Esther 3:11, Question 3. Why does Achashverosh tell Haman’s to do what is good “in your eyes?”

  • The Ben Ish Chai writes about the concept that light comes from darkness. Quoting the verse (Tehillim 94:12) that “happy is the one afflicted by H-Shem,” he explains that affliction brings about teshuva. Similarly, all eyes have a light part and a dark part. The light in our vision actually comes from the dark part of the eye. This is what the king meant by saying “like is good in your eyes.” This evil that was in Haman’s eyes will bring out good in the end.
  • Megillas Sesarim focuses on the word “licha” (“your”), whose gematria (30+20=50) is equal to the size of the gallows Haman prepared, fifty cubits (Esther 7:10).
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Esther 3:11, Question 2. Why does Achashverosh give silver rather than return it?

  • The Malbim writes that Achashverosh gave silver rather than returning it to show his humility – that he did everything selflessly for the kingdom.
  • The Sha’aris Yosef writes that Achashverosh refused money, as opposed to Yosef’s brothers before him (Bereishis 37:28), in an attempt to deflect responsibility.
  • Class Participant CRL points out that the mispar katan of “nasun” (“given”) (50+500+6+50=506, so 5+0+6=11) is eleven, the number of people (Haman and his ten sons) who are eventually hanged on the gallows.

Esther 3:11, Question 1. Why does Achashverosh stress the silver?

יא וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהָמָן הַכֶּסֶף נָתוּן לָךְ וְהָעָם לַעֲשׂוֹת בּוֹ כַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֶיךָ

11. And the king said to Haman, “The silver is given you. And the nation, do to it like is good in your eyes.”

  • The Malbim, again going according to his theory, says that Achashverosh mentions silver because that material represents kindness. In his estimation, it would be a kindness to help the Jews acculturate.
  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:21) and Tosvos (Megillah 13b d.h. “hacesef”) both note that the gematria of “hakesef” (“the silver”) (5+20+60+80=165) equals that of “ha’eitz” (“the tree”) (5+70+90=165). The Midrash continues that the lesson to be learned is that what Haman planned to do to the Jews was turned around onto him when he was hanged on the very gallows he built for Mordechai. According to the Ginzei HaMelech, the tree may also be a reference to the “Tree of the Knowledge Good and Evil.”

Esther 3:10, Question 4. What is the significance of the Talmud’s pit analogy?

The Talmud (Megillah 14a) compares Achashverosh and Haman to two land owners. One has a giant mound of excess land. The other has a ditch in his field. The person who has a ditch wants land to fill in the field. The person with the dirt is looking for a ditch to dump his dirt. Simply put, this analogy indicates a symbiotic relationship between Achashverosh and Haman; the two need each other. Achashverosh has too many Jews, while Haman is looking for Jews to kill.

  • The Ben Ish Chai on the Talmud (in Sefer Benayahu) writes that this analogy means to indicate that, like the dirt-owner, Achashverosh did not accept Haman’s financial offer because he was doing him a favor ridding the nation of Jews.
  • R’ Meir Shapiro and the Chasam Sofer say that Achashverosh and Haman had different theories as to how to defeat the Jews. Achashverosh thought the best method for this was to invite them to his feast, elevate them, and watch as assimilation destroyed the Jews from within. Therefore, he built them up, like a mound. Haman, however, considered the best method degradation, making them low as if they were lower than a ditch1.
  • Similarly, R’ Mendel Weinbach writes that Achashverosh considered the Jews a threat to his power. After all, if the Jews were to rebuild their Temple, Achashverosh would lose some of his esteem. Therefore, to him, the Jews were respected, like a mound. In contrast, Haman considered the Jews disgusting and lowly, like a ditch. Rabbi Weinbach also writes that the mound and the ditch metaphors can be different ways for Jews to view assimilation. One way to avoid assimilation is to build up Jews like a mound, placing them on a pedestal by pointing out Jewish accomplishments to build up Jewish pride. Another way to avoid assimilation is to paint Jews as so different, so “uncool,” as to belong on a completely separate level, like a ditch.
  • In answering the question of why Achashverosh does not seem to be punished in the end of Megillas Esther, the Ben Ish Chai tells the following parable: two hooligans kidnap the king’s son. When the king refuses to pay their ransom, Hooligan A becomes incensed, and wants to kill the prince. Hooligan B feels this to be unnecessarily cruel, and they begin to argue. As they do, they are both captured. The king pardons Hooligan B for being kind to the prince, but Hooligan A is summarily burned for his evil intentions. Similarly, both Achashverosh and Haman are, indeed, evil. However, due to the respect Achashverosh will show the Jews (see 6:10 and 8:1-2 below), he will be treated in a kinder fashion.

1It is amazing how Nazi propaganda depicted Jews as dirty rodents on the one hand, and over-intellectual snobs on the other, ignoring the inherent contradiction in these estimations.

Esther 3:10, Question 3. Why does the verse call Haman “enemy of the Jews” here?

  • Going along with his theory that Achashverosh was under the mistaken impression that Haman had no genocidal intentions, Malbim writes that Achashverosh’s removal of his ring, Haman’s genealogy, and even Haman’s title here of “enemy of the Jews” are all meant to describe Haman in contrast to Achashverosh, who was in no way culpable for the decree to exterminate the Jews.
  • The Vilna Gaon writes that Haman is simply called “enemy of the Jews” because he did not explicitly name the nation he wanted to kill. Therefore, the verse uses this appellation to clarify his intent.
  • According to R’ Dovid Feinstein, this phrase is meant to indicate Haman’s new role – that of solver of the Jewish Problem.
  • The GraMad (R’ Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik) adds that this title is Haman’s only redeeming quality for Achashverosh.
  • Another reason he is called “tzorer haYehudim” (“enemy of the Jews”) is “tzorer” can also mean “binding” (see Bereishis 42:39 and Chullin 107b). Iturei Torah says that this indicates that it was Haman who bound the erstwhile “scattered and dispersed” (Esther 3:9) Jews together into a unified front at this point. Parenthetically, the reason “tzorer” can mean both enemy and binding is because, like the two definitions for the English word “rival,” one would need to be connected in a relationship with someone in order to have a deep feeling – even hate – for that person.