Esther 3:13, Question 4. Why does the decree neglect to mention that the Jews are to be killed in all provinces?

Later in the story, when Haman’s decree is rescinded (see 8:11), Mordechai advertised this fact in all the provinces. According to the Malbim, the governors of the states receiving copies of Haman’s decree did not know that other governors had the same command. This way, they were compelled to be more careful to kill the Jews under their jurisdiction, under the mistaken impression that they were alone in this task and thus under the royal microscope.

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Esther 3:13, Question 3. Why does the verse emphasize that the Jews are to be killed in one day?

  • The Malbim writes that the verse emphasizes that the Jews were to be killed in one day to make sure the Jews would not be able to escape.
  • The Shema Shlomo writes about a Plan B for Haman. Haman considered that, if the Jews should somehow wiggle out of his plans, at the very least, they should only have one day to celebrate.
  • R’ Hanoch Leibowitz points out that the Torah has laws regarding not killing a mother animal and her child on the same day (Vayikra 22:28). These laws are meant to teach us mercy and concern for others. The reason Haman is considered thoroughly wicked is because he had none of this mercy – he had no qualms with killing mother and child on the same day.

Esther 3:13, Question 2. Why does the decree use three different expressions for killing the Jews?

  • In his commentary on this verse, the Vilna Gaon writes that the expressions used in this verse refer to the four components of man – the nefesh (animus, ability to move), the ruach (life force), the neshama (spiritual soul), and the guf (physical body). He writes that the nefesh and guf are really one, as according to the Zohar which writes that “the nefesh is a partner to the guf.” Haman wanted to destroy every part of the Jew; he therefore used three expressions to denote his real intent. However, the neshama is fed by performance of mitzvos, the ruach is fed by pleasure, and the guf is fed by food. The Vilna Gaon writes that this is the reason for the three mitzvos of Purim; publicly reading the Megillah (see Esther 8:26) feeds the neshama, having joy (see Esther 8:17) feeds the ruach, and feasting (ibid.) literally feeds the guf. There is also an extra mitzvah of giving gifts (ibid. 19). Perhaps Haman’s desire to plunder the Jews’ wealth is the reason we use our resources for this last mitzvah.
  • R’ Dovid Chadida writes similarly that by using the word “l’hashmid” (“to destroy”), Haman intended to kill the Jews spiritually, by using the word “l’harog” (“to kill”), Haman intended to kill the Jews’ physically, and by using the word “l’aveid” (“ to annihilate”), Haman intended to kill the Jews’ financially. In the verses of Shema (Devarim 6:5), these are the very three things with which Jews are expected to dedicate themselves to love H-Shem.

Esther 3:13, Question 1. Why are the letters delivered by runners?

יג וְנִשְׁלוֹחַ סְפָרִים בְּיַד הָרָצִים אֶלכָּלמְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהַשְׁמִיד לַהֲרֹג וּלְאַבֵּד אֶתכָּלהַיְּהוּדִים מנַּעַר וְעַדזָקֵן טַף וְנָשִׁים בְּיוֹם אֶחָד בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁה עָשָׂר לְחֹדֶשׁ שְׁנֵיםעָשָׂר הוּאחֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר וּשְׁלָלָם לָבוֹז

13. And books were sent in the hands of the runners to all the states of the king to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all of the Yehudim from young to old, infants, and women on one day, on the thirteenth day in the twelfth month – it is Adar – and their wealth to plunder.

  • According to the Malbim, Haman used runners to get this message out quickly, so that Achashverosh would not be able to catch up to them and change the decree.
  • The Yosef Lekach notes that the verse emphasizes the use of runners in order to contrast him to Mordechai, when he sent out a decree annulling this one. He sent out runners, too, and even gave them horses (Esther 8:14). Since the Talmud (Kiddushin 41a) advises that one take part as much as possible in a mitzvah being performed, Mordechai wanted to have a part in every aspect of the mitzvah of saving Jewish lives.

Esther 3:12, Question 3. Who actually wrote the letter?

  • The verse seems to intentionally obscure the identity of the letter’s author. Although the scribes were called in, it does not say who actually wrote it. The Yosef Lekach notes that the word “nichtav” (“he wrote”) is a verb grammatically in the singular form because H-Shem was the Author of the decree to destroy the Jews. In fact, as has been mentioned previously, there is a discussion in the Talmud (Megillah 12a) regarding the reason the Jews deserve such a harsh decree at this time. One opinion is that, decades earlier, the Jews bowed down to a statue of Nevuchadnetzer (Daniel 3:6). The other opinion is that the Jews enjoyed the feast celebrating their exile in the beginning of Megillas Esther.
  • Rav Shimon Schwab writes that the Jews then performed both of these action to maintain good relations with the nation around them – not to actually worship idols or celebrate their exile, G-d forbid. For whatever reason, H-Shem decided it was deserving, and this is the fate He sealed. He is the King referred to in this verse, Whose ring sealed the Jews’ fate. Of course, every sealed fate can still be re-opened with the power of Teshuva (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuva 1:3).

Esther 3:12, Question 1. Why is Haman seemingly in a hurry to write this document?

יב וַיִּקָּרְאוּ סֹפְרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁה עָשָׂר יוֹם בּוֹ וַיִּכָּתֵב כְּכָלאֲשֶׁרצִוָּה הָמָן אֶל אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפְּנֵיהַמֶּלֶךְ וְאֶלהַפַּחוֹת אֲשֶׁר ׀ עַלמְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה וְאֶלשָׂרֵי עַם וָעָם מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה כִּכְתָבָהּ וְעַם וָעָם כִּלְשׁוֹנוֹ בְּשֵׁם הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרשׁ נִכְתָּב וְנֶחְתָּם בְּטַבַּעַת הַמֶּלֶךְ

12. And the scribes of the king were called in on the first month, on the thirteenth of it. And it was written like all that Haman commanded to the lieutenant governors of the king and to the governors of each state, and to the officials of each nation, each state as was written nation and nation like its language in the name of King Achashverosh did he write and seal with the ring of the king.

  • Especially since the decree was only to go into effect in eleven months, it seems strange for Haman to have been in such a rush to get the document written. According to the Malbim, Haman rushed the letter’s publication so that Achashverosh would not have discovered his true intent – the annihilation of a people.
  • The Chida and R’ Dovid Feinstein write that Haman was in a hurry because of the date, the thirteenth of Nisan. Due to the fact that the first twelve days of Nisan would give the Jews the spiritual merit of the princely gifts (Bamidbar 7:11-83) and the next days of Nisan would give the Jews the merits of the mitzvos of Pesach, this was the most inauspicious day for the Jews. Haman, seemingly a believer and practitioner in prognostication, wanted to publish this letter on a day when its goal would contain the fewest potential spiritual impediments.