Esther 9:31, Question 2. To what fasts does the verse refer, and why?

  • 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.

Esther 9:31, Question 1. Why does the verse mention Purim being established in these times?

31. To establish these days of the Purim in their times as they were established on them by Mordechai the Yehudi and Esther the queen, and as they established on their souls and on their seed words of the fasts and their crying out.

  • It is difficult to imagine, but Purim was seen as an innovation. Esther and Mordechai had to push for it, especially with those Jews living in the outskirts who did not feel either the immediate threat, nor the miraculous salvation.
  • Yeetav Leiv writes that this verse’s focus on Purim’s establishment was meant to encourage people to perform it as Esther and Mordechai did it – with intent to celebrate it for the sake of Heaven.
  • The Talmud (Megilla 2a) begins its discussion of the mitzva to read Megillas Esther by writing that this verse refers to times because Purim is celebrated by different groups in different times. For instance, villages, big cities, and walled cities all fulfill their obligation of publicly reading Megillas Esther for Purim on various days between Adar 11 and 15.
  • There being five different days on which to celebrate this aspect of Purim, the Na’os HaDesheh (288) finds a hint in the fact that the word kayam (“establish”) is used five times in Megillas Esther (9:21, 9:27, 9:29, 9:31, and 9:32).
  • Furthermore, there are five minatzpech (final letters “םןץףך”), which traditionally represent the five exiles (Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome) the Jews have endured because they are end letters, and we pray for the end of our long exile.
  • R’ Yechezkiel Abramsky tells the story of the Vilna Gaon’s grandson, who lived in Warsaw. Somebody asked him for an example of what made his grandfather so great. He answered that, as a child, the Vilna Gaon was asked why the first Mishna in Megilla (1:1) says lo pachos v’lo yoser (“no more and no less”) regarding the days to read Megillas Esther, but the Mishna in Shabbos (19:5) does not use the phrase regarding the various days on which a bris (“circumcision”) can be performed. The person asking began giving the Vilna Gaon’s grandson a brilliant one-hour answer. “Very nice,” he said, “but my grandfather answered better.” The questioner asked to be given time to think about it and come back with another answer. Three days later, he came back with a longer answer. Again, the Vilna Gaon’s grandson said, “Very nice, but my grandfather answered better. The answer is that both sources indeed use that phrase.” Often, the correct answer requires one to go back to basics. Like an IT support adviser’s first question to a customer, “Is your machine plugged in?”, the Talmud (Shabbos 32a) advises travelers to stay safe on a journey by checking the safety of the boat instead of prayers and incantations.
  • The Maharsha adds that Purim is a powerful time to pray and say Tehillim. In fact, the Me’am Loez finds a hint to this in the final letters of a phrase in this verse v’al zaram divreihatzomos (“and on their seed words of the fasts”), which spell out Tehillim when re-ordered.
  • The Meshech Chochmoh writes that the verse needed to mention times in order to contradict those people who wanted to place Purim on the exact time when Haman planned to kill the Jews, which would start in the daytime like the gentile calendar. Rather, Purim needs to follow the Jewish calendar – starting at night.

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 9:28, Question 3. Why does the verse use the term niz’charim (“remembered”)?

  • In Rashi’s view, the verse uses the term niz’charim (“remembered”) because Purim is remembered with the public reading of Megillas Esther on Puirm. The Talmud (Megilla 18a) stresses that one cannot merely memorize the story, but must read it from a scroll. This idea comes from a gzeira shava1: just as regarding Amalek the Torah (Shemos 17:14) uses the “zichron” (remembering) in reference to writing about those events “in a book,” so too, these events must be read from a book. Elsewhere, the Talmud (Yerushalmi Megilla 2:3) similarly writes that this verse justifies the sages’ writing of the tractate, Megilla.
  • Based on this, the Brisker Rav wonders why there was a need for Mordechai’s court to authorize the requirement for Megillas Esther to be included in TaNaCh. This verse should have sufficed! His son, HaGriD, answers that this is because there are no halachos learned directly from NaCh. This is similar to Tosfos’ opinion (Megilla 5a) regarding learning the laws of fast days from a verse in Yirmiya.
  • R’ Yechezkiel Abramsky notes that without the Oral Torah, we would not remember (nor, obviously, celebrate) the Purim story.

