Esther 8:16, Question 3. Why is ora (“light”) written with a seemingly extra letter hey and sasson (“joy”) spelled incompletely (without a letter vuv)?

  • In explaining how ora (“light”) represents Torah, the Ben Ish Chai writes that ora is written with a hey because it means ohr hey, or the light of H-Shem.
  • Rav Tzaddok HaKohen writes that ora is written with a letter hey because the verse intends it to be feminine since the Torah being described here is specifically Torah she’bal peh (“the Oral Law”). As Rashi (on Mishlei 1:8) writes, the Torah she’bal peh is represented by the feminine. Rav Mordechai Gifter explains that this is because the rabbis know the natural foibles of their people in the same way that a mother considers the nature of her son.
  • From the time the Jews ignored Mordechai (the leading rabbi of the generation) by attending Achashverosh’s party until they re-accepted the Oral Torah with the words (Esther 9:27) “kimu v’kiblu” (“they took and they accepted”), the Jews of that period were struggling with Torah she’bal peh, and its necessary rabbinic accompaniments.
  • Similarly, the Midrash Yerushalmi interprets yikar as denoting the judges, who were also the rabbis.
  • Midrash Chaseros v’Yitaros writes that sasson (“joy”) is spelled incomplete (without a vuv) because no joy can be complete until Moshiach comes and the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, bimheira biyameinu.
  • R’ Chaim Kanievsky writes that it is written incompletely because circumcision, which this represents, has an element of pain. He notes that sasson is spelled completely in the next verse (Esther 8:17) because we should strive to add to the joy of Purim as though nothing is missing, as the Halacha (Biur Halacha 695, dh “ad d’lo yada”) states explicitly regarding the custom to become inebriated on Purim.
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Esther 4:3, Question 4. Why does the verse mention six responses of the Jews?

  • The Jews responded to this news with a total of six actions: they mourned, fasted, cried, eulogized, and donned sack and ash. The M’nos HaLevi writes that there is significance to this number. These six actions correspond to the six days in which the Jews participated in Achashverosh’s party (see Esther 1:5). Indeed it was a seven-day party, and the Jews took a break from the last day because it was Shabbos.
  • Since the verse that describes Achashverosh’s party (1:4), the verse says the party lasted for many days (yamim rabim), and gives the number of days as 180, R’ Yehonason Eibshutz wonders why the phrase “yamim rabim” is not superfluous. He answers that this phrase refers to the kind of days they were, long summer days, concluding with Yom Kippur. This is the day on which no Jew sins. In fact, he adds that the gematria of the Satan (hasatan) is 364 (5+300+9+50), one less than the total amount of days in a solar year, indicating that the Evil Inclination has no hold on us for one days out of the year – Yom Kippur. Therefore, there were only six days for which the Jews needed to atone.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech writes that the Sfas Emes views Megillas Esther as the beginning of the Oral Law. Mordechai was even a member of the Anshei Kenesset HaGedolah (Men of the Great Assembly) that began the establishment of Rabbinic law. The Oral Law is represented by the number six, as that is the total number of Orders in the Mishnah – Seeds, Festivals, Women, Damages, Holy Items, Purity. The Jews mourned in six different ways in to show their new-found reverence for the Oral Law.
  • Interestingly, according to the Vilna Gaon, there are not six actions here, but five. In his understanding, the great mourning is not a separate action, but is one general action described with the remaining five detailed descriptions. According to him, these five correspond to the five actions Jews are supposed to take (Mishnah, Taanis 1:3-7) when they are suffering agriculturally.

Esther 1:6 Question 2. Why does the Megillah use unusual language to describe Ahashverosh’s wealth?

Perhaps the Megillah uses these unusual terms to emphasize the importance of Torah sheBal Peh, the Oral Law. Without the Talmud (Megillah 12a) assigning definitions for these terms, we would be clueless as to their meanings. According to Rav, “chur” are crocheted draperies, whereas Shmuel holds that they were white draperies. “Karpas” is seen there as a contraction of “karim shel pasim,” or fine wool cushions. The Sages derive from the interchanging of a letter “hey” with “ches” that “bahat” is a stone that is much sought-after. One opinion posits that it radiated light independently. The Sages then offer a number of definitions for “dar” and “sochares.” One opinion is that it is numerous rows of stones. Another opinion is that it is a rare, coastal stone called “darra” that illuminated the feast to the brightness of midday. The final and most unique interpretation in the Talmud is that it is a proclamation that freed businessmen of taxes for the duration of the party. Either way, Achashverosh’s party, according to the Maharal in Ohr Chadash, was meant to mirror the act of creation in Achaverosh’s lame attempt at parroting the Creator. The precious stones are like the precious Earth, the light of the “bahat” is like the light from the heavens, and even the relaxing of taxation mimicked H-Shem’s power of providing the needs of every living thing. The Maharal adds that Achashverosh’s use of kelayim (wool and linen) mixtures and his wearing the priestly clothes further copies Creation as the Beis HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, which contained these as well, is seen by the Midrash as a microcosm of Creation.

 

  1. Why does the Megillah use unusual language to describe Ahashverosh’s wealth?