Avnei Nezer: Purim
“[Esther] sent garments to clothe Mordechai and replace his sackcloth.” (Esther 4:4) Many commentators wonder about Esther’s concern for Mordechai’s appearance; did Esther believe that Mordechai wore sackcloth simply because he lacked clothing?
The Avnei Nezer asks, why did Haman choose to kill Mordechai by hanging? Further, he asks, what is the reason for the custom, held by many, to wear Shabbat garments on Purim?
One may assert it is because Purim is a Yom Tov; however, it is not a Yom Tov, per se, since it is permissible to perform Melacha (regarding the issue of Purim as “Yom Tov” see Megillah (7a)).
In Bava Metziah (84a), the Gemarah states that the likeness of Yaakov Avinu was akin to Adam HaRishon. Further, the Midrash tells us that Adam HaRishon’s appearance was closest to Hashem’s since Adam’s Tzelem Elokim was “complete” (which makes sense, since he was created directly by Hashem Yisborach).
Now, Adam’s clothing was also created by Hashem (see Genesis, 3:21) [as opposed to ours, created by an eight-year old Malaysian kid] and thus was the ultimate garment, ensconcing Adam in honor and holiness. As such, Adam’s physical appearance (his body and the clothing surrounding it) had a perfection that no other person ever achieved. Yaakov had inherited the physical appearance of Adam but his brother, Eisav, inherited Adam’s clothes (see Maharal, in Netzach Yisroel).
Eisav was jealous of his brother’s inheritance and the “Kavod” honor inherent in Yaakov’s physical appearance. His descendant, Haman, thus sought to strip the honor from Yaakov’s descendant by hanging him. Hanging, the Torah tells us, is a completely dishonorable (an “abomination,” Devarim 21:23).
However, once the Jews gained the upper hand and Haman was hanged, the honor of Haman inured to Mordechai – Esther gave him control of Haman’s estate, including the honor embedded in the inheritance of Eisav’s clothing. As the Megillah states, “And Mordechai departed from before the king in kingly garments” (8:15).
The Avnei Nezer thus explains: Shabbos is “me’eyn Olam Habah” (a place of perfection) and since on Purim we merited an elevated state of honor (moving an incremental step closer to perfection), we don the garments of Shabbat on Purim.
Further, that is why Esther found Mordechai’s poor appearance so distasteful. She sensed that the struggle with Haman would result in a removal of Eisav’s honor (that of the clothing of Adam) and a transfer of that honor to Mordechai. She did not want Mordechai to appear to concede the struggle by clothing himself in lowly sackcloth, perhaps even giving Eisav / Haman strength by doing so. She therefore sent him clothing suitable to the task at hand.