Esther 5:14, Question 4. Why did Haman’s advisers advise him to tell the king instead of asking the king?

  • According to the Midrash (Esther Rabba 9:2), Zeresh was advising Haman to convince the king that it was imperative that he kill Mordechai. He was supposed to explain to Achashverosh that Mordechai’s very existence threatened Persian civilization, even to the point that just his praying had the power to negate the power of their Persian gods.
  • For another explanation for Haman’s not needing to ask the king, but rather tell him, we should recall that the Yalkut Shimoni (1053, commenting on Esther 3:1) writes that Achashverosh had built a throne for Haman that was even higher than his own, and that the Talmud (Megillah 51a, commenting on Esther 4:1) says that Mordechai’s cry after learning of the decree against the Jews was that Haman became more powerful than Achashverosh. Based on these, the Avnei Nezer writes that Haman was to tell the king instead of asking him because he had taken charge. Perhaps, as in history or literature, the king gave his adviser greater power than he realized in order to have less responsibility, himself.
Advertisements

Esther 5:14, Question 3. Why did Haman’s advisers advise him to go to the king in the morning?

  • The Malbim writes that they wanted Mordechai hanged in the morning because that is when public executions were performed in order to show the strength of the monarchy.
  • The Ben Ish Chai writes that Zeresh was, in effect, telling Haman that Mordechai was in prayer at that time, he wouldn’t be aggravated by the sight of him.
  • The Maharal says that morning represents geulah (redemption). This is why the very next verse (Esther 6:1) begins the positive upswing of Megillas Esther.
  • R’ Yehonasan Eibshutz quotes the Midrash Abba Guria that Zeresh wanted Mordechai to be killed during the time of Shema. That way, Mordechai would be unable to connect geulah to tefillah (prayer)1, which the Talmud promises would have otherwise protected him (Brachos 9b).

1This is a Halachic concept (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 66:7, Mishnah Berurah ibid., sub-paragraph 33) that forbids any interruption between the morning prayer ending in “ga’al Yisroel” (“Savior of Israel”) and the Amidah.

Esther 5:14, Question 2. Why did Haman’s advisers specifically advise for Mordechai to be hanged?

  • The Midrash (Esther Rabba 9:2) writes that Zeresh and Haman’s other advisers recommended that Haman hang Mordechai because this is a form of death from which H-Shem had never previously saved the Jews miraculously.
  • Seeing that they were, however, saved from every other type of death, it seems strange that Zeresh could so grossly misunderstand history. Aruchas Tamid explains that Zeresh thought that the Jews had previously been rescued by using magic. Therefore, Mordechai would be unable to escape hanging since the Talmud (Sanhedrin 44b, Rashi) teaches that magicians need to be standing on the ground to perform their magic. In fact, this is one of the reasons Pharoah’s magicians could not replicate the plague of lice (Shemos 8:14, Da’as Zekeinim Baalei Tosfos), since the lice covered the ground and the magicians could not stand on it. For this reason, in the famous aggadic story in the Talmud when Shimon ben Shetach killed eight magicians (Sanhedrin 45b), he first lifted them from the ground.
  • M’nos HaLevi says that they wanted Mordechai hanged in order to avenge the hanging deaths of Bigsan and Seresh (Esther 2:23), Haman’s friends and possibly co-conspirators. R’ Yehonasan Eibshutz reiterates that killing Mordechai was Haman’s first step in killing Achashverosh and Esther, and becoming king through his friendship with the Greeks, rivals of Persia.

Esther 5:14, Question 1. Why were the gallows specifically 50 cubits?

