Esther 8:11, Question 2. Why do the letters command the Jews to plunder?

  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that the Jews were expected to plunder the wealth of the gentiles because of mida kineged mida (“measure for measure”). After all, Haman’s decree (Esther 3:13) included gentiles plundering the valuable of their Jewish victims.

  • However, the Malbim points out that, as opposed to Haman’s letters, these letters did not imply that the plundering was to take place after the enemy was killed out. Rather, they only had one day! This is because Haman gave plenty of time to plunder in order to help motivate the hordes. Mordechai, on the other hand, did not need to do this since survival is the greatest motivator.

  • Class Participant YML suggested that if this letter were written by Achashverosh, it is possible he only gave them one day out of his anti-Semitic desire to give the Jews less than what they were entitled to receive.

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Esther 8:11, Question 1. Why do the letters require the Jews to gather?

יא אֲשֶׁר נָתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ לַיְּהוּדִים ׀ אֲשֶׁר בְּכָלעִירוָעִיר לְהִקָּהֵל וְלַעֲמֹד עַלנַפְשָׁם לְהַשְׁמִיד וְלַהֲרֹג וּלְאַבֵּד אֶתכָּלחֵיל עַם וּמְדִינָה הַצָּרִים אֹתָם טַף וְנָשִׁים וּשְׁלָלָם לָבוֹז

11. “That the king gave to the Yehudim who were in each city and city to gather, and to stand on their souls, to annihilate, and to kill, and to destroy any army of the nation and state who antagonize them, infants, and women. And their property they should plunder.

  • According to Dena Pishra, the letters required the Jews to gather because Jewish unity is a powerful method of attaining H-Shem’s assistance.

  • The Sfas Emes adds that Jews have an aggregate soul, and our combined effort is especially needed when we are in danger.

  • Furthermore, the Ginzei HaMelech asks that if the word “unify” requires two or more people, and the word “stand” implies one [as one person stands for oneself], which is the letters’ intent? Based on Rashi’s comment on the Talmud (Shabbos 127b) that “stand” means to pray, he answers that the Talmud (Bava Kama 97a) promises a Jew that when one prays for another’s needs, one’s prayers are never rejected. The Talmud (Brachos 8a) says the same idea regarding communal prayer.

Esther 8:10, Question 3. Why does the verse mention the couriers’ transportation?

  • The Vilna Gaon points out that Mordechai provided these animals to the couriers because he wanted them to hurry. This, despite the fact that they were exhausted from having just traversed the largest nation in the world to deliver Haman’s original decree. Seeing that they were tired, he gave them the fastest possible horses.
  • The Malbim writes that Mordechai sent the messengers on horses in contrast with Haman. In explanation, R’ Chaim Kanievsky writes that Haman had plenty of time – he had eleven months. Mordechai is in a hurry to save lives.
  • Interestingly, the Talmud (Megillah 18a) writes that the sages were unsure as to the translation of the couriers’ transportation.
  • Rashi translates achashtirans as swift camels.
  • The Ibn Ezra writes that these are a species of mule. After all, the verse says they are bred from ramachs, and the Mishnah (Kilayim 8:5) considers a ramach a mare, mother of a mule. Also, the Arabic word, ramach means mare.
  • R’ Yosef Kimchi concurs and he adds that achash in Median means large and tiran (misrain) means two. Therefore, the combination of the two words means the mating of two large animals: the horse and the donkey.
  • R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch (Collected Writings, Volume IV, 286) translates rachash as a draft horse. Parenthetically, he adds that the symbolic meaning of these in TaNaCh indicates a reluctance to listening to one’s master.
  • R’ Yehoshua Leib Diskin writes that these untranslatable words answer another question from the Talmud (Megillah 3b), which says one must interrupt Torah learning to hear the public reading of Megillas Esther on Purim. This is also brought down as the Halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 687:2). The Halacha (Mishnah Berurah Orach Chaim 690:26) further states from this verse that one fulfills one’s obligation in Hebrew despite not knowing the meaning. But is not Megillas Esther also Torah?! Rav Diskin explains that it is not considered Torah study if one does not understand it. Understanding is an essential component of Torah study. Hearing the reading is still an obligation because persumei nisa (publicizing a miracle) is even greater than Torah study.

