Esther 9:27, Question 1. Why does the verse mention establishing before accepting?

כז קִיְּמוּ וְקִבְּלֻ הַיְּהוּדִים ׀ עֲלֵיהֶם ׀ וְעַלזַרְעָם וְעַל כָּלהַנִּלְוִים עֲלֵיהֶם וְלֹא יַעֲבוֹר לִהְיוֹת עֹשִׂים אֵת שְׁנֵי הַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה כִּכְתָבָם וְכִזְמַנָּם בְּכָלשָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה

27. The Yehudim established and accepted on themselves and on their seed and on all who join them, and not to pass over the being of having done these two days as their writing and as their times each and every year.

  • On a simple level, the Maharal writes that the verse mentions establishing before accepting because the Jews established in the year following the Purim story that which they had already accepted in the year of the event.
  • In his commentary on the Torah (Bireishis 6:18), the Ramban explains this phrasing to indicate that the Jews accepted upon themselves and their descendants for perpetuity that which they had already placed upon themselves previously.
  • In a later comment on the Torah (Devorim 27:26), however, the Ramban adds that this verse means that the Jews accepted that Torah and all of her mitzvos are true.
  • The Talmud (Shevuos 39a) quotes the verse in the Torah (Devorim 29:13-14) in which H-Shem establishes a covenant with all of the Jews at that time, and forever. The Talmud then uses the present verse’s phrase of “kimu v’kiblu” (“they established and accepted”) to explain how we could know that future generations of Jews accepted to take on any future, additional mitzvos.
  • The Talmud (Megilla 7a, Makkos 23b) teaches that the Heavenly court established above what was accepted by the Jews below.
    • R’ Shmuel Aharon Rubin explains that this means that Heaven confirmed the earthly ruling – like witnesses – giving it legitimacy.
    • Kol Eliyahu notes that this is the idea behind the Talmud’s (Megilla 7a) proof that Megillas Esther is written with Ruach HaKodesh (see Introduction). Otherwise, how would Mordechai and Esther have known that Heaven accepted the Jews’ pronouncement?
  • The Talmud (Shabbos 88a) tells the story of the Jews’ accepting the Torah at Har Sinai. Once they accepted the Torah with the words (Shemos 24:7) “naaseh v’nishmah” (“we will do and we will listen”), H-Shem lifted a mountain over them, and threatened to drop it over them if they would not accept the Torah. What was the reason for this if they had just done exactly that?
    • Tosfos answers that the Jews accepted the Written Torah with complete enthusiasm, but not the Oral Torah. They re-accepted the Torah in the conclusion of Megillas Esther, when the verse (Esther 9:27) writes “kimu v’kiblu” (“they established accepted”). Many commentators are bothered by the implied coercion in this tactic.
    • Firstly, Rashi (on the Talmud there) notes that the coercion was intended for the Jews to use as defense in the future to lessen any punishment. A Jew thereby always has a ready excuse in the Heavenly court that he never accepted the Torah’s responsibilities willingly.
    • The Sfas Emes notes that the word order parallels “naaseh v’nishmah” (“we will do and we will listen”) (Shemos 24:7). Tosfos explains that, after accepting the Torah, the Jews got scared by the fires around the mountain, and back-paddled, taking back their promise.
    • The Maharal (Tiferes Yisroel 32) argues on Tosfos, saying that the message H-Shem imparted on the Jewish people for the rest of history by holding the mountain over them was that the Torah was not simply a subject that they could accept or not, at their whim – rather, the entire world was only made for the purpose of our serving the Torah, and rejecting it (chas v’Shalom) was not a viable option within the scope of our prerogative. Their re-acceptance in the time of Purim, therefore, was an act of consenting to these terms. The Maharal quotes the Midrash (Tanchuma, Noach 3) that the Jews at Mt. Sinai only accepted the Written Law. This did not include the effort, discipline, study, and observance of the Oral Law. The Maharal continues that coercion was necessary to show the world that accepting the Torah was not just a nice gesture to voluntary accept, but a necessary part of life for the world’s continued existence.
