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Megilah, 16

MEGILAH 16, 17, 18, and 19 (1st day of Sukos) 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.


AGADAH: The Gemara relates that when Haman went to Mordechai to dress him in the royal garments and lead him upon the royal horse, he found Mordechai sitting in front of the Rabanan, teaching them the laws of the Kemitzah (the handful of flour brought for the Korban Minchah). The same story appears in the Midrash (Esther Raba 10:4).

(a) In addition, the Midrash relates that the Rabanan who learned before Mordechai were children; he was a 'Cheder (kindergarten) Rebbi.' According to the Midrash, Haman first came looking for Mordechai on the previous night, the night that Haman built the gallows upon which he intended to hang Mordechai. He found him seated with 22,000 children before him, dressed in sackcloth and studying Torah. The children had been fasting for three days. Haman had them shackled in iron chains and appointed guards to watch them, announcing, "Tomorrow, I will first kill these children and then hang Mordechai!" They all burst out in tears and their cries rose to the heavens. Two hours into the night, Hashem hearkened unto their cries, and "at that moment, Hashem took the decrees [that He had written to punish the Jews] and tore them up" (ESTHER RABA 9:4).

In an earlier Midrash (Esther Raba 7:13) we find that it was a group children who first heartened Mordechai with an omen from heaven that his prayers would be answered. We see from the Midrash that it was the *children* who predicted, and brought about, Haman's downfall. This is reflected in the verse that says, "Through the mouths of children and babes You have shown Your power to the oppressors, bringing an end to a vengeful enemy" (Tehilim 8:3).

This explains the widespread custom that is cited by the REMA (OC 690) in the name of the AVUDRAHAM and ORCHOS CHAYIM. The Rema writes, "It was once customary for *children* to draw a picture of Haman or to write the name 'Haman' on sticks and stones and to clap them together so as to erase his name, in the spirit of the verse, 'You shall erase all trace of Amalek...' (Devarim 25:19). This eventually evolved into the children's present custom of banging [at the mention of] Haman when the Megilah is read publicly." Perhaps it was the practice of *children* to demonstrate the eradication of Haman by erasing his name from stones and by protesting the mention of his name, because it was they who brought about his downfall!

(b) It is indeed appropriate for children to play an important role in protecting us from Haman in particular and from Amalek in general. According to the Gemara (Bechoros 5b and Rashi there), Amalek first attacked the Jewish nation only because they "weakened their hands from [studying] the words of the Torah." When the Jewish People conquered Amalek, they corrected this weakness, and stood ready to accept on Har Sinai the rest of the Torah and Mitzvos. Similarly, Haman only succeeded in passing his evil decree because the Jews "were lazy in the study of Torah" (Megilah 11a).

It is the role of our children to preserve the study of Torah among us. According to the Midrash (Shocher Tov 8; Shir ha'Shirim Rabah 1:4:1, see also Shabbos 33b), our children are our "guarantors" that we will study the Torah. Children learn Torah in the purest manner possible, since "the breath (i.e. speech) of one who has not sinned cannot be compared to that of one who has sinned" (Shabbos 119b). The children, who had not accomplished their task of seeing to the perpetuation of Torah in Israel, fell prey along with the rest of the nation to Haman's evil plot. When the children, led by their bold mentor, Mordechai, strengthened themselves in the study of Torah, the Jewish people too became stronger, and as a result were saved from the hands of the enemy. The jubilant nation was now prepared to accept the entire Torah anew (Shabbos 88a, "Kiyemu v'Kiblu").

(c) Our observation about children being central to the miracle of Purim lends clarity to what Tosfos writes later in Megilah.

In the Mishnah in Megilah 19b, Rebbi Yehudah states that a minor may read the Megilah for an adult on Purim. Why is this? We know that for all other Mitzvos, a minor cannot exempt an adult from his obligation to perform the Mitzvah, because the minor's obligation is only due to Chinuch and is thus secondary to the adult's obligation. What makes the Mitzvah of reading Megilas Esther different from all other Mitzvos?

TOSFOS (24a, DH Aval) addresses this question by referring to the obligation of women to read the Megilah. Tosfos explains that when the Chachamim instituted the Mitzvah of reading the Megilah, they fully obligated minors along with adults in this Mitzvah, because "children, too, were included in the miracle" of Purim, just as the Gemara (4a) obligates women to read the Megilah for this reason. Since their obligation in reading the Megilah is not just a secondary obligation of Chinuch, but rather the same primary obligation as applies to all adults, minors may exempt adults by reading the Megilah for them according to Rebbi Yehudah.

There are *two* explanations among the Rishonim for what the Gemara means when it says that women are obligated in the Mitzvah because "they were also included in the miracle:" (1) Haman originally decreed that Jewish women, as well as men, were to be slain (Esther 3:13). Since the Purim miracle saved the lives of the women just as much as it saved the lives of the men, it is only appropriate for women, too, to proclaim their appreciation for the salvation by reading the Megilah every year. This logic is indeed applicable to children as well. (2) On Purim, a woman was the *central figure* in the Jews' salvation. It was Queen Esther who risked her life and persuaded the Persian king to intervene on the Jews' behalf. In recognition of that fact, the Sages placed the obligation of reading the Megilah upon women as well as upon men. How can this logic be applied to obligate *children* in Megilah like adults? In what way were children instrumental in bringing about the rescue from Haman's decree? According to the Midrashim mentioned above, children indeed played a pivotal role in bringing about the salvation of Purim. That is why, according to Rebbi Yehudah, children have the same obligation to read the Megilah as adults, because they caused the salvation of Purim to come about! (M. Kornfeld)

OPINIONS: The Gemara relates that Haman's downfall was due to the merit of the fasting and repenting of the Jewish people. The Gemara says that after being honored by Haman at the orders of the king, Mordechai returned to his fasting and sackcloth. Later that same day, Haman was killed.

