Megillah 16 - 22
“This nation (Israel) is compared to dirt (of the ground) and is compared to the stars — when they fall, they fall until the dirt; and when they rise they rise up to the stars.”
Rabbi Yehuda bar Iluiy teaches this “dual potential” of the Jewish People based on the word “fall” appearing twice in the Book of Esther, 6:13. The significance of this theme in the Purim story is as follows: At first, before the Jewish People repented, it looked like they were going to be ruled over and treated like dirt by the evil Haman, who was in reality the slave of Mordechai. However, at the end, when they returned to the way of G-d, they were above the rule of any nation, and lofty as the highest stars above (Maharsha).
- Megilla 16a
“Torah study is more important than the building of the Beit Hamikdash.”
This statement on our daf was made by the Sage Rav — others say it was Rav Shmuel bar Marta — to explain the seemingly strange behavior of Ezra the Scribe. When Koresh was king and finally allowed the building of the Second Beit Hamikdah, Ezra remained in Bavel instead of going up to the Land of Israel to take part in the rebuilding. Why? Because his Torah teacher, Baruch ben Neria, was still alive and teaching him Torah in Bavel. Only after the passing of his teacher did Ezra go up to Israel in the days of King Daryavesh the latter (Rashi).
- Megilla 16b