    • However, the Ramban and the Ran learn this passage as H-Shem threatening the Jews that if they do not accept the Torah, they would not receive Eretz Yisroel. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 105a) quotes the prophet (Yechezkiel 20:32) that “what comes to your mind shall definitely not occur; in that which you say, ‘We will be like the nations, like the families of the lands, to serve wood and stone.’” The Talmud explains that – like the other nations of the world – once the Jews were no longer in their land, they felt that they were no longer responsible to keep Torah. They realized the error of this philosophy after the Purim miracle, leading to their re-acceptance of the Torah.
    • The Ritva points out that such is just the weak argument of the heretic. The Talmud’s statement means that even if there was coercion, it was re-accepted on Purim.
    • In the “Drashos” section of Oneg Yom Tov, the author writes that just as a marriage could theoretically be annulled by a precondition, so too one could argue that the Jews accepted the Torah at Sinai under the precondition of receiving the land of Israel. This precondition was annulled by the Jews’ renewed acceptance in Persia.
    • The Torah Temimah and the Rayach Dodayim both point out that the word order of “established and accepted” implies that one should first accept, and only then fulfill the Torah.
    • The Chofetz Chaim writes that the generation of the desert was not reluctant to accept the Torah, but was merely concerned about the difficulties to be endured by future generations of Jews keeping the Torah through their future exiles. They knew that the Torah’s many mitzvos would effectively alienate us from our surrounding neighbors. Purim proves that the Jews can keep the Torah even in the most hostile of environments. As the Sages say, the Torah protects us and rescues us. The Torah is not counterproductive to our survival in exile – quite the opposite; the Torah is our key to continued existence.
    • The Dubno Maggid quotes a Talmudic (Yerushalmi Megilla 1:5) debate between H-Shem and the gentile nations. The nations ask, “why did You not lift mountain over our heads? We would have accepted the Torah, too!” In response, the Dubno Maggid tells a parable about two fathers who come to a doctor with their two sons. Both boys refuse to eat, the first one being sick, and the other who is weaning. The doctor tells the father of the sick boy to keep his son away from food and that will force him to eat on his own when he becomes hungry. The doctor tells the father of the weaning boy to force open the boy’s mouth, and to stuff the most delicious foods into it. When the fathers showed surprise regarding the two different suggestions for seemingly the same ailment, the doctor explained that the sick child’s body is repulsed by food, and he needs to stay away from food that can otherwise cause him harm. The weaning child, however, has never had solid food before, and must be force-feed in order to taste food’s sweetness. Like the sick boy, H-Shem knew that the that the gentiles would not appreciate Torah anyway, so He kept it away from them. Furthermore, similar to a weaning boy, the Jewish people were simply unaccustomed to Torah, and needed to be somewhat forced into accepting it. After experiencing its sweetness, the Jews would naturally choose to continue on the right path.
    • In the view of the Sfas Emes, during the first acceptance, the Jews only accepted the Torah verbally – not in hearts, as is hinted to by our singer (Tehillim 78:36) “they tried to trick Him with their mouths.” The situation was very different in Persia, where their hearts were completely invested. He also notes that, just like first acceptance followed the defeat of Amalek, so too in Persia.
    • R’ Yisroel Simcha Schorr notes that, interestingly, the Mishna’s three day allowance to publicly read Megillas Esther for Purim (Megilla 1:1) parallel the three days of preparation the Jews needed to receive the Torah.
    • Perhaps all of this is why, as R’ Dovid Feinstein writes, anyone who wants to join Jews must first accept Purim.
    • Rav Shach writes in Mach’shavos Mussar that, since Purim is an appropriate time to re-accept the Torah, it should be celebrated with learning – not drunken revelry.
    • R’ Henoch Leibowitz notes that at the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai, since so much time (49 days) passed since miracles in Mitzrayim, it was difficult for person to wake oneself up.
    • On these points, Tefillas Chana says that the Jews accepted the Torah because they realized that everything, even nature, is from H-Shem.
    • R’ Yaakov Kaminetsky explains the significance of this acceptance of Torah. Miracles are, after all, easy to accept as G-dly, but seeing H-Shem’s guiding Hand in nature leaves a far more lasting impression.

Esther 6:14, Question 3. Why are Achashverosh’s eunuchs rushing Haman?

