Esther 9:15, Question 2. Why does the verse mention again that the Jews did not take the spoils?

  • Class Participant YML suggests that maybe taking the wealth would have make the Jews wealthier than Haman, raising Achashverosh’s paranoia.
  • The Sfas Emes notes that the three incidents in which the verses emphasize that the Jews did not take the spoils parallel the three actions of Shaul and his people for which the threatened annihilation of the Jews of Persia served as a tikkun – the sparing of Agag, the sparing of the livestock, and the taking of the Amalekite gold and silver.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech writes that although the Jews did not take the spoils, the verse implies that someone did; namely, Mordechai. Mordechai did, indeed, take the spoils by accepting Haman’s house (Esther 8:2). He used this wealth to help finance the rebuilding of the Temple. In a powerful display of vinahafoch Hu (“and He reversed”), Haman’s wealth was used to build the very structure which he dedicated his life to destroy.
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Esther 9:13, Question 1. Why does Esther ask for another day?

יג וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר אִםעַלהַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב יִנָּתֵן גַּםמָחָר לַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בְּשׁוּשָׁן לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּדַת הַיּוֹם וְאֵת עֲשֶׂרֶת בְּנֵיהָמָן יִתְלוּ עַלהָעֵץ

13. And Esther said, “If it is good for the king, give also tomorrow to the Yehudim who are in Shusham to do according to today’s law, and the sons of Haman hang on the tree.”

  • In a move reminiscent of her request (Esther 5:8) for a second party (also requesting it for “tomorrow!”), given the opportunity to ask of anything from the king, Esther asks for a seeming repeat of the previous day.
  • M’nos HaLevi explains that this would give the opportunity to kill more of the Jews’ enemies, avoiding the possibility of their getting revenge.
  • According to the Ben Ish Chai, Esther wanted two days to mirror the two days Haman planned in his decree – one day to kill off the people, and the second day to take their belongings.
  • The Megillas Sesarim notes that the Jewish court met in Shushan, as is evident from the fact that Mordechai (who was on the court) lived there, and the Talmud (Megillah 12a) says Achashverosh consulted the Jewish scholars regarding Vashti’s behavior. That being the case, the Shechina had some influence in Shushan since the Talmud (Brachos 6a) teaches that the Shechina resides where a Jewish court judges. Esther felt that the Shechina left as soon as Haman made the decree to kill the Jews. The second day was intended to allow for the Shechina to return.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech posits that Esther requested a second day to effect a tikkun for the mistake of Shaul in letting Agag live. He quotes the Pachad Yitzchak, who writes that there were previously two wars with Amalek, a defensive one when they attacked in the time of Moshe (Shemos 17:8-16), and an offensive battle in which H-Shem commanded their eradication in the time of Shaul (Shmuel 1 15:1-9). The first day symbolizes that first war because it was also defensive. The requested second day would represent the second, offensive, war. He adds that since the word, melech also represents H-Shem, Esther is asking the Creator for a future (as Rashi defines machar (“tomorrow”)) directive to destroy Amalek, in the days of Moshiach.
  • Rav Shlomo Brevda (zt”l) writes that Esther asked for a second day so that people would not say that Haman’s erred in his interpretation of astrology in choosing the 13th of Adar. Esther wanted it to be crystal clear that, although Haman’s astrological skills were perfectly accurate, H-Shem changed the decree to save the Jews.

Esther 7:10, Question 3. Why does the king’s fury subside?

