Esther 10:1, Question 2. Why does Achashverosh charge taxes, and why does TaNaCh mention this?

  • The Talmud (Chagiga 8a) writes that mas, the word used here for taxes, indicates a secular/political tax, rather than a religious one.
  • This seemingly irrelevant event may be included in Megillas Esther because, as R’ Avigdor Miller writes in Torah Nation, this verse gives honor to Persians, and could be an additional proof that the sefer was not written later, as fools claim.
  • The Akeidas Yitzchak adds that this is mentioned here to contrast Jewish leaders with gentile leaders. Jewish leaders focus on what is best for their constituents, whereas gentile leaders typically attempt to benefit from their charges. This is especially unjust considering the Ibn Ezra’s opinion that the taxes were even placed on nations not under Achashverosh’s control.
  • The Vilna Gaon notes that the gematria of mas (“tax”) (40+60=100) and the gematria of vi’iyey (“and islands”) (6+1+10+10=27) supports the Midrash that says that of Achashverosh’s 127 states (Esther 1:1), 100 were on land and 27 were islands.
  • The Talmud (Megilla 11a) teaches that Achachverosh felt the need to tax because the economy of Persia began to suffer. Despite the vast wealth Achashverosh displayed earlier (Esther 1:4), he lost much of it.
  • According to the Rokeach, this tragic loss is hinted to in the last letters of the words “es osher kivod” (“the wealth of the glory”) in that verse, which spell teired (“you will go down”).
  • Perhaps this can be explained by the the Targum’s opinion that Achashverosh exempted the Jews from paying taxes, and was compelled to increase the taxes of all other citizens to make up the difference.
  • According to Shelom Esther, Achashverosh was concerned that pro-Haman forces were still plotting rebellion. The taxes were meant to see if any group refused or delayed. That was one way to weed out any potential traitors.
  • Finally, R’ Moshe Dovid Valle notes that, as this verse mentions the word melech (“king”), it references H-Shem, the King of kings. He approved of Achashverosh’s taxes because He wanted the gentiles to feel how the Jews suffered.

Esther 9:32, Question 5. Why is this document called a book?

  • From this verse’s calling this document a book, the Talmud (Megilla 19a) learns that a Megillas Esther scroll needs to be sewn without flax to be used in fulfillment of the mitzva of its public reading on Purim.
  • Based on this, Malbim stresses that the verse’s use of the word, sefer (“book”) indicates that the Sages agreed with Esther, and allowed this story into TaNaCh.
  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle notes that the word, maamar (“statement”) implies its source is from Above, like a saying of the Most High. Furthermore, sefer (60+80+200=340) has the same gematria as Shem (“Name”) (300+40=340) because the Shechina agreed that this belonged in the Holy Torah, with its story and lessons always relevant – even after the return of the Shechina to Her place with the coming of Mashiach, bimheira biyameinu.

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 9:30, Question 1. Why is this document sent to so many places?

30. And he sent books to all of the Yehudim to the 127 states of the kingdom of Achashverosh – words of peace and truth.

  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle writes that this document was sent to so many places to fulfill the mitzva of persumei nisa (“publicizing a miracle”).
  • Furthermore, as Dena Pishra points out, every Jewish community needed to receive this letter in order for everyone to respect other communities’ Purim as a minor festival.

Esther 9:29, Question 1. Why is the letter tuf written large in the word vatich’tov (“and she wrote”)?

29. And Esther the Queen, daughter of Avichayil, and Mordechai the Yehudi wrote all of the authority to accept this second letter of Purim.

  • Bechiras Avraham and the Me’am Loez quote the Talmud (Yoma 29a) that, in some sense, the Purim story is the last open miracle in Jewish history recorded in TaNaCh. Therefore, this letter tuf, being the final letter in the Hebrew alphabet, is written large to hint to this idea of the end of miracles.
  • But will not miracles happen again, as promised by our prophet when he writes (Micha 7:15) that H-Shem will show the Jewish people wondrous things, “as in the days of [our] coming out of Egypt?” The Beis HaLevi answers that the miracles we experience today are fleeting, like a person lifting a candle against the driving wind. The prophet’s words are regarding the days of Mashiach (bim’heira biyameinu), at which time miracles will be made to last forever.
  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle writes that the large tuf testifies to Esther’s purity (temimus). He writes that this is the reason why the verse also mentions that Mordechai is a Yehudi.

