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.
The Vilna Gaon writes that the verse’s account of the Jews “doing what Mordechai wrote” refers to their giving charity and gifts.
Malbim explains that those Jews residing in the walled cities did not start to celebrate on their own, but only began when Mordechai’s decree went out.
M’nos HaLevi notes again that by writing it down, Mordechai retroactively transformed the Jews’ voluntary actions into the obligatory mitzvos of Purim.
R’ Dovid Feinstein adds that although the celebrations of Purim started on the Jews’ initiative, they submitted to the rule (and changes) of the sages.
The Dena Pishra writes that, at first, the Jews were upset with Mordechai for not bowing down to Haman (Esther 3:2), but now they recognized the wisdom behind Mordechai’s actions.
R’ Dovid Moshe Valle also points out that the Jews realized now that Mordechai had Ruach HaKodesh because he was able to summarize the events they witnessed into this multi-level text we have before us.
R’ Yehonason Eibshutz explains that what the Jews began doing was a continuation of what they started doing at Sinai. For this reason, although there is a prohibition (Devarim 13:1) to add mitzvos to the Torah, Mordechai had the authority to add the mitzvos of Purim in this case. The nation achieved atonement because they listened to Mordechai, and the sincerity of their re-acceptance of Torah allowed for the Torah to be new.
The Sfas Emes and Maamar Mordechai both note that in this verse, too, the Jews did before they learned, in the same fashion as their saying (Shemos 24:7) “naaseh v’nishmah” (“we will do and we will listen”) when they first accepted the Torah.
According to the Halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 694:1), each Jew is required to send two matanos la’evyonim, charitable gifts, to at least two poverty-stricken Jews on Purim.
The Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Megillah 2:17) points out that the more poor people one sends to, the better. In fact, he writes (ibid. 2:16) that it is better to spend more money on the gifts to the poor than on any other mitzva of Purim.
This idea is echoed in the Mishna Berura (694:3). Furthermore, as opposed to standard charitable contributions, we are to give liberally and with no investigations as to the veracity of the poor person’s claim needed.
The Chasam Sofer explains that the reason that we even give to the undeserving is because we were not entirely deserving of being saved in the Purim story.
The Klausenberger Rebbe explains that another reason for not needing to investigate is that we should not worry about where the money is going because H-Shem reversed the situation described by the Midrash (Esther Rabba 7:25) that the gentiles teasing the Jews that they would kill them and said, “we’ll take your money.” Since this fear was reversed, on Purim we should not worry where our wealth is going.
R’ Shmuel de Ozeida notes that there is a missing letter vuv in evyonim (“poverty-stricken”) to hint to this same idea that we do not need to investigate if the person is completely poor enough to be Halachically considered an evyon.
The Dena Pishra explains the inordinate focus on the poor on Purim as indicative of the fact that everyone was saved on Purim – rich and poor.
The Ben Ish Chai quotes the Midrash (Esther Rabba 7:23) that Haman mocked Pharaoh that he only killed the males (Shemos 1:16). Therefore, writes the Bein Ish Chai, the Halacha requires us to give matanos la’evyonim to two people because Haman, on the contrary, wanted to kill males and females.
The Peleh Yo’Eitz explains that this gift is meant to help the poor celebrate Purim, and not even worry about the upcoming costs of Pesach. Also, it would help strengthen the emunah of the poor, who regularly rely on the rich, and the rich rely on H-Shem.
The is similar to the anecdote when Mayer Anschel Rothchild was asked how he could shovel so much money to charity, and he famously quipped, “ G-d has a bigger shovel.”
The Gerrer Rebbe quotes the Talmud (Megillah 7b) that we are supposed to skip Torah learning and even prayer for the public reading of Megillas Esther on Purim, however chesed cannot be pushed aside. Of the three legs on which the world stands according to the Mishna (Avos 1:2), chesed cannot be removed for the world to remain.
