1) AGADAH: ESTHER AND THE DOE
QUESTION: The Gemara cites the verse in Tehilim (22:1), "la'Menatze'ach Al Ayeles ha'Shachar." The Gemara explains that David ha'Melech recited this psalm as a prayer for Esther.
Rebbi Zeira explains why David ha'Melech compares Esther to an Ayeles, a doe: just as an Ayeles is beloved to its mate at every moment just like the very first moment, so, too, Esther was beloved to Achashverosh at every moment just like the first moment that he met her.
Why is it important for David ha'Melech to mention this quality of Esther in his prayer and to relate Achashverosh's love for her?
ANSWER: The Gemara (Berachos 58a) teaches that "Malchusa d'Ar'a k'Ein Malchusa d'Raki'a" -- the qualities of an earthly, corporeal king reflect the qualities of the heavenly King. This theme is also expressed in the Midrash (Esther Rabah 3:15) when it says that every time the word "ha'Melech" ("the King") appears in Megilas Esther (and refers, in the simple sense, to King Achashverosh), it is an allusion to the King of Kings, Hash-m.
When David ha'Melech relates the love that Achashverosh had for Esther, he alludes to the relationship between Hash-m and the Jewish people. As a result of the virtuous deeds of Esther during the time of Purim, the relationship of Hash-m to the Jewish people changed. Hash-m expressed His love for them in a way that showed that He loves them with the same love as when they first became His people at the time the Torah was given.
This love is mutual. The Jewish people are the "Ayeles Ahavim" of Hash-m. The Gemara in Eruvin (54b) derives from the verse, "Ayeles Ahavim v'Ya'alas Chen" -- "a doe of love and a roe of grace" (Mishlei 5:19) -- that the words of Torah are compared to a doe: just as a doe is beloved to its mate as when they were first together, so, too, Divrei Torah are precious and beloved to the person who learns them as when he learned them for the first time.
This theme underlies the miracle of Purim. At that time of miraculous delivery from destruction, the Jewish people renewed their love for the Mitzvos, just as they felt when they received the Torah and Mitzvos at Sinai. Hash-m responded measure for measure and showed them that He loved them as much as when they first became His people.
The Jewish people's renewed love for Mitzvos, and Hash-m's display of love for the Jewish people, has further implications. When Haman presented to Achashverosh his plan for the destruction of the Jews, he argued, "Yeshno Am Echad" -- "there exists a certain nation" (Esther 3:8). The Gemara (Megilah 13b) explains that Haman said, "There is a certain nation which is sleeping (Yeshno) from the Mitzvos." Haman reasoned that his attempts to destroy the Jewish people would be successful, because the Jews' fulfillment of the Mitzvos had become so heartless; their apathy towards the Mitzvos would forfeit any Divine protection they might otherwise have been entitled to receive. Hash-m responded to their indolent performance of the Mitzvos measure for measure by acting as though He was sleeping, and He did not reveal His presence to them. Indeed, the Midrash relates that Haman claimed that Hash-m was "sleeping from protecting His people," and it cites the verse (Tehilim 44:24), "Arouse! Why should You sleep, Hash-m!" (See Esther Rabah 7:12, 10:1.)
The verse later in the Megilah says, "ba'Lailah ha'Hu Nadedah Shenas ha'Melech" -- "on that night, the king's sleep was disturbed" (Esther 6:1). The Midrash (Esther Rabah 10:1) comments that this verse refers to Hash-m's sleep. When the Jews realized the imminent danger that faced them, they repented and turned to Hash-m in fervent prayer and fasting. They aroused themselves from their slumber, and in return Hash-m aroused Himself from His slumber, so to speak -- "va'Yikatz k'Yashen Hash-m" -- "and Hash-m woke up as one who sleeps" (Tehilim 78:65, Esther Rabah 7:12). When the Jews repented sincerely and accepted upon themselves to fulfill the Torah as though it was the first time they received it -- as the verse says, "Kiyemu v'Kiblu" (Esther 9:27; Shabbos 88a) -- Hash-m responded accordingly and treated the Jews with a display of renewed love.
David ha'Melech refers to Esther as an "Ayeles," a symbol of her role as the one who prompted the reconciliation in the relationship between Hash-m and the Jewish people, so that they were as beloved to each other as they were at the time the Torah was given.
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," until he does not know the difference between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman." The REMA (OC 695:2) rules that the Gemara does not mean that one should get drunk, but rather that one should drink a little more than usual and then go to sleep. Perhaps the reason why a person should fulfill the Halachah of "Ad d'Lo Yada" in this way is to commemorate the events of Purim. The Jews were "sleeping from the Mitzvos," and Hash-m reacted as though He was asleep. Through the miraculous events of Purim, the Jews were inspired to do Teshuvah and to awaken themselves from their slumber, and they thereby became worthy of Hash-m awaking from His slumber, so to speak.
