THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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MEGILAH 11-13 sponsored by a generous grant from an anonymous donor. Kollel Iyun Hadaf is indebted to him for his encouragement and support and prays that Hashem will repay him in kind.
1) PRAISING MORDECHAI FOR SAVING THE JEWS, OR BLAMING HIM FOR ENDANGERING
QUESTION: The Rabanan say that the families of Yehudah and Binyamin were
claiming credit for the miracle of Purim. The family of Yehudah claimed
credit because David ha'Melech refrained from killing Shim'i ben Gera, from
whom Mordechai descended. The family of Binyamin claimed credit because
Mordechai was a member of Binyamin.
2) YOM KIPUR: PREPARING TO COME BEFORE THE KING
Rava argues and says that Mordechai was not to take credit for the salvation,
but rather was to blame for the troubles to begin with. According to Rava,
K'neses Yisrael was bemoaning what the families of Yehudah and Binyamin
caused: since David ha'Melech, who came from Yehudah, did not kill Shim'i ben
Gera, Mordechai was born who aroused the enmity of Haman and thus caused the
entire Jewish people to become endangered. And since Shaul ha'Melech, who
came from Binyamin, did not kill Agag, Haman was born who threatened the
Jewish people with annihilation.
According to Rava, how could there be any allegation against Mordechai for
provoking Haman's wrath? He was acting according to Halachah by refusing to
bow down to Haman, since Haman was deifying himself! Why is there any reason
to blame Mordechai?
ANSWER: The Gemara earlier (6b) discusses whether or not a Tzadik may
confront a Rasha who is experiencing good fortune ("ha'Sha'ah Mesachekes
Lo"). The Gemara concludes that even if the Tzadik is a Tzadik Gamur, a total
Tzadik, he should not contend with a Rasha in worldly matters. There is a
similar discussion in Berachos (7b -- see TUREI EVEN to Megilah 6b), the
conclusion of which is that even with regard to *spiritual* matters, only a
Tzadik who is a "Tzadik Gamur" may contend with a Rasha. If he is *not* a
Tzadik Gamur, he should not contend with a Rasha at all, even regarding
spiritual matters (that is, if suppressing his aggravation will not cause him
to transgress of a Mitzvah). (See Berachos 7a, a Tzadik Gamur will not bear
any suffering in this world; Ta'anis 21a, "If you [Nachum Ish Gam Zu] are a
Tzadik Gamur, why are you suffering?" and MAHARSHA there.)
Haman's demand that the Jews bow down to him was clearly a spiritual matter;
he was antagonizing the Jews and insisting that they worship him (Megilah
10b). Although it may have been permitted, Halachically, to bow down to
Haman, nevertheless by not bowing in order to make a Kidush Hashem Mordechai
was certainly protesting a *spiritual* matter (see TOSFOS Shabbos 72b end of
DH Amar Rava). If so, it could be that the question whether Mordechai is to
be praised for what he did, or blamed, depends on whether Mordechai was
considered a Tzadik Gamur or not. The families who said Mordechai is to blame
for causing danger to the Jewish people maintain that he was not a Tzadik
Gamur (see later, 16b), and therefore he should not have started up with
Haman. The families who said Mordechai is to be praised maintain that he was
a Tzadik Gamur, and therefore he was permitted to start up with Haman!
We see from the way that we commemorate Purim that we rule like the opinion
that Mordechai was correct in what he did, and it must be because he was
considered a Tzadik Gamur. For this reason, perhaps, the Targum always refers
to Mordechai as "Mordechai *Tzadika*," "Mordechai the Tzadik," to emphasize
that he was a Tzadik Gamur and therefore he was justified in confronting
Haman. (M. Kornfeld)
The verse in Esther (2:12) states that each maiden, before going before the
king when he was selecting a new wife, would undergo "like the treatment of
women for twelve months, for so were the days of their anointing (Yemei
Merukeihen): six months with oil of myrrh (Shemen ha'Mor) and six months with
perfumes and women's ointments. With this, the maiden would come to the
king." The Gemara quotes Rav Huna who says that "Shemen ha'Mor" is actually
oil from olives that did not reach more than a third of their growth; such
oil was used "because it removes the hair and softens the flesh."
