Esther Fights for Her Rights

We don't treat a megillah scroll with the same respect as we treat a Torah scroll. The question, though, is why?

אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל אסתר אינה מטמאה את הידים

Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: The book of Esther does not render the hands ritually impure. Although the Sages issued a decree that sacred scrolls render hands ritually impure, the book of Esther was not accorded the sanctity of sacred scrolls.

1. Without reading ahead, why do you think we may not treat a megillah scroll with the same respect with which we treat a Torah scroll?

The rabbis discuss the reason why we may not treat the megillah with the same respect as the Torah. The debate relies on whether or not the "Divine Spirit" inspired the megillah - or, in other words, what God's role was in the story and how that impacted how it was written down for posterity.

למימרא דסבר שמואל אסתר לאו ברוח הקודש נאמרה והאמר שמואל אסתר ברוח הקודש נאמרה נאמרה לקרות ולא נאמרה ליכתוב

The Gemara asks: Is this to say that Shmuel maintains that the book of Esther was not stated with the inspiration of the Divine Spirit? But didn’t Shmuel himself say elsewhere that the book of Esther was stated with the inspiration of the Divine Spirit? The Gemara answers: It was stated with the Divine Spirit that it is to be read in public; however, it was not stated that it is to be written. Therefore, the text was not accorded the sanctity of sacred scrolls.

2. The Gemara (the Talmud sometimes talks in the third person) is questioning the first statement. It's asking, "Is Shmuel really saying that God wasn't involved?" The Gemara says, no, that's not the case. What is the correction/clarification that the Gemara offers?

3. What is the difference between reading the megillah in public and writing in down? What does it matter?

The conversation about the megillah continues, but this time Esther has some ideas about how she should be remembered. In this text, which is a midrash, the Gemara imagines a conversation between the rabbis and Esther herself.

אמר רב שמואל בר יהודה שלחה להם אסתר לחכמים קבעוני לדורות שלחו לה קנאה את מעוררת עלינו לבין האומות שלחה להם כבר כתובה אני על דברי הימים למלכי מדי ופרס

Apropos the statement of Rav Shmuel bar Yehuda with regard to the establishment of the holiday of Purim, the Gemara cites a related statement. Rav Shmuel bar Yehuda said: Esther sent to the Sages: Establish me for future generations. Esther requested that the observance of Purim and the reading of the Megilla be instituted as an ordinance for all generations. They sent to her: You will thereby arouse the wrath of the nations upon us, as the Megilla recounts the victory of the Jews over the gentiles, and it is best not to publicize that victory. She sent back to them: I am already written in the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia, and so the Megilla will not publicize anything that is not already known worldwide.

4. The text tells us that Esther demanded the story of Purim be re-told every generation. Where do we have proof of her request?

5. Why were the rabbis cautious about establishing the story as a tradition to be told every year?

6. Esther is having none of it. What is her response to the sages?