- As mentioned above, the Malbim and the Vilna Gaon explain that Haman’s confusion stemmed from the fact that he was in the presence of both the king and queen, so he could not use either of his excuses.
- Similarly, according to the Maharal, Achashverosh asked Esther why she invited Haman to the party if he is so evil. She answered that she did so intentionally to avoid the possibility of Haman giving excuses if he were confronted without both of them present.
- The verse has a combined gematria of 3355, the same as the verse (Bireishis 38:17) regarding the amount of money Yehudah pledges to Tamar. It also has the same gematria as the verse (Devarim 13:10) commanding the punishment for someone who encourages others to worship idol. Finally, it also has the same gematria as the verse in Tehillim (67:4) that the nations are happy when H-Shem governs the nations. Perhaps, just as the verse climactically demonstrates H-Shem’s active rescue of the Jews from their impending holocaust, all of these verses have to do with H-Shem’s supervision of the world. Just as the Talmud (Sotah 10a) says that He was involved with the otherwise seemingly elicit relationship between Yehuda and Tamar, so too He alone should be worshiped – without the false gods of idolatry. Similarly, the point of our world is to reach the level where everyone recognizes the guiding Hand of H-Shem in all of the events of the world.
- The Ralbag and Malbim write that Achashverosh was still speaking to the guards, and was asking what motivated whoever this was.
- Eshkol HaKofer notes that Achashverosh uses the phrase “fill his heart” because committing genocide requires planning and conspiring that must have occurred right under Achashverosh’s nose. It must have contained a person’s full heart and imagination, and was not spur of the moment.
- Yad HaMelech says that whoever is planning this seems not to know that Esther and Mordechai saved his life.
- According to the M’nos HaLevi, Achashverosh asks two questions about the identity of the culprit to imply that wherever he is, Achashverosh would find and punish him.
- R’ Meir Shapiro teaches that the word hu (“he”) implies somebody not present, whereas the word zeh (“this”) implies something present. In the context of this verse, he was asking if the perpetrator was present, or not. Incidentally, in Esther’s response in the next verse (Esther 7:6), she uses the word zeh to be clear that the Haman whom she was implicating was this one, the one right there.
- Interestingly, in Purim: Season of Miracles, R’ Zechariah Fendel points out that in the phrase mee hu zeh v‘ai (“who is he? And where?”) the last letter of the first word (yud), the first letter of the second word (hey), the last letter of the third word (vuv), and the first letter of the fourth word (hey) spell out H-Shem’s Name.
ה וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ וַיֹּאמֶר לְאֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה מִי הוּא זֶה וְאֵי–זֶה הוּא אֲשֶׁר–מְלָאוֹ לִבּוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן
5. And King Achashverosh said and he said to Esther the queen, “Who is he? And where is he who fills his heart to do like this?”
- According to the Ibn Ezra, Achashverosh repeats himself due to agitation and excitement.
- The Midrash Lekach Tov says there was an implied conversation here: Achashverosh asked his guards, “who did this?” The response was, “Haman.” Achashverosh responds with, “He couldn’t have…”
- Similarly, the Alshich writes that Achashverosh spoke twice to ask whether Esther meant him or Haman, or whether she was accusing both of them.
- The Vilna Gaon says that he spoke twice because he was speaking about the two different topics Esther brought up, he request and her plea. Regarding the former, he was asking who would kill Esther; regarding the latter, he was asking who would kill a nation.
- The Talmud (Megillah 16a) explains that Achashverosh would previously usually speak to Esther through an interpreter. Now that she tells him that she is Jewish, and a descendant of King Shaul – and thus also royal – he speaks to her directly, as is fitting for nobles. For all of this time, he did not respect her as an equal.
- M’nos HaLevi adds that this interpretation also explains why the verse uses the otherwise seemingly redundant word, hamalka (“the queen”).
- Rebbetzin Heller writes that Achashverosh spoke directly to Esther to further humiliate Haman.
