31. To establish these days of the Purim in their times as they were established on them by Mordechai the Yehudi and Esther the queen, and as they established on their souls and on their seed words of the fasts and their crying out.
It is difficult to imagine, but Purim was seen as an innovation. Esther and Mordechai had to push for it, especially with those Jews living in the outskirts who did not feel either the immediate threat, nor the miraculous salvation.
Yeetav Leiv writes that this verse’s focus on Purim’s establishment was meant to encourage people to perform it as Esther and Mordechai did it – with intent to celebrate it for the sake of Heaven.
The Talmud (Megilla 2a) begins its discussion of the mitzva to read Megillas Esther by writing that this verse refers to times because Purim is celebrated by different groups in different times. For instance, villages, big cities, and walled cities all fulfill their obligation of publicly reading Megillas Esther for Purim on various days between Adar 11 and 15.
There being five different days on which to celebrate this aspect of Purim, the Na’os HaDesheh (288) finds a hint in the fact that the word kayam (“establish”) is used five times in Megillas Esther (9:21, 9:27, 9:29, 9:31, and 9:32).
Furthermore, there are five minatzpech (final letters “םןץףך”), which traditionally represent the five exiles (Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome) the Jews have endured because they are end letters, and we pray for the end of our long exile.
R’ Yechezkiel Abramsky tells the story of the Vilna Gaon’s grandson, who lived in Warsaw. Somebody asked him for an example of what made his grandfather so great. He answered that, as a child, the Vilna Gaon was asked why the first Mishna in Megilla (1:1) says lo pachos v’lo yoser (“no more and no less”) regarding the days to read Megillas Esther, but the Mishna in Shabbos (19:5) does not use the phrase regarding the various days on which a bris (“circumcision”) can be performed. The person asking began giving the Vilna Gaon’s grandson a brilliant one-hour answer. “Very nice,” he said, “but my grandfather answered better.” The questioner asked to be given time to think about it and come back with another answer. Three days later, he came back with a longer answer. Again, the Vilna Gaon’s grandson said, “Very nice, but my grandfather answered better. The answer is that both sources indeed use that phrase.” Often, the correct answer requires one to go back to basics. Like an IT support adviser’s first question to a customer, “Is your machine plugged in?”, the Talmud (Shabbos 32a) advises travelers to stay safe on a journey by checking the safety of the boat instead of prayers and incantations.
The Maharsha adds that Purim is a powerful time to pray and say Tehillim. In fact, the Me’am Loez finds a hint to this in the final letters of a phrase in this verse v’al zaram divreihatzomos (“and on their seed words of the fasts”), which spell out Tehillim when re-ordered.
The Meshech Chochmoh writes that the verse needed to mention times in order to contradict those people who wanted to place Purim on the exact time when Haman planned to kill the Jews, which would start in the daytime like the gentile calendar. Rather, Purim needs to follow the Jewish calendar – starting at night.
Rashi writes that the verse stresses that families celebrating Purim should eat and drink together in order for Purim to “never cease.” The Ohel Moshe notes that it would seem from this that Purim would not exist without unity in the family.
The Ibn Ezra explains that this is the case in order for nobody to be able to say “my (family, city, country) wasn’t affected.” All Jews were equally rescued through this miracle.
It is for this reason, explains the Vilna Gaon quoting the Talmud (Megilla 3a) that even Leviim and Kohanim should put aside the Temple service to hear the public reading of Megillas Esther on Purim.
R’ Hutner adds that this injunction pays homage to the fact that Amalek failed to corrupt the Jewish family (see Rashi to Devorim. 25:18).
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.
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.
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.
The Vilna Gaon writes that the verse’s account of what the Jews “doing” refers to their feasting and joy, and it stresses that they did this on their own, without the need to be told to do so by Halachic rule.
23. And the Yehudim accepted that which they began to do and that which Mordechai wrote about them.
In a simple explanation, the Ibn Ezra writes that the verse uses the singular “v’kibel” (“and accepted”) in order to mirror Aramaic grammar.
However, the Vilna Gaon, Lekach Tov, M’nos HaLevi, Beis Aharon, R’ Moshe Dovid Valle, and the Maharal all write that the verb is in singular because all of the Jews were united.
The Zohar (II:113b) explains that the Jews trusted Moshe and accepted the Torah, and reaffirmed it at this point. Although Moshe was one man, the Jews’ re-acceptance of the Torah he taught became attached to him, thus necessitating a singular verb.
22. Like the days on which the Yehudim rested from their enemies and the month which was switched for them from sorrow to joy and from mourning to holiday to do on them days of feasting and joy and sending gifts each man to his fellow and gifts to the poverty-stricken.
