Esther 5:12, Question 1. What is the significance of the word “af” (“furthermore”)?

יב וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן אַף לֹאהֵבִיאָה אֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה עִםהַמֶּלֶךְ אֶלהַמִּשְׁתֶּה אֲשֶׁרעָשָׂתָה כִּי אִםאוֹתִי וְגַםלְמָחָר אֲנִי קָרוּאלָהּ עִם־הַמֶּלֶךְ

12. And Haman said, “Furthermore, did not Esther the Queen bring me with the king to the drinking party that she made that was with her. And also for tomorrow, I will happen upon her with the king.

  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 9:3) notes that four characters used the term, “af” and their downfalls are recorded with the word, “af”: the snake (Bireishis 3:1), the baker imprisoned with Yosef (Bireishis 40:16), Korach’s group of usurpers (Bamidbar 16:14), and Haman in our verse.
  • Torah Temimah points out that the Midrash is implying that they should have used the word, “gam,” a more humble alternative to “af.”
  • The Dubno Maggid teaches that they used this word because “af” also means anger. These were angry people, and their hostility aroused H-Shem’s wrath. Things don’t work out for angry people. He continues that all four of these are characters who want more than they have, and are discontent with what they have. “Af,” then means “furthermore,” as though unsatisfied with what is already present.
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Esther 5:9, Question 4. Why is Haman’s anger directed specifically at Mordechai?

  • Since Mordechai did not rise for Haman, even out of regular respect, Haman’s seething anger was directed specifically at him.
  • Rav Chaim Kanievsky (shlit”a) writes that Haman was shocked that Mordechai was not groveling to him, begging for his life.
  • The Vilna Gaon and Yosef Lekach write that Haman had suspected that Mordechai had previously not bowed to him because he seemed to be friendly with Esther. Now that Haman was invited to the party and Mordechai was not, he considered his suspicion ungrounded. Therefore, Mordechai’s refusal to even stand for him was doubly upsetting.
  • The Targum explains that another reason Haman became so upset with Mordechai because Mordechai was sitting on the ground, looking at his shoe. The reason for this is that the document of Haman’s being Mordechai’s slave was written there.
  • According to Ginzei HaMelech, quoting his father, R’ Efraim Mordechai Ginzburg, Mordechai chose this moment to look at his shoe to strengthen his resolve, reaffirming his realization that H-Shem will always somehow make everything work out for the best in the end.

Esther 5:4, Question 1. Why does Esther specifically invite Achashverosh and Haman to the party?

ד וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר אִםעַלהַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב יָבוֹא הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהָמָן הַיּוֹם אֶלהַמִּשְׁתֶּה אֲשֶׁרעָשִׂיתִי לוֹ

4. And Esther said, “If it is good for the king, the king and Haman should come today to the drinking party that I made for him.”

The Talmud (Megillah 15b) has a total of twelve reasons for Esther to have invited Haman to the feast:

a) R’ Eliezer says she was laying traps for him, as it says in Tehillim (69:23), “their tables will be their own traps.” In other words, Haman’s presence may give him the opportunity to say or do something he shouldn’t, giving the king prerogative to have his head.

b) R’ Yehoshua says Esther learned this from the house of her father1: Mishlei (25:22) teaches, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him bread.” In other words, one method of taking on one’s enemy is by surrendering some non-essential concession to him, thereby ultimately taking control of the situation when the opportunity strikes.

c) R’ Meir says Esther did this so that Haman would not take good advice, and rebel. In other words, Esther was hoping that her invitation’s stroking Haman’s ego would encourage him to rebel.

d) R’ Yehuda says Esther invited Haman so that he would not suspect that she is a Jewess.

e) Similarly, R’ Nechemia says Esther invited Haman in order for the Jews to not become complacent from their prayers and repentance by comforting themselves that they have a “sister” in the palace who can save them from this genocide.

f) R’ Yose says Esther invited Haman so that he would be available to her at all times. In other words, she wanted her “enemies close” to be able to manipulate his behavior to the benefit of her people.

g) R’ Shimon ben Menasya says Esther invited Haman thinking that, perhaps, H-Shem will become “emotional,” either through mercy or anger, and create a miracle to rescue the Jewish people.