(a) RASHI proves from here that the three-day fast decreed by Esther was observed on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth of Nisan, since Mordechai was still fasting after being led by Haman on the horse. The day he was led by Haman had to be the sixteenth of Nisan, since he was teaching the laws of the Korban ha'Omer that morning. Later that day (on the 16th), Haman was hung on his own gallows.

(b) The MIDRASHIM, however (ESTHER RABA 8:7; PIRKEI D'REBBI ELIEZER #50) say clearly that the fast was observed on the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of Nisan. It ended on the fifteenth of Nisan and on the following night, the eve of the 16th of Nisan, "the slumber of the king was disturbed" and the prayers of the Jews were answered. (In fact, the RASHASH (15a) sheds doubt on Rashi's interpretation of the Gemara and suggests that according to our Gemara as well, the public fast may have ended on the 15th and not on the 16th. The reason why Mordechai was still fasting after being led around on the horse was because it is the practice of the righteous to *continue* their fast, even past its limit, until their prayers are answered -- as the Midrash (ESTHER RABA 10:6) says openly.)

(c) What might be a third opinion is recorded in the TARGUM. According to the Targum (Esther 6:1), the night during which the king's slumber was disturbed was the eve o the *15th* of Nisan, the night during which Hashem killed the firstborn of the Egyptians. (This might the intention of the poet in one of the stanzas of "Vayehi ba'Chatzi ha'Laylah," which is sung after the Seder on the night of Pesach.) If so, the Targum must disagree with our Gemara's statement that the Korban ha'Omer brought about our salvation.

However, the Targum's opinion does not seem to conform to the verses in Megilas Esther, which relate that Esther went to invite the king to the first banquet on "the third day." The third day means, at earliest, the third day from Haman's decree, or the afternoon of the fifteenth of Nisan. Since the king's sleep was disturbed on the *following* evening, it could not have been before the eve of the 16th of Nisan that his slumber was disturbed! (The MAHARSHA on Daf 15a (DH va'Ya'avor), was bothered by this question and offers a forced solution.)

Perhaps we may answer that the Targum means to say the following. Outside of Eretz Yisrael, the Jews never knew for sure what day Beis Din in Eretz Yisrael had declared to be a New Moon. For this reason, they observed two days of Yom Tov. Mordechai thought that Adar only had 29 days that year, as usual, and because of that he wrote that Haman's decree was enacted on the 13th of Nisan. He taught his students the laws of Kemitzah (and the slumber of the king was disturbed) on the night he thought to be the 16th of Nisan, which is the day upon which Haman was hung. However, the Targum is asserting that Mordechai's chronology was off; Adar was actually 30 days that year, and the night he taught the laws of Kemitzah (and the king's slumber was disturbed) was actually the 15th of Nisan! The dates recorded in the Megilah are based on what Mordechai *thought* them to be, and not on what they actually were declared to be by the court in Eretz Yisrael. In fact, Mordechai may never have found out what day the month was declared to be in Eretz Yisrael that year! (M. Kornfeld)

AGADAH: The Midrash (see Insight #1, above) relates that Haman came to Mordechai on the night that Haman built the gallows upon which he intended to hang Mordechai the next day. He went to Mordechai and found him seated with children before him, dressed in sackcloth and studying Torah. The children had been fasting for three days. Haman had them shackled in iron chains and appointed guards to watch them, announcing, "Tomorrow, I will first kill these children and then hang Mordechai!" They all burst out in tears. Even though their parents brought them food to break their fast, they refused the food and continued to fast for another night. Two hours into the night, Hashem hearkened unto their cries, and "at that moment, Hashem took the decrees [that He had written to punish the Jews] and tore them up" (ESTHER RABA 9:3).

The Midrash says that Hashem decided to save the Jewish people *two hours* into the night. What is the significance of this? Why should the salvation of the Jewish people occur two hours into the night?

ANSWER: HAGAON RAV MOSHE SHAPIRO (of Yerushalayim) answered this question based on a statement made in the name of the VILNA GA'ON, cited in YEINAH SHEL TORAH. When Esther announced the fast, she told Mordechai to have everyone fast for three days. She said, "I and my maidens will also similarly fast (Gam Ani v'Na'arosai Atzum *Ken*)," and she added that with the merit of the three-day fast, "with that (u'*v'Chen*) I will come to the king" (Esther 4:16).

The Gematria of "v'Chen" is 72. Esther meant that in the merit of the three- day (72-hour) fast with which she would come to the king. (The Midrash, Esther Raba 9:2, explains that Hashem never leaves the Jews when they are afflicted more than three days before He answers their prayers.) However, when she said that she, too, will fast, she said "Gam Ani... Atzum *Ken*" -- "I also... will similarly fast." The Gematria of "Ken" is 70 -- Esther was saying that she will only fast for 70 hours, or two complete days and *most*, but not all, of the third day.

The reason that Esther was not going to complete her fast on the third day was because she intended to go into the king and invite him to her banquet, as part of her efforts to save the Jewish people. Her audience with the king was going to be before nightfall on the third day, and it was not possible for her to go see the king while having fasted for three days, weak and disheveled and with bad breath. Therefore, she had to break her fast two hours early in order to prepare to stand before the king. (The Targum Sheni 6:1, in contrast, writes that part of the miracle was that she was disheveled due to her fast when she entered the king's chambers.)

The two hours missing from Esther's fast were made up for by the two extra hours that the children fasted into the night, not accepting food from the parents. That is why their prayers were answered exactly two hours into the night! (This conforms to the view of the Midrash, that Esther appeared before the king to invite him to her banquet on the *last* day of the three day fast, see previous Insight.)


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