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It is a well-known Torah law that anyone dressing up as Achashveirosh for Purim must include a pillow under his/her shirt as part of the costume.

  • What is the earliest source for this law? Is there support for it in the Written Torah?

  • What are the parameters of this law? Is there a required pillow size? Placement? Anything else?


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closed as off-topic by Double AA Mar 4 '18 at 0:39

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  • I think the G'mara says it has to form a speed bump. – msh210 Feb 27 '18 at 7:18
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We read at the end of Megillat Esther:

כִּי מָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי מִשְׁנֶה לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ וְגָדוֹל

For Mordechai the Jew was second [in size] to King Achashveirosh, and was large.

If Mordechai, who was smaller than Achashveirosh, is described as being large, then Achashveirosh himself must have been enormous.

And thus, in order to achieve a realistic costume, anyone dressing as King Achashveirosh on Purim must place a pillow under his clothes.

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Joel K already gave you support for this from Tanakh, that Achashveirosh was larger than Mordechai. I'd like to mention a few halakhic parameters of this mitzvah.

The simple mitzvah is to wear one pillow. However, mehadrin is to replace the pillow with a larger pillow whenever one hears the word גדול in the Megillah (7 times, hence 8 pillows total). This is learned from Esther 9:4, where Mordechai is described as הולך וגדול, hence al akhat kama vekhama Achashveirosh. A further opinion says that mehadrin min hamehadrin is to add a pillow every time you hear the word גדול, for a total of 8 by the end of the reading. There is a makhloket whether one needs successively larger pillows to fulfil mehadrin min hamehadrin or not.

There is also a discussion of what to do if your pillow falls out. Most opinions say that you have fulfilled your obligation if the pillow is in when the reading starts. However, if the pillow was placed in a way that it is likely to fall out, then most say that you need to replace it. Also, if the reading is not in its proper time, then all agree that it must not fall out for the entire reading.

  • If the pillow needs to remain in place for the entire reading and falls out part way, do you replace the pillow and continue reading from where you left off, or do you need to start again from the beginning? – Joel K Feb 27 '18 at 14:54
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L'hatlicha, we have to add a pillow on each mention and we don't remove/replace pillows. Chazal learn this from the other post-written-torah holiday; Hillel successfully argues on Shabbat 21 that for each night of Chanukah we add a light because we should always increase, not decrease. So, too, with the pillows. Beit Shammai says to remove pillows, but when do we ever listen to them?

B'dieved, if we only used one pillow for the whole reading, it is acceptable, just like with Chanukka lights. In both cases you need at least one for the entire duration of the mitzvah, in this case the reading of the megillah.

If using more than one pillow then, like Hanuka lights, they must appear uniform. Since they will be under your clothing, variations in color and fabric don't matter (no one will see); they just need to each add the same amount of bulk. There is a makhloket about whether they all need to be of the same dimensions or if they only need to have the same volume.

Finally, you should bring a ninth pillow to the megillah reading, so you have something comfortable to sit on. There are no specific halachic requirements for this shamash pillow.

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Esther 6:1 says that the king's sleep "wandered". He wasn't able to sleep because his stomach was growling and keeping him up, from indigestion. No wonder - 187 straight days of partying with all that food and wine. Then, Esther makes parties for him and Haman.The king needed a few pillows to make his stomach comfortable and put the growling to rest. So, that's the premise for placing pillows in the stomach area.

The number and size of the pillows you will need depends on your consumption of hamentashen and other foods during Purim. You can best determine that along with advice from your local GI doctor.

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The Midrash Lekach Tov to Megillah 1:6 is the earliest source for this, as it says that the "Achashverosh Pillow" must be green striped, and that it must be the shade of a leek. Ironically, due to this Halacha, the Gemara in Sukkah 31b debates the status an Esrog of this color. Those who prohibit would obviously hold that it looks too similar to the "Achashverosh Pillow".

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