Esther 4:16, Question 1. Why does Esther ask Mordechai to gather the Jews?

טז לֵךְ כְּנוֹס אֶתכָּלהַיְּהוּדִים הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשָׁן וְצוּמוּ עׇלַי וְאַלתֹּאכְלוּ וְאַלתִּשְׁתּוּ שְׁלשֶׁת יָמִים לַיְלָה וָיוֹם גַּםאֲנִי וְנַֽעֲרֹתַי אָצוּם כֵּן וּבְכֵן אָבוֹא אֶלהַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר לֹאכַדָּת וְכַאֲשֶׁר אָבַדְתִּי אָבָדְתִּי

16. “Go gather all of the Yehudim found in Shushan and have them fast for me, and not eat, and not drink three days, night and day. Also I and my maidens will fast so. And so I will go to the king, which is not like the law. And as I will be destroyed, I will be destroyed.”

  • According to Me’am Loez, Esther wanted to bring the Jews together in order to contradict Haman’s slander in Esther 3:5 that the Jews were not unified.
  • According to Vidibarta Bam, the sale of Yosef is one opinion in the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:25) for the Jews’ existence to be threatened. Unity for that prayer would be the correction of this sale.
  • According to Nachal Eshkol, the gematria of kinos (“gather”) (20+50+6+60= 136) is the same as kol, (“voice”) (100+6+30= 136). The voice is usually symbolic throughout Torah literature of prayer, and thus indicates that Esther also requested that the Jews pray for her, as is indicated in the fact that they did so in Esther 9:31.
  • Why, in fact, did the verse then not say explicitly that the Jews prayed? As Rav Avigdor Miller points out in Torah Nation, if the authors of Megillas Esther would write that the Jews prayed, they would also have to write to Whom they prayed. However, since Megillas Esther regularly performs mental acrobatics to avoid using H-Shem’s Name, it did not mention the Jews’ praying.
  • R’ Yechezkiel Levenstein quotes the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:19), which writes that after the decree against the Jews, the Torah dressed in widow’s garb, the angels cried, the sun and the moon dimmed, etc. Only the prayer of Mordechai, one man, could overturn the decree. Of course, prayer is powerful, but as the Maharal points out from the Talmud (Brachos 8a), prayer together in a gathering (at least a minyan) is amplified.
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Esther 4:15, Question 1. Why does the verse add the seemingly unnecessary “lihashiv,” or “reply?”

טו וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר לְהָשִׁיב אֶלמָרְדֳּכָי

15. And Esther said to reply to Mordechai.

  • Quoting a verse from Mishlei (25:13), the M’nos HaLevi writes that this kind of language implies the use of gentle words.
  • According to the Alshich, the two verbs in this verse refer to two separate messages – one public, and one private. Publicly, Esther wants it to seem that she is befriending Haman. Her private message to Mordechai was to convince the Jews to pray.

Esther 4:14, Question 7. Why does the verse use “kazos” for the second “eis,” instead of “hazos,” as in the first mention?

  • According to Rashi, the word, “kazos” (“like the time”) is in the future tense. Accordingly, Mordechai is reminding Esther that there is no surety in her remaining queen in the future. For all she knows, Achashverosh will get rid of her in the same way he got rid of the last queen. If that would be the case, her effectiveness in defending the Jews has a potential expiration date.
  • According to Ibn Ezra, Mordechai is emphasizing to Esther that this very occasion is the reason why she is in the royal position in which she finds herself.
  • The Ohel Moshe writes that we are all here for one moment, to act in a way that will glorify H-Shem. We are all Divinely placed in the positions in which we find ourselves for a reason – whether we understand that reason, or not.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that Jews in prominent positions should realize that they are only there to make a Kiddush H-Shem.
  • Along the same lines, Vilna Gaon writes that Mordechai is telling Esther that her refusal will not just forfeit a reward, but will also be punished for being responsible for the deaths of the Jews.
  • The Malbim writes that H-Shem always has a set time to rescue the Jews, and Mordechai is telling Esther that this is the time to join in the rescue.
  • According to the Me’am Loez, Mordechai is pointing out that the Jews living in Persia might despair over time, and lose faith in their redemption.
  • Another opinion he brings is that this matter is time-sensitive, as Achashverosh may not have time to send messengers to recall the decree over his giant kingdom. G-d Willing, we will see in the final chapters of Megillas Esther that this concern was legitimate.

