Esther 9:31, Question 1. Why does the verse mention Purim being established in these times?

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.

Esther 9:28, Question 3. Why does the verse use the term niz’charim (“remembered”)?

  • In Rashi’s view, the verse uses the term niz’charim (“remembered”) because Purim is remembered with the public reading of Megillas Esther on Puirm. The Talmud (Megilla 18a) stresses that one cannot merely memorize the story, but must read it from a scroll. This idea comes from a gzeira shava1: just as regarding Amalek the Torah (Shemos 17:14) uses the “zichron” (remembering) in reference to writing about those events “in a book,” so too, these events must be read from a book. Elsewhere, the Talmud (Yerushalmi Megilla 2:3) similarly writes that this verse justifies the sages’ writing of the tractate, Megilla.
  • Based on this, the Brisker Rav wonders why there was a need for Mordechai’s court to authorize the requirement for Megillas Esther to be included in TaNaCh. This verse should have sufficed! His son, HaGriD, answers that this is because there are no halachos learned directly from NaCh. This is similar to Tosfos’ opinion (Megilla 5a) regarding learning the laws of fast days from a verse in Yirmiya.
  • R’ Yechezkiel Abramsky notes that without the Oral Torah, we would not remember (nor, obviously, celebrate) the Purim story.

1a A hermeneutical rule in which a lesson is learned from an oral tradition of an analogy. See the Braisa of Rebbe Yishmael in the introduction to Sifra.