  • According to the Ibn Ezra, Achashverosh was angry from the time he woke up from his drunken stupor after following Haman’s decree to rid himself of Vashti (Esther 2:1) until Haman was ultimately hanged.
  • The Me’am Loez explains the subsiding of the king’s fury as calm that returned to the universe.
  • This is because, as the Sfas Emes writes, when Amalek is in power, H-Shem is more noticeable through His characteristic of din, judgment. This is similar to what Rashi writes in his commentary on Torah (Shemos 17:16).
  • Haman’s end brought with it a sense of peace. The Talmud in several places (Rosh HaShanah 12a, Sanhedrin 108b, Zevachim 113b) points out that regarding the Flood, the verse (Bireishis 8:1) says “vayishku mayim” (“and the water subsided”) when the waters cooled down, whereas the phrase in this verse is “v’chamas hamelech shichacha” (“and the fury of the king subsided”). The contrast in phrasing implies that the flood waters were hot to match the burning passions of the licentious people of that time, mida kineged mida.
  • Parenthetically, perhaps another connection between the flood and Haman’s downfall is the Midrashic opinion (Yalkut Shimoni 6:1056) that Haman built the gallows from the beams of Noach’s ark.
  • Interestingly, shachacha (“subsided”) is a unique word in TaNaCh. R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch (Collected Writings, Volume IV, 319) comments that the word, shachach is phonetically related to shagag, (“not by choice”). In other words, the king’s anger was not something Achashverosh put effort into controlling. It came and subsided without any input from him.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 16a) considers that the unique spelling of shacha with an extra letter chuf to read shachacha is due to the fact that two angers were cooled; one belonged to the King of the Universe and the other belonged to Achashverosh. Also, Achashverosh calmed down about the situation of Esther, and the situation of Vashti.
  • As Rashi explains, Achashverosh was doubly angry because Haman was seemingly responsible for the death of Vashti, and was now a threat to Esther.
  • The Maharsha emphasizes that Achashverosh was still angry from that point (Esther 2:1), chronologically almost a decade earlier.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein explains that Achashverosh had held himself responsible for Vashti’s fate all of this time, but now realizes that he was deceived and manipulated.
  • The Vilna Gaon says that the king whose fury subsided was H-Shem, King of the World. This may refer to the Zohar (III 133a), which translates the verse (Tehillim 144:15) that describes the Jewish people as “ha’am shekacha Lo,” or as “the nation that calms Him,” implying that the Jewish people have a tremendous power, if only we were to utilize it.
  • The Zer Zahav writes that Esther’s not forgiving Haman finally caused Shaul to be forgiven for taking unwarranted pity on Agag, Haman’s ancestor.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech writes that the Shir Ma’on quotes the Sha’aris Yisroel that quotes the great scholars who lived through the Chmielnicki Massacres of 5408-5409 (1648-1649 CE), which was one of the worst attempts at the genocide of the Jewish people in our history. They note that the large letter ches (Esther 1:6) and the large letter suf (Esther 9:29). Together, the letters spell out tach, a Hebrew way to reference the year 5408. This means that the massacre was a manifestation of Haman’s evil decree.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech heard from others the contention that the Chmielnicki Massacre was not the end of the effects of Haman’s decree. Rather, the Holocaust of tasha, 5705 (1945 CE), was the final manifestation of Haman’s decree. He proves this from the unique spelling of shachacha; since H-Shem was “calmed” about the Jewish people twice – once in tach, and once in tasha. There is proof of this in the mispar katan of the word shachacha (300+20+20+5=345= 12= 3) being the same as the mispar katan of tasha (400+300+5=705 = 12= 3). H-Shem is no longer anger.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech also quotes from Rav Michel Weissmandel that there is a hint to this in the traditional sizes of the letters in the list of Haman’s sons (Esther 9:7-9) as found in the Megillas Esther. The letters suf (400), shin (300), and zayin (7) there are smaller than the surrounding text, which refer to the year tashaz (1946 CE), the year in which ten Nazi officers were hanged at the Nuremberg Trials. There is also a large letter vuv (6), alluding to the sixth officer, Julius Streicher, who shouted “Purim Fest 1946” as he was being led to the gallows, despite the hanging taking place on Hoshana Rabba, the holiday on which the Zohar (III 31b-32a) says H-Shem judges the gentile nations. There was another Nazi who was supposed to be executed that day, Herman Goring, who committed suicide in his cell. He is likened to Haman’s daughter, who also killed herself. The comparison is extenuated by the fact that Goring famously enjoyed wearing women’s clothing.
  • Furthermore, the gematria of shachacha is the same as Moshe (40+300+5=345) because even good leaders are taken when H-Shem chooses to punish a generation. As the Talmud (Brachos 62b) teaches, a plague takes away the greatest of the generation together with the masses. Indeed, a storm sweeps away the good grain together with the chaff.
  • According to the Nachal Eshkol, another reason this gematria corresponds to Moshe is because the Midrash (Esther Rabba 6:2) says that yet another reason the Jews were saved from genocide was in the merit of Moshe. His merit should continue to be with us, and rescue us finally from this exile, bimheira biyameinu.

