Esther 3:7, Question 2. Why does Haman feel the need to cast lots?

  • Haman’s motivation for casting lots depends on what those lots were. According to the Vilna Gaon, Haman wanted to see when his plan would be most spiritually effective. He wanted to find the time that the Jews were at their spiritual weakest. He found Adar appealing because the Jews had no Holy Day for which to prepare, and no special merit to protect them, so were thus spiritually weak then. If that is the case, why then was Haman not successful? Because, says the Vilna Gaon, “ein mazal b’Yisroel” (“Jews have no [effects of] constellations”) (Talmud, Shabbos 156a). What this means is that, with Torah, Jewish people can channel the natural astrological influence of the horoscope.
  • If these lots are like our contemporary dice, opposite sides add up to seven. One is opposite to six, four is opposite to three, etc. Midrash Talpios says that, instead of numbers, Haman’s dice have Hebrew letters. Therefore, in gematria, if there is an aleph on one side, its opposite side had a vuv. Haman cast the dice three times. The dice read aleph, then gimmel, then gimmel again. This spells “Agag,” king of Amalek conquered by King Shaul (as mentioned previously). On the bottom of that combination would be a vuv, daled, and daled. A combination of these letters spells “David,” and Haman thought this meant Agag would succeed against David. In other words, Haman was under the impression that the lots he rolled predicted his victory over the Jews.
  • Ben Ish Chai says that Haman was so arrogant that he did not even consider the letters spelling out David. Rather, Haman was too busy noticing that the gematria of David (4+6+4) is 14, with a mispar katan1 of five. The mispar katan of Haman’s name is also five (5+40+50=95).
  • According to Rabbi Yehonason Eibshutz, Haman’s lottery consisted of his writing on separate papers all of the days of the year. After he chose a particular date (Adar 13th), he wanted to verify that this was not just a random date. He then got twelve papers with the twelve months of the year. That paper matched up to Adar. Class participant RS pointed out that the days of the solar year are also 365, which also has a mispar katan equal to Haman’s name.
  • Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi says Haman realized that the Jews were weak and in exile. He threw lots to find his one spiritual strength in relation to the spiritual strength of the Jewish people.

1A “mispar katan” is a form of gematria in which one adds all the numerals in a number until one arrives at a one-numeral number. For instance, the mispar katan of 19 is 1+9, which is 10. Since this is not a single-numeral number, the process is repeated with these numerals thus: 1+0, until one arrives at 1. Therefore, the mispar katan of 19 is 1.

Advertisements

Esther 3:7, Question 1. Why does the verse inform us that this event occurred in Nissan?

ז בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן הוּאחֹדֶשׁ נִיסָן בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ הִפִּיל פּוּר הוּא הַגּוֹרָל לִפְנֵי הָמָן מִיּוֹם ׀ לְיוֹם וּמֵחֹדֶשׁ לְחֹדֶשׁ שְׁנֵיםעָשָׂר הוּאחֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר

7. In the first month – it is the month of Nissan – in the twelfth year of the King Achashverosh, he cast a “pur” – it is a lottery – before Haman, from day to day and from month to the twelfth month – it is Adar.

Both the Ibn Ezra and Malbim write that this event occurring in Nissan to give the Jews the opportunity to do teshuva. The only reason the Jews were not killed is because of the deep repentance they performed for the sin of disobeying Mordechai by attending Achashverosh’s party. Indeed, the teshuva was complete when all of the Jews – who had previously ignored Mordechai’s pleas – obeyed his command to fast. Mothers could only keep food from their children for three days by submitting their will to the will of the sages.

Esther 3:6, Question 2. Why does the verse mention both Yehudim and Mordechai’s nation?

  • The Alshich says that the nation refers specifically to Benyamin, Mordechai’s ancestor.
  • According to the Talmud (Megillah 13b), the nation to which Haman aims his hatred is the rabbis – the elite leadership of the nation. M’nos HaLevi tells us that killing the rabbis would leave the Jews as sheep without a shepherd. The Jewish nation cannot survive without Torah leadership. The Yad HaMelech says Haman did not want to kill out the Jews, but only wanted to kill out the rabbis. His intent would be to enrage the Jews over the death of the rabbis, and blame Mordechai. They would then kill Mordechai, themselves. Haman believed that, this way, they would deserve to be wiped out by H-Shem. This idea of causing the Jews to deserve their own destruction is nothing new. Both Bilaam and Haman attempted just such a strategy in the incident of the daughters of Moav (Bamidbar 25:1-3) and Achashverosh’s party (Esther 1:1-10), respectively.
  • Why such hatred? Why did Haman so want to kill out the Jews? The Malbim and Akeidas Yitzchak posit that, since Mordechai refused to bow to him on religious grounds, Haman desired the death of that nation that followed those self-same tenets.
  • In his Vedibarta Bam on Megillas Esther, Rabbi Bogomilsky brings that Haman realized that all of the Yehudim were an “am Mordechai” – a nation of Mordechais. Even if Haman were to eliminate that Mordechai who won’t bow to him, there will be other “Mordechais” who will pop up to do the same.
  • Rabbi Yitzchak Blazer asks why, if Haman wanted everyone to bow to him, did he not simply decree that Mordechai have to do it. Seeing their leader doing so should inspire most people to ape that behavior. Rav Blazer answers that Jews are different. If we see our leader acting contrary to our beliefs, we feel disgusted by that leader, and want nothing to do with him.
  • According to the Ben Ish Chai, he wanted to kill the Jews due to his slave status. As his master, Mordechai could take possession over everything Haman owned. With Mordechai dead, a relative or other heir would become lord over Haman’s assets, leaving him virtually powerless. As long as there is a Jew alive, Haman could not have power. Power-hungry to his core, Haman needed to be rid of all possible heirs to Mordechai’s property, and this included all of the Jews.

Esther 3:6, Question 1. Why was killing Mordechai embarrassing for Haman?

ו וַיִּבֶז בְּעֵינָיו לִשְׁלֹח יָד בְּמָרְדֳּכַי לְבַדּוֹ כִּיהִגִּידוּ לוֹ אֶתעַם מָרְדֳּכָי וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הָמָן לְהַשְׁמִיד אֶתכָּלהַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בְּכָלמַלְכוּת אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ עַם מָרְדֳּכָי

6. And it was embarrassing in his eyes to send his hand on Mordechai alone because they related to him the nation of Mordechai. And Haman sought to kill all of the Yehudim who are in all of the kingdom of Achashverosh, the nation of Mordechai.

  • On a simple level, killing Mordechai was embarrassing for Haman because Haman was highly placed. Much like dictators and mafia bosses, he considered it lowly to personally kill someone beneath him, and preferred that his underlings do it. Also, as class participant KL pointed out, it seems weak to show someone that you let them get under your skin. So it is with many so-called leaders. Quite the opposite is true of the One with real power. The Talmud (Gittin 56b) points out that the Men of the Great Assembly composed in the first blessing of the Amidah, “Who is like You, b’eilim (“with the mighty”)” because of its phonetic similarity with “b’ilmim” (“with the silent”). H-Shem’s greatness can be appreciated by observing His silence in the face of insult. Haman’s response displays his weakness.
  • In his commentary to Vayikra (16:8), the Baal HaTurim write that the word “vayivez” (“it was embarrassing”) is related to the word, “livozezu” (“those who rob us”) in Yeshaya (17:14). Since that verse has to do with lots (as will our story shortly), they imply H-Shem’s choosing – and thus protecting – of the Jews.