Esther 9:29, Question 3. Why is Megillas Esther attributed to Esther?

  • In the view of the Ohel Moshe, by the verse using the word vatich’tov (“and she wrote”), which is a singular, feminine verb, it intends to emphasize Esther’s role because she risked her life approaching Achashverosh (Esther 4:16) in order to save the Jewish people1.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech wonders why Megillas Esther is attributed to Esther if both she and Mordechai co-authored the work. He suggests that Esther deserves the bulk of the credit because the Talmud (Megilla 7a) records how Esther insisted on Purim’s perpetuity, arguing with the reluctant Sages about writing this book to remember her “for generations.” This is why Megillas Esther is attributed to her.
  • According to the Alshich, another reason why Megillas Esther is attributed to Esther is because it was her idea (Esther 5:4) to have the series of feasts in which she finally accused Haman of his perfidy. to stress that all was ultimately accomplished through the power of prayer.
  • Esther thus added to the text, as the Ginzei HaMelech makes clear, an emphasis of the actions over the events.
  • Furthermore, as R’ Eliyahu Dessler writes, the very fact that Esther began Megillas Esther with the Achashverosh’s feast over a decade before Haman’s decree shows that the threat to our existence started then, as the Jews’ Sages like Mordechai were warning at the time.

1Similarly R’ Chaim Shmulevitz writes in Sichos Mussar (Vayikra) that the name the Torah uses for Moshe out of the ten alternatives listed in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 1:3) is meant to emphasize the mesiras nefesh (“self-sacrifice”) of Basya, the daughter of Pharaoh, who gave him that name.

Esther 9:28, Question 7. Why does the verse state that Purim would not cease?

  • The Talmud (Megilla 7a) uses this verse as a proof that Megillas Esther was written with Ruach haKodesh since Mordechai and Esther would have no other way to know that the holiday of Purim would never cease.
  • However, Midrash Shmuel explains that this verse is a prayer that Purim not be forgotten.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech writes that the holiday is forever because of Purim’s being the Jews’ re-acceptance of the Torah.
  • The Kedushas Levi writes that the holiday will never be nullified because Haman was from Amalek, and H-Shem promises “yad al keis ka” (“My Hand is on the throne of H-Shem”) (Shemos 17:16) that He will battle Amalek forever.
  • The Ohel Moshe notes that in the verse (Tehillim 137:5) “im eshkecha yerushalayim, tishkach yimini” (if I forget you, Yerushalayim, forget my right hand), Yerushalayim stands for Purim, and the right hand (yimini) represents Mordechai, who is called “ish yimini.”
  • The Baal Shem Tov writes that every generation will witness miracles.
  • On that note, R’ Avraham Yehoshua Heshel (Aptor Rav) and R’ Baruch of Mezibudzh explain the Talmud’s (Megilla 17a) warning against reading Megillas Esther “by heart” really means not seeing today’s miracles.
  • According to the Talmud (Yerushalmi Megilla 1:5) and the Midrash (Mishlei 9:2), even when other moadim (holidays) will go away in the time of Mashiach, we will still have Purim.
  • The HaSheol U’Mayshiv even explains the requirement to read Megillas Esther in the night of Purim represents Purim’s existence in exile, whereas the requirement to read Megillas Esther in the the daytime of Purim represents Purim continuing into the days of Mashiach.
  • According to Ohel Moshe, this also explains the difference between Jews and their seed mentioned in this verse. After all, are they not the same people? Rather, Jews keep Purim now, and their seed will do so in time of Mashiach.
  • On the other hand, R’ Chaim of Volozhin explains that Mashiach will come when all of the moadim (times) when he was predicted to come will pass. He will finally come when the same Jew-hate as existed in the time of Purim.
  • The Chafetz Chaim adds that the other holidays will not be literally nullified. Rather, we will give Purim more importance because it is the only time H-Shem saved the Jewish people from total destruction.
  • R’ Hutner explains that two people who are tasked with identifying a certain individual in the night. Giving one a flashlight would be a faster, more efficient method than training the other one’s ears to find the person. Although it is a good life skill, it is not the most effective method for accomplishing the task at hand. Similarly, the holidays provide light in exile in the relatively short-term. Purim, on the other hand, has the ability to train our senses to recognize H-Shem in nature, and that is an eternal possession.
  • The Dubno Maggid suggests that the reason why Purim will never cease is because the days themselves arouse the forces put into them during miracle. He provides an analogy of a king who is walking with two servants. If one were to become desperately thirsty, should the king send the remaining servant on the fastest horse in search of water, or should he order him to dig a well? From the perspective of the immediate, current situation, either option has equal potential. From the perspective of the future, however, whereas the water brought by horse has no future benefit, the dug well can provide water to other thirsty people for generations to come. A person desperate from thirst, upon finding the well, may even praise the king who ordered this well dug, for the act is enduring. By injecting certain periods of time, like Purim, with blessing from which we may benefit, H-Shem has inspired the greatest poet to sing (Tehillim 118:1) that H-Shem’s kindness “endures forever.”

