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.
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.
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.
Both the M’nos HaLevi and Yosef Lekach write that Esther stresses that it was Haman’s thoughts in order to encourage the king that having the decree nullified would not be a slight to his honor, since it was Haman’s idea – not his own.
The M’nos HaLevi also points out Esther was stressing that what Haman said (Esther 3:9) was not what he meant – so she wants the king to annul Haman’s actual intentions.
On a more mystical plane, the Sfas Emes teaches that Amalek affects Yisroel’s thoughts. Amalek’s cooling effect mentioned in the Torah (Devarim 25:18) is the cooling of what should be the Jews’ emotionally enthusiastic performance of H-Shem’s commands.
5. And she said, “If it is good for the king, and if I found favor before him, and the thing is proper before the king, and I am good in your eyes, have written to return the writings thought up by Haman son of Hemdasa the Aggagite that he wrote to destroy the Yehudim who are in all of the states of the king.
It is important to recall that Esther’s attempt to convince Achashverosh to rescind the decree is expected to be an uphill battle. After all, It is a decree with which he agrees, and the Talmud (Megillah 14a) considers that, like a landowner with too much dirt, he would have actually instigated the genocide of all the Jews himself had it not been for Haman approaching him first.
The Vilna Gaon sees in Esther’s use of this many conditions three major methods to motivate somebody: the message must be pleasing to the hearer, the speaker must be likable, and the idea itself must be sensible.
He continues that, including the fourth condition in the next verse (Esther 8:6), these four qualifiers relate to the four letters of H-Shem’s Name. In addition to this, the verse also uses the word melech (“king”) twice, indicating that Esther was pleading before the earthly king and Heavenly King simultaneously.
The Ben Ish Chai writes that there are four conditions to change Achashverosh’s perspective because four is the number for changing something. This is why the Torah has four levels: pshat (“simple”), remez (“allusion”), drash (“homelies”), sod (“secret”). The Torah itself was received in 40 (4×10) days. Similarly, Noach’s Flood lasted 40 days. Also, the Jews required 40 years in the desert to be prepared to enter Eretz Yisroel. To be defined as sinful, the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuva 3:5) writes that a congregation has to sin four times. Furthermore, a human fetus requires 40 days to develop to the point of having a gender, among other things. All of these are acts of change and development.
According to Shelom Esther, by appointing Mordechai in charge of Haman’s property, Esther was in effect making Haman’s family into Mordechai’s slaves.
R’ Avraham Mordechai and R’ Dovid Feinstein both quote the Talmudic (Pesachim 88b) dictum that what belongs to the slave is really the master’s. Therefore, Esther’s action returned Mordechai’s property back to him.
The M’nos HaLevi and R’ Shmuel de Ozeida note that Esther could not have given this to Mordechai outright because it was from Achashverosh (see Esther 8:1). It could seem like a slight to Achashverosh’s honor if she were to re-gift Haman’s property directly, so she appointed Mordechai in charge of it, instead.
The Sfas Emes interprets Haman’s estate as the other-worldly powers he amassed. At this point, Mordechai became the master of these. Perhaps this black magic can best be described as the power to change the spiritual world. Just as H-Shem placed us into a physical world where we can do such things as control electrical currents with switches and harness the wind with sails, He created our souls in a spiritual world which we can also affect if we want to.
The Maharal notes that this act points to a major theme throughout the entire Megillas Esther: that absolutely every single thing Haman attempted to do was turned around on him.
In the Rashbam’s commentary on the Torah (Bireishis 24:65), he writes that a grammatical rule, the word hazeh (“this”) refers to a close object, whereas the word halazeh (“ this”) refers to an object that is far. Already in this word, Esther means that the person responsible is someone close-by.
Similarly, the Malbim distinguishes between the two words for enemy – tzar and oyev. According to him, based on a verse in the Torah (Bamidbar 10:9) a tzar is someone who has already done harm. Based on a different verse (Devarim 21:10), an oyev is someone who wants to do harm. Both definitions fit Haman. Accordingly, Esther is answering both of Achashverosh’s questions, the first of which was who did this. Her answer: the wicked Haman. In answering his second question of the motive, Esther responds that it is an adversary and an enemy.
Interestingly, she answers the second question first, and then the first question, as Rabbeinu Yonah in his commentary Mishnah (Avos 5:9) recommends for wise people to do when appropriate. Similarly, the Talmud often (see Brachos 2a) comments on the latter point of a Mishnah before commenting on the former.
R’ Dovid Feinstein and R’ Gallico write that Esther was saying that Haman is evil and dangerous for all – not just for the Jews. This is based on the Midrash (Shemos Rabba 38:4), which quotes a verse (Devarim 33:27) that says H-Shem will push away all of our enemies. Regarding Haman, he is an enemy below as well as above; he terrorized our forefathers and he wants to terrorize our children; he is an enemy to me, and he is an enemy to you.
Similarly, Midreshai Torah write that Haman hates Achashverosh as much as he hates the Jews.
