1) ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST THE WRITING OF THE BOOK OF ESTHER
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Esther requested from the Chachamim permission to record the miracle of Purim in writing. They dissented based on the verse in Mishlei (22:20) which says, "Have I not written for you a threesome (Shalishim)?" The verse implies that the defeat of Amalek may be recorded in writing only three times and no more.
The Chachamim, however, later agreed to Esther's request. They derived from a verse in the Torah that the miracle of the defeat of Amalek in the times of Esther may be written in a Sefer. The verse says, "Kesov Zos Zikaron ba'Sefer" -- "Record this as a remembrance in the book" (Shemos 17:14). "Zos" refers to the defeat of Amalek described in the end of Parshas Beshalach (Shemos 17:14-16) and the end of Parshas Ki Seitzei (Devarim 25:17-19). "Zikaron" refers to the defeat of Amalek recorded in Nevi'im (Shmuel I, ch. 15). "Ba'Sefer" refers to the defeat of Amalek recorded in an additional "Sefer" -- in the Book of Esther.
Why did the Chachamim change their mind? The verse in the Torah also mentions only three opportunities to record the defeat of Amalek, just as the verse in Mishlei implies. Why, when they expounded the verse in the Torah, did the Chachamim group together the two references to the defeat of Amalek in the Chumash and count them as one mention, but when they expounded the verse in Mishlei, they counted these two references as two separate mentions? (TUREI EVEN)
(a) RAV YAKOV EMDEN explains that the verse in Mishlei refers to the past, as it says, "Have I not written for you a threesome?" The Chachamim assumed that when Shlomo ha'Melech penned that verse he was referring to the three times at which the defeat of Amalek had been recorded in the past, before his lifetime. He was instructing that it not be recorded a fourth time -- presumably a reference to the times of Esther.
However, the Chachamim revised their understanding of the verse in Mishlei when they realized that the verse in the Torah refers to the future and says that the defeat of Amalek will be recorded three times in the future. The Chachamim understood that when Shlomo ha'Melech wrote the verse in Mishlei, he was merely reiterating what the verse in the Torah teaches. According to the Chachamim's revised interpretation of the verse in Mishlei, Shlomo ha'Melech's directive was not a reference to what was already written, and thus his verse may also imply that the two places in the Torah which record the defeat of Amalek are counted as one mention. Both verses allow for an opportunity in the future to record the defeat of Amalek one more time.
(b) The PNEI YEHOSHUA and MAHARATZ CHAYOS assert that the verse in Mishlei does not imply that Mechiyas Amalek may be written only three times, in three places. It does not limit the number of times that Mechiyas Amalek may be recorded. Rather, it implies that it may be recorded only in three sections of the Torah -- Torah (Chumash), Nevi'im, and Kesuvim ("Ta'Na'Ch"). (Tosfos' explanation of the word "Shalishim" differs from Rashi's explanation of that word.) The Chachamim initially reasoned that if the miracle of Purim would be written in a new Sefer, that Sefer would be a fourth section of the Torah, which Shlomo ha'Melech proscribes.
When the Chachamim expounded the verse in the Torah which implies that Mechiyas Amalek will be written three times, it became obvious to them that one of those three times includes all of the mentions of Mechiyas Amalek in the Chumash. Consequently, one opportunity to write it in a Sefer in Kesuvim (the Book of Esther) was left. That verse gave them the authority to add Megilas Esther to Kesuvim without adding an entirely new category of scriptures to the Torah.
(c) Perhaps the wording of the verse itself implies that the reference to Amalek in Beshalach and Ki Seitzei must be grouped together and counted as one. The word which refers to Torah is "Zos." The word "Zos" implies all of the Torah, as in the verse, "v'Zos ha'Torah..." (Devarim 4:44). (RASHASH)
Alternatively, the word "ba'Sefer" implies that a separate Sefer, Megilas Esther, is to be written on the topic of Mechiyas Amalek. Indeed, Megilas Esther is the only Sefer that focuses primarily on Mechiyas Amalek. This is alluded to in the verse (Esther 9:32), "And the request of Esther concerning the [recording of the] Purim miracle was fulfilled, and it was written in a Sefer (ba'Sefer)" (see Rashi there), the same word used in the verse, "Kesov Zos Zikaron ba'Sefer" (Shemos 17:14).
