- According to the Yosef Lekach, the format of this part of Megillas Esther is different from the rest, with each name on a separate line, to emphasize the prominence of these men.
- The Talmud (Megillah 16b) writes that these verses are written like the bricks of a building because we do not want them to rise again.
- This is also in keeping with the custom brought down by the Rema (Orach Chaim 690:15) to read from the last three words (chamesh meios ish) in Esther 9:6 until the first three words (asseres bnei Haman) in Esther 9:10 in one breath.
- The Maharil explains the custom similarly that Haman’s sons were in command of these 500 men, and they were all killed at once, as though in one breath.
- The Yosef Lekach writes that the verse uses the word ish to indicate that the dead enemies were important people.
- Similarly, the Targum explains that all of these 500 were Amalek dignitaries.
- Rav Eliezer of Garmiza adds that Haman’s sons led the battles, and were therefore killed first.
- On the other hand, Ma’amar Mordechai writes that his sons were not killed at this point. Rather, they were preserved for later (see Esther 9:7-9).
- Megillas Sesarim writes that ish in in the singular because, despite their greatness, they were easily mowed down as if they were but one man.
- The Rema in Machir Yayin writes that they are united in their deaths because they were united in one purpose.
ו וּבְשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה הָרְגוּ הַיְּהוּדִים וְאַבֵּד חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת אִישׁ
6. And in Shushan the capital, the Yehudim killed and destroyed five hundred man.
- The M’nos HaLevi translates habira, not as “the capital,” but as the “palace,” so the verse is intimating, according to R’ Yosef Gakon, how safe the Jews felt in the palace compound to have killed 500 servants of the king in his presence.
- Similarly, the Ibn Ezra adds that, outside Shushan, the Jews feared the influence of Haman and his sons.
- Interestingly, the Vilna Gaon notes that the verse uses the word vi’abed (“and destroyed”) because the Jews destroyed the property of their enemies. The reason for this is to assist the Persians in forgetting this event ever took place. Nations in general have poor memories, and the lack of physical reminders can help avoid the anti-Jewish sentiment this massacre could later conjure.
- Considering the Jews’ natural dislike of violence, this verse’s description that “they did to their enemies as they wanted,” seemingly without regard for the rules of engagement, appears strangely out of character.
- Rav Yechezkiel Levenstein writes that the verse can be read as “they, the Jews, did to their enemies as they – the enemies – wanted,” or that they treated them with respect rather than killed them.
- In a similar reading, the Alshich and the Vilna Gaon suggest that the verse can be read as “they did to their enemies as they – the enemies – wanted to do to them.”
- Also, the Yosef Lekach writes that the Jews took the spoils in the small towns because “they, the Jews, did to their enemies as they (the Jews) wanted,” and not as Mordechai wanted.
- According to the Midrash, the Jews killed the enemies inside their houses with the sword, but killed those who were outside with other methods. Those who were hiding needed to be brought out to the battlefield.
- The Alshich explains that some gentiles openly threatened the Jews, while others harbored hate privately. Each group received a punishment commensurate with their behavior – some were wounded with the sword, some were killed, and yet others were destroyed together with their possessions.
- The Maharal points out that hitting the enemies with the sword could potentially kill them, and once they are killed, they may need to be buried. But once they are destroyed, the enemies are gone.
- R’ Moshe Katzenellenbogen writes that, in big cities, Jews could only kill bigger, more obvious enemies. In the smaller cities, the Jews stripped the weaker leaders of their power and humiliated them.
- The Vilna Gaon explains these three methods were utilized at different stages of the battle. During the first stage, the Jews used swords, then graduated to burning those hiding out of the buildings, and finally arrested the residents.
- The Ben Ish Chai points out that the rearranged initial letters (not counting the article letter vuv‘s) of makas cherev vi’hereg vi’avdal (“striking of the sword, and killed, and destroyed”) spell out the word emcheh (“I will destroy”). H-Shem (Shemos 17:14) uses this very word in His promise to eradicate Amalek, the nation responsible for this massacre. He also points out that these three expressions parallel Haman’s plan (Esther 3:13) to kill, destroy, and annihilate the Jews. The Jews merited to overcome this triple fate by fasting for three days (Esther 4:16).
- R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that the destruction in this verse refers to the Jews destroyed the property of their enemies. This was done to demonstrate that their intent was not to conquer the wealth of others. Perhaps this was also intentionally contrary to Achasverosh’s order (Esther 4:11) in order to have the excuse that they could not take the possessions, since they were destroyed.
- The Vilna Gaon writes that this verse stresses that these people feared Mordechai, as opposed to the general populace mentioned in the previous verse. This was a more powerful deterrent because the officials knew how Mordechai’s power translated in the inner circles of the palace.
- Malbim adds that, having the more detailed versions of the original decree, these officials had to choose between supporting the enemies or the Jews. Because they feared Mordechai, they decided to do the politically expedient thing – nothing.
Rashi translates the unusual verb misyahadim as “converted.” Seemingly, because of their fear of Jewish reprisal, many gentiles converted to Judaism.
Agaddas Bireishis (15) explains that non-Jews always want to convert to Judaism whenever the Jews are fulfilling their responsibilities to H-Shem.
The Alshich points out that this shows a sharp contrast between the Jews and gentiles. When faced with annihilation, the Jews strengthened their faith with teshuva (“repentance”), whereas the gentiles abandoned the empty faiths of their powerless gods.
The Ginzei HaMelech wonders why this contrast occurred at this point, and not in Moshe’s time. In other words, one would expect a lot more converts during the Jews’ exodus and miraculous stay in the desert. He answers that there were so few converts in Moshe’s time because the Talmud (Shabbos 88a) teaches that the Jews were coerced then to accept the Torah. One needs to feel inspired to inspire others, as the Jews felt at the end of the Purim story.
The Ralbag disagrees with Rashi’s translation, and suggests that they did not convert, but merely pretended to be Jews.
The Vilna Gaon explains that they did not really convert because they would have been motivated by fear.
After all, Meseches Geirim (1:7) writes that if a person’s motivation for conversion to Judaism is women, love, or fear, their act is not considered a real conversion.
Interestingly, according to R’ Moshe Dovid Valle, Mordechai accepted even the insincere converts, just as had Moshe when accepting the eruv rav, Egyptians who converted to Judaism insincerely when they saw that the Jews were successfully and miraculously leaving Egypt. According to him, their descendants caused problems during second Beis HaMikdash.
However, according to M’nos HaLevi, they were not accepted because the Talmud (Kiddushin 70a) writes that converts can be difficult to the Jews. He continues that these gentiles nevertheless dressed in Jewish clothing. The Sfas Emes notes that this is yet another source for the custom to masquerade on Purim.
In Likkutei Sichos, the Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that “am ha’aretz” can represent the “basic, fundamental human.” In other words, basic human behavior like sleeping, eating, etc. are obviously applicable to both Jews and gentiles, alike. The actions are the same, but there are different attitudes. For instance, a Jew is required to eat with appreciation and with intent to have a closer bond with H-Shem, to sleep in order to better perform mitzvos the next day, etc. Therefore, even in base, human behaviors, these particular gentiles acted like Jews.