The VILNA GA'ON (Esther 2:12) suggests that the Megilah's discussion of how
the maidens prepared themselves and smeared themselves with oil in order to
come before king Achashverosh alludes to the way a person must prepare
himself to come before the King of kings on Yom Kipur.
The verse says that each maiden ("Na'arah") was given twelve months to
prepare to come before the king, just like a woman is given twelve months to
prepare for her wedding (Kesuvos 57a). The word "Na'arah" (maiden) is a term
used to refer to a person's Neshamah, as the Zohar says. Thus, the verse is
saying that one's Neshamah is given twelve months to prepare to come before
the King, Hashem. The Vilna Ga'on explains as follows.
The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (17a) teaches that Hashem is "Ma'avir Rishon
Rishon" -- He removes the first sin that a person commits and does not hold
the person accountable for it. The Vilna Ga'on explains that this means that
Hashem expunges all of a person's sins, one at a time, like the RAMBAM
(Hilchos Teshuvah 3:5) explains (see Insights to Rosh Hashanah 17:1 for the
different explanations of "Ma'avir Rishon Rishon"). He adds that Hashem
erases the sins only if the person does Teshuvah. However, says the Vilna
Ga'on, a person's Teshuvah during these days is done "under duress," and may
not be fully sincere. Therefore, when Hashem wipes away the sins the sins are
not completely forgiven. Rather, Hashem gives the person twelve months -- the
duration of the coming year after Yom Kipur -- to see if the person will be
sincere in his Teshuvah. If, during those twelve months, he does not repeat
the sin, then it shows that his Teshuvah was sincere and Hashem wipes out the
sin entirely and the person is completely exonerated. Until that time,
though, Hashem suspends the sin while He waits to see if the person will
really refrain from doing it again. If the person returns to his sin during
those twelve months, then Hashem revives the sin and counts it against him
retroactively. (That is, to a certain extent. For instance, it can increase
the punishment ordained on a person due to other sins.)
This is what the verse means when it says that each Na'arah -- referring to
every person's Neshamah -- was given twelve months, "the days of their
anointing (Yemei Merukeihen)." "Merukeihen" comes from the word "Merok,"
which means to "finish off," and to "cleanse." The twelve months of "Yimei
Merukeihen" alludes to the twelve months that a person is given during which
he can complete the wiping-out of his sins that were temporarily suspended at
The verse continues, describing how those twelve months are to be used to
wipe out the sins that were suspended last Yom Kipur.
"Six months with Shemen ha'Mor," which removes the hair, as Rav Huna says in
our Gemara. Hair is the only part of the body that serves no purpose other
than aesthetic purposes. It represents the items in a person's life which are
extraneous luxuries that keep a person ensnared in the materialistic
pleasures of this world. By working for six months to remove those luxuries,
a person is able to extract himself from the lure of worldly pleasures and
overcome his Yetzer ha'Ra to sin again. (Hagaon Rav Moshe Shapiro explained
to me that "softening the flesh" also alludes to removing all external
influences from the body, which adversely affect it. Alternatively, it may
allude to becoming "soft like flesh" [Sotah 5a], and humbling one's self -
The next six months are to be "six months with perfumes and women's
ointments." After removing the "hair" of worldly luxuries, one must strive to
bring Kedushah into his life by being exact in his performance of Mitzvos
Aseh, which are represented by "perfumes," because they bring a sweet scent
into a person's life like perfumes. Also, one must work on cleansing himself
by fulfilling all the Mitzvos Lo Ta'aseh, which are represented by "Tamrukei
Nashim" ("women's ointments"), for "Tamrukei" comes from the word "Marek,"
which means to cleanse oneself so that he is not enticed to do an Aveirah.
After those twelve months, "with this, the maiden would come to the king." On
Yom Kipur, after twelve months of refraining from returning to his old sins
which Hashem temporarily suspended and did not count against the person, the
person's Neshamah is ready to come before the King to ask for complete
forgiveness. Hashem will then completely forgive the sins that were suspended
the previous Yom Kipur.