The SIFSEI CHACHAMIM adds that the Gematriya of "ba'Sefer" (342) equals the Gematriya of Haman (95), Agag (7), and Amalek (240), the three instances of Mechiyas Amalek which are recorded in Tanach, including the story of Megilas Esther.
2) THE WAY THE AMORA'IM FULFILLED "MISHLO'ACH MANOS"
OPINIONS: The Gemara relates that Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah sent to Rebbi Oshiya the shank of a calf and a barrel of wine. According to the text of our edition of the Gemara, Rebbi Oshiya sent back a message, "You have fulfilled the Mitzvah of Mishlo'ach Manos and Matanos l'Evyonim."
The text of our edition is actually a combination of two different Girsa'os. It is evident from the words of the Rishonim that, according to one Girsa, Rebbi Oshiya said only that Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah fulfilled the Mitzvah of "Mishlo'ach Manos," and according to a different Girsa he said only that Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah fulfilled the Mitzvah of "Matanos l'Evyonim."
(a) RASHI's text reads "Mishlo'ach Manos." Since Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah sent two portions to one person, he fulfilled the Mitzvah of Mishlo'ach Manos.
(b) According to RABEINU CHANANEL's text, Rebbi Oshiya told Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah that he fulfilled "Matanos l'Evyonim." He meant that Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah gave him only the amount that one normally gives to a poor person in fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Matanos l'Evyonim. Since Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah gave only one portion (the meat) and not two (the wine did not count), he did not fulfill the Mitzvah of Mishlo'ach Manos.
According to this Girsa, the Gemara continues and relates that Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah sent another calf-leg and three barrels of wine. This time, Rebbi Oshiya responded, "Now you have fulfilled Mishlo'ach Manos."
RAV TZVI PESACH FRANK (in MIKRA'EI KODESH) points out that a number of important Halachos may be inferred from this Girsa of the Gemara:
1. One fulfills the Mitzvah of Mishlo'ach Manos only with food and not with drink, since the wine that Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah sent did not count as one of the two required portions of Mishlo'ach Manos.
2. One may send the two items of Mishlo'ach Manos separately, in two different deliveries, and they join together to make the minimum number of portions (two) necessary for fulfilling the Mitzvah of Mishlo'ach Manos. The second calf-leg which Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah sent joined with the first so that it was considered as though he sent two portions of food at one time.
3. The two portions of Mishlo'ach Manos may be two of the same type of food, as Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah fulfilled the Mitzvah by sending two calf-legs.
The RITVA, however, explains the Girsa of Rabeinu Chananel in an entirely different manner (see also CHAYEI ADAM 155:31). The Ritva explains that Rebbi Oshiya complained that the amount of Mishlo'ach Manos which Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah sent him was not a respectable amount for someone of Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah's stature. When Rebbi Oshiya said, "You have sent me Matanos l'Evyonim," he meant that Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah had sent him only one portion of food respectable enough to fulfill the Mitzvah of Mishlo'ach Manos. A single barrel of wine is not respectable enough to be the second of the two "Manos." Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah understood Rebbi Oshiya's intention, and in his second delivery he sent three barrels of wine, a much larger gift. According to the Ritva's explanation, the opposite Halachic conclusions may be drawn:
1. One fulfills the Mitzvah of Mishlo'ach Manos with drink, as long as he sends an amount large enough to be considered befitting of the sender and respectable for the recipient.
2. One must send the two portions together in the same delivery, which is why Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah resent both portions, the barrels of wine and another calf-leg.
3. One does not fulfill the Mitzvah with two portions of the same type of food. He must send two different types of food, as Rebbi Yehudah Nesi'ah did (meat and wine). Although this requirement is not written explicitly in the Shulchan Aruch or Rema, this is the common practice today, as the ARUCH HA'SHULCHAN (OC 695:14) rules.
3) RABAH SLAUGHTERED REBBI ZEIRA
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Rabah invited Rebbi Zeira to his Purim Se'udah. During the Se'udah, Rabah arose and slaughtered Rebbi Zeira. The next day, Rabah prayed to Hash-m to bring Rebbi Zeira back to life.
