Esther 4:10, Question 1. Why does the verse emphasize that Esther commanded Hasach?

י וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר לַהֲתָךְ וַתְּצַוֵּהוּ אֶלמָרְדֳּכָי

10. And Esther said to Hasach and she commanded him to Mordechai.

  • The commentators seem bothered that such a special messenger should be so forcefully commanded. Both the Alshich and R’ Elisha Gallico say that Esther knew that her response to Mordechai (as we shall see, G-d Willing) would be a refusal of his earlier command. Therefore, she felt she needed to command Hasach to perform this task, despite his possible reluctance to do so.
  • Using the same reasoning, the Dina Pishra writes that Esther’s command to Hasach was to be diplomatic in his manner when taking her negative response to Mordechai.
  • The Malbim writes that Esther ordered Hasach to find suitable messengers because she was concerned that repeatedly sending the same messenger might lead to suspicion in the king’s court. This is one explanation for the reason that the message is delivered to Mordechai by a plural number of messengers (see 4:12).
  • According to M’nos HaLevi, Esther was criticizing Mordechai for standing up to Haman, and endangering the Jews. She was saying that this was not like Yaakov, who bowed down to Eisav (Bireishis 33:3).
  • The Ginzei HaMelech teaches that Esther had to convince him. This teaches the valuable lesson that servants, even those “not paid to think,” should not be treated like automatons. Even in this precarious situation, Esther is teaching us how we should treat people with respect.

Esther 3:2, Question 4. Why does Mordechai not do this like everyone else?

  • One might think that the reason for Mordechai’s refusal to bow is the low regard with which the Torah holds worship of anyone or anything outside of H-Shem. According to the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:8), however, Mordechai admits that bowing down to a person in-and-of-itself is not wrong. For example, Yaakov and his family bowed seven times to Haman’s ancestor, Eisav (Bireishis 33:3). In fact, Mordechai deflects criticism of his not acting likewise with Eisav’s descendant by citing his ancestry from Benyamin, who had not yet been born during this incident. The Maharal adds that, in reward for this, Benyamin inherited the part of Eretz Yisroel where the Kodesh Kedoshim (Holy of Holies) of the Beis HaMikdash would stand. Mordechai was concerned that bowing to Haman would cause him to lose his connection with the Shechinah (the Divine Presence), just as the Shechinah left the Kodesh Kedoshim when the Jews no longer deserved her.
  • In Michtav M’Eliyahu, R’ Eliyahu Dessler writes that Mordechai’s defiance can teach us to attack our Yetzer Hara head-on without a kernel of compromise. Any capitulation can lead to a downward spiral of spiritual loss.
  • The Malbim writes that Mordechai did not bow down to Haman to avoid ascribing divinity to him. In an era when people ascribed godliness to their rulers and the rulers’ courts, Mordechai felt compelled to demonstrate his variance with heaping any possible blandishments of divinity upon Haman.
  • Rav Eliezer Ashkenazi writes that the command to bow to Haman referred to two different groups of people – regular subjects of the king, and higher-ups sitting at the gates of the king. Mordechai did not fit into either category. As a Jew, he was not a citizen of the realm. At the same time, as an adviser of the king, he sat at the king’s gate, and was not one to pass there.
  • The Kedushas HaLevi says there were two different commands – first, everybody had to bow down. Second, Mordechai, as a favor to Esther, was ordered to not bow.
  • The Shelah HaKodesh quotes an argument in the Talmud (Megillah 12a) regarding the reason the Jews deserved death in this time period. One opinion is because they bowed to idols. The other reason is that they attended Achashverosh’s party. The Shelah continues that Mordechai’s refusal to bow to Haman served as a spiritual tikkun (or repair) for the Jews’ capitulating to bow to the idol of Nebuchadnetzer, and Esther’s eating seeds to avoid eating non-kosher food in Achashverosh’s palace (as mentioned previously) served as a tikkun for the Jews’ enjoying themselves at Achashverosh’s party. Together, their actions saved the Jews from the decree against them.

Esther 2:5, Question 5. Why does the verse call Mordechai a “Yimini?”

  • As noted earlier (three posts ago), the Talmud (Megillah 12b) states that Mordechai’s father was from the tribe of Benyamin. Rav Yitzchak Hutner adds that this is an important detail to the story because, when Haman becomes incensed at Mordechai’s refusal to bow to him (Esther 3:5), the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:8) has Haman say, “All the tribes bowed to my ancestor, Eisav (Bireishis 33:3)! Why won’t you bow to me?” Mordechai answers, “All the tribes bowed except for Benyamin, for he was not yet born. Therefore, I need not bow to you.”
  • Another reason this is important is that Esther is related to Mordechai by being “daughter of his uncle” (Esther 2:7). Therefore, she too comes from the royal house of King Shaul, and may be prized by Achashverosh for this.
  • “Yimini” could also mean that Mordechai was right-leaning. In Kabbalistic thought, this means he had a focus on “chachmah” – masculine, logical, and linear knowledge – rather than “binah” – feminine, instinctual, global wisdom. With H-Shem’s help, this insight into Mordechai’s character will help us to better understand his argument with Esther (4:11-16) about the best way to combat the coming threat to Jewish survival.