Esther 9

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And so, in the month of Adar, on the 13th day, things turned out the opposite of the way Haman had planned. The Jews assembled to defend themselves, which they accomplished easily. The rulers of the various districts in the empire even elevated the Jews' status because Mordechai had been promoted in the government. The Jews handily struck down their antagonists; in the capital of Shushan, there were 500 such enemies, including the ten sons of Haman. While the Jews were entitled to seize their enemies' property as the spoils of war, they voluntarily did not do so.

Ahasuerus told Esther how things had gone in Shushan and elsewhere in the empire. He asked if she had any further requests. She asked for one more day in the capital, plus that the bodies of Haman's sons should be publicly displayed. The king ordered that Esther's wishes be carried out. And so, the Jews of Shushan had another day in which they fought their enemies, and another 300 were killed. Across the 127 provinces of the empire, 75,000 were killed, but the Jews did not take the opportunity to seize their enemies' wealth.

The Jews in the empire fought on the 13th of Adar and rested on the 14th, but those in Shushan continued to fight on the 14th and did not rest until the 15th. This is why Jews who live in open cities celebrate Purim on 14 Adar, but those in walled cities celebrate "Shushan Purim" on 15 Adar. Mordechai recorded all these events (in what we call Megillat Esther - this very book!) and distributed to all Jews in the empire, instructing them to celebrate these days in perpetuity. This joyous occasion would be celebrated with feasting and sending food to loved ones, as well as giving gifts to the needy. The Jews agreed to this and re-accepted the Torah upon themselves out of pure love. (They had previously accepted it at Sinai, which was binding, but the whole experience then was a little intimidating. Here, they "renewed their vows" solely because they desired to do so.) The holiday was named Purim for the "pur," the lots that Haman had cast to choose the date of his plot. Purim was established as a universal holiday among the Jewish people, never to be revoked (not even in Messianic times). Esther reinforced Mordechai's letter with one of her own. Purim was firmly established and the Book of Esther was canonized.

In the list of the names of Haman's ten sons who were hanged, three letters are written smaller than the rest of the text: a taf, a shin and a zayin. The meaning of this was obscure for thousands of years, but is crystal clear in hindsight. Taf-shin-zayin corresponds to the year 5707. On October 16, 1946 (21 Tishrei, 5707), ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged in Nuremberg. Julius Streicher's last words, reported in Newsweek Magazine, were "Purimfest 1946."

Author: Rabbi Jack Abramowitz