Book of Esther Review
1. (Source Sheet 1, #5) For the first time, there are two major Jewish communities: one in Persia and one in Eretz Yisrael. There is a tension between the two communities. The community in Persia is assimilated and they were high up in status. The two communities do not mention one another; there is no mention of Shushan in any of the books of the people who lived in EY. In Persia, the Jews were very assimilated - the Jews intermarried and were economically very well off. In Israel, the Jews were very poor but very religious and resented the Persians for not returning to Israel to build the temple.
2. (Source Sheet 1, #6) Because the names are in Greek, we don’t know which Achashverosh is the ruler in the Purim story, so we need to look for a king with a huge empire of 127 countries. Rashi says he is after Cyrus after 70 years of Galut. There are 2 views: that he is Xerxes I according to Chazal based on Rashi, or Ataxerxes II according to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Tanach.
3. (Source Sheet 1, #8A) The Megillah starts in the 3rd year of the reign of Achashverosh. If he is Xerxes I, it is 483 BCE. The next date we have is year 7 of his reign, when Esther becomes the queen. In year 11-12 of his reign, Haman gives his decree and the Jewish salvation occurs.
4. We know that Megillah was written while the Persian Empire was still in power. Why is this important? There was a censorship. The author knew that he cannot write anything he wants to write; the king’s people will look at it and if it’s not according to what they want, they will ban it or kill the author.
5. (Source Sheet 1, #9 #10 #11) The first view is that the authors were the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah, but this is not accurate. There is also a view that Mordechai and Esther wrote the Megillah. There is also the view that the Megillah was written by an anonymous Jew who lived in the Persian Empire. There are Persian words in the Megillah (as opposed to Hebrew words) that hint to this.
6. (Source Sheet 1, #13) The Rabbis don’t want other nations to get jealous from the publication of the story. The story shows what happens when Jews become very powerful - they can bring down the Prime Minister, and kill all his family! This is not something that the Chachamim wanted to be public knowledge. Esther’s answer to that is that it’s already out there - you cannot bring it back! It is known in the chronicles of the Persian Empire. The second argument is that this is a story about Amalek; we have enough stories in the Tanach about Amalek! The answer to this is that it is never enough. We have a mitzvah to remember Amalek forever and ever. The third view is that it is such an important book that it was probably written with Ruach HaKodesh (the view of the Talmud). That Hashem helped the author write the story because how else would we know what Haman was thinking in his head?
7. Rav Yonatan Grossman shows how the Megillah is written in a chiastic structure, a structure in which there are two halves that parallel each other in an inverse form and are divided by a central point. The climax of the story is when Achashverosh cannot sleep at night and the horse-riding episode. What is the idea behind this structure? Middah k’negged middah. Additionally, this structure is perfect by the hand of God and nothing is a coincidence.
8. (Source Sheet 2, #21) Why at night?
This occurs when Yaakov wrestled with an angel at night and at the end of the struggle, he realized that he could now face Eisav because he understood that he would prevail over him. This also occurs when Israel was leaving Egypt and the death of the firstborn occurred at midnight.
9. Achashverosh thorws parties to show off his wealth and power so he can impress people. Why does he hold two parties? One for the elite - he had such a big kingdom so it took a lot of time for them to make it from all over the empire. The second was for the people of...
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