h) R’ Yehoshua ben Karcha says Esther invited Haman in order to smile at him, evoking the king’s jealousy, leading him to execute both Haman and Esther. She was thus willing to sacrifice herself for her people.

i) Rabban Gamliel says Esther invited Haman because Achashverosh was fickle, and prone to inconsistent behavior. If the king gets the opportunity to spend more time with Haman, the statistical chances of him changing his positive opinion of him grow exponentially. Furthermore, had Haman not been at the feast when Esther convinced Achashverosh to kill Haman, his fickleness may lead him to change his mind by the time Haman is found.

j) R’ Gamliel says that all of these answers may explain why Esther invited Haman, but we still require the answer of the R’ Eliezer the Moda’ai to explain why Esther invited only Haman, and not the other advisers. He says she intended to make the rest of the court jealous, since Haman was invited to the meal, whereas they were overlooked. Class participant CRL suggested that having the other advisers attend would require the presence of Mordechai, who should have been celebrating the Pesach seder at the time.

k) Rabba says Haman was invited because “pride comes before destruction” (Mishlei 16:18). Like the English expression, the taller they are, the harder they fall, Esther is bating Haman’s ego to help precipitate his destruction. Incidentally, the Rokeach points out that the gematria of the above phrase from Mishlei (zehu lifnei shever ga’on) (7+5+6+30+80+50+10+300+2+200+3+1+6+50=750) is equal to the words from this verse from Esther that Haman was invited to the feast (hamishteh) (5+40+300+400+5= 750).

l) Abayey and Rava both say Esther’s intent can be seen in the verse “in their heat, I prepare their meal” (Yirmiya 51:39). This verse refers to the drunken death of Balshatzar, and Esther hoped this drunken revelry, too, would kill both Haman and Achashverosh. Incidentally, the Rokeach points out that the gematria of the above word for “in their heat” (bichumam) (2+8+6+40+40=96) is equal to Haman (5+40+50=95) with its kollel.

m) When Rabba son of Avuha met with Eliyahu HaNavi, he asked him which of these opinions is correct regarding Esther’s intent. Eliyahu HaNavi answered that they are all correct.

  • Eliyahu’s answer lends support, writes Rav Shwab, to the idea that when the verse says Esther donned royalty (Esther 5:1), it means she gained ruach hakodesh, the Holy Spirit.
  • Rabbeinu Bachya points out that the initial letters of “the king and Haman should come today” (yavo hamelech viHaman hayom) spell out H-Shem’s Name. H-Shem’s Name is not ever explicitly in Megillas Esther.
  • According to Ibn Ezra, this is because this was a public document in Persia, and the Rabbis were concerned that the Persians might supplant their own gods’ names for H-Shem’s if it were there. Another reason is to teach that H-Shem is available in all situations – good and (seemingly) bad.
  • The Ari, in his list (Pri Etz Chaim) of twelve places where H-Shem’s Name is secretly hidden in Megillas Esther, lists this as one of the places.
  • The Ohel Moshe writes that H-Shem’s Name is specifically at this point because the Talmud (Sukkah 14a) writes that when the righteous pray, they overturn H-Shem’s Anger to Mercy.

1Rashi points out that, not actually growing up in her father’s house, Esther must have overheard this teaching from Mordechai’s conversations with his students.

Esther 2:21, Question 3. Why were Bigsan and Seresh angry?

