6. “Because how can I [be] and see the evil which my nation will find? And how can I [be] and see the destruction of my kin?”
According to the Alshich, by adding an extra letter ches to the word, eicha (“how”) – making it the unique word, eichicha – the Esther puts a stress on her utter misery over her perceived notion that anti-Semites had already begun attacking the Jews because of the first decree. After all, once they see that the Jews are not in the monarchy’s favor, they can presume that any acts of violence or harassment against them will go unpunished.
The Megillas Sesarim adds that Esther blamed herself for the origins of Haman’s decree. This is because Haman’s decree was seemingly a consequence for Mordechai’s not bowing down to Haman (Esther 3:5-6). Mordechai behaved this way while at the king’s gate, and he was only there to look out for Esther’s well-being (Esther 2:19). This is why Esther felt somewhat responsible for the resulting decree. This is the way of the righteous: to feel responsible for a situation despite the fact that they were forced into it and the fault clearly lies in others.
R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that this is a second eicha; the first is Yirmiya’s prophetic work, Eicha, written during the destruction of first Beis HaMikdash, and second the is Esther’s, said during the threat of annihilation in exile if the king would not save the Jews.
7. And Mordechai told him all that happened to him and the account of the silver that Haman said to weigh out on the king’s treasury in the Yehudim to annihilate them.
According to M’nos HaLevi, when the verse says that Mordechai related to Hasach “what happened to him,” it means that Mordechai told him absolutely everything – his refusal to bow to Haman, the Jews’ sin, and even the answer from the three students cited earlier.
Megillas Sesarim points out that Mordechai emphasized that this was happening to him personally because he felt responsible for this turn of events. Therefore, due to the Talmudic concept of “ein kateigor naaseh sineigor” (“the prosecutor cannot be the defender”) (see Rosh HaShanah 26a), Mordechai needed Esther to act in his stead.
Other commentators focus on alternative meanings to the Hebrew word karahu, “what happened to him.” For instance, the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 8:5) writes that Mordechai was telling Esther that a descendant of the nation that which karcha, “happened upon” (Devarim 25:18) the Jewish people in the desert, had launched an attack. That verse is explicitly about Amalek, ancestor of Haman. This is important, writes the Ginzei HaMelech, because Mordechai was indicating that the Jewish people were being punished by a specific enemy for a specific sin. In other words, since H-Shem gave Amalek permission, as it were, to attack the Jews for their laxity in Torah study (see Rashi to Shemos 17:8), Mordechai recognized that the solution to Haman’s threat was to infuse the Jewish people with a rejuvenated alacrity.
Besides the cause, this word also alludes to the manner in which this threat may be annulled – nature. The Ohel Moshe quotes the Yismach Yisroel that every battle between the Jewish people and Amalek involved nature. In the first battle, Moshe’s ordering Yehoshua to draft men to fight (Shemos 17:9) showed a stark contrast to the miraculous defeat of the Egyptians at the Sea of Reeds. The constant battle against Amalek cannot be miraculous, since H-Shem would never command us to perform something we naturally could not do.
The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 8:5) also opines that in the words “what happened to him,” Mordechai was referring to the dream he dreamed ten years earlier, alluding to the Jewish people facing mortal danger1.
According to the Torah Temimah, the reason Mordechai received this message in the form of a dream is because dreams generally feel as though they are b’mikra, a natural happenstance occurrence.
1The entire text of the Midrash gives the details of the dream: Behold! There was a great, strong noise and terror on the land, and fear and trembling on all its inhabitants. And behold, two great dragons, and they yelled at each other and waged war. And after hearing their voices, the nations of the land fled. And behold! Among them was one small nation. And all of the other nations rose up against the small nation to destroy its memory from the land. On that day, there was darkness over the entire world, and they bothered the small nation greatly, and they cried out to H-Shem. And the dragons warred with violent hate, and there was nothing separating them. And Mordechai saw: Behold! One small spring of water passed between these two dragons, and separated between them, from the war that they were fighting. And the spring strengthened. It flowed as strongly as the great [Mediterranean] sea. It spilled over the entire land. And he saw the sun shining over the entire land and bringing light to the world. The small nation was rising. And the big nations were brought low. And Behold! There was peace and truth throughout on the entire land.