HAGAON RAV SHLOMO WOLBE, shlit'a, (ALEI SHUR, 3:16, p. 430, in footnote) adds
that this approach explains the text of the blessing in the Shemoneh Esreh of
Yom Kipur. We say, "Baruch Atah Hashem, Melech Mochel v'Sole'ach
la'Avonoseinu... u'Ma'avir Ashmoseinu b'Chol Shanah v'Shanah..." -- "the King
Who pardons and forgives our sins... and removes our sins each and every
year." After saying that Hashem pardons and forgives our sins, why do we say
that He "removes our sins each and every year?" If He already forgave our
sins, then what is left for Him to remove each year? And what is this
removal, if not pardon?
Rav Wolbe explains that the Berachah is referring to the two types of
forgiveness that Hashem grants on Yom Kipur. First, He looks at the Aveiros
of the preceding year, which He suspended last Yom Kipur, one year ago, and
did not judge us for them, waiting to see whether our Teshuvah was sincere.
If he sees that we did not return to those Aveiros, then he "pardons and
forgives" them completely. Second, he looks at the sins of this year, and if
we are making efforts to correct our ways and do Teshuvah, he *removes* them
and suspends them for twelve months, until next Yom Kipur, to see if we do a
full and sincere Teshuvah for those sins, in which case He will completely
erase and pardon them the following year.
3) HAMAN'S 10,000 KIKAR OF SILVER
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Hashem foresaw that Haman would pay 10,000
Kikar-weights of silver to Achashverosh in return for the rights to kill all
of the Jews. Therefore, Hashem "prepared the cure before the illness" by
commanding the Jews who left Mitzrayim (nearly 1000 years before the events
of Purim) to each donate half of a Shekel to the Mishkan (Shemos 30:13).
TOSFOS (16a) says that the total number of Shekalim that the Jews gave in the
Midbar equaled the amount of silver that Haman offered Achashverosh.
4) "SLEEPING" FROM THE MITZVOS
These words of Tosfos are puzzling, because the half Shekels which were
donated by each one of the 600,000 Jews do not add up to anywhere near 10,000
Kikar of silver! In fact, the Torah states clearly that they totaled no more
than *100* Kikar (Shemos 38:26-7) -- only one hundredth (1/100) of what Haman
gave to Achashverosh! (See MAHARSHA, CHIZKUNI, Shemos 30:14; VILNA GA'ON on
Esther 3:9; RAV TZADOK HA'KOHEN, Divrei Sofrim p. 84 and others.) Many and
varied answers have been offered by the Rishonim and Acharonim to this
(a) One explanation is based on the Midrash (Esther Rabah 7:19) which
explains that Haman paid *50* Shekels for each of the 600,000 Jews who left
Egypt (or *100 times* a half Shekel). RABEINU BACHYE (Shemos 38:25)
elaborates further. The Torah ascribes a Halachic value (Erech) to a person
based on his gender and age group (Vayikra ch. 27). The *greatest* value
ascribed to a person is 50 Shekels. Haman therefore gave that amount for each
of the 600,000 Jews. (Although obviously some of them must have been over the
age of 50 and therefore had an Erech worth less, Haman did not take any
chances. See also Sefer Roke'ach #235 and Roke'ach's comments on the Torah,
end of Parshas Bechukosai.)
However, Tosfos says that Haman paid "half a Shekel" for each Jew, and not 50
Shekels! RAV YAKOV EMDEN suggests that our text of Tosfos may simply be an
error, caused by a typist's misreading of an acronym. The original Tosfos may
have read that Haman paid "Ches-Shin" (for *Chamishim*, or 50, Shekel), for
each Jew. In a later edition the acronym was misinterpreted as "*Chatzi*
Shekel" (a half Shekel) for each Jew.
(b) Others point out that the discrepancy is somewhat lessened by the fact
that according to the Gemara in Bechoros (5a), the Kikar of the Mishkan is
not the usual Kikar, but rather it is *double* the value of a normal Kikar.