What is the meaning of this narrative? How could the great and righteous Rabah kill another Amora?
The Acharonim point out that the Gemara in Shabbos (156a) says that Rabah was born in the constellation of Ma'adim, and people born in that Mazal tend to have a violent nature. As long as Rabah was learning Torah, his violent nature was channeled for holy purposes. On Purim, however, while he was not learning, his violent nature manifested itself in the slaughter of his comrade. This does not suffice to explain, however, how a holy Amora could commit such a terrible act.
(a) RAV YAKOV EMDEN explains that the Gemara says that a person may not fill his mouth with laughter in this world (Berachos 30b, in the name of Rabah according to one Girsa there). Rebbi Zeira there says that the more one refrains from rejoicing in this world, the more reward he will receive in the World to Come.
When Rabah conducted his Purim Se'udah, he saw that the party in his home was becoming too jovial. He sought to calm the excitement and transform the mood of those assembled to one of seriousness. He picked up a knife and swung it at the neck of Rebbi Zeira in an act that made it appear as though he was slaughtering Rebbi Zeira. Rebbi Zeira thought that Rabah seriously intended to kill him and he fainted from the shock. The fright was so great that he could have died had Rabah not prayed for him and revived him.
(b) The MAHARSHA writes that the Gemara does not mean that Rabah actually slaughtered Rebbi Zeira with a knife. Rather, the quantity of food and drink which Rabah gave to Rebbi Zeira was so great that he became deathly ill. Rabah wanted him to experience a sublime degree of Simchah and thus he encouraged Rebbi Zeira to continue drinking, until Rebbi Zeira's life was actually endangered. The next day Rabah prayed for Rebbi Zeira and he recovered.
The CHAVOS YA'IR (#152, cited at the end of Sefer Chafetz Chaim) suggests that different Amora'im had different approaches to serving Hash-m. He cites the Gemara in Berachos (30a) which relates an incident wherein Rebbi Yirmeyah looked too jovial, and Rebbi Zeira tried to somber him by mentioning the virtues of melancholy. That simple incident reflected different general approaches to life.
Rebbi Zeira maintained that fasting and self-affliction is the correct way to serve Hash-m and to achieve holiness. Indeed, Rebbi Zeira would fast for long periods of time, and he would test himself with various forms of self-affliction to assess his total devotion to Hash-m (Bava Metzia 85a). In contrast, Rebbi Yirmeyah maintained a jolly and cheerful attitude. He ruled that a person may not afflict himself beyond what the Torah requires. Indeed, Rebbi Yirmeyah says that a Nazir is considered a "sinner" (Nedarim 9b) for accepting upon himself excessive suffering. The Gemara in Nidah (23a) relates how Rebbi Yirmeyah -- in accordance with his path in Avodas Hash-m -- would attempt to break Rebbi Zeira's somberness and get him to laugh, because he maintained that Rebbi Zeira's somber attitude was not the correct way to serve Hash-m. Conversely, the Gemara in Berachos (ibid.) relates how Rebbi Zeira tried (unsuccessfully) to temper Rebbi Yirmeyah's joyousness.
Similarly, Rabah served Hash-m through the attribute of Simchah. The Gemara relates that he would open his lecture with a "Milsa di'Bedichusa" (Shabbos 30b), a humorous statement. Rebbi Zeira, as mentioned above, disagreed with Rabah's approach and maintained that one should serve Hash-m with solemnity. At his Purim Se'udah, Rabah saw that Rebbi Zeira was too solemn and was not experiencing the Simchah of Purim sufficiently, and thus he insisted that Rebbi Zeira eat and drink more. Rebbi Zeira could not refuse Rabah's request, because the Gemara in Pesachim (86b) teaches that "whatever the host tells you to do, you must do" (see Insights there), and thus he continued to eat and drink. However, since he was accustomed to fasting (Bava Metzia 85a), was unhealthy for him it to eat so much and as a result he became deathly ill. Hence, Rabah needed to pray for Rebbi Zeira's recovery. (M. KORNFELD)