Esther 10:3, Question 3. Why does the verse say Mordechai is only popular with “most?”

  • Ibn Ezra explains that the verse says Mordechai is only popular with “most” because it is impossible to be popular with everyone.
  • The Nechmad M’Zahav adds that the reason for this is because it is impossible for a person doing everything purely for the sake of H-Shem to not offend somebody at some point.
  • On the other hand, Alshich writes that, usually, leaders have enemies, but Mordechai had none.
  • R’ Yehonason Eibshutz explains that this verse, having been authored by Mordechai, displays his intense humility, not wanting to sound like everybody loved him.
  • On the same note, the Ohel Moshe quotes the Alter from Kelm as saying this verse displays Mordechai’s dedication to truth, wherein he cannot in full conscience say all people liked him. However, the Talmud (Megilla 16b) writes that some members of the Sanhedrin split from Mordechai because they felt his political position caused him to neglect Torah study. In fact, in Ezra (2:2), written only a few years after the Purim story, Mordechai is only mentioned fourth or fifth in the list of scholars. Ohel Moshe applies to Mordechai the Mishna (Avos 3:5) that teaches that anyone who throws off the yoke of Torah, adds the yoke of government. This is based on the opinion listed in Torah Temimah that learning Torah is greater than saving lives.
  • Alshich explains that Mordechai disagreed with the Sanhedrin, arguing that saving lives is more important. R’ Avigdor Boncheck notes that this classic argument demonstrates the tug we all naturally feel between mitzva of learning and the mitzva of pekuach nefesh (“recuing lives”).
  • As R’ Dovid Feinstein notes, devoting oneself “totally to Torah still commands greater respect among the Jewish people.”
  • R’ Mendel Weinbach agrees and points out that “if one Jew must sacrifice his learning in order to save lives while another can continue learning undisturbed, the latter is greater.”
  • Ohel Moshe quotes R’ Moshe Feinstein (Kol Ram) as saying that for a great need, a talmid chacham (“Torah scholar”) can stop learning and will get reward, but not as much had he remained entrenched in study had the situation not taken him away.
  • R’ Mordechai Gifter adds that, in such a situation, a scholar taken from his learning should still be reviewing Mishnayos by heart while engaged in these other, emergency matters.
  • Ohel Moshe quotes a story from R’ Meir Isaac Maalin, that when he was learning in the Mir, he saved two lives from drowning. The mashgiach, R’ Yechezkiel Levenstein, praised him. He told him that in the merit of his actions, he will not ever sin, because the Mishna (Avos 5:18) promises that someone who strives to fulfill the needs of the masses is saved from all sin.
  • R’ Bogomilsky asks, however, if Mordechai’s popularity is not a bit of a negative note on which to end Megillas Esther. He answers that it is in fact not negative; though he was hated by some, Mordechai responded by still loving every Jew.

Esther 9:26, Question 2. Why did they decide on Purim for the name of this holiday?

  • The Me’am Loez writes that they decided on the name of the holiday being Purim because the lots being rolled in Nissan, and coming up with the date in Adar eleven months later gave the Jews time to pray and to repent.
  • Furthermore, Adar had previously had no other holidays, so Purim’s falling out then made it stand out more conspicuously as a holiday, receiving the attention it deserves.
  • Also, the Vilna Gaon and Malbim point out that the lots pointed to a potentially bad fortune, but H-Shem reversed it to a good fortune.
  • In quoting Rabbeinu Yona’s Shaarei Teshuva (2:4), the Ginzei HaMelech notes that just as sin can be transformed to a mitzva status if the sin leads to teshuva (“repentance”), so too the lots lead directly to the Jews’ redemption.
  • The Ksav Sofer supports this point by writing that in calling the day Purim, we celebrate the pain suffered by the Jews at this time, since it led directly to their re-acceptance of Torah (Esther 9:27).
  • Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote that the message to be learned from this is that one should never overconfident of one’s “lot,” thinking that one’s greatness in Torah knowledge or observance will necessarily parry off the Evil Inclination. Rather, even such a person should be always mindful of one’s potential to fall prey to one’s natural, animalistic urges.

Esther 9:21, Question 2. Why does the verse repeat the dates of the holiday?

  • The Meshech Chochma explains that these days were chosen because nobody was fighting on these days, and the Jews could commemorate Purim by focusing on the miracle rather than on death.
  • In Darash Moshe, R’ Moshe Feinstein, explains that the verse repeats the dates of the holiday because Adar 14th was an extra day for which Esther had to ask. The Jewish people wanted it to always be remembered that their success was due to their trust in their leaders and prophets.
  • The Ben Ish Chai notes that the mispar katan of Haman (9+5=14) is the same as the date of the first day of Purim, and the mispar katan of Amalek (7+4+3+1=15) is the same as the date of the second day of Purim.

Esther 8:10, Question 2. Why does Mordechai do all of these actions?

  • M’nos HaLevi writes that the verse mentions that Mordechai does all of these actions to demonstrate Mordechai’s enthusiasm to be involved in every part of the mitzvah of saving the Jews. When great leaders in our history get involved in a mitzvah, they put all of their energies into the project. R’ Moshe Feinstein often had to let down organizations by saying he could not be on their boards because he was not content to be a figurehead – he used his priceless time and abilities to be involved in every aspect of the operations, including planning, payroll, bookkeeping, organizing, and even decorating.
  • One may wonder if this goes counter to the idea of zrisus (“alacrity”). After all, perhaps if Mordechai had delegated some responsibilities, Jewish lives would have been saved sooner. In Alei Shor, R’ Shlomo Wolbe explains that zrisus does not always mean doing things quickly; rather, it can mean doing things efficiently, properly, and with care.

Esther 8:4, Question 2. Why does Esther stand?

  • Continuing his thoughts on the previous verse, the Vilna Gaon writes that Esther’s rising up alludes to the end of the morning prayer service, and her standing alludes to the kaddish prayer.

  • Similarly, the Dena Pishra explains that Esther was standing here because she was pleading before H-Shem, and this is why the verse refers to Him as King.

  • The Shelah writes that we should stand in prayer before H-Shem the same way we do before a human king.

  • R’ Moshe Feinstein would famously stand still during prayer instead of shukeling back and forth, as many do. The source of this custom was an incident in which, as a rabbi in communist Russia, he was called before the police commandant. He recalled that one of the most frightening events of his life was standing there, stock still, unable to move. Realizing that one is standing before an authority should cause one to avoid any movement.

Esther 2:11, Question 4. Why does the verse use the phrase “done with her” instead of “done to her?”

  • Rashi says that the verse uses the phrase “done with her” instead of “done to her” because Mordechai knew Esther was in her current situation for a great reason beyond his own surmise. Mordechai was therefore watching to see how Esther was being used by H-Shem. How is she to be an instrument for something great? To put this in perspective, we all believe Moshiach is coming, but we still want to see how it will come to be.
  • The Ohel Moshe asks if this is not a contradiction to a previous comment of Rashi’s (on Esther 2:10) where he says that Esther’s revealing her Jewish identity would get her dismissed from the contest. If so, how could Mordechai have expected any good to come from Esther’s being in the king’s harem? The Ohel Moshe answers that one cannot push aside a single Halacha, even to save the Jewish people. He quotes Rav Moshe Feinstein that one must do whatever is within one’s power to avoid a sin, even if one knows that the sin would bring about the rescue of the Jews.