||A philosophical, allegorical, and kabbalistic commentary on the Book of Esther. The author, R. Moses ben Israel Isserles (Rema, c. 1530-1572), a student of R. Shalom Shachna of Lublin (d. 1558), among the foremost halakhic authorities, is better known for his Haggahot or ha-Mappah, glosses on the Shulhan Arukh. It was the addition of the Mappah to the Shulhan Arukh that made that work acceptable to Ashkenazim and an authoritative halakhic source to this day. Born in Cracow, Rema became, in 1550, at a very early age, a member of the Cracow bet din. A precocious scholar, he was recognized as a leading decisor, receiving inquiries from throughout Europe. He established a yeshiva in Cracow, counting among his students such outstanding personalities as R. Mordecai Jaffe (Levush), Abraham ha-Levi Horowitz (father of Isaiah Horowitz, the author of Shenei Luhot ha-Berit), and Joshua Falk (Me'irat Einayim).
Rema's interests extended to Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah, reflected in several of his books. Among them is Mehir Yayin, Rema's first published work. He observes that the story told in the Megillah alludes to the human condition and may be understood as an allegory of the life of man.
In the introduction Rema informs us that he was forced to leave Cracow for Shidlow because of an outbreak of cholera. He writes that "I was among the exiles from our city in the year 1556 because of the plague [it should not come upon you], and we dwelt in a land that was not ours, in the city of Shidlow, a place without fig trees and vines .... we were unable to observe Purim with feasting and joy, to remove sorrow and mourning. I said, I will arise and rejoice in my undertaking, 'also my wisdom remained with me' (Ecclesiastes 2:9). 'The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes' (Psalms 19:9). I took under my tongue 'honey and milk' (Song of Songs 4: 11)" and Rema set his goal to explain the Megillah. This is reflected in the title, taken from Isaiah 55: 1 "Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money; come, buy, and eat; come, buy wine (Mehir Yayin) and milk without money and without price.""
These conditions prompted Rema to write Mehir Yayin. Unable to send to his father the traditional mishlo'ah manot (eatable gifts) for Purim, he wrote Mehir Yayin for his father in its place. The colophon ends with the words, "the work was completed îçø ééï Machr Yayin" (spelled defectively; this edition has the correct spelling - obviously fixed by an uninformed typesetter), for a numeric value of 318, indicating the date, 1558.
Rema also wrote the philosophical Torat ha-Olah (Prague, 1570); Torat ha-Hattat (Cracow, 1590), on the laws of issur ve-het!er (dietary laws) according to Sha'arei Dura, with additions; Darkhei Moshe, annotations to the Tur and Beit Yosif (Fuerth, 1760); and responsa (Cracow, 1640), as well as glosses on several tractates, halakhic works, and on aggadah, some known only from references in his extant works. Rema's aggadic work is also quoted by R. Elijah ben Moses Ashkenazi Loanz of Worms (1564--1636) in his Adderet Eliyahu (Jerusalem, 1998). Loanz helped prepare the Rema's Darkhei Moshe for publication and received as compensation from the Rema's brother-in-law a copy of the Rema's aggadic work.