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 9:25, Question 3. Why does the verse call this document a book?

  • The Ben Ish Chai writes that the book to which the verse refers is the Torah, which the Talmud (Chullin 139b) says alluded to the Purim story early on (Bireishis 3:11).
  • Similarly, the author of Yismach Moshe explains that everything went according to the book, the Torah. In other words, the Torah’s (Devorim 19:19) punishment for false witnesses (with some exceptions) is to the court to administer the punishment the false witnesses attempted to bring upon their intended victim. Just so, Haman’s hanging was just what he intended on Mordechai, his victim.
  • On a different note, the Vilna Gaon uses this phrase to demonstrate the importance of praying with a written text. One who speaks before the King of kings should do so with a book to avoid any inappropriate thoughts.

Esther 9:24, Question 5. Why does the verse repeat Haman’s plan to annihilate the Yehudim?

Besides what was mentioned, another reason for the verse to repeat Haman’s plan to kill off the Jews was to emphasize the impermanent nature of such human decrees. As has been mentioned earlier, the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 1057:6) says that the decree was written in clay rather than in blood, so the Jews’ prayer could still rescue them.

Esther 9:22, Question 4. What does the verse intend by “feasting and joy,” and why?

  • The Talmud (Megillah 7a) learns from the verse’s use of “feasting and joy” that there is a mitzva to drink ad d’lo yada, until one does not know the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai” on Purim. Although this a topic worthy of a much larger Halachic discussion, it should suffice for purposes of understanding this verse to note some varying opinions on this subject.
  • Indeed several Halachic deciders understand this literally as an injunction to become completely drunk on Purim, as is clear from the Rif (Megillah 3b) and the Tur (Orach Chaim 695:2).
  • Among others, the Peleh Yo’eitz warns that, obviously, this drinking should not be done to the point where one would miss any other mitzvos, including praying mincha with proper intent.
  • The Talmud (Pesachim 68b) teaches that holidays from the Torah should be be split evenly – half for H-Shem (i.e. with prayer, learning, etc.), and half for our own pleasure (i.e. eating, resting, etc.). However, even according to an earlier opinion there that all holidays should be completely for H-Shem, this verse’s use of the words “feasting and joy” require Purim to be completely for our pleasure.
  • The Abudraham notes that drinking is such a critical part of celebrating Purim because drinking plays a central role in Megillas Esther, including Vashti’s fall (Esther 1:10), Esther’s rise (Esther 2:18), [the decree to kill the Jews (Esther 3:15),] and Esther’s parties that led to Haman’s fall (Esther 7:1-10).
  • The Midrash Eliyahu writes that we celebrate Purim by drinking because the Talmud (Megillah 13b) relates that Haman slandered the Jews’ drinking practices when he told the king that if a fly were to touch a Jew’s cup, he would remove it and continue drinking. However, if the king were to touch a Jew’s cup, the Jew would throw the wine away, alluding to the Talmudic (Avodah Zarah 30a) law of yayin nesech.
  • The Nesivos Shalom (Purim 57-58) has a very unique reading of this Talmudic passage. He notes that the above cited teaching does not say “livsumei” (“to become intoxicated”) with wine, but rather “livsumei” in Purim. This means that one should get drunk from the day of Purim, itself, similar to the prophet’s (Yeshaya 51:21) description of being “drunk, but not from wine.” Through prayer, Torah study, and acts of kindness, Purim should cause a person to become so “drunk” on the elevated revelations of Purim that one cannot tell the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”
  • Malbim writes that the joy mentioned in the verse parallels “feasting and joy,” while the holiday parallels the sending of gifts. This is so because the very purpose of our lives is to separate ourselves from the physical in an effort to focus on the spiritual. That is the very-same purpose of Yom Tov!
  • Similarly, in Horeb, Rav Hirsch writes that the physical rescue of the day deserved a physical enjoyment.
  • Similarly, in R’ Tzaddok HaKohen’s contrasting between Purim and Chanukah, he focuses on the fact that Chanukah was a struggle between different philosophies, wherein the Hellenists and Greeks did not care if the Jews lived or died as long as they accepted the Hellenistic worldview. Therefore, Jews celebrate Chanukah, which was a spiritual/philosophical victory, in a spiritual manner, with additions to the daily tefillah and the lighting of the chanukiya. Jews celebrate Purim, on the other hand, which was a physical victory, in a physical manner, with feasting and joy.