  • The Ma’amar Mordechai writes that the tree was supposed to be 50 amos tall to enable Haman to see Mordechai hanging while still at Esther’s party. The reason we can be certain that Mordechai would be more visible under that condition is that the Talmud (Eruvin 2b) teaches that the windows in kings’ palaces are no higher than 50 amos.
  • The Vilna Gaon teaches that the gallows certainly needed to be tall enough for Harbona to point to it (Esther 7:9). This is because of the Talmudic principle (Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 26a) that hearing is not comparable to seeing.
  • According to the Ben Ish Chai, Zeresh is advising Haman that if he gets irritated, he can simply look up and get in a good mood because Mordechai will hang from the tree seen everywhere.
  • According to Yalkut Shimoni (1054), besides throwing lots (purim) to decide on the best date to kill all of the Jews (Esther 3:7), Haman also threw lots to decide on the best species of tree to use in making this gallows. However, throughout TaNaCh, the Jews are compared to many different kinds of trees, so he decided on a cedar because Jews are not compared to it. The reason for this is that the cedar can be shattered by the wind.
  • Both the Yalkut Shimoni and the Midrash Abba Gorion continue that Haman could not find such a tall beam, so his son Parshandasa, governor of the area of Mt. Ararat, the area where Noach’s ark landed (Bireishis 8:4), gave him beam of Noach’s teivah, which would have been 50 amos long (Bireishis 6:15).
  • Rabbi Dovid Feinstein explains that the wood was from Noach’s teivah to show that killing Mordechai was important for humanity, as his refusal to bow down to Haman disturbed the “Great Chain of Being,” society’s understanding of the social hierarchy.
  • However, the Binyan Shlomo quotes the Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer (Chap. 50) that the wood taken from Holy of Holies1.
  • The Maharal notes that the teiva and the Beis HaMikdash both represent Olam HaZeh, the terrestrial world. Essentially, the idea of the Beis HaMikdash is that items of this world can be taken and elevated to greatness. Similarly, the teiva saved this physical world from destruction during the Deluge. Haman was attempting to conquer that mystical power that holds control over this world. This is what it means that Haman made of himself an object of worship, which is one of the reasons Mordechai had refused to bow to him. It is interesting to note that another connection between the teivah and the Beis HaMikdash is hidden in gematria. The gematria of ararat (1+200+200+9=410) is the same as the amount of years the first Temple stood.
  • In his usual, mysterious style, Rav Moshe David Valle writes that the 50 amos refer to the 50 gevuros (powers) of the yad hachazaka (“the strong Hand”), all of them combining against Haman. Perhaps this is a reference to the Haggadah in which Rabbi Yosi haGelili asks, “How do we know the Egyptians were struck with ten plagues in Mitzrayim and 50 at the sea?” In reply, he contrasts the verse (Shemos 8:15) in which Pharaoh’s magicians recognized the plagues as “the finger of G-d” with the verse (Shemos 14:31) describing Israel’s recognizing G-d’s might after drowning the Egyptians in the Sea of Reeds, “and Israel saw the great Hand.” If one finger represents the plagues, of which there where ten, then a hand with its five fingers would be five times greater, or 50. Therefore, the 50 amos of the gallows demonstrate H-Shem’s anger with Haman.
  • According to the Sfas Emes, when Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Bireishis 3:6), good and evil became confused. Kabbalistically, this resulted in 49 gates of tumah (impurity) which parallel 49 gates of kedusha (holiness). When the Talmud (Chulin 139b) states that Adam’s eating from the tree (Bireishis 3:11) is an allusion to Haman, it is because Amalek (represented by Haman), is the force that causes this confusion (the Hebrew word for confusion, safek (60+80+100=240) has the same gematria as Amalek (70+40+30+100=240). To know clearly what is right, and have not doubts at all, one needs to be above one’s area of control by leaping above to the 50th gate, a place Amalek cannot exist. Moshe’s raising his hands during the Jews’ war with Amalek (Shemos 17:11) hints to the idea of rising above one’s vantage point. Chiddushei HaRim brings this idea of confusing good with evil as another reason for the custom to drink wine on Purim ad d’lo yada.

1 Most commentators give the source for this measurement as Yechezkel 40:15, which describes the length of the boards used in the Third Temple. Being that this Temple has unfortunately not been built yet (unless this was attempted before, as Rabbi Ken Spiro suggests in his “Crash Course in Jewish History”), perhaps the intended source is Shemos 27:12-13, which describes the Mishkan’s width rather than length.

Esther 5:13, Question 3. Why does Haman mention “every time?”

  • Referencing that previously-cited story of Haman selling himself as a slave to Mordechai, Rashi writes that Mordechai regularly showed Haman his deed of sale written on his shoe. This is why Haman mentions “every time.”

  • The Me’am Loez notes that Haman does not mention that Mordechai is not bowing down to him. He explains that Haman neglects to mention this because he felt it is beneath him.

  • The Ben Ish Chai is of the opinion that Haman’s deed of sale was tattooed on Haman’s knee. As class participant RS pointed out, decorating Haman with such a tattoo makes sense because he cannot remove such a sign, and therefore cannot deny it later.

  • The Ben Ish Chai continues that Haman knew through numerology that Mordechai would be his chief obstacle in attaining power. This is because their gematrios are similar. How can Haman (5+40+50=95) be similar to Mordechai (40+200+4+20+10=274)? Rather, the gematria of the phrase arrur Haman (“cursed is Haman”) (1+200+6+200+5+40+50=502) is equal to that of baruch Mordechai (“blessed is Mordechai”) (2+200+6+20+40+200+4+20+10=502).