The Alshich writes that one should mentally intend to give matanos la’evyonim in the merit of Moshe.
Rav Dan Segal notes that the mere idea that Moshe Rabbeinu requires our efforts in his honor demonstrates that we have so little idea of the heavenly impact of our actions.
To demonstrate a similar powerful idea, the Ben Ish Chai points out that the gematria of matanos (“gifts”) (40+400+50+6+400=896) is the same as manos (“gifts”) (40+50+6+400=496) and 400.
The number 400 in the Zohar (I:123b) represents evil influences. The verse uses this particular word for gifts to emphasize that giving matanos la’evyonim can provide us with the spiritual power to fight off unholy forces.
According to the Halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 695:4), each Jew is required to send two foods to at least one other Jew on Purim.
The Peleh Yo’Eitz notes that the best way to perform the mitzva is for a great person to give to a lesser member of society. This would create both joy and the potential for one mitzva to lead to others.
After all, as the Sfas Emes emphasizes, one of the intents behind this mitzva is to debunk Haman’s slander (Esther 3:8) that Jews are splintered. Besides, acts of chesed are the foundational groundwork for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash (bimheira biyameinu).
Perhaps this is one reason for the Talmudic opinion (Megillah 7b) that one could also fulfill one’s obligation of mishloach manos by sending Torah.
Interestingly, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz wrote the oft-quoted M’nos HaLevi as a mishloach manos gift to his in-laws.
In Eparyon, Rav Ganzfried, author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, considers mishloach manos as a cunning way to give charity. Since all people will be giving gifts to their friends, the poor would not feel embarrassed by accepting a handout. This also explains why the order of the mitzvos listed in this verse seems out of order, with the more important mitzva of tzedaka being mentioned last.
The Sha’arey Simcha writes that the reason for this order is that it is debatable which miracle was greater: the destruction of our enemies or the raising of the Jews. Therefore, there are two mitzvos, paralleling each of these miracles, respectively.
The Ohel Moshe notes that, as opposed to other Holy Days, where the mitzvos of the day (i.e. lulav, matza, shofar, etc.) are only relevant for those days, Purim’s mitzvos (i.e. tzedakah, chesed, learning Megillas Esther, etc.) are relevant all year long.
R’ Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtza says that the implication of the word “re’eyhu” (“his fellow”) is that every Jews is considered worthy of receiving mishloach manos on Purim in H-Shem’s Eyes.
The Chasam Sofer was asked if mishloach manos are Halachically for increasing unity or to help all Jews have the minimal means with which to celebrate. If it is for unity, then it is for the benefit of the giver; if it is to allow everyone to celebrate, it is for the receiver. A practical difference would be in a case where someone refuses to accept. In such a case, has the sender fulfilled one’s obligation? If it is for the giver, the answer is yes, whereas if it is for the receiver, the answer is no.
Once, when about to receive mishloach manos, the Brisker Rav looked outside to check if it was yet sunset, and thus no longer Purim. He was willing to accept mishloach manos for purposes of the mitzva, but was unwilling to accept it as a regular gift, in fulfillment of the words of the wisest of men (Mishlei 15:27) that one “who hates gifts lives.”
Regarding the unique language of this verse, the Ben Ish Chai notes that the gematria of manos (“gifts”) (40+50+6+400=496) is the same as the 50 cubits of Haman’s gallows with the word maves (“death”) (40+6+400=446), meaning that this mitzva is intended to remind us of Haman’s plan to kill Mordechai.
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 (OrachChaim 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”)!
M’nos HaLevi explains that Mordechai wrote into law what the Jews were already doing, and this is what the verse means by saying that these actions were being “done.”
Class Participant BR suggests that the plural hints that there are two days on which one should celebrate Purim, Purim itself and Shushan Purim.
The Sfas Emes writes that this also includes the mitzva of reading Megillas Esther on Purim for annual inspiration. Furthermore, reading Megillas Esther allows one the ability to appreciate the depth of the Purim miracle.