That is, each of the Torah's Kikars equals two normal Kikars. Haman
presumably measured normal Kikars to Achashverosh. (See PNEI YEHOSHUA and
This lessens the discrepancy by half, of course, but it does not fully
explain Tosfos' calculation. Haman still paid *50* times more than the value
of the half Shekels given by the Jews in the Midbar.
(c) It can be demonstrated that, indeed, the silver paid by Haman was exactly
equal in value to the half Shekels that the Jews donated to the Mishkan. As
we shall see, Haman's Shekel's were each worth only one fiftieth the value of
a normal Shekel. He paid 50 times as many Kikars as the Jews in order to make
up for the difference in value.
The Gemara in Kidushin (12a) quotes Shmuel who says, "If a man betroths a
young woman with a date fruit, although dates are so inexpensive [in their
region] that a 'Kur' of them are sold for one Dinar, we must nevertheless
assume that a Kidushin has taken effect (and the woman must be legally
divorced in order for her to remarry), because in the country of Mede, a
single date is indeed worth a Perutah."
This Gemara seems to be saying that since dates were in high demand in Mede,
they were worth more there than in other countries (see Rashi there). The
VILNA GA'ON (printed at the end of Mishnayos Zera'im, and Kol Eliyahu #226),
however, understands Shmuel's statement differently. He contends that the
value of *silver* in Mede was unusual, not the value of *dates*. Silver was
so abundant, and therefore cheap, in Mede, that even for a single date, Medes
were willing to pay a Perutah -- a coin whose value is determined by the
price of silver. He bases his interpretation solidly on a verse in Yeshayah
(13:17) which states that Hashem will deliver Bavel into the hands of the
Medes, "*who do not value silver* and who are not interested in gold."
The Medes to whom the verse is referring are the ones that conquered
Nevuchadnezar of Bavel and later shared a kingdom with Achashverosh of Persia
(see Megilah 11a). It can be assumed that they shared a monetary system as
We find that it is possible to extrapolate the relationship between the value
of silver in the kingdom of Persia-Mede and in other areas:
1. In areas other than Persia-Mede, a Kur of dates sold for a Dinar, as the
Gemara in Kidushin says. This means that 30 Beitzah-measures of dates [each
equaling the volume of an egg] sold for a Perutah. (The conversion rates of
volume: 1 Kur = 30 Se'ah, and 1 Se'ah = 144 Beitzah (see Rashi Eruvin 83b);
the conversion rates of coins: 1 Dinar = 144 Perutah (according to Raban
Shimon ben Gamliel in Kidushin 12a, whose Perutah is the largest on record)).
In the kingdom of Persia-Mede, the Gemara in Kidushin asserts, only *a
single* date could be acquired for the same Perutah's worth of silver.
2. How many dates fit into the size of 30 Beitzah-measures? The Vilna Ga'on
asserts in his commentary on Mishlei (22:9), based on a Midrash HaZohar, that
3 1/3 *olives* fit into the volume of one Beitzah. Our question may therefore
be rephrased as, "how many dates fit into the size of 100 olives (i.e. 30
3. The answer to this can be determined from the Gemara in Krisus (14a),
which states that exactly 2 olives fit into the volume of one date.
Therefore, exactly *50* dates fit into the volume of 100 olives.
4. This means that 50 dates (which equals 30 Beitzah-measures of dates) were
being sold for a Perutah elsewhere, while *each* date bought a Perutah in
Persia-Mede. The silver in that kingdom was obviously worth one fiftieth the
value of silver elsewhere. This explains why Haman, who lived in the kingdom
of Persia-Mede, paid exactly 50 times the amount of silver that the Jews
measured in the desert in order to "buy them off!" (M. Kornfeld)
AGADAH: Haman, when presenting to Achashverosh his argument for destroying
the Jews, claimed "Yeshno Am Echad" -- "there exists a certain nation"
(Esther 3:8). The Gemara explains that Haman was saying, "This certain nation
is sleeping (Yeshno) from the Mitzvos."