Esther 4:14, Question 6. Why is the word “eis” (“time”) used twice?

According to the M’nos HaLevi, the word “eis” (“time”) is used twice to address Esther’s concern about what she could possibly accomplish in a moment with the king. This “time” should bring to Esther’s mind another “time” not so long ago, when she was just an orphan living in Mordechai’s home. In mere moments, she became a queen. Esther should already know this secret: a moment can change everything.

Esther 4:14, Question 5. Why does Mordechai reference Esther’s “father’s house?”

  • R’ Dovid Feinstein points out that, since Mordechai raised and taught Esther, he is in a sense her father. When Mordechai references Esther’s “father’s house,” he is saying that her apathy to the needs of the Jewish people will be a mark of shame upon him.
  • Pachad Yitzchak writes that prayer is the tool of our ancestors, so Mordechai is telling Esther to utilize the power of her “father’s house” – prayer – to save the Jews from their current threat. When someone approaches an earthly king, it is one thing to provide him with a gift, but something altogether more powerful if one has the references. The king would be more likely to listen to the request because he feels like he has more of a connection with the requester.
  • In explaining this verse, R’ Henoch Leibowitz quotes a Midrash (Tehillim 22) that advises people to “push away with the right hand, and pull people in with the left.” In this case, Mordechai’s methods of convincing Esther to approach the king include “pulling with the left” by his reminding her of her noble, royal roots, and also “pushing away with the right” by warning her to not lose her chance. As R’ Leibowitz continues, if Esther – as righteous as she is – needs this form of convincing, how much more-so do we need to utilize this in our relationships with people. Instead of yelling at a child for doing something wrong, it is important to tell the child, “Doing this is beneath you.”
  • According to the Akeidas Yitzchak, Mordechai’s reference to Esther’s “father’s house” was meant to emphasize that, considering the precarious state of the Jewish people, she should use her Jewish lineage as an explanation as to why she should be allowed to visit the king unbidden.
  • The Alshich and the Megillas Sesarim both say that the “father’s house” is a reference to King Shaul, and his sin of allowing Agag to live when he had the chance to fulfill the command to obliterate Amalek. It thus become Esther’s duty to undo that error.
  • R’ Yehonason Eibshutz notes historically, there is always someone standing in the way of the Jews earning their rescue. In this case, it was Haman. Mordechai was thus telling Esther that he could, himself, get rid of Haman, but that would not make up for Esther’s ancestor’s mistake, which only she could accomplish. Halachically, Esther’s going to Achashverosh voluntarily would forbid her to Mordechai as a wife forever.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech also points out that Shaul did go through the steps of teshuva (Shmuel 1 15:26, 28). This being the case, why does Esther need to fix his error? Although regret is one step in teshuva, the result of his actions still remained. There is a story of a woman who felt her husband was emotionally abusive. The rabbi she consulted told her to purchase a block of wood and bag of nails. Each time she felt abused, he said, she should hammer a nail into the block of wood. After a few such incidents, the husband became curious about the loud knocking his wife would initiate after each fight. He asked her about it, and the wife told him what the rav had said, and showed him this porcupine of a block of wood. He instantly felt regret for his past deeds, and he made a deal that for every nice act of his toward her, she would remove one nail. Eventually, the block was nail-free. The husband said, “Look! It’s all better! There are no more nails!” “Yes,” she said, “The nails are gone…but the holes are still there.” A sin can be erased, but the consequences of that sin can last forever.