  • There are numerous reasons given for Bigsan and Seresh’s anger. The Yalkut Shimoni (1053) says that Bigsan and Seresh previously had important positions, and were upset with Mordechai for seemingly usurping them. The Malbim sees this in the actual words of the verse. After all, the verse relates Mordechai’s “sitting at the king’s gate” to Bigsan and Seresh’s anger to point out that their anger was directly caused by his position.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 13b) says they were upset with the king and queen because they were tired at nights having to protect their door as they spent time together, much like Pharoah became upset with the baker and butler for small reasons (Bireishis 40:1).
  • Rav Elisha Gallico says they were upset that Mordechai was sitting at the king’s gate, deciding cases based on Jewish law. Bigsan and Seresh therefore saw it as a patriotic duty to kill the king (who was, by the way, not Persian) for his seeming betrayal of Persian law in promoting a Jew to this position.
  • The Me’am Loez writes that the two of them were relatives of Vashti, and waited this long period of time to avenge her death. Another opinion he brings is that they were upset that Achashverosh rejected Haman’s daughter during the search for a new queen, and Haman convinced them to join in a rebellion against the king. The Me’am Loez also quotes Yossipon that this was just one part of a much larger rebellion, and that these two wanted to kill Achashverosh to bring the king’s head to the Greeks, enemies of the Persians, and thereby ingratiate themselves to them.
  • The Malbim points out that, regardless of the reason, their motivation was petty. This parallels the story of Yosef mentioned in the above Talmud. The Malbim continues that, just as H-Shem can inspire a king (Pharoah) to be angry with his servants for no reason, so, too, can H-Shem inspire a servant (Bigsan and Seresh) to hate a king for no reason. Rav Dovid Feinstein asks why these two stories are being paralleled by the Talmud. He answers that the verse says “shnei” (“both”), equating the feelings of Bigsan and Seresh. In the natural order of things, this is impossible because no two people can have the same exact emotion from the same exact motivation in the same exact degree. This is yet one more indication that these events were led Divinely.

Esther 2:10, Question 3. Why does the verse stress that Mordechai commanded Esther to keep these secrets?

  • According to Targum Sheini, Mordechai was concerned that the king would become upset with Esther at some point, and take his anger out on her people. This is similar to what actually happens when Haman becomes angry with one Jew, Mordechai, and decides to exterminate his entire people as a consequence (see below 3:6).
  • The Ibn Ezra quotes commentators critical of Mordechai for this order, saying his selfish intent was for Esther to not be chosen by Achashverosh, so that she could return to being Mordechai’s wife. He rejects these opinions, and comments that Esther’s keeping this secret allowed her to stay Jewish because the king would have used violence in an attempt to force Esther to convert had he known her background.
  • Rabbi Eliezer of Worms writes that Mordechai knew that Esther’s very presence in the harem of the king meant that she was placed there for a reason. After all, wherever we are in life, H-Shem wants us there for a reason, though we often do not readily know what it is.
  • Rav Moshe Meir Weiss adds that even if Esther did not understand the reason for her secrecy, or even if she disagreed, this verse is a praise to her for listening to the words of Mordechai, the Gadol HaDor (greatest rabbi of her generation). When we trust the Sages, things go well for us.

Esther 2:1, Question 2. Why does the verse imply that Achashverosh’s anger was not calmed?

  • Similar to yesterday’s post, the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 5:2) points out that the verse says “kisoch” (“like it was calmed”) instead of “bisoch” (“it was calmed”), implying that Achashverosh’s anger was not completely calmed. This anger will show its ugly head again towards the end of Megillas Esther once the king applies it to Haman, as it says “and the king’s anger was calmed” (7:10).
  • According to Targum Sheini, Achashverosh was not angry with Vashti, but with the advisers who allowed for her to be removed. He therefore had them killed. If so, how do the rabbis reconcile this with the opinion that Memuchan, the adviser who originates the plan to kill Vashti, was Haman (see previous posts), who is clearly alive later in the story? V’zos L’Yehudah states that Achashverosh decided that a quick death was too good for Haman, and that he should be kept around – even elevated – to lull him into a false sense of security, and should then be cut down all the more tragically.
  • The Aruchas Tamid answers that Memuchan was actually hanged along with the other advisers, but miraculously fell from the gallows alive and Persian law did not allow for a condemned criminal to hang twice for the same crime. Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss points out that this is yet another example of a miracle needed to bring the Purim story to fruition.

Esther 1:12, Question 3. Why are there two terms for Achashverosh’s anger?

  • According to the Malbim, the two terms used for the anger of Achashverosh are external and internal. “Katzaf” really means froth, which is a physical substance, whereas “cham” really means heat, something rather invisible. He was angry for two reasons, after all – a personal, ego-related reason, and a public, political reason.
  • According to the Maharal, some of the anger was from himself, and some from Heaven, which fits nicely with the idea that H-Shem controls the rulers of the world (see our earlier post for Dec. 12, ’11).