Esther 4:5, Question 4. Why does Esther phrase her question as “what is this and why is this?”

  • According to the Yerushalmi, Esther phrases her question as “what is this and why is this” to demonstrate that she was asking two questions: a) what was the meaning of weeping and b) what was Mordechai’s justification for rejecting the royal clothes she had sent.
  • Yosef Lekach writes that Esther’s phraseology likens her to a doctor, who diagnoses both the illness and then figures out the cause. Here, also, “what is this” refers to Mordechai’s seemingly strange behavior, and “why is this” refers to the root cause of his concern.
  • The Ohel Moshe points out that this verse demonstrates just how a great person deals with any tragedy. In any such situation, the great person will seek the spiritual cause, since the spiritual is the actual, whereas the physical/political/personal causes are but a mere reflection in this impermanent, transient mirror to the spiritual world.
  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 8:4) and the Talmud (Megillah 15a) both relate that Esther’s question to Mordechai of two mentions of the word, “zeh” concerned whether or not the Jews transgressed the laws of Moshe’s tablets, which are similarly described as “m’zeh l’zeh” (“from one side to the other”) (Shemos 32:15). R’ Dovid Feinstein explains that Esther was concerned with Torah at this time because she recognized in the gravity of situation that the only cause could be a failure in the Jews’ commitment to the Torah. Interestingly, the Torah was written “mzeh l’zeh” so that each letter could be seen from either side of the tablets. The reason for this, according to Rabbeinu Bachya’s commentary there, is to symbolize the hidden and revealed Torah. Perhaps we can also say that these are the Written and Oral parts of the Torah.
  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 8:4) writes that Esther’s “zeh” question concerned the Jews’ neglecting the responsibilities to which they committed themselves at the splitting of the sea, regarding which is written “zeh Keili vi’anveihu” (“this is my G-d and I will glorify Him”) (Shemos 15:2). The Beis Halevi there explains that both instances of “zeh” precipitated in Amalek’s attack of the Jews in the desert. In other words, the Jewish peoples’ disregard for Torah study and their lack of trust in H-Shem brought Amalek in the desert – and brought their descendant, Haman, in Persia generations later for the same behaviors.
  • In his unique manner, the Ben Ish Chai focuses on Esther’s use of the word “ma” (“what”). He points out that the letters immediately preceding the mem and hey of “ma” are lamed and dales and the letters immediately after mem and hey are nun and vuv. Together, these four letters spell out “nolad” (“a new creation”). The Ben Ish Chai therefore notes that Esther wanted to know if the Jews were being punished for the previously-mentioned pseudo-idolatry in the time of Nevuchadnetzer or attending Achashverosh’s feast, or perhaps for a newly created reason, altogether.
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Esther 4:5, Question 3. Why does the verse say Esther sent Hasach “on” Mordechai instead of “to” Mordechai?

  • According to Beis Yaakov, Esther sent Hasach “on” Mordechai instead of “to” Mordechai as a sort of passive aggressive move since she was blaming him for the decree against the Jews. After all Haman was Mordechai’s slave. As such, Mordechai had the legal ability and responsibility to confiscate any purchases of his slave, especially here, where the purchase was the very life of the Jews.
  • Perhaps another action Esther blamed on Mordechai was his original refusal to bow to Haman.
  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle points out that the initial letters of the phrase “al mordechai l‘daas” (“on Mordechai to know”) are an acronym that spells out the word “amal” (“labor”), which usually represents the negative, human desire to do wrong. In other words, Esther was pointing out to Mordechai the spiritual cause of the current problem faced by the Jews.
  • Perhaps another reason for this unique turn of phrase is the verse’s attempt to demonstrate a proof that Daniel (if he is Hasach) is Mordechai’s superior.

Esther 4:5, Question 2. Why is Esther using one of the king’s chamberlains?

  • Certainly, Esther had her own chamberlains. Maamar Mordechai writes that Esther used a chamberlain of the king’s so that no one would suspect a plot. A plot would require the plotter to keep plans away from king’s men.
  • Another possibility is that the verse is hinting to the idea that this was Daniel, a true servant of the King of kings.

Esther 4:5, Question 1. Who is Hasach?

ה וַתִּקְרָא אֶסְתֵּר לַהֲתָךְ מִסָּרִיסֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱמִיד לְפָנֶיהָ וַתְּצַוֵּהוּ עַלמָרְדֳּכָי לָדַעַת מַהזֶּה וְעַלמַהזֶּה

5. And Esther called to Hasach from the chamberlains of the king who stood before him, and she commanded him on Mordechai to know what is this and why is this.

  • According to both the Alshich and Malbim, whoever Hasach was, he was obviously someone trustworthy.
  • The Maharsha adds that he must have been wise, discreet, and Jewish.
  • Perhaps for this reason, the Talmud (Megillah 15a) says that he was the prophet, Daniel. After all he should have been alive at this time, and fits all of these criteria. The Talmud (ibid.) suggests that the name, Hasach, may also be related to “hesech” (“decision making”). It also suggests that the name, Hasach, may be related to “his’chuhu” (“cutting down”) because the prophet, Daniel, was demoted. At first, Nevuchadnezzer “made Daniel great…ruler over the whole province” (Daniel 2:48). Then, at the time of Balshazzar, he only had the power to “rule as a third in the kingdom” (Daniel 5:29). Then, under Darius I, Daniel merely “prospered,” with no mention of power or prestige (Daniel 6:29). Now, under Achashverosh, he is not even mentioned by name. Finally, under Darius II, Daniel went back to the level where he could have “prophesied” (Megillah 15a). Why did Daniel suffer such a steep fall from grace? According to the Talmud (Baba Basra 4a), Daniel gave Nevuchadnezzer advice to give charity. This kind act allowed the tyrannical Nevuchadnezzer to merit living an entire year more, causing countless deaths. Sometimes tragedy results from the best of intentions.
  • The Meshech Chochmo points out that Daniel’s earlier greatness was achieved in the eyes of the Jews from the fact that he was willing to give up his life for H-Shem. At this point, however, during this time of intense teshuvah, Daniel was no longer the only Jew willing to give up life. Therefore, he was not considered as great anymore in Jews’ esteem. The
  • M’nos HaLevi writes that Daniel changed his own name to Hasach because Daniel (4+50+10+1+30=95) has the same gematria as Haman (5+40+50=95).
  • Interestingly, the difference in gematria between Hasach (5+400+20=425) and Daniel ((4+50+10+1+30=95) is 330, the gematria of “saris” (60+200+10+60=330) (“chamberlain”), his current position.
  • Ginzei HaMelech points out that it is most appropriate that Hasach is a Jew, as this leads to a renewed trust in hashgacha pratis (H-Shem’s individual concern for all) in that a Jew saved Jews.

Esther 4:4, Question 8. Why does Mordechai refuse the clothes Esther offers?

  • To begin to understand why Mordechai refused Esther’s offered clothes, R’ Dovid Feinstein reminds us of the manner in which Mordechai learned of Haman’s plot. Since he saw it in a dream, he knew that he was not, indeed, overreacting in his behavior, as Esther’s offer implied. After all, H-Shem does not show people prophetic dreams without purpose.
  • According to the Malbim, however, Mordechai’s refusal was a gesture representing his refusal to trust in man. Wisdom suggests putting one’s faith in the All-Powerful, loving G-d, rather than in fickle and inconsistent man.