Esther 9:19, Question 2. Why are there, in effect, two Purims?

  • The Ran notes that there is a concept (Bamidbar 15:16) that there is one Torah and one law for all Jews. In other words, there should ordinarily be only one day for all Jews to celebrate together. For this reason, Mendel Weinbach notes, usually, according to Halacha (Mishna Berura 688:12), where one spends Purim determines when one will celebrate it. For example, a Jew visiting a walled city temporarily nevertheless celebrates it there for purposes of achdus (“unity”).
  • R’ Betzalel haKohen of Vilna, however, writes that this distinction is meant to stress that Purim is a d’rabbanan (“rabbinic”) holiday, since the Torah’s (Devarim 13:1) prohibition to add to the given mitzvos only applies to d’oraisa (“Scriptural”) laws.
  • A story is told of a visitor from Bnei Brak in the home of R’ Shlomo Bloch in Yerushalayim. R’ Bloch invited him to drink at his Purim feast (on Shushan Purim), but since he had already drunk the previous day, the visitor argued that he had already fulfilled the mitzva of drinking on Purim. R’ Bloch retorted, “You may have fulfilled Purim, but you can still fulfill the mitzva of feeling another Jew’s joy.”
  • The Chasam Sofer gives another reason to have two days of Purim – to avoid bitul Torah. Since the Mishna (Avos 1:2) teaches that Torah is one of the three foundations upon which the world stands, if there were (chas v’Shalom) one moment when nobody was learning Torah, the world would cease to exist immediately. With the advent of Shushan Purim, while one group is drinking and celebrating, the other group can uphold the world by learning.

Esther 2:23, Question 3. Why was this event written in the king’s chronicles?

  • The Alshich and Malbim both point out that H-Shem inspired the king to arrange for Mordechai to be recorded and not rewarded at this point in order to prepare for the future rescue of the Jewish people (as we shall see when we get to 6:2-10 later).
  • Since the verse is written in a passive voice, with no explicit mention of an author for this book of chronicles, the Me’am Loez quotes a Rashi to Ezra (4:7) that Achashverosh’s scribes were Haman’s sons, and they did not want to write this into the king’s chronicles1. Therefore, continues the Me’am Loez, this writing must be seen as miraculous.
  • Taking another perspective to this verse, the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 6:14), teaches that the behaviors written down in the books of flesh and blood are all-the-more-so written in the Books of H-Shem. After all, everything we do is written in the book of H-Shem (Mishnah, Avos 2:1), and that Book will be read to us in the end of our days (after 120 years), and we will have to give excuses for the things we have done. The Torah Temimah adds that, in contrast to a human book, the “Author” of this Book knows all (and is forgiving), so will record all of the important factors that led to our decisions.
  • The Rema in Machir Yayin writes that being “written in the book of chronicles” gives a person the power of “shamor” (“guard”) and “zachor” (“remember”). These are the two verbs used in the Ten Commandments regarding observance of Shabbos (in Shemos 20:8 and Devarim 5:12). They are also a reference to H-Shem’s relationship with the Jewish people, whom He “guards” from troubles and “remembers” for blessing, meaning He cares about us constantly. In other words, the Rema may be saying that the way to grow in a Jewish life is to keep a “cheshbon hanefesh” (“spiritual journal”) that chronicles one’s behavior and thoughts – whether good or bad. Writing things down is the way to grow in our relationship with H-Shem.

1Considering the opinion shared by Yalkut Shimoni and Yossipon that Haman was the instigator of this rebellion (as we said in the last post), Haman’s sons had ample motivation to cut this piece of history out of the chronicles, in addition to their hate for Mordechai and chronic anti-Semitism.

Esther 2:22, Question 6. Why does Esther report the information in Mordechai’s name?

This verse is quoted throughout Rabbinic literature – including the Talmud (Chulin 104b), the Mishnah (Avos 6:6), and Tanna D’vei Eliyahu – as proof of the importance of quoting one’s sources. It says, “one who says a thing in the name of the speaker brings redemption to the world.” This is not mere intellectual honesty, and there must be a deeper relationship between quoting in a speaker’s name and redeeming the world.