1a A hermeneutical rule in which a lesson is learned from an oral tradition of an analogy. See the Braisa of Rebbe Yishmael in the introduction to Sifra.

Esther 9:26, Question 7. To what sights does the verse refer?

  • Rashi explains that the verse teaches what those who lived through these times did, what motivated their actions, and what the consequences were of those actions.
    • As the Talmud (Megilla 19a) relates, Achashverosh used the Temple vessels because he thought the Jewish exile was permanent. As a result, he killed Vashti.
    • Mordechai was motivated to not bow down to Haman by Haman’s making himself an obecjt of worship, an avoda zara. As a result, the Jews merited a miraculous rescue.
    • Haman was motivated to eradicate the Jews by his anger over Mordechai not bowing to him. This resulted in his downfall and hanging.
    • Achashverosh was motivated to review his royal history by his fear of Esther and Haman plotting against him. This resulted in the honoring of Mordechai, the hanging of Haman, and the rescue of the Jewish people.

Esther 9:26, Question 5. Why does the verse stress “all the words” of this document?

  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that the verse stresses “all the words” of this document because Mordechai wrote out all the words and details in Megillas Esther for future generations to know that they should do just as we are doing now – looking deeply into the words and letters of this holy work to glean from it lessons for our lives.
  • The Talmud (Yerushalmi Megilla 2:4) adds that this is the reason why Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 692:2, Mishna Berura 692:9) requires every Jew to hear every word of the public reading of Megillas Esther on Purim uninterrupted in order to fulfill their obligations.

Esther 9:25, Question 3. Why does the verse call this document a book?

  • The Ben Ish Chai writes that the book to which the verse refers is the Torah, which the Talmud (Chullin 139b) says alluded to the Purim story early on (Bireishis 3:11).
  • Similarly, the author of Yismach Moshe explains that everything went according to the book, the Torah. In other words, the Torah’s (Devorim 19:19) punishment for false witnesses (with some exceptions) is to the court to administer the punishment the false witnesses attempted to bring upon their intended victim. Just so, Haman’s hanging was just what he intended on Mordechai, his victim.
  • On a different note, the Vilna Gaon uses this phrase to demonstrate the importance of praying with a written text. One who speaks before the King of kings should do so with a book to avoid any inappropriate thoughts.

Esther 9:25, Question 1. Why does the verse not call Esther by name?

כה וּבְבֹאָהּ לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אָמַר עִםהַסֵּפֶר יָשׁוּב מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁרחָשַׁב עַלהַיְּהוּדִים עַלרֹאשׁוֹ וְתָלוּ אֹתוֹ וְאֶתבָּנָיו עַלהָעֵץ

25. And in her arriving before the king, he said with the book to return his evil thought that he thought on the Yehudim onto his head, and they hanged him and his sons on the tree.

  • According to Malbim, the subject of the verb uvivo’ah (usually translated as “in her arriving,” or “in its arriving”) is Haman’s original plan that had come before Achashverosh. His plan was an integral part of his demise. As he wrote earlier, the king did not want any part in a genocide. The rest of the verse then demonstrates that the king could not recall Haman’s original letters, and so was forced to hang Haman.
  • According to Rashi, however, the subject is Esther. The Maharal writes that Mordechai did not want to refer to her as a queen because Achashverosh had already deduced that she was actually Mordechai’s wife.
  • Rav Shmuel Hominer quotes the Talmud (Gittin 66a) that a sheid (“demon”) has a bivua (“shadow”), but not the shadow of a shadow, as people do. The similarity of this verse’s first word uvivoa (“and in her arriving”) to the Talmud’s name for a demon’s shadow is additional evidence for the idea that Esther sent out a sheid clone of herself in her dealings with Achashverosh.