Esther 7:7, Question 3. Why does Haman approach Esther?

  • According to Megillas Sefer, Haman was saying to Esther that if she forgives him, Achashverosh will, too.
  • The Vilna Gaon writes that Haman tried to tell Esther that he didn’t know that the Jews were her people.
  • The Meshech Chochmo writes that Haman realized that the invitations came from Esther, so she is the one with the most power.
  • According to the Ben Ish Chai, Haman tried to convince Esther that he put her in this position of power by getting rid of Vashti, so she owed him a favor. The Malbim posits that perhaps Haman would not have approached her under any normal conditions, but she was the only one left, so he tried his alternative (Plan B) excuses on her. Seeing that she is a woman, and particularly a Jewish woman, he was hoping she would show Haman mercy.
  • The Sfas Emes writes that Esther fought the urge to be merciful, unlike Shaul with Agag. She accomplished this by having been exposed to Haman. In this way, she emotionally hated what she was intellectually commanded to hate. Similarly, first the verse (Devarim 25:17) commands us to remember Amalek, and only then (Devarim 25:19) to destroy it. First, one is required to have the emotion, and then to perform the act.
  • The Sfas Emes points out that, on a spiritual level, this act of Esther’s was a tikkun (“repair”) for Shaul’s error of allowing Agag to live. The Zer Zahav adds that Haman’s begging was a great test for Esther’s sense of improperly placed mercy. After all, the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuva 2:1) writes that the ideal way to demonstrate complete repentance is to be faced with the same challenge, and to nevertheless overcome it, and this was almost a direct parallel to the story of Shaul and Agag.

Esther 7:5, Question 1. Why does the verse mention Achashverosh speaking twice?

ה וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ וַיֹּאמֶר לְאֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה מִי הוּא זֶה וְאֵיזֶה הוּא אֲשֶׁרמְלָאוֹ 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.

Esther 4:13, Question 3. What does Mordechai think Esther is thinking regarding her security?

  • Rashi’s simple explanation is that Mordechai thinks Esther believes she will be safe in the palace on the day of the massacre. Rabbi Avigdor Bonchek, however, sees in Rashi’s words an irony that Esther’s safety can only be guaranteed through self-sacrifice.
  • The Vilna Gaon writes that Mordechai thought that Esther was under the impression that her volunteering herself to Achashverosh was one of the carnal sins for which one should sacrifice one’s life rather than sin, even for the sake of others.
  • The Sfas Emes points out that the Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 157:1) requires a city under siege to refuse to give up any resident requested for execution by the attacking army. This is the case if this oppressive army does not specify their victim. However, if they they want a specific person, the community must give that person up to save themselves, since that person is threatened either way. This is only true when that person is threatened along with everyone else. Mordechai thinks Esther considers herself to be in this latter situation, safely tucked away in the palace.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that Mordechai was saying that H-Shem will save His people, as He always does. However, if Esther acts selfishly, she will not be among the other Jews.
  • Similarly, due to the fact that Mordechai mentions the king’s palace, and every mention of the word “king” is a reference to H-Shem, R’ Dovid Moshe Valle adds that the King can reach anywhere.
  • R’ Elisha Gallico notes that, in fact, Esther was actually in more danger staying in the palace. The reason for this, explains the Maharal, is that considering Achashverosh’s virulent hate for the Jews, Esther is safer away from the man who signed the edict to annihilate her nation. The Maharal compares this to living inside a basket with a snake. This is even moreso the case if Esther thinks of herself as an individual, and thus lacking the power of the united nation.
  • The Alshich says that, in Mordechai’s estimation, the root of Esther’s mission was to fix King Shaul’s error of allowing Agag to live.
  • According to Ginzei HaMelech, this is the reason why Mordechai is giving Esther such strong rebuke here; Esther needs to know that the only reason she was in that position was for this goal. Furthermore, Ginzei HaMelech points out that Torah is honest. Here, since Megillas Esther was written by Esther, herself, she nevertheless did not censor out this scene in which she looks weak. The Ginzei HaMelech furthermore adds that this case it was not appropriate to stay private.
  • R’ Menachem Ziemba was asked before the Warsaw ghetto uprising if the Chassidim should be involved in the fighting. He answered that it is indeed a mitzvah to give up one’s life when given the choice between death or their faith. When given no such choice, it is a mitzvah to fight.
  • According to the Kisei Shlomo, Mordechai was telling Esther she was responsible for Hasach’s death, and thus more invested now in the rescue of the Jews.
  • Rav Yitzchak Hutner writes in Pachad Ytizchak that when Person A needs something, and decides to also pray for Person B who also needs that, this makes Person A’s prayer more effective (Talmud, Baba Kama 92a). Rav Hutner explains that this principle works because prayer is stronger if it is performed with the whole heart (Talmud, Sotah 5b), meaning that it is more strongly felt. Therefore, Mordechai is telling Esther that she needs the same rescue as the Jews. In other words, she was already intent on praying for the Jews; what Mordechai wanted Esther to realize was that she was in the same precarious situation. Realizing that she also needs H-Shem to rescue her would cause Esther to feel that prayer with her whole heart, making her prayer stronger, and thus more effective.