  • The Imrei Emes writes that when you give Torah, you get Torah back. When you teach in somebody else’s name, you receive that person’s Torah in return.
  • Rav Shimon Schwab quotes the Talmud (Yevamos 97a) that when you quote the words of a Torah scholar, his lips move in the grave. This leads to redemption because, as the Midrash (Bireishis Rabbah 98) says, when two people say the same thing, that is the end of argument. Symbolically, when you and that scholar are saying the same thing, that is the definition of the end to argument. As class participant CL pointed out, disunity destroyed the Beis HaMikdash, and it shall be rebuilt (speedily, in our time) through the unity Jews gain from sharing in the Torah of those who came before us.
  • The Maharal in Derech Chaim points out that the root of an original thought comes from the soul of the person saying it. By repeating somebody else’s original thought, you are replanting the root back from where it came. That, too, is redemption because the definition of redemption is putting things back to their ideal state.
  • In Pachad Yitzchak, Rav Yitzchak Hutner quotes the Talmud’s (Brachos 17a) prayer that we want to do H-Shem’s Will, but exile restrains us. Rav Hutner continues that, on a personal level, exile means when a soul cannot grow and feels restrained. Therefore, redemption is bringing action back into the soul’s potential. By reporting Mordechai’s words – which are all Torah – Esther brings about the redemption of the Purim story, and eventually leads to the building of the Second Temple.

Esther 2:22, Question 2. Why does Mordechai report the plot?

  • Rav Shmuel de Ozeida writes that, if Mordechai learned of this plot through prophecy, of course he had to do something with that knowledge. After all, one does not learn information through prophecy for naught.
  • Midrash Panim Acheirim posits that Mordechai reported this plot for three reasons:
    1. By getting in the good graces of the king, Mordechai hoped to win permission to rebuild the Temple.
    2. More generally, being liked by the king, Mordechai would be able to have influence for the sake of Jewish causes.
    3. More practically, he had to do this in order to not be blamed for this plot. Although this would be neither the first nor last time a Jew is scapegoat in political intrigue, this is especially true according to the Ma’amar Mordechai’s opinion mentioned before that the plotters had originally attempted to sway Mordechai into joining their conspiracy.
  • The Ben Ish Chai brings from the Midrash (Bireishis Rabbah 39:12) that it is the duty of a Jew to save the world. Jewish advisers to foreign kings throughout our history have rescued them from impending doom whenever possible. Mordechai could not turn his back to this ancient tradition. Furthermore, writes the Ben Ish Chai, anybody would do similarly, at the least in order to avoid suspicion. The Maharal and the Me’am Loez both quote the Mishnah (Avos 3:2) that a Jew should pray for the peace in the government because anarchy and unrestrained progressive change can be dangerous.

Esther 1:6, Question 5. Why does the Megillah go into these details about Achashverosh’s party at all?

  • According to the Vilna Gaon, one of the reasons to include these unusually specific details is the Torah’s desire to demonstrate how grand an earthly party can be. The Mishnah in Avos (4:22) states that the pleasure of the future world is unimaginably greater than this world’s greatest pleasure. Without this description, how would we ever know how great this world’s pleasures can be?
  • In the view of the Dubno Maggid, the Jews who attended the feast did so on purpose. He quotes the Midrash (Esther Rabba 2:5) that portrays a dialogue at the feast wherein Achashverosh asks the Jews, “Is your G-d capable of doing more than this for you in the end of days?” The Jews respond with an obscure quote from Yeshayahu (64:3), “[Since forever, nobody has listened, nor heard,] nor eye has seen, Elokim, (זולתך) except for You, what You will do for [someone] who waits for You.” There being countless verses in TaNaCh that hint to descriptions of the World to Come, how is this verse the best answer to the question? To explain, the Dubno Maggid tells a famous parable describing a rich man with an angry wife. Throughout his day, she annoys him with constant bickering. Finally, a day comes when she has to take care of something out of town for a few days. On the first day of her absence, the man asks his servant to prepare a delicious meal and serve his best wine. He eats and drinks, and truly enjoys his moments of peace. He orders a similar bill of fare for the following day. Surprisingly though, the man’s wife returns from her trip early, just before his feast. She joins him for the meal and asks him afterwards if the food was as good the previous day. He answers, “Honestly the food was better today, but it was easier to enjoy yesterday when I could eat it in peace.” The Jewish response to Achashverosh is similar in that they hinted that their future reward will at least be superior in that it will be זולתך, which can also be translated as “without you,” meaning Achashverosh. For obvious reasons, they had to choose their words carefully so that their answer would not be taken as the insult it naturally was.