According to Beis Yaakov, Esther sent Hasach “on” Mordechai instead of “to” Mordechai as a sort of passive aggressive move since she was blaming him for the decree against the Jews. After all Haman was Mordechai’s slave. As such, Mordechai had the legal ability and responsibility to confiscate any purchases of his slave, especially here, where the purchase was the very life of the Jews.
Perhaps another action Esther blamed on Mordechai was his original refusal to bow to Haman.
R’ Moshe Dovid Valle points out that the initial letters of the phrase “al mordechai l‘daas” (“on Mordechai to know”) are an acronym that spells out the word “amal” (“labor”), which usually represents the negative, human desire to do wrong. In other words, Esther was pointing out to Mordechai the spiritual cause of the current problem faced by the Jews.
Perhaps another reason for this unique turn of phrase is the verse’s attempt to demonstrate a proof that Daniel (if he is Hasach) is Mordechai’s superior.
The Talmud (Megillah 15a) records an argument about what, exactly, Mordechai was calling out as he went through Shushan. One opinion there has it that he yelled out, “Haman is greater than Achashverosh” in order to arouse the king’s jealousy. The other opinion is that Mordechai yelled out, “The King above is greater than the king below” in a euphemistic fashion to imply that Achashverosh was attempting to usurp H-Shem’s Power.
Yalkut Shimoni writes that there is generally a difference between Jewish prayer and idolatrous prayer; whereas Chana’s prayer was quiet (Shmuel 1 1:13), Eisav’s prayer was a “great and bitter cry” (Bireishis 27:38). Like dogs that bark loudest when they have the least bite with which to threaten, an idol-worshiper’s prayer needs to be loud since it has the least spiritual power behind it.
Furthermore, Rav Eliyah Lopian suggests that, whereas physical people cry over physical phenomena, spiritual people cry about spiritual matters. Here, however, to counteract the possible spiritual effectiveness of Haman’s ancestor’s (Eisav) “great and bitter cry,” caused by the actions of Mordechai’s ancestor (Yaakov).
According to Yosek Lekach and the Vilna Gaon, Mordechai’s cry was inspired by his feeling responsible for the decree against the Jews. After all, his decision to refuse to bow to Haman, regardless of the logic, is what led directly to Haman’s anger with the Jews of Persia and beyond.
R’ Henach Leibowitz points out in his characteristic way that this should be a powerful lesson to us about how careful we must be to avoid hurting someone, even when we are in the right!
Taken as a unit, some commentators find great significance in the combination of these three motifs of the sackcloth, the city, and the crying. According to the Ginzei HaMelech, the loud voice represents Avraham because he spoke out powerfully against idolatry in a world filled with idols (see Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Avoda Zara 1:3). The ash represents Yitzchak who allowed his father to symbolically sacrifice him. The sackcloth represents Yaakov, who mourned in sack upon being told of his son’s untimely death (Bireishis 37:33). Therefore, in a thoughtful, calculated action of spiritual symbolism, Mordechai used these to recall the merits of the forefathers, whose merits always protect their descendants.
According to our answer to the previous question, Mordechai refused to bow “to him” – in other words, to Haman alone, even without his idol. M’nos HaLevi writes that Mordechai was a very humble person, as befits a tzaddik. He would bow to everybody out of respect, but he would not even bow to Haman out of token respect. It should be noted that Mordechai’s refusal put his life in danger.
The Alshich writes that Mordechai did not bow despite the fact that Haman removed the idol he was wearing. Therefore, Mordechai no longer had the excuse that he could not bow for religious reasons, and yet he still refused to bow