Esther 8:10, Question 2. Why does Mordechai do all of these actions?

  • M’nos HaLevi writes that the verse mentions that Mordechai does all of these actions to demonstrate Mordechai’s enthusiasm to be involved in every part of the mitzvah of saving the Jews. When great leaders in our history get involved in a mitzvah, they put all of their energies into the project. R’ Moshe Feinstein often had to let down organizations by saying he could not be on their boards because he was not content to be a figurehead – he used his priceless time and abilities to be involved in every aspect of the operations, including planning, payroll, bookkeeping, organizing, and even decorating.
  • One may wonder if this goes counter to the idea of zrisus (“alacrity”). After all, perhaps if Mordechai had delegated some responsibilities, Jewish lives would have been saved sooner. In Alei Shor, R’ Shlomo Wolbe explains that zrisus does not always mean doing things quickly; rather, it can mean doing things efficiently, properly, and with care.

Esther 8:9, Question 4. Why does the verse mention both the script and the language?

  • Rashi explains that the verse uses the words kiksavam (“like their writing”) and chilshonam (“like their language”) to refer to the written letters and spoken sounds of the language, respectively. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 22a) deduces from this verse proof that neither the Hebrew script nor spoken language has ever changed.
  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle writes that one reason for this was for the illiterate Jews who may otherwise become incensed over the knowledge of the gentile decree, and might react violently. The idea was that the scholars who read the decree would be able to calm the restless rabble.
  • Furthermore, as the Talmud (Shabbos 12b) teaches, angels only understand Hebrew.
  • According to Rebbetzin Heller, keeping the language is an additional merit that helped rescue the Jews. As the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 32:5) teaches, even the Jews in Mitzrayim, although they maintained next to no Jewish observance, had the merit of retaining their language. This dedication to Jewish “culture” demonstrated the people’s desire to retain a bond with their Creator.
  • The Yerushalmi (Megillah 2:1) learns from this verse that the public reading of Megillas Esther on Purim must be read in Hebrew. This is brought down as the Halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 690:8-9).
  • Class Participant BR suggested that the intent of this may have been to keep the secret messages and lessons of Megillas Esther hidden exclusively for the Jewish people.

Esther 8:9, Question 2. Why does Mordechai send these letters so long after getting the king’s permission?

  • Aside for Mordechai’s desire to send these letters in Sivan for the reasons mentioned above, the Yosef Lekach writes that Mordechai waited for Haman’s couriers to return from their original mission (Esther 3:13). Utilizing the same couriers would add legitimacy to Mordechai’s letter.
  • The Midrash (Bireishis Rabba 100:6) writes that H-Shem rewarded the gentiles for mourning Yaakov for 70 days (Bireishis 50:3) by giving them these 70 days between the 13th of Nisan and the 23rd of Sivan to do teshuva.
  • R’ Yehonason Eibshutz writes that a common calculation in the Torah is a day for a year, as when the Jewish people were punished (Bamidbar 14:17) with 40 years of delaying their entry into the Holy Land for their believing the spies who traversed the land for 40 days. Therefore, he writes, these 70 days were for the Jews to perform teshuva in gratitude for H-Shem’s saving their lives, which the verse (Tehillim 90:10) says lasts an average of 70 years.
  • Similarly, the Vilna Gaon explains that the Jews were scared about their fate for these 70 days to get an atonement for the 70 years of exile which they had caused upon themselves.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that these 70 days represented the 70 nations of the world were allowed to think that they were in control of the fate of the Jews.

Esther 8:8, Question 4. Why does Achashverosh seem to have a change of heart regarding Jews?

  • One way to answer Achashverosh’s sudden seeming change of heart is the fact that he regularly changes his mind about things since he lacks any true convictions. As the saying goes regarding this fickle king: he listened to a friend to kill his wife, and then he listened to his wife to kill a friend.
  • However, R’ Yehonason Eibshutz explains that Achashverosh’s negative feelings towards Jews were caused by a vision that he had earlier in his life that a Jew would take his throne. Once he found out (Esther 7:4) that his wife was a Jewess, his child through her, although a Jew maternally, could take the throne after Achashverosh passes with no harm coming to him. Indeed, according to the Talmud (Megillah 11b) Esther’s son, Darius II ruled after him.