- R’ David Feinstein points out that this genealogy also explains Haman’s hate for Esther. After all, Shaul had spared Agag, and people tend to hate those to whom they feel beholden. He references the Talmud (Chullin 139b) that asks for an allusion to Haman in the Torah. It answers there that it is in the verse (Bireishis 3:11) “did you eat from the tree?,” wherein the word “hamin” (“from the”) is spelled with the same letters as “Haman.” Since this story highlights the very essence of man’s ingratitude, it is a fitting allusion.
- Both R’ Moshe David Valle and the Brisker Rav say that Achashverosh is speaking twice because he indeed spoke twice, from both ends of his mouth – what he said to Haman while making the deal (Esther 3:9), and what he said to Esther now.
- The Kedushas Levi quotes the AriZal’s explanation of the Talmudic idea (Sukkah 27b) that a person should see one’s rebbi on Shabbos and Yom Tov. He explains that being close to one’s rebbi allows their holiness to rub off. Based on this, the Kedushas Levi writes that even though Achashverosh hated the Jews, he seems to care about them in this verse due to the direct communication with Esther has allowed for some of her holiness to rub off on him.
ד כִּי נִמְכַּרְנוּ אֲנִי וְעַמִּי לְהַשְׁמִיד לַהֲרוֹג וּלְאַבֵּד וְאִלּוּ לַעֲבָדִים וְלִשְׁפָחוֹת נִמְכַּרְנוּ הֶחֱרַשְׁתִּי כִּי אֵין הַצָּר שׁוֶֹה בְּנֵזֶק הַמֶּלֶךְ
4. “Because I and my nation have been sold to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. And even if we were to have been sold to be slaves and maidservants, I would have been silent because the enemy is not equal to the king’s damage.”
- The Ramban (on Bireishis 17:18) writes that the Hebrew word eelu is actually a combination of two words, eem (if) and lu (if), literally “if if,” a poetic manner of saying “if only.”
- According to the Vilna Gaon, Esther is saying that she would have stayed silent if the Jews were been sold into slavery since slavery was then a legitimate, legal form of acquisition. After all, the decree to kill the Jews involved the transfer of money (Esther 3:9).
- The Malbim explains that Esther is telling Achashverosh that Haman lied to him. Haman had told the king he wanted to kill out an unspecified “certain people,” (Esther 3:8) implying that this was a weak, unimportant group. Also, as the Malbim pointed out on there (see #209 above), Achashverosh did not know about the extermination, and thought Haman’s plan was to enslave the Jews. However, Esther was saying, Haman misled Achashverosh. Had it been merely their enslavement, Esther would remain silent but killing out an entire group of his people would ruin his historic legacy. Therefore, keeping Haman alive anymore would run the risk of destroying his reputation.
- The Ben Ish Chai explains that Esther was noting that slavery happens, and it requires the transfer of moneys. However, she was asking, if Haman wanted to kill out the Jews, why was there a financial transaction? If they deserve death, there would not need to be an exchange of money, so his intent is suspect.
- R’ Yehonason Eibshutz writes about a concept in Choshen Mishpat known as ona’a, or deceit. The rule is that one may not sell an object for more than 1/6 more profit than the cost of the item. However, the Talmud (Bava Metzia 56b) writes that such a concept does not apply to the sale of slaves. Here, Esther is saying that Haman’s overcharging made this slave sale illegitimate, and therefore she had a right to protest.
- The Ben Ish Chai quotes Rav Tzemach who writes that Achashverosh accepted the deal with Haman by telling him to do what was “hatov b’einecha” (Esther 3:11) (“good in your eyes”), or whatever you want. This phrase can also mean that whatever you do them, you must do to yourself. Therefore, if Haman’s intent was slavery, then Esther would have remained quiet seeing as Haman was already a slave. However, death is something Haman would not want. This deceptiveness was causing her to speak now to avoid the planned annihilation from hurting Achashverosh on both fronts.
- The Ohel Moshe quotes Rabbeinu Shlomo, the brother of the Vilna Gaon in explaining the verse (Ezra 9:9) “kee avadim anachnu” (“for we are slaves”). He writes that when Jews are in exile, we are like slaves in that we have fewer mitzvos. Esther is conceding that we are somewhat denigrated to the level of slaves, but annihilation is not a part of that differentiation.