In addition, the Gemara (Megilah 10b) says that the name "Mordechai" comes from the words "Mor Deror" (or "Mor Dachi" in Aramaic). "Mor Deror" was the first of the spices and herbs used in the Shemen ha'Mishchah and the Ketores (Shemos 30:23). Just as the aroma of the ingredients of the Ketores continually stimulated the senses and no one ever tired of the smell, so, too, Mordechai aroused the people to renew their love for Hash-m to such a degree that their love would never become dull.
The Mishnah earlier (26a) alludes to this quality of the Ketores when it says, "Chadashim la'Ketores" (only "new" Kohanim who had never before offered the Ketores were permitted to participate in the Payis for the Ketores). A characteristic of the aromatic Ketores is that its sweet smell arouses people to renew their love for Hash-m. Perhaps this quality is reflected in the enactment that only "new" Kohanim ("Chadashim") may offer the Ketores. New Kohanim, who have never performed the Avodah of the Ketores, will perform the Mitzvah with great zeal and love.
Like Esther, who is compared to the Ayeles, Mordechai was able to bring his people to renew their love for Hash-m and His Torah. (M. Kornfeld) (See Insights to Megilah 13:4.)
2) AGADAH: PURIM -- THE END OF THE NIGHT
QUESTION: The Gemara cites the verse in Tehilim (22:1), "La'Menatze'ach Al Ayeles ha'Shachar." The Gemara explains that David ha'Melech recited this psalm as a prayer for Esther.
Rebbi Asi asks why David ha'Melech compares Esther to the "Shachar," the break of dawn. He answers that just as daybreak marks the end of the night, so, too, Esther marked the end of miracles.
Why does the Gemara compare the end of miracles to the beginning of the day? The occurrence of miracles grants man a glimpse of Hash-m's omnipresent involvement in the events of history. As such, it would be far more appropriate to compare the end of miracles to the end of the day, when darkness descends upon the world and man no longer has a clear view of Hash-m's direct involvement in the world.
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that the Gemara means that Purim is the end of the "miracles that occur in Galus." Such miracles are like flashes of light in the dark of night which encourage the Jew that Hash-m has not forsaken him. The Gemara does not mean that the miracles themselves are like the nighttime; rather, it refers to "miracles of the nighttime," miracles that occur during times of Galus. At the time of Purim, the darkness of the night of Galus began to wane and give way to daybreak, rendering flashes of light, or open miracles, unnecessary.
The Maharsha bases this explanation on the Midrash which says that all of the miracles in this world occur at night, but when the final Ge'ulah comes the miracles will occur during the day. Purim is the last of the miracles to occur during the night of Galus.
"Esther marked the end of miracles" means that after the miracle of Purim, no more miracles were necessary to remind the Jew that Hash-m is still with him, despite the apparent concealment of His presence. No "flashes of light" were necessary after the miracle of Purim, because it became clear at that time that Hash-m would always be with the Jewish people and protect them. The miracles that happened before Purim showed only that Hash-m was with the Jewish people when they lived in Eretz Yisrael and merited to have open miracles. When they were sent into Galus, however, the fear arose that Hash-m might not stay with them, as they did not have the merit to be worthy of open miracles outside of Eretz Yisrael. The miracle of Purim showed that Hash-m remains with His people even when they are in Galus. Even though Hash-m does not send open miracles like those that occurred when the Beis ha'Mikdash stood, He sends miracles disguised in natural occurrences in order to give the Jewish people the confidence that He will protect them through whatever they might endure until the final Ge'ulah.
The Gemara concludes that Purim was the last of the miracles that was "given over to be recorded in writing." There were other miracles after Purim (such as Chanukah), but those miracles did not have to be committed to writing. Only miracles that pertain to all future generations are formally committed to writing (Megilah 14a). It was not necessary to record the others, because the Jews already had the knowledge from the miracle of Purim that Hash-m would be with them until the final Ge'ulah.
(b) The MESHECH CHOCHMAH (beginning of Parshas Bechukosai) explains that the entire process of nature itself is a miracle. However, a person becomes accustomed to it and fails to give adequate praise to Hash-m. The open miracles that Hash-m performs serve to remind man about the miracles constantly present and inherent in the natural order of the world.
Man's ideal state of awareness of Hash-m is when he sees Hash-m's involvement in the normal functioning of the world, without open miracles. Open miracles are a crutch that enable a person to recognize Hash-m during a time when the darkness of night clouds his vision and blocks his view. A person, however, should ideally recognize Hash-m in the world without open miracles. At the time of the final Ge'ulah, the world will reach a state in which the knowledge and awareness of Hash-m in the natural course of the world will become evident to everyone, without open miracles. Purim initiated this state of awareness of Hash-m's involvement in the natural course of the world. It is appropriate, therefore, for the Gemara to compare the end of open miracles to the beginning of the day. (Heard from Rav Kalman Weinreb, shlit'a.)