Ahasheverosh ends up giving the Jews to Haman for free! This is like two men who both need what the other has. One has a mound and wants to level his field into the other’s ditch. One has a ditch and wants to fill it up with the other’s mound. In the end, they are both happy because they make the exchange for free. So too Ahashverosh wants to get rid of his Jews and Haman wants to kill the Jews. Ahashverosh is so willing, he does not even take the money.
In last week’s daf we learned that Israel’s sins were what allowed Haman to issue his decree to kill all of the Jews. Throughout the Tanakh, the prophets and prophetesses consistently warn Israel to repent, but rarely does it work. But what did get the Jews to repent, and mourn and wear sackcloth (Esther 4:3)? The threat to their lives that occurred when Ahashverosh took off his ring.
According to the rabbis the prophets never added anything to the “Torah,” i.e. the corpus of commandments that a Jew must observe, except for the reading of the Megillah. This is a reading of Purim we’ve seen elsewhere—it’s the holiday of innovation. The prophets derived the obligation to read the Megillah from a “kal vehomer” argument. If we sang the praise of God after the Exodus from Egypt, all the more so we should sing it when we were saved from death at the time of Haman. Of course, the problem is that we do not recite Hallel on Purim—we say the Megillah. The Talmud answers that we don’t recite Hallel for miracles that occurred outside of Israel.
If we don’t say Hallel for miracles that occurred outside of Israel, then how can we say Hallel for the Exodus itself! The answer is that there is a difference between miracles that occurred before the Israelites entered the land (such as the Exodus), and those that occurred after they entered the land. Once the Jews entered the land, they could only say Hallel for miracles that occurred in the land. That is why we don’t say Hallel on Purim.
Rava said: There is a good reason in that case [of the Exodus from Egypt] because it says [in the Hallel], “Praise you O servants of the Lord,” and not servants of Pharaoh. But can we say in this case, “Praise you, servants of the Lord” and not servants of Ahashverosh? We are still servants of Ahashverosh.
By offering other reasons for why we don’t say Hallel on Purim, Rava and R. Nahman imply that we could say Hallel for miracles that occurred in other lands. This contradicts the baraita from above. The resolution is that once all of the people went into exile, it again became proper to recite Hallel
Above, we said that there only 48 prophets. But a verse in Samuel is read [based on pun—Ramataim=matayim (200)] as if there were 200 “Tzophim”—prophets—just in Eli’s time.
The answer is that there were many prophets. But only the prophesies that contain lessons for the future generations was written down.
The Talmud now offers two other interpretations for the place Ramataim-Tzophim. The first is physical—it refers to heights (ramot) that face each other (tzophim means to look or face). The second interpretation is that it refers to Eli’s ancestors. Eli was a priest, a descendent of Korah. Korah’s sons didn’t die. They were swallowed up by the earth, preserved in Gehinnom so that they wouldn’t fall to its depths.
In a baraita in yesterday’s section we learned that there were seven prophetesses. The Talmud now begins to list them and explain how we know they were prophetesses.
That Sarah was a prophet is derived from what R. Isaac considers her alternative name—Yiskah. He says that this name is connected to the verb, sakhtah, which means to “see” but has the connotation of seeing prophetic visions. This is supported by the fact that God tells Abraham to heed everything Sarah has to say.
Alternatively, “sakhin” refers to the fact that people looked at her for her beauty.
Interestingly, we have here two different versions of Sarah’s worth, and perhaps by extension, women in general. According to the first version, Sarah’s value is in that God speaks through her. According to the second, more mundane version, she is just an object of beauty.
Miriam is called a prophet directly by the verse. The midrash here explains what her prophesy was. She predicted that her younger brother, not yet born, would save Israel. But when he was thrown into the river, her prophecy seemed to be in doubt. This explains why she went down to the river to see what would become of him.
Devorah from the book of Judges is also called a prophetess. The Talmud asks why she was also called “woman of flames.” The simple meaning of this phrase is probably that she was from a place called “Lapidot.” Midrashically, the Talmud interprets “woman of flames” to mean that she made wicks to be used in the Menorah in the Temple.
She sat under a palm tree, an open place, to avoid being secluded with any man who came to seek her advice. The rabbis were very concerned that women should not be secluded with men. This is known as “yihhud.”
The palm tree is also interpreted more as a metaphor, symbolizing Israel’s solidarity during that generation, in their devotion to God.
Hannah, the mother of the prophet Shmuel, was also a prophetess. Her prophecy is derived from her words “My horn is exalted.” David and Solomon were anointed with oil poured from a horn and their kingdom lasted. Saul and Yehu (see II Kings 9:3) were anointed from a cruse of oil, and their kingships were cut short.
Having begun interpreting Hannah’s song in II Samuel 2, the Talmud continues with a few more explanations. R. Judah b. Menashya plays off the word “biltekha” showing that God is different from human beings. When human beings make things, the objects outlast the person (at least they did back then, nowadays I’m not sure). But God outlasts His works.
God is the greatest artist. Human artistic creations simply cannot be compared with the wondrous creation of life, fashioned inside a person by God.
Abigail was married to a scoundrel named Naval, when David sent men to ask her for bread. Naval foolishly refused, causing David to set out to kill him. Abigail went to David to try to appease him and succeeded. Eventually, Naval died and David married Abigail.
The verse says that she came down on the hidden side of the mountain. This is a strange detail—why on the hidden side of the mountain, and not just down the mountain.
Rabbah b. Shmuel now begins an extended midrash, in which we shall eventually see what Abigail prophesied. Abigail was coming down the mountain to David to ask him questions about her menstrual blood. David here is portrayed in the way that a typical rabbi is portrayed—women came to ask whether their blood was impure. The story continues below.
Abigail showed the blood stain, assumedly on a sheet, to David. He replies that we don’t show blood stains at night—for obvious reasons. She, being a prophetess, responds that David should not be coming to execute Naval for we don’t judge capital cases at night. David responds that Naval is a rebel, and rebels against the king do not even need to be judged. The king can execute them without a trial. She defends her husband by replying that King Saul was still alive, so how was Naval supposed to know that David was king.
This section shows how Abigail saved David twice, and was also a prophetess. David says that she prevented him from shedding blood, but he uses the word “bloods” as if to say she prevented him from another type of blood. This second blood was the menstrual blood. David wanted to lie with her, because she was exceedingly beautiful (and David is David, after all). She told him “let not ‘this’ meaning ‘me’ be a stumbling block for you.” Abigail was not a stumbling block for David—he did not lie with her until Naval died. But Bathsheba was a stumbling block for David. This was predicted by Abigail, and eventually came true. Thus she was a prophetess.
Abigail, when departing from David, asks him to remember her in the future. She knows that her current scoundrel of a husband, Naval, will die, and she wants David to marry her later on. Abigail, married but already securing a future marriage, is like a woman who can talk and spin wool at the same time. She was a good multi-tasker. Another folk-saying illustrating this is that even though the goose walks with its head down, its eyes look far off.