According to R’ Chadida, Esther is saying that Haman hates Jews for historical reasons, and therefore involving Achashverosh and his kingdom unnecessarily into an ancient feud. (Today also, many international leaders and their nations stumble into the Middle East quagmire without a thorough knowledge of the historic animosities and loyalties that are endemic to that region.)
The Alshich writes that Esther is saying that Haman is hated below and an enemy above.
The Targum translates this verse as: Haman wanted to kill you last night. After failing, he suggested wearing your clothes, and even the royal crown. H-Shem made it work out that Mordechai, a Jew garnered these honors, and now Haman wants the person who saved and represents you dead. As Yossipon points out, it is Mordechai who is looking out for conspiracies and plots against you.
The Lekach Tov writes that Haman is called by three descriptors because he had three intentions quoted by the verse (Esther 3:13) to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate the Jews.
Asking why the verse uses the word hazeh (“this”), the Ben Ish Chai explains that since all people have good in them, only the evil part of Haman should be hated. He quotes the AriZal’s (Shaar HaKavanos) interpretation of the Talmudic (Megillah 7a) practice of ad d’lo yada as advising us to only bless Haman when we are drunk. This means that inside our klipa (“shell”) we all hold great potential. After all, from Haman emerged his grandson, R’ Shmuel ben Shailot. That is the good trapped within him. The Talmud (Gittin 57b) famously says Haman’s grandchildren learn Torah. Although it says in Tehillim (97:10) to hate evil people, it means that we should only hate the evil part within those people. To see how far this goes, the verse that tells us to kill out Amalek (Shemos 17:14) tells us to destroy the remembrance of Amalek, since there is some good hidden deep within them.
The Talmud (Megillah 16a), also seemingly bothered by the amount of descriptions Esther uses for Haman, writes that Esther was actually going to point to Achashverosh, but an angel pointed her finger toward Haman.
R’ Meir Shapiro explains that the word hu means something outward, whereas zeh means something hidden. Here, Haman is the obvious, explicit enemy. Like any deft politician, Achashverosh can claim deniability, and wash his hands of the entire plan. The Talmud is saying that Esther is hinting to Achashverosh that she considers him equally guilty of the planned annihilation of the Jews.
On the other hand, R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that Esther was literally going to point to Achashverosh because she was upset with Achashverosh for claiming ignorance.
The Vilna Gaon explains that, like a Freudian slip, Esther pointed at Achashverosh at this point because it is the nature of people to say X if they are thinking of X, even when they consciously want to say Y. Since the righteous are constantly thinking of H-Shem, so Esther is pointing to the King.
The Chazon Ish asks why, at this critically sensitive time for the Jews, would Esther endanger their lives? He explains that she had inculcated the characteristic of emes (“truth”) to such a degree that she found it impossible to lie, implying that Achashverosh was innocent. H-Shem had to send an angel to save the day.
Similarly, the Ohel Moshe quotes R’ Puvarsky (Mussar V’Daas) that Esther’s body could only tell the truth. We have the power to train your body to copy your soul, as it says in Tehillim (63:2), “my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You.” We have the ability to train our flesh to want what the soul wants, as it says in the Mishnah (Avos 2:4). Similarly, Chovos HaLevavos writes that introspection will benefit you in both worlds, as it says in Tehillim (119:59) “I consider my ways, and I turn my feet to Your testimonies.” That is the foundation of mussar philosophy, that the goal of self-improvement.
The Maharal points out that Esther would be lying saying that this was entirely Haman’s doing, since Haman could do nothing without Achashverosh. The verse in Tehillim (101:7) says, “He who performs deceit shall not dwell in My house.” A lie cannot save the Jewish people since geulah (“redemption”) cannot result from falsehood.
R’ Hanoch Leibowitz answers the question somewhat differently. He explains that Esther, having been forcibly taken to be his wife for twelve long years, subconsciously hated Achashverosh. She therefore pointed at him, though he was not entirely responsible for decree. Even great ones err when affected by their subconscious desires. If such a one as Esther can fall prey to such desires, all people must plan out their actions before doing anything, and then think back and investigate the motivations and results of all behaviors.
R’ Eliyahu Lopian says that the angel saved Esther because no harm can come to one who is performing His Will, like speaking the truth.
The Torah in Bamidbar (33:55) commands the Jews entering the land of Canaan that they must drive out all bad influences from there, or else the remainders would be “thorns in your eyes, and pricks in your sides” which Ramban interprets as spiritual blindness and physical harassment. Perhaps this verse can also refer to Haman, who forced everyone to bow to his idol, and he tried to physically annihilate the Jews.
Also interestingly, the gematria of tzar (90+200=290) (“adversary”) is the same as the word pri (80+200+10=290) (“fruit”), whereas the gematria of oyev (1+6+10+2=19) (“enemy”) is the same as the name Chava (8+6+5=19). Perhaps this hints to the Talmudic dictum (Chullin 139b) that the verse about the tree in Gan Eden (Bireishis 3:11) alludes to Haman.