  • According to the Talmud (Megillah 16a) Achashverosh’s eunuchs rushed Haman in a state of confusion.
  • The Torah Temimah explains that they rushed Haman against his will to indicate the king’s lack of respect for him.
  • The Maamar Mordechai quotes the Yalkut Shimoni that Esther sent these servants.
  • Alshich writes that, aside from most of the adviser’s dislike of Haman, everyone in the palace knew that Haman was on the outs with the king, effectively blacklisting him.
  • In one comment, the M’nos HaLevi writes that Haman was rushed in order to not have the chance to wash off his daughter’s excrement from his head.
  • In another comment, he writes that if the servants had not rushed, Haman would have hanged himself.
  • Similarly, the Vilna Gaon writes that Haman would have used his added time to take down the gallows. Since the gallows will be needed for him, the eunuchs were rushed.
  • Also, Dena Pishra writes that Haman would have run to his governor sons, and they would begin the rebellion they were planning. On that note, the M’nos HaLevi points out that an opinion in the Talmud (Pesachim 22b, Kiddushin 57a) interprets any appearance of the word es to include something to a given statement. Therefore, he interprets this verse’s containing an es in “es Haman” to include Haman’s sons.
  • The M’nos HaLevi also notes that the word “vayavhilu” (“and they rushed”) is written without a letter yud between the hey and lamed. The missing yud has a gematria of ten, implying Haman’s ten sons.
  • Perhaps the fact that the addition of the ten would make the gematria of vayavhilu (6+10+2+5+10+30+6=69) the same as hadas (“willow”) (5+4+60=69) fits well with the above-cited opinion from Yalkut Shimoni that it was Esther/Hadassah who sent these eunuchs.
  • The Maharal explains another reason for their rushing. The organic process of nature is slow. A seed placed in the ground does not turn into a plant immediately. Anything that comes directly from H-Shem is sudden, and without preparation. The Shelah quotes from the Talmud (Brachos 9b) that kings eat their main meals in the morning. These servants are therefore rushing Haman to get to Achashverosh’s meal on time. This is the reason for his Halachic position (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 695:2, Mishnah Berurah ibid., sub-paragraph 9) that a Purim seudah should ideally be held in the morning hours.
  • R’ Moshe Rephael Luria quotes the Midrash (Bireishis Rabba 2:4) which discusses how the second verse in the Torah (Bireishis 1:2) alludes to all four exiles of the Jewish people. The Midrash parallels that verse’s use of the word vavohu (“emptiness”) with this verse’s use of the word vayavhilu.
  • Another Midrash (Eicha Rabba 2:11) writes that this verse is a fulfillment of the verse from the Song at the Sea (Shemos 15:15) “az nivhalu alufei Edom” (“then the princes of Edom will tremble”). After all, Haman – a descendant of Edom – is trembling and confused from being rushed. The trembling of our enemies will come with our sudden escape from their exile, bimheira biyameinu.

Esther 6:1, Question 2. Why does the verse describe the king’s sleep as “shaken?”

  • Me’am Loez writes that this was the first time Achashverosh felt anything like insomnia, and he was therefore greatly concerned. Since this strange, out of the ordinary event transpires in this verse, perhaps this is the reason for the custom (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 690:15, Mishnah Berurah 690:52) to read this verse in a unique tune1.
  • The Midrash writes that Achashverosh had trouble sleeping because he was afraid Haman would try to kill him.
  • R’ Rephael Shapiro of Volozhin wonders why the crux of the Purim miracle hangs on this seeming lie; after all, Haman was not planning on killing the king at this point. He answers that Achashverosh saw in his dream that Haman wanted to kill Esther’s husband. What he did not know was that Esther’s actual husband was not Achashverosh, but Mordechai.
  • Since every reference to the “king” is really a reference to the King of Kings – H-Shem – the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 10:1) continues that H-Shem was “awakened” from His throne of Glory. How could H-Shem, who neither sleeps nor slumbers (Tehillim 121:4) have been sleeping? The Midrash explains that H-Shem can be said to be “sleeping” when the Jews are not living up to the standard set for them, as it says elsewhere in Tehillim (78:65). Torah Temimah explains that H-Shem ignores our needs sometimes, and only prayer and repentance can “awaken” Him.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 15b) cites an argument about which king’s sleep was disturbed. The first opinion says it was H-Shem’s “sleep.” The second opinion is that the sleep of both the upper world and the lower world was disturbed. The third opinion is that it was Achashverosh’s sleep, and that it was due to his concern over the nature of the relationship between Esther and Haman, as she had intended by inviting Haman to her feast (see below). Achashverosh thus becomes concerned that nobody seems to be saving him.
  • Interestingly, Rashi uncharacteristically quotes both the miraculous and natural interpretations of this verse. R’ Avigdor Bonchek writes that Rashi does so to emphasize that the main theme of Megillas Esther is that the true, miraculous nature of things is constantly concealed within seemingly everyday events. Maharal points out that this can be seen in the verse’s choice of calling Him/him “king” without mentioning Achashverosh’s name. If the verse is discussing H-Shem, it is fitting to call Him King. If the verse is discussing Achashverosh, it must be that he was concerned about kingly, political affairs.
  • Furthermore, Maharsha notes that any instant in TaNaCh in which someone’s sleep is disturbed, the next verse explains the reason. For example, when Yaakov had a dream about the ladder, the next verse (Bireishis 28:10) explains why. Also, when Pharoah had his prophetic, confusing dreams about cows, the next verse (Bireishis 41:1) explains the reason. This verse’s lack of explanation leads one to conclude that something else is going on – namely, H-Shem’s “sleep” is also being “disturbed.”
  • Based on the fact that the root of “nadidah” (“shaking”) is “nada,” R’ Mendel Weinbach points out that the verse’s use of two letter daleds indicates that there were two disturbances – one in the Heavens and one on Earth. The Midrash Abba Gurion writes that the angel, Gavriel, kept Achashverosh awake telling him, “do good for the one who did good to you.”
  • The Ben Ish Chai writes that “nadidah” can be read as “nadad Hey,” or “H-Shem Stirred.” He writes it can also be read as “fifty (gematria of the letter nun) dadah.” Since “dadah” can be seen as the root of “edadeim” (“movement”) in Tehillim (42:5), Ben Ish Chai writes that fifty moved Achashverosh. Specifically, he quotes the Ari Z”l that the first verse in Shema contains twenty-five letters. Since we typically say Shema twice every evening and twice every morning, these fifty letters (twenty-five letters repeated) Mordechai was saying came to protect Mordechai. These fifty letters saved Mordechai from the fifty amos of the gallows Haman prepared, zeh l’umas zeh.

1 The classically given answer for this custom is because this verse is the one in which there is a turnabout – when obviously good things are in store for the Jews.

Esther 5:12, Question 1. What is the significance of the word “af” (“furthermore”)?

יב וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן אַף לֹאהֵבִיאָה אֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה עִםהַמֶּלֶךְ אֶלהַמִּשְׁתֶּה אֲשֶׁרעָשָׂתָה כִּי אִםאוֹתִי וְגַםלְמָחָר אֲנִי קָרוּאלָהּ עִם־הַמֶּלֶךְ

12. And Haman said, “Furthermore, did not Esther the Queen bring me with the king to the drinking party that she made that was with her. And also for tomorrow, I will happen upon her with the king.

  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 9:3) notes that four characters used the term, “af” and their downfalls are recorded with the word, “af”: the snake (Bireishis 3:1), the baker imprisoned with Yosef (Bireishis 40:16), Korach’s group of usurpers (Bamidbar 16:14), and Haman in our verse.
  • Torah Temimah points out that the Midrash is implying that they should have used the word, “gam,” a more humble alternative to “af.”
  • The Dubno Maggid teaches that they used this word because “af” also means anger. These were angry people, and their hostility aroused H-Shem’s wrath. Things don’t work out for angry people. He continues that all four of these are characters who want more than they have, and are discontent with what they have. “Af,” then means “furthermore,” as though unsatisfied with what is already present.

Esther 5:11, Question 2. Why does the verse not mention the number of Haman’s sons?

  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that Haman mentions his sons because a Jewish owner of a slave also owns his slave’s sons (Shemos 23:12). Haman was, in effect, saying that since he was Mordechai’s slave, his many sons belonged to Mordechai, as well.

  • The Talmud (Megillah 15b) asks how many sons Haman actually had. The Talmud suggests 30, 70, 208, or even 214.

  • The Maharsha explains that the word rov (“many”), implies more than the ten sons Megillas Esther will itself name.

  • The Torah Temimah points out that the Talmud (Pesachim 64b) defines “many” as thirty people.

  • The Ben Ish Chai is troubled by the large number of children with which the Talmud credits Haman. He explains that these sons were illegitimate offspring Haman sired from the wives of his officers. This large-scale betrayal of his officers’ trust may indicate why Haman was so unpopular, even in court.

Esther 4:17, Question 1. What does Mordechai pass in following Esther’s instructions?

יז וַיַּעֲבֹר מָרְדָּכָי וַיַּעַשׂ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁרצִוְּתָה עָלָיו אֶסְתֵּר

17. And Mordechai passed and did like all that Esther commanded on him.

  • According to the Talmud (Megillah 15a), after hearing Esther’s response, Mordechai passed over either a river or the passed over (read: transgressed) the obligation to eat on the first night of Passover, since that night fell within the three days in which Esther asked the people to fast.
  • The Me’am Loez writes that the verse is praising Mordechai for “crossed the river,” which implies that he preferred to follow the command himself – without the use of messengers. He, himself, crossed the river to gather the Jews together in prayer, fasting, and repentance.
  • In explaining why Rashi, who usually gives a simpler explanation when available, decided to write the explanation that had to do with transgressing Pesach, the Torah Temimah gives two reasons: one is that the Torah always names an object being crossed when vaya’avor is used in relation to a physical object, and secondly, in actual fact, the fasting did occur through the first night of the Pesach seder.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein points out that someone can fast on Shabbos to annul a bad dream if that dream is dreamed on that day (Talmud, Shabbos 11a). If so, how much more-so can one fast on Yom Tov to annul a decree, so Mordechai was not transgressing at all.
  • However, according to the opinion that he was, R’ Simcha Bunim of Peshis’cha explains that Mordechai felt his prayers would not be powerful enough to be listened to in the ordinary manner. Transgressing Pesach would get the Accuser, the Satan, involved. Once he gets involved, there would be a Heavenly tribunal. Once there is a trial, Heaven would recognize Mordechai’s good intent, and then would assist Mordechai in defending the Jews.
  • In the first chapter of Tanna D’vei Eliyahu, it says that H-Shem can ignore insults. There, it writes that Esther’s arguing was spoken in an unfit manner, and yet Mordechai let it “pass” from his mind.
  • M’nos HaLevi points out that crossing the river was as easy for Mordechai as jumping over a puddle. It was a small act, but the Torah records it for our benefit, so teach us the lesson of the power even in what may appear as minor, easy mitzvos (see Mishnah, Avos 2:1).

Esther 4:14, Question 1. Why does the verse use the double language of “silent, you will be silent?”

יד כִּי אִםהַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי בָּעֵת הַזֹּאת רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָ֞ה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר וְאַתְּ וּבֵיתאָבִיךְ תֹּאבֵדוּ וּמִי יוֹדֵעַ אִםלְעֵת כָּזֹאת הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת

14. “Because if silent, you will be silent at this time, relief and rescue will stand to the Yehudim from another place. And you and your father’s house will be destroyed. And who knows if to a time like this you attained to royalty?”

  • Often in the Torah, a double language implies an emphasis. This phrase here would mean, “if you are surely silent.”
  • The Midrash in Esther Rabbah 8:6 writes that if Esther does not speak now, she will not be able to speak later. According to the Torah Temimah, this “later” refers to Esther’s judgment in Heaven in the end of her days.
  • Yalkut Shimoni writes that this phrase is referring to the idea that if Esther is silent now, H-Shem will be silent about her. This is a reference to kareis (“spiritual excision”), in which a person lacks a spiritual connection to H-Shem. Class participant ID mentioned that this is the natural consequence of hishtadlus (“effort”). The effort we exhaust in serving H-Shem is answered in equal (or greater) force by Him in attending to our needs.