Esther 9:28, Question 5. Why does the verse place nit’charim (remembered”) before v’na’asim (“performed”)?

  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle writes that the verse places nit’charim (“remembered”) before v’na’asim (“done”) because the holiday will be remembered above, and performed below.
  • In the Shelah’s opinion, remembering is written before doing because it alludes to the Halachic requirement (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 685:1) for a public reading of Parshas Zachor (Devorim 25:17-19 ) on the Shabbos preceding the holiday of Purim.
  • As the Sfas Emes emphasizes, since the Jews remember H-Shem’s kindness, they become worthy of new miracles being performed.

Esther 9:27, Question 3. Who are the people included in those “who join them,” and why does the verse mention them?

  • 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.

Esther 9:23, Question 1. Why does the verse use the singular v’kibel (“and accepted”) for what should be a plural verb?

כג וְקִבֵּל הַיְּהוּדִים אֵת אֲשֶׁרהֵחֵלּוּ לַֽעֲשׂוֹת וְאֵת אֲשֶׁרכָּתַב 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.

Esther 9:13, Question 3. Why does Esther request that Haman’s sons be hanged, especially since they are already dead?

  • According to the Vilna Gaon, Esther requested that Haman’s sons be hanged to make it clear that the Jews were acting in accordance with the will of the king, avoiding any future persecution. By hanging Haman’s sons, it was sign to everyone that the king approved of the Jews’ actions.
  • Ohel Moshe writes that the people could have theoretically thought that Haman was hanged for attempting to kill Mordechai, the rescuer of the king. Esther wanted it to be very clear that, in actual fact, for generations that this was not some political soap opera, but rather H-Shem did all of this for the sake of the Jews.
  • R’ Yehonason Eibshutz similarly demonstrates that it is not from Achashverosh, but from H-Shem.
  • Interestingly, Yalkut Pisron Torah (273) writes that this group of sons were handed over to the Jews in the merit of the Jews’ keeping the mitzva (Devarim 22:6-7) of shiluach hakan (“chasing away the mother bird”).
  • In the Parsha of Titzaveh, which is usually read before Purim, in the first verse (Shemos 27:20), H-Shem commands the Jewish people to make the clothing of the kohanim using the words, “es bnei Yisroel v’yik’chu.” Rabbi Yosef Freedman points out that the last letters of those four words can be rearranged to spell talui (“hanging”) and the first letters of the same words can be rearranged to spell av v’yud (“the father and ten”).
  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle notes that the ten sons of Haman, and Haman himself, hang on the tree together, and those eleven people parallel the eleven1 curses mentioned in the Torah (Devarim 27:15-26) reserved for those who do not keep H-Shem’s Law. Their hanging should remove from us these curses.
  • Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair (https://ohr.edu/purim/deeper_insights/3440) writes that these dead bodies needed to be hanged because the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97b) promises that Moshiach will come to the Jews even if they do not deserve him. This will occur after a wave of teshuva (“repentance”) takes us over after the evil decrees of a tyrant worse than Haman, himself.

1Added together, there are twelve curses in those verses, not eleven. See Rashi there (Devarim 27:26) that the twelfth and final of these curses is a general one that encompasses the entire Torah. Perhaps this is a reason for R’ Moshe Dovid Valle to have not included it in his calculation of the number of curses.

Esther 9:8-9:9, Question 1. Why is there a large letter vuv in Vayizasa?

חוְאֵת ׀ פּוֹרָתָא וְאֵת ׀ אֲדַלְיָאוְאֵת ׀ אֲרִידָתָא

8.And Porasa and Adalya and Aridasa.

טוְאֵת ׀ פַּרְמַשְׁתָּא וְאֵת ׀ אֲרִיסַיוְאֵת ׀ אֲרִדַי וְאֵת ׀ וַיְזָתָא

9. And Parmashta and Arisai and Aridai and Vayizasa.

  • The Talmud (Megillah 16b) explains that the large letter vuv indicates that all of Haman’s sons were hanged on one, long pole.
  • In particular, R’ Moshe Dovid Valle writes that Vayizasa was chosen for this message because his hate of the Jews was the greatest.