the mispar katan of ish (1+1+3=5) happens to be the same as that of Haman (5+4+5=14=1+4=5).
- The Sfas Emes writes that Haman was thinking that even if Achashverosh were referring to someone else, he will still do this for him later, as well.
ו וַיָּבוֹא הָמָן וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ מַה–לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הַמֶּלֶךְ חָפֵץ בִּיקָרוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן בְּלִבּוֹ לְמִי יַחְפֹּץ הַמֶּלֶךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת יְקָר יוֹתֵר מִמֶּנִּי
6. And Haman came in. And the king said to him, “What to do in the man whom the king desires in glorifying him?” And Haman said in his heart, “To whom does the king desire glory more from me?”
- The Dena Pishra writes that the verse stresses that Haman “came in” because he came in on his own, without being summoned. He was concerned that he would otherwise look suspicious and he heard voices speaking within. His attempt to not look suspicious probably backfired as such attempts often do.
- M’nos HaLevi writes that Achashverosh perceived this as rudeness on Haman’s part, and this is why he does not inquire into the reason for his visit. The Shaarei Bina notes that this verse and the previous verse say “yavo” (“came in”) twice because it includes the two accompanying angels that accompany us. The Talmud (Brachos 60a) teaches that all people are accompanied by angels.
- It is certainly strange that Haman would have deserved such a entourage. Authorities such as R’ Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook wonder why we sing “Shalom Aleichem” to these accompanying angels every Friday night (Talmud, Shabbos 119b) if we no longer deserve their company, either. He answers that the holiness of Shabbos makes up for our own deficiencies in the areas of holiness, so the angels still accompany us on Friday nights.
- R’ Yaakov Emden, however, believes that angels accompany all people, not just the holiest. As an example, he cites the Talmud (Taanis 11a) that says that those who are so evil that they disregard the suffering of their own communities cause their accompanying angels to testify against them.
- Class Participant ID suggested another possible reason for Haman to deserve accompanying angels: they were there because Haman’s visit was actually intended in Heaven to benefit Mordechai, so he was unknowingly performing a mitzvah.
- The Alshich writes, consistent with his previous interpretation, that Achashverosh’s youths respond that it is Haman who is in charge, and he’s here now.
- M’nos HaLevi, however, explains that the the youths were saying that Haman actually means to cause harm to the king, and he’s standing there waiting to see that all are sleeping and it is an opportune time to secretly strike at the king.