Ayalon Eliach Mordecai the Villain: Why Drink on Purim? (The Megillah Project–Text People)

Key texts Ayalon Eliach refers to in this talk are included in this Source Sheet below.

For additional sources and commentary, check out a Source Sheet Ayalon Eliach created at this link:


אָמַר רָבָא מִיחַיַּיב אִינִישׁ לְבַסּוֹמֵי בְּפוּרַיָּא עַד דְּלָא יָדַע בֵּין אָרוּר הָמָן לְבָרוּךְ מָרְדֳּכַי
Rava said: A person is obligated to become intoxicated with wine on Purim until he is so intoxicated that he does not know how to distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai.

דְּאָמַר רָבָא חַמְרָא וְרֵיחָנֵי פַּקְחֻין

Rava said: Wine and good scents make me wise, meaning that wine benefits one who deserves it.

(ה) וּבִמְל֣וֹאת ׀ הַיָּמִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה עָשָׂ֣ה הַמֶּ֡לֶךְ לְכָל־הָעָ֣ם הַנִּמְצְאִים֩ בְּשׁוּשַׁ֨ן הַבִּירָ֜ה לְמִגָּ֧דוֹל וְעַד־קָטָ֛ן מִשְׁתֶּ֖ה שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים בַּחֲצַ֕ר גִּנַּ֥ת בִּיתַ֖ן הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (ו) ח֣וּר ׀ כַּרְפַּ֣ס וּתְכֵ֗לֶת אָחוּז֙ בְּחַבְלֵי־ב֣וּץ וְאַרְגָּמָ֔ן עַל־גְּלִ֥ילֵי כֶ֖סֶף וְעַמּ֣וּדֵי שֵׁ֑שׁ מִטּ֣וֹת ׀ זָהָ֣ב וָכֶ֗סֶף עַ֛ל רִֽצְפַ֥ת בַּהַט־וָשֵׁ֖שׁ וְדַ֥ר וְסֹחָֽרֶת׃ (ז) וְהַשְׁקוֹת֙ בִּכְלֵ֣י זָהָ֔ב וְכֵלִ֖ים מִכֵּלִ֣ים שׁוֹנִ֑ים וְיֵ֥ין מַלְכ֛וּת רָ֖ב כְּיַ֥ד הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (ח) וְהַשְּׁתִיָּ֥ה כַדָּ֖ת אֵ֣ין אֹנֵ֑ס כִּי־כֵ֣ן ׀ יִסַּ֣ד הַמֶּ֗לֶךְ עַ֚ל כָּל־רַ֣ב בֵּית֔וֹ לַעֲשׂ֖וֹת כִּרְצ֥וֹן אִישׁ־וָאִֽישׁ׃
(5) At the end of this period, the king gave a banquet for seven days in the court of the king’s palace garden for all the people who lived in the fortress Shushan, high and low alike. (6) [There were hangings of] white cotton and blue wool, caught up by cords of fine linen and purple wool to silver rods and alabaster columns; and there were couches of gold and silver on a pavement of marble, alabaster, mother-of-pearl, and mosaics. (7) Royal wine was served in abundance, as befits a king, in golden beakers, beakers of varied design. (8) And the rule for the drinking was, “No restrictions!” For the king had given orders to every palace steward to comply with each man’s wishes.

לַעֲשׂוֹת כִּרְצוֹן מָרְדֳּכַי וְהָמָן מָרְדֳּכַי דִּכְתִיב אִישׁ יְהוּדִי הָמָן אִישׁ צַר וְאוֹיֵב

The verse states: “That they should do according to every man’s pleasure” (Esther 1:8). Rava commented on the literal meaning of the verse, which is referring to two men, a man and a man [ish va’ish], and said: The man and man whom they should follow indicates that they should do according to the wishes of Mordecai and Haman. The two of them served as butlers at the feast, and they were in charge of distributing the wine. Why is the verse interpreted in this way? Mordecai is called “man,” as it is written: “There was a certain Jewish man [ish] in Shushan the castle, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair” (Esther 2:5). And Haman is also called man, as it states: “A man [ish] who is an adversary and an enemy, this evil Haman” (Esther 7:6).

אֲשֶׁר הׇגְלָה מִירוּשָׁלַיִם אָמַר רָבָא שֶׁגָּלָה מֵעַצְמוֹ

The verse states with regard to Mordecai: “Who had been exiled from Jerusalem” (Esther 2:6). Rava said: This language indicates that he went into exile on his own, not because he was forced to leave Jerusalem.