Esther 3:7, Question 2. Why does Haman feel the need to cast lots?

  • Haman’s motivation for casting lots depends on what those lots were. According to the Vilna Gaon, Haman wanted to see when his plan would be most spiritually effective. He wanted to find the time that the Jews were at their spiritual weakest. He found Adar appealing because the Jews had no Holy Day for which to prepare, and no special merit to protect them, so were thus spiritually weak then. If that is the case, why then was Haman not successful? Because, says the Vilna Gaon, “ein mazal b’Yisroel” (“Jews have no [effects of] constellations”) (Talmud, Shabbos 156a). What this means is that, with Torah, Jewish people can channel the natural astrological influence of the horoscope.
  • If these lots are like our contemporary dice, opposite sides add up to seven. One is opposite to six, four is opposite to three, etc. Midrash Talpios says that, instead of numbers, Haman’s dice have Hebrew letters. Therefore, in gematria, if there is an aleph on one side, its opposite side had a vuv. Haman cast the dice three times. The dice read aleph, then gimmel, then gimmel again. This spells “Agag,” king of Amalek conquered by King Shaul (as mentioned previously). On the bottom of that combination would be a vuv, daled, and daled. A combination of these letters spells “David,” and Haman thought this meant Agag would succeed against David. In other words, Haman was under the impression that the lots he rolled predicted his victory over the Jews.
  • Ben Ish Chai says that Haman was so arrogant that he did not even consider the letters spelling out David. Rather, Haman was too busy noticing that the gematria of David (4+6+4) is 14, with a mispar katan1 of five. The mispar katan of Haman’s name is also five (5+40+50=95).
  • According to Rabbi Yehonason Eibshutz, Haman’s lottery consisted of his writing on separate papers all of the days of the year. After he chose a particular date (Adar 13th), he wanted to verify that this was not just a random date. He then got twelve papers with the twelve months of the year. That paper matched up to Adar. Class participant RS pointed out that the days of the solar year are also 365, which also has a mispar katan equal to Haman’s name.
  • Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi says Haman realized that the Jews were weak and in exile. He threw lots to find his one spiritual strength in relation to the spiritual strength of the Jewish people.

1A “mispar katan” is a form of gematria in which one adds all the numerals in a number until one arrives at a one-numeral number. For instance, the mispar katan of 19 is 1+9, which is 10. Since this is not a single-numeral number, the process is repeated with these numerals thus: 1+0, until one arrives at 1. Therefore, the mispar katan of 19 is 1.