  • The Bach (Orach Chaim 670) focuses his distinguishing of the two days by noting that the entire Purim story was initiated by the Jews wrongly attending Achashverosh’s feast. He quotes a Braisa that says that the Chanukah story was perpetuated by the Jews’ lack of alacrity and laziness in fulfilling the tamid offering. Therefore, Purim is celebrating with a party to make up for our attending Achashverosh’s party, and Chanukah is celebrated with the lighting of Chanukah lights to make up for the neglecting of the constant fire of the tamid offering.
  • His son-in-law, the Taz (Orach Chaim 670:3), writes that Purim is an open miracle that saved our temporal lives, wheras Chanukah commemorates a relatively hidden, spiritual miracle in the oil lasting longer than expected. Their distinct commemorations, then, are accomplished through the public feasting of Purim and through the relatively private lighting of the Chanukah menorah, respectively.
  • The Sfas Emes adds that our physical pleasure on Purim is also due to the physical nature of Eisav’s (progenitor of Amalek) blessing that Yaakov (progenitor of the Jews) took from him (Bireishis 27:28-29). Furthermore, Yaakov’s attempt to take on Eisav’s physical role in the world is yet another reason for the custom to wear masks on Purim.
  • During a Purim seudah, the Satmar Rebbe once mentioned that one might have thought that Haman’s idol would make the threat to Jewish existence on Purim a spiritual one. However, the physical and spiritual aspects of a Jew are one and the same. After all, a physical body without a soul is a corpse. Accordingly, this is another reason for the custom to drink on Purim – to see beyond the superficial, and realize that our physical health is directly related to our spiritual health.
  • The Ben Ish Chai writes that the mitzvos of the day are intended to make Purim a day of Heavenly purpose of spiritual growth, and not for selfish joy. He bears this out from the fact that the initial letters of the four mitzvos of the day – simcha, mishteh, yom tov, manos – can be seen as an acronym that spells out shamayim (Heaven).
  • Famously, the Ari z”l quotes the Tikkunei Zohar (21) that the holiness of Yom Kippur is due to its being a “yom kiPurim” (“a day like Purim”).
  • The Ohel Moshe suggests that Yom Kippur’s holiness depends on Purim because the Talmud (Taanis 30b) says Yom Kippur was the day on which Moshe came down Mt. Sinai with the second set of luchos (“tablets”). This receiving of the Torah was not complete until the Jews accepted the following of its commands in the days of Purim with the verse’s (Esther 9:27) words “kimu v’kiblu.”
  • On another level, R’ Yitzchak Hutner explains that Purim is similar to Yom Kippur because there is a need on both days to make things right with people. The Mishna (Yuma 8:9) teaches that a person does not gain atonement for the wrongs one caused to another unless one asks for forgiveness from that person. Similarly, on Purim, the sending of mishloach manos is supposed to engender feelings of unity and peace among the Jewish people. This is done in a spiritual manner – by begging for forgiveness – on Yom Kippur, and in a physical manner – by drinking and feasting together – on Purim. In this way, the two holidays compliment each other, and become one powerful entity.
  • On one particular Purim in the Warsaw ghetto, R’ Kolonimus Kalmish (Hy”d) approached a Jew who was understandably not feeling joyous in the midst of terrible atrocity. He told this Jew that the intent of the comparison between Purim and Yom K’Purim is that just like a Jew should feel like there is no choice on Yom Kippur, and one must fast, so too, on Purim, one has no choice – one must have simcha (“joy”)!

Esther 9:2, Question 1. Why does the verse stress that the Yehudim congregated?

ב נִקְהֲלוּ הַיְּהוּדִים בְּעָרֵיהֶם בְּכָלמְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֳחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ לִשְׁלֹחַ יָד בִּמְבַקְשֵׁי רָֽעָתָם וְאִישׁ לֹאעָמַד לִפְנֵיהֶם כִּֽינָפַל פַּחְדָּם עַלכָּלהָעַמִּים

2. The Yehudim congregated in their cities in all of the states of King Achashverosh to send their hand against those who sought bad for them. And a man did not stand before them because the fear of them fell on all the nations.

  • The Rosh writes that the verse stresses that the Jews gathered because they came together to pray and fast. As is mentioned in Halacha (Mishna Berura 686:2), this is the reason for fasting on Taanis Esther before Purim.
  • There is a power in numbers, and congregating can have powerful affects, so R’ Aryeh Leib Tzonetz and the Sfas Emes note that Haman’s spiritual power was due to the Jews being splintered and separate (Esther 3:8). Therefore, the intent of this verse, Mordechai’s order for the Jews to be gathered before Esther approached Achashverosh (Esther 4:16), and even the mishloach manos gifts (Esther 9:19) after the miracle was to unify the Jewish people.