Megillah, Daf Tet Zayin, Part 6 Introduction We now return to our regularly scheduled midrashing on the book of Esther. , ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר+'אסתר ח+ כי נר מצוה ותורה+'משלי ו+ וכן הוא אומר, זו תורה- אורה:אמר רב יהודה .אור , ושמחת בחגך+דברים ט"ז+ וכן הוא אומר, זה יום טוב- שמחה שש אנכי על אמרתך+תהלים קי"ט+ וכן הוא אומר, זו מילה- ששון ' וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה+דברים כ"ח+ וכן הוא אומר, אלו תפלין- ויקר . אלו תפלין שבראש: רבי אליעזר הגדול אומר,נקרא עליך ויראו ממך ותניא "The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor" (Esther 8:16). Rav Judah said: "Light" means the Torah, and so it says, "For the commandment is a lamp and the Torah is a light" (Proverbs 6:23). "Gladness" means a festival day; and so it says, "And you shall be glad on your festival" (Deuteronomy 16:14). "Joy" means circumcision; and so it says, "I rejoice at Your word" (Psalms 119:162). "Honor" means tefillin, and so it says, "And all the peoples of the earth shall see that the name of the Lord is called upon you, and they shall be afraid of you" (Deuteronomy 28:10); and it has been taught: R. Elazar the Great says that this refers to the tefillin of the head. R. Judah gives particular interpretations to all of the general words in Esther 8:16. Most of these are comparisons between the word here and the word as used in another context. There are a few points that require explanation. "I rejoice at Your word" is understood as a reference to circumcision for God gives the commandment of circumcision using the word " "ויאמרand not "וידבר." See Genesis 17:9. The midrash on honor is not based on the use of the word in Deuteronomy 28:10. Rather, it is based on R. Elazar's interpretation of that verse: when the people of the world see Israel wearing tefillin, they will be afraid of them, i.e. they will honor them. The tefillin seem to be like a crown of glory, demonstrating that Israel fights in the name of the Almighty Lord. עשרת בני המן: אמר רב אדא דמן יפו,ואת פרשנדתא וגו' עשרת בני המן כולהו בהדי הדדי נפקו- מאי טעמא. צריך למימרינהו בנשימה אחת- ועשרת וי"ו דויזתא צריך למימתחה בזקיפא כמורדיא: אמר רבי יוחנן.נשמתייהו . כולהו בחד זקיפא אזדקיפו- ? מאי טעמא.דלברות "And Parshandata . . . the ten sons of Haman" (Esther 9:710). R. Adda from Yaffo said: The ten sons of Haman and the word "ten" [which follows] should be said in one breath. What is the reason? Because they all died in one breath. R. Yohanan said: The vav of Vaizata must be lengthened like a boat-pole of the river Librut. What is the reason? Because they were all strung on one pole. There are two special rules with regards to the section about the hanging of Haman's ten sons. First, since they all died at the exact same moment, they all must be said in one breath. This is not easy—some long hard to pronounce names. Second, the vav of the word "Vaizata" must be lengthened like a boat-pole, for all ten sons were hung on one pole. כל השירות כולן: דרש רבי שילא איש כפר תמרתא:אמר רבי חנינא בר פפא , חוץ משירה זו ומלכי כנען,נכתבות אריח על גבי לבינה ולבינה על גבי אריח מאי טעמא? שלא תהא תקומה. ולבינה על גבי לבינה,שאריח על גבי אריח .למפלתן R. Shila, a man of Kefar Temarta expounded: All the songs [in Scripture] are written in the form of a half brick over a whole brick, and then a whole brick over a half brick, with the exception of this one and the list of the kings of Canaan which are written in the form of a half brick over a half brick and a whole brick over a whole brick. What is the reason? So that they should never rise again from their downfall. If you have ever looked at a Sefer Torah you will notice that songs are written in a special form—a half-brick of writing over a brick of writing on the next line, with a brick over a half-brick of writing. In the first line there would be a half brick followed by a full brick, followed by another half brick, a space separating each brick/halfbrick. In the second line there would be a brick followed by another brick, again with a space in between. Every half brick is on top of a brick. But there are two exceptions—the list of Haman's sons and the list of kings in Joshua 12:9-24. These are written half brick over half brick. They cannot "move up" because there is always something directly in the line above them. This is a symbolic way of preventing them from ever rising again. : אמר רבי אבהו,ויאמר המלך לאסתר המלכה בשושן הבירה הרגו היהודים .