(a) The Jews' performance of the Mitzvos had become so heartless that Haman
reasoned that his attempts to destroy them would be successful, since their
apathy towards the Mitzvos would forfeit any Divine protection to which they
might otherwise have been entitled. Indeed, Hashem reacted to their "sleepy"
performance of the Mitzvos measure for measure by acting as if He was
sleeping and He did not show His presence to them. According to the Midrash
(Esther Rabah 7:12) Haman claimed outright that Hashem was "sleeping from
protecting his people," and cites the verse (Tehilim 44:24), "Arouse, why
should You sleep, Hashem!" (Esther Rabah 10:1).
Later in the Megilah, the verse says, "ba'Laylah ha'Hu Nadedah Shenas
ha'Melech" -- "on that night, the king's sleep was disturbed" (Esther 6:1).
The Midrash (ibid. 10:1) comments that this refers to Hashem's sleep.
Realizing the danger that faced them, the Jews did Teshuvah and they turned
to Hashem in fervent prayer and fasting. They aroused themselves from their
slumber, and in return Hashem aroused Himself from His slumber, so to speak.
"Va'Yikatz k'Yashen Hashem" -- "and Hashem woke up as one who sleeps"
(Tehilim 78:65, cited by Esther Rabah 7:12). When the Jews repented with a
complete Teshuvah and they took upon themselves to fulfill the Torah as if
they were accepting it for the first time, as it says "Kiyemu v'Kiblu"
(Esther 9:27; Shabbos 88a), Hashem responded accordingly and treated the Jews
with a display of renewed love.
(b) This theme is reflected in other elements of Purim. The Gemara (Megilah
7b) states that a person should become inebriated on Purim "Ad d'Lo Yada Bein
Baruch Mordechai l'Arur Haman." The REMA (OC 695:2) rules that it does not
mean that one should get drunk, but rather it means that one should drink a
little and then go to sleep. Perhaps the reason that a person should fulfill
the Halachah in this way is to commemorate what happened on Purim; the Jews
were "sleeping" and Hashem was acting as if He was asleep, and through the
miraculous events of Purim, the Jews were inspired to do Teshuvah and they
awoke from their slumber, becoming worthy of Hashem awaking from His slumber,
so to speak.
In addition, the Gemara (Megilah 10b) says that Mordechai's name comes from
the words "Mor Dror" (or "Mori Dachi" in Aramaic) which was the first of the
Besamim used in the Shemen ha'Mishchah and the Ketores (Shemos 30:23). This
alludes to the fact that one of Mordechai's talents was arousing people to
renew their love of Hashem. Just like the aroma of the Besamim which went
into the Ketores was always stimulating and no one could ever become bored of
the smell, so, too, Mordechai aroused the people to a level of love of Hashem
that never becomes dull.
This quality of Ketores is hinted to in the Mishnah (Yoma 26a) which says
"Chadashim la'Ketores" (which literally means that only new Kohanim, who had
never brought the Ketores before, could participate in the Payis for the
Ketores). A characteristic of the aromatic Ketores is that its sweet smell
arouses people to renew their love of Hashem. Perhaps partly in order to take
advantage of this point, it was instituted that only new Kohanim could bring
the Ketores, in order that the Mitzvah be done with even greater zeal and
(c) This element of Purim, of the Jews awakening from their slumber, explains
why Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi said that "one is obligated to read the Megilah
at night, and to repeat it at day (u'Leshanosah ba'Yom)." This strange way of
saying that the Megilah should be read a second time confused his students,
who thought that he meant that the Mishnayos ("Leshanosah ") of Maseches
Megilah should be learned during the day. Why did Rebbi Yehoshua state his
ruling in such a strange way, instead of saying simply that one must "read
the Megilah again" during the day?
Moreover, TOSFOS there says the main reading is the one during the day. If
the first reading of the Megilah is at night, why is the main reading during
The answer is that by reading it a second time and making that the main
reading, while emphasizing that it is a *repeat* of the first reading
("Leshanosah"), one shows that he is not bored with the Mitzvah, and thereby
rectifies the shortcoming of the people at the time of Purim! (M. Kornfeld)