Why is the Book of Esther included in Tanach?
Why is the book of Esther included in Tanach?
You might be wondering: how could it be possible for Esther not to be in Tanach? It’s one of our favourite, most important books. However, it wasn’t always necessarily going to be included.
The Gemara in Masechet Megillah 7a tells us that Esther certainly was included with ruach hakodesh, divine inspiration, but it easily could have been left out, just like the Book of Maccabees among others. The Gemara brings two views as to why Esther is included, those of Rav Yosef and Rav Nachman, and fascinatingly both of them draw their proof from one and the same verse but from different parts of that verse. It’s Megillat Esther 9:28.
Rav Yosef uses the commencement of the verse,
“Viymei hapurim ha’eileh lo ya’avru mitoch hayehudim,” – “And these days of Purim should not depart from the Jewish people.”
However, Rav Nachman points to the continuation of that verse,
“vezichram lo yasuf mizoram.” – “and the memory of those days should never leave their descendents.”
What is Rav Nachman getting at? It is clear that the commencement of the verse relates to a historical event and that is what Rav Yosef is telling us. Throughout all ages we should celebrate with great joy what transpired to our people in previous times.
Rav Nachman says that that is not enough. From the last part of the verse, “vezichram lo yasuf mizoram,” we learn that the memory of what transpired is so crucial to us because what happened then could, God forbid, happen again. Rav Nachman wants us to know that the Jews who suffered then could be Jews of any time. Haman who existed then, sadly, there could be many Haman style individuals. Achashveirosh then, he wasn’t that bothered either way whether we would or wouldn’t exist as a people. There continue to be many like Achashveirosh.
That’s why it was included. Because the reality of antisemitism is such that we always need to educate others, to break down barriers, to bring peace and harmony and also sadly, to protect ourselves when necessary.
The book of Esther is therefore a cautionary tale for all time. In the same way as the Almighty blessed us in the days of Esther and Mordechai and saved our people, so may He always be with us to protect us against our enemies.
I wish you all Purim sameach.