מלמד שבא מלאך וסטרו על פיו "And the king said to the queen: In Shushan the castle the Jews have slain . . ." (Esther 9:12). This teaches us that an angel came and slapped him on his mouth. In this verse, which is not fully quoted here, at first it seems that Ahashverosh is angry that the Jews are massacring so many people. But then he proceeds to tell Esther that she can have whatever he wants. It’s a strange turnaround in one verse. To explain it the midrash says that an angel came and slapped him on his mouth. : אמר? אמרה מבעי ליה! אמר רבי יוחנן,ובבאה לפני המלך אמר עם הספר . יאמר בפה מה שכתוב בספר:אמרה לו "But when she came before the king, he said along with the letter" (Esther 9:25). "He said"? It should read, "she said"? R. Yohanan said: She said: Let there be said by word of mouth what is written in the letter. This verse looks as if it should be said by Esther, not Ahashverosh. It seems to be Esther instructing Ahashverosh to turn Haman's plot onto Haman's own head. R. Yohanan interprets the verse to mean that the words in the book are Esther's. Esther gave him the scroll and Ahashverosh was to pronounce the words in it. Thus Ahashverosh speaks, but the content is hers. מלמד שצריכה: ואמרי לה אמר רבי אסי, אמר רבי תנחום,דברי שלום ואמת .שרטוט כאמיתה של תורה "Words of peace and truth": R. Tanhum said: [or, according to some, R. Assi]: This shows that the Megillah must be written on ruled lines, like the true essence of the Torah. Since the book of Esther is called "truth" it must be written like the Torah, with ruled lines. : לא? אמר רבי יוחנן- דברי הצומות, אין- מאמר אסתר,ומאמר אסתר קים +] [דברי:מסורת הש"ס+ ) ומאמר אסתר קים (את ימי,...דברי הצומות הפרים האלה "And the ordinance of Esther upheld" (Esther 9:32): Only the ordinance of Esther and not the words of the fasts? R. Yohanan said: The words of the fasts and the ordinance of Esther upheld these matters of Purim." Esther 9:31 is a letter from Ahashverosh directing his kingdom to observe all that Esther has commanded, including the annulling of the decree, and the observance of fasts. But then in vs. 32 it says only that the "ordinance of Esther" saved the Jews. This implies that their fasts did not. R. Yohanan resolves this by rereading the verse, attaching the end of vs. 31 to vs. 32. The fasts and crying out to God and Esther's words to Ahashverosh are what saved the day. Neither would have been sufficient alone. לרוב,כי מרדכי היהודי משנה למלך אחשורוש וגדול ליהודים ורצוי לרב אחיו : אמר רב יוסף. שפירשו ממנו מקצת סנהדרין: מלמד, ולא לכל אחיו- אחיו דמעיקרא חשיב ליה למרדכי בתר.גדול תלמוד תורה יותר מהצלת נפשות אשר באו עם זרבבל+'עזרא ב+ מעיקרא כתיב.ארבעה ולבסוף בתר חמשה הבאים עם+'נחמיה ז+ ולבסוף כתיב,ישוע נחמיה שריה רעליה מרדכי בלשן אמר רב ואיתימא רב.זרבבל ישוע נחמיה עזריה רעמיה נחמני מרדכי בלשן שכל זמן, גדול תלמוד תורה יותר מבנין בית המקדש:שמואל בר מרתא . לא הניחו עזרא ועלה- שברוך בן נריה קיים For Mordecai the Jew was second to king Ahashverosh, and great among the Jews and accepted by most of his brother" (Esther 10:3) Most of his brothers but not of all his brothers; this informs us that some members of the Sanhedrin separated from him. R. Joseph said: The study of the Torah is superior to the saving of life. For at first Mordecai was counted next after four, but afterwards next after five. At first it is written, "Who came with Zerubabel: Yeshua, Nehemiah, Serahyah, Re'elayah, Mordecai, Bilshan" (Ezra 2:2) and subsequently it is written, Who came with Zerubabel, Yeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan" (Nehemiah 7:3). This section again notes the conflict between political and religious authority. The verse from Esther seems to hint that Mordecai was not accepted by all of his brothers. The midrash explains that after he became second to the king, some of his fellow rabbis (Mordecai is understood by the midrash to be a "rabbi") separated from him. The time spent working in politics would have taken them away from what they really wanted to be doing—studying Torah. The same message is hinted at in R. Joseph's midrash. R. Joseph says that studying Torah is more important than even saving lives, as Mordecai did for the Jews in Shushan and the rest of the kingdom. At first, when he was just studying Torah, Mordecai was the fifth in the list of those with Zerubabel. But when he stopped studying Torah to save lives, he was demoted to sixth. I should note that I read this counterintuitive midrash as being purposefully provocative, fighting against what most people surely think. The obvious position is that saving lives takes precedence over study. After all, one cannot study when one is dead. There is no doubt that this is true. But the midrash is trying to say that we should not so simply assume that politicians are superior to religious leaders. At times we need to state that studying Torah takes precedence over everything else, even the saving of a life. In other words, while I wouldn't want a real law to be shaped by this sentiment, i.e. I wouldn't want to see someone studying instead of actually saving a life, I do believe that as a value statement, this resonates with me.
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