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 9:10, Question 2. Why does the verse not use the word v’abeid (“and they destroyed”) as it did previously (Esther 9:6)?

  • R’ Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a writes that this verse does not use the word v’abeid (“and they destroyed”) as previously (Esther 9:6) because this situation was different. He quotes the Vilna Gaon, who noted there, that the verse uses the word vi’abed (“and destroyed”) to help the Persians forget the damage done to them by the Jews. Here, however, this was not supposed to be forgotten, but rather publicized and displayed for all to see.

Esther 9:6, Question 1. Why does the verse tell us the death toll only in Shushan, and why does the verse remind us that it is the capital?

ו וּבְשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה הָרְגוּ הַיְּהוּדִים וְאַבֵּד חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת אִישׁ

6. And in Shushan the capital, the Yehudim killed and destroyed five hundred man.

  • The M’nos HaLevi translates habira, not as “the capital,” but as the “palace,” so the verse is intimating, according to R’ Yosef Gakon, how safe the Jews felt in the palace compound to have killed 500 servants of the king in his presence.
  • Similarly, the Ibn Ezra adds that, outside Shushan, the Jews feared the influence of Haman and his sons.
  • Interestingly, the Vilna Gaon notes that the verse uses the word vi’abed (“and destroyed”) because the Jews destroyed the property of their enemies. The reason for this is to assist the Persians in forgetting this event ever took place. Nations in general have poor memories, and the lack of physical reminders can help avoid the anti-Jewish sentiment this massacre could later conjure.

Esther 3:13, Question 5. Why does the decree include a proviso to plunder the Jews’ wealth?

  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that Haman ordered the plundering of the Jews’ wealth to increase incentive for the Persians.
  • Furthermore, the Alshich writes that this plunder was meant to make it impossible for the Jews to bribe their way out of this.

Esther 2:21, Question 3. Why were Bigsan and Seresh angry?

  • There are numerous reasons given for Bigsan and Seresh’s anger. The Yalkut Shimoni (1053) says that Bigsan and Seresh previously had important positions, and were upset with Mordechai for seemingly usurping them. The Malbim sees this in the actual words of the verse. After all, the verse relates Mordechai’s “sitting at the king’s gate” to Bigsan and Seresh’s anger to point out that their anger was directly caused by his position.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 13b) says they were upset with the king and queen because they were tired at nights having to protect their door as they spent time together, much like Pharoah became upset with the baker and butler for small reasons (Bireishis 40:1).
  • Rav Elisha Gallico says they were upset that Mordechai was sitting at the king’s gate, deciding cases based on Jewish law. Bigsan and Seresh therefore saw it as a patriotic duty to kill the king (who was, by the way, not Persian) for his seeming betrayal of Persian law in promoting a Jew to this position.
  • The Me’am Loez writes that the two of them were relatives of Vashti, and waited this long period of time to avenge her death. Another opinion he brings is that they were upset that Achashverosh rejected Haman’s daughter during the search for a new queen, and Haman convinced them to join in a rebellion against the king. The Me’am Loez also quotes Yossipon that this was just one part of a much larger rebellion, and that these two wanted to kill Achashverosh to bring the king’s head to the Greeks, enemies of the Persians, and thereby ingratiate themselves to them.
  • The Malbim points out that, regardless of the reason, their motivation was petty. This parallels the story of Yosef mentioned in the above Talmud. The Malbim continues that, just as H-Shem can inspire a king (Pharoah) to be angry with his servants for no reason, so, too, can H-Shem inspire a servant (Bigsan and Seresh) to hate a king for no reason. Rav Dovid Feinstein asks why these two stories are being paralleled by the Talmud. He answers that the verse says “shnei” (“both”), equating the feelings of Bigsan and Seresh. In the natural order of things, this is impossible because no two people can have the same exact emotion from the same exact motivation in the same exact degree. This is yet one more indication that these events were led Divinely.

Esther 1:8, Question 1. The drinking at Achashverosh’s party was according to which law?

ח וְהַשְּׁתִיָּה כַדָּת אֵין אֹנֵס כִּיכֵן יִסַּד הַמֶּלֶךְ עַל כָּלרַב בֵּיתוֹ לַֽעֲשׂוֹת כִּרְצוֹן אִישׁוָאִישׁ

8. And the drinking was like the law, no forcing, because so the king declared to all of the many greats of his house to do according to the wants of man and man.

  • It is possible to suggest, as the Midrash (Esther Rabba 2:13) does, that the Persians had detailed customs of behavior in regards to drinking. After all, cultures make ceremonies around those actions they hold dear. Achashverosh carefully kept these rules. Rabbi Avraham Chadida, however, makes the exact opposite comment; according to him, it was generally forbidden to become drunk before the king, and Achashverosh intended to change that custom to become a more popular leader.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 12a) infers that Achashverosh was following the “laws” of the sacrifices – having more food than drink at his party, just as there is more meat than wine in the Beis HaMikdash (Temple) service (as, for example, the ratio of meat to wine described in the Torah for an olah offering in Bamidbar 28:12, 14). Rav Dovid Feinstein points to this as yet one more way in which Achashverosh was attempting to ape the Temple and its service.

Esther 1:3, Question 4. Why are Persians mentioned before Medeans in this verse, unlike later (Esther 10:2)?

The Talmud (Megillah 12a) relates that the Persians and Medes ruled their kingdom utilizing a unique power-sharing method, possibly as a form of checks and balances. When one group sat on the thrown, the other was in control of the bureaucracy. The Me’am Loez, however, gives a more technical answer: The kingdom was begun by Darius the Mede, so the Medes are mentioned first in the political chronicles of the land (Esther 10:2), but Achashverosh was a Persian, so the Persians are mentioned first here, when discussing his particular reign.