Rabbi Joshua ben Levi taught that we read the Megillah twice, as a reflection of the verse in Psalms, “O my G‑d, I call in the day time . . . and in the night I am not silent.”1 This verse is part of a chapter that the sages of the Talmud associate with Queen Esther.2

Rabbi Chelbo would quote Ula of Biri, who associated this practice with a different verse in Psalms: “So that my soul will sing praises to You and not be silent . . . I will thank You forever.”3

Indeed, the Code of Jewish Law rules that one is obligated to hear the reading of the Megillah twice—once at night and once during the day.4

Two Different Types of Obligations

Although we usually discuss both readings of the Megillah in the same breath, many commentaries are of the opinion that the reading at night was a slightly later rabbinic enactment.

For example, Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, known as the Noda B’Yehuda,5 and other commentaries6 explain that the daytime reading is based on divrei kabbalah, a tradition passed down from the prophets, which we treat (in many respects) along the same lines as a law recorded in the Five Books of Moses.7 The nighttime reading of the Megillah, however, is a later rabbinic enactment.

For the most part, this distinction has little practical relevance. However, one upshot would be that when one is in “doubt” if he or she actually fulfilled the mitzvah to hear the Megillah, then we would rule leniently regarding the nighttime reading, but more strictly regarding the daytime reading.8

Shining a Candle During the Daytime

The reading of the Megillah isn’t meant merely as a recounting of a historical incident that occurred many years ago. Rather, it illuminates our present state and reminds us how everything is ultimately orchestrated by G‑d.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the two readings of the Megillah represent two different aspects of our current reality that are in need of light.

In general, the purpose behind various rabbinic enactments was to draw down a higher spiritual light into the world as the exile became darker. Thus, although the prophets had already ordained that we should read the Megillah during the daytime, as the world became a darker place, the rabbis instituted that the Megillah be read at nighttime as well.

At first glance, this seems to indicate that, from a mystical perspective, the nighttime reading should be stricter in the case where one is in doubt whether he properly heard the Megillah, since it is all the more necessary. Yet, as we mentioned earlier, the opposite seems to be the case.

The Rebbe explains that this is because the daytime reading represents the idea of bringing light even to one who in his own mind, perhaps due to his ego, is convinced that he is already very pious and doing everything right.

There is no need for us to rule extra stringently for the one who recognizes his own darkness (i.e., the nighttime reading), since we aren’t overly concerned that he may come to the erroneous conclusion that he doesn't need the extra spiritual light of Purim and the Megillah.

However, the person represented by the daytime reading is one who is convinced that he is already pious and doing everything right, and in his mind, there is no need for any extra spiritual light. This person is in even greater spiritual darkness than the other—it’s so dark that he thinks he is in the light. Even in the case of doubt, we cannot rely on him to realize the need for extra light and we therefore rule strictly.

The lesson is that no matter in which category we are (and we all have aspects of both categories), it is crucial that we always recognize the need to bring more spiritual light into our lives. Through this increased light, we’ll ultimately see the divine hand in even the darkest of places.9