- Also, R’ Dovid Feinstein quotes the verse in Moshe’s warning to the Jews of what would occur to them if they ignore H-Shem (Devarim 28:68) that the Jews will become so low, that they would not even be valuable enough to be sold as slaves. The next step after that is either destruction or redemption. Esther didn’t say that to Achashverosh because he wouldn’t mind destroying the Jews.
- Basing himself on the same verse, the Rokeach says that our slavery is in Torah, so Esther would have to accept it. However, actual annihilation is against the Torah’s promise (Vayikra 26:45), so Esther cannot remain mute.
- According to the Midrash (Esther Rabba 7:25), the threat to Jewish existence in Persia was a result of the sons of Yaakov attempting to sell their Yosef into slavery (Bireishis 37:28). Shar Bas Rabim explains that since H-Shem operates mida kineged mida (“measure for measure”), Esther was saying here that slavery was a fair punishment, but not death.
- R’ Shmuel Aharon Rubin, father of the author of Talilei Oros, during the sale of Yosef, he was saved by Yehudah (Bireishis 37:26). This, he explains, is the reason why the verse that introduces Mordechai (Esther 2:5) uniquely mentions his mother’s lineage from Yehudah.
- Perhaps it is noteworthy that Mordechai’s lineage is also from Binyamin, the only other brother not responsible for Yosef’s sale.
יד עוֹדָם מְדַבְּרִים עִמּוֹ וְסָרִיסֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ הִגִּיעוּ וַיַּבְהִלוּ לְהָבִיא אֶת–הָמָן אֶל–הַמִּשְׁתֶּה אֲשֶׁר–עָשְׂתָה אֶסְתֵּר
14. They were still speaking with him, and the eunuchs of the king arrived. And they rushed to bring Haman to the drinking party that Esther made.
- The M’nos HaLevi and Malbim write that the verse stresses that the king’s eunuchs arrived while Haman’s advisers were still speaking with him because this is an example of hashgacha pratis, H-Shem’s supervision of the world on a seemingly minor scale. As such, Haman did not get the sound advice from his advisers.
- R’ Eliezer Ashkenazi and the Malbim write that this is how Charvonah learned of the gallows (see Esther 7:9 below).
- The Dubno Maggid asks that, since Haman’s advisers were wise, why did they not consider this an opening for the Satan, based the Talmudic (Kesubos 8b) principle of al tiftach peh l’satan – not saying something that would give the Heavenly accuser an opportunity to do something unfavorable? He explains that they had planned to conclude their remarks with the good side, but the eunuchs’ sudden arrival interrupted them.
- The Degel Machaneh Efrayim adds that, as soon as the advisers questioned if Mordechai were Jewish, H-Shem sent Achashverosh’s servants as an answer. This is because He answers prayers even before they are uttered, as it says in Yeshaya (65:24) “od heim midabrim vaAni eshma” (“while they were speaking, and I heard”). All of this is possible because, unlimited by the dimension of time, H-Shem knows what we will do before we do it.
- The Yad HaMelech points out that Achashverosh stresses that Mordechai sits at the king’s gate in order to allay Haman’s concern that honoring Mordechai may be beneath his dignity. This is not to imply that Achashverosh suddenly cares about Haman’s honor; in fact, if Haman were to honor somebody lowly, that could reflect poorly on Achashverosh, his king.
- According to the Talmud (Megillah 16a), Haman attempted to stall by pretending to not know which Mordechai Achashverosh had in mind, and the king had to narrow down the identity of this particular Mordechai.
- The Maharal says that the reason Haman’s advice of giving the honoree the crown (Esther 6:8) is not mentioned again is because the king should ordinarily give these items, himself. However, in the case of this person who is a major adviser who “sits at the gate of the king,” Haman can bring him the crown.
- The Ginzei HaMelech notes that Achashverosh here does not describe Mordechai as one “who sits at my gate,” but rather the “gate of the king” because he is alluding to the fact that Mordechai sits at the gate of the King, H-Shem. Earlier (Esther 2:5), when Mordechai was referred to as the “son of Kish,” the Talmud (Megillah 12b-13a) understood that to mean that he knocked (“hikish”) at the Gates of Mercy. His praying therefore qualified him to be called one who sits at the gate of the King.