According to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:4), the verse uses the phrase “the month on which changed…” instead of explicitly using the name, Adar, because if Purim theoretically fell on Shabbos (as was possible before Hillel the Younger developed our calendar system), not to mix the rabbinic holiday of Purim with the Torah-level obligations of Shabbos. Although it would not push off our obligations on that day, they would be somewhat compromised. To emphasize that the important aspect of this is the month when this event occurred, the verse does not state the fact that it is Adar.
Furthermore, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:1) also says that the entire month is fitting for Megillas Esther to be read publicly.
The Vilna Gaon notes this is why the Talmud (Taanis 29a) famously says that when the month of Adar (and specifically not Purim) comes in, we increase our joy.
The Ibn Ezra says that part of the reason for this is that sometimes Purim is not Adar, but rather in Adar Sheini. If the verse would have explicitly said Adar, Purim would have to be in the first Adar during leap years.
The Maharal emphasizes that Haman was so overjoyed when the lot fell on Adar because it is the last month of the Jewish year, and has the spiritual potential to be an end, in the negative sense.
R’ Chaim Kanievsky explains that the verse’s focus is on reversal because H-Shem can reverse anything, even those astrologically set “times.” After all, Haman’s choice of Adar as the month to attack the Jews was partially due to our supposed spiritual vulnerability.
And Mordechai wrote these things and sent books to all of the Yehudim
in all of the states of King Achashverosh, the near and the far.
Malbim says that what Mordechai wrote were the details of what occurred, since he was concerned that Jews outside of Shushan knew very little about the miraculous success of the Jews of Shushan.
According to Rashi, what Mordechai wrote is the content of Megillas Esther, exactly as it appears today.
The Ibn Ezra wrote down the reason for the previously mentioned joy.
Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer writes that Mordechai wrote this down as the head of the Sanhedrin.
The Vilna Gaon explains that this means that he wrote the Halachic details of how to properly commemorate Purim, with what can and cannot be done on this day.
R’ Dovid Feinstein emphasizes that Mordechai is making the changes for the holiday that the Jews had accepted upon themselves spontaneously.
R’ Elisha Gallico notes that it is so important to remember the real source of Purim, there are two readings of Megillas Esther every Purim. This is why Moredechai did not make Purim an actual Yom Tov in order to allow the Jews to perform the other mitzvos of the day.
The Oznei Yehoshua notes that if we had Purim without its rules, we would end up having an empty, meaningless holiday. As it stands, Purim is the epitome of giving in the Jewish community.
According to the Vilna Gaon, Esther requested that Haman’s sons be hanged to make it clear that the Jews were acting in accordance with the will of the king, avoiding any future persecution. By hanging Haman’s sons, it was sign to everyone that the king approved of the Jews’ actions.
Ohel Moshe writes that the people could have theoretically thought that Haman was hanged for attempting to kill Mordechai, the rescuer of the king. Esther wanted it to be very clear that, in actual fact, for generations that this was not some political soap opera, but rather H-Shem did all of this for the sake of the Jews.
R’ Yehonason Eibshutz similarly demonstrates that it is not from Achashverosh, but from H-Shem.
Interestingly, Yalkut Pisron Torah (273) writes that this group of sons were handed over to the Jews in the merit of the Jews’ keeping the mitzva (Devarim 22:6-7) of shiluach hakan (“chasing away the mother bird”).
In the Parsha of Titzaveh, which is usually read before Purim, in the first verse (Shemos 27:20), H-Shem commands the Jewish people to make the clothing of the kohanim using the words, “es bnei Yisroel v’yik’chu.” Rabbi Yosef Freedman points out that the last letters of those four words can be rearranged to spell talui (“hanging”) and the first letters of the same words can be rearranged to spell av v’yud (“the father and ten”).
R’ Moshe Dovid Valle notes that the ten sons of Haman, and Haman himself, hang on the tree together, and those eleven people parallel the eleven1 curses mentioned in the Torah (Devarim 27:15-26) reserved for those who do not keep H-Shem’s Law. Their hanging should remove from us these curses.
Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair (https://ohr.edu/purim/deeper_insights/3440) writes that these dead bodies needed to be hanged because the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97b) promises that Moshiach will come to the Jews even if they do not deserve him. This will occur after a wave of teshuva (“repentance”) takes us over after the evil decrees of a tyrant worse than Haman, himself.
together, there are twelve curses in those verses, not eleven. See
Rashi there (Devarim 27:26) that the twelfth and final of these
curses is a general one that encompasses the entire Torah. Perhaps
this is a reason for R’ Moshe Dovid Valle to have not included it in
his calculation of the number of curses.