לֹא נַעֲשָׂה עִמּוֹ דָּבָר אָמַר רָבָא לֹא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאוֹהֲבִין אֶת מׇרְדֳּכַי אֶלָּא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁשּׂוֹנְאִים אֶת הָמָן
The verse states that Ahasuerus was told with regard to Mordecai: “Nothing has been done for him” (Esther 6:3). Rava said: It is not because they love Mordecai that the king’s servants said this, but rather because they hate Haman.
אָמַר רַבָּה בַּר בַּר חָנָה אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי אָבִיו מִבִּנְיָמִין וְאִמּוֹ מִיהוּדָה וְרַבָּנַן אָמְרִי מִשְׁפָּחוֹת מִתְגָּרוֹת זוֹ בָּזוֹ מִשְׁפַּחַת יְהוּדָה אוֹמֶרֶת אֲנָא גְּרַמִי דְּמִתְיְלִיד מָרְדֳּכַי דְּלָא קַטְלֵיהּ דָּוִד לְשִׁמְעִי בֶּן גֵּרָא וּמִשְׁפַּחַת בִּנְיָמִין אָמְרָה מִינַּאי קָאָתֵי רָבָא אָמַר כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל אָמְרָה לְאִידַּךְ גִּיסָא רְאוּ מָה עָשָׂה לִי יְהוּדִי וּמָה שִׁילֵּם לִי יְמִינִי מָה עָשָׂה לִי יְהוּדִי דְּלָא קַטְלֵיהּ דָּוִד לְשִׁמְעִי דְּאִתְיְלִיד מִינֵּיהּ מָרְדֳּכַי דְּמִיקַּנֵּי בֵּיהּ הָמָן וּמָה שִׁילֵּם לִי יְמִינִי דְּלָא קַטְלֵיהּ שָׁאוּל לַאֲגָג דְּאִתְיְלִיד מִינֵּיהּ הָמָן דִּמְצַעַר לְיִשְׂרָאֵל

Rabba bar bar Ḥana said that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said an alternative explanation: Mordecai’s father was from the tribe of Benjamin, and his mother was from the tribe of Judah. Therefore, he was both a Yemini, a Benjamite, and a Yehudi, from the tribe of Judah. And the Rabbis say that the dual lineage is due to a dispute: The families competed with each other over which tribe could take credit for Mordecai. The family of Judah would say: I caused the birth of Mordecai, as only because David did not kill Shimei, the son of Gera, when he cursed him (see II Samuel 16) was it possible for Mordecai to be born later from his descendants. And the family of Benjamin said in response: In the end he came from me, as he in fact was from Benjamin’s tribe. Rava said: The Congregation of Israel at the time said this from the opposite perspective, not as a boast, but as a complaint, remarking: See what a Judean has done to me and how a Benjamite has repaid me. What a Judean has done to me is referring to the responsibility of Judah, as David did not kill Shimei, although he was liable to the death penalty. The grave consequences of this failure included that Mordecai was born from him, and it was he against whom Haman was jealous, leading Haman to issue a decree against all of the Jewish people. And how a Benjamite has repaid me is referring to the fact that Saul, who was from the tribe of Benjamin, did not kill the Amalekite king Agag immediately, from whom Haman was later born, and he caused suffering to the Jewish people.

איתמר העובד עבודת כוכבים מאהבה ומיראה אביי אמר חייב רבא אמר פטור אביי אמר חייב דהא פלחה רבא אמר פטור אי קבליה עליה באלוה אין אי לא לא:

§ It was stated that amora’im engaged in a dispute concerning the following matter: In the case of one who worships idols due to his love of another who requested that he bow before the statue, or due to fear of someone coercing him to do so, but not due to faith in that idol, what is the halakha? Abaye says: He is liable. Rava says: He is exempt. The Gemara explains: Abaye says he is liable because he worshipped it.

Rava says he is exempt, as the criterion for becoming liable for idol worship is as follows: If one sincerely accepted the idol upon himself as a god, yes, he is liable; but if he did not accept it sincerely, he is not liable.

רַב נַחְמָן אָמַר קְרִיָּיתָהּ זוֹ הַלֵּילָהּ רָבָא אָמַר בִּשְׁלָמָא הָתָם הַלְלוּ עַבְדֵי ה׳ וְלֹא עַבְדֵי פַרְעֹה אֶלָּא הָכָא הַלְלוּ עַבְדֵי ה׳ וְלֹא עַבְדֵי אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אַכַּתִּי עַבְדֵי אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אֲנַן
Rav Naḥman said an alternative answer as to why hallel is not recited on Purim: The reading of the Megilla itself is an act of reciting hallel. Rava said a third reason why hallel is not recited on Purim: Granted that hallel is said there, when recalling the exodus from Egypt, as after the salvation there, they could recite the phrase in hallel: “Give praise, O servants of the Lord” (Psalms 113:1); after their servitude to Pharaoh ended with their salvation, they were truly servants of the Lord and not servants of Pharaoh. But can it be said here, after the limited salvation commemorated on Purim: “Give praise, O servants of the Lord,” which would indicate that after the salvation the Jewish people were only servants of the Lord and not servants of Ahasuerus? No, even after the miracle of Purim, we were still the servants of Ahasuerus, as the Jews remained in exile under Persian rule, and consequently the salvation, which was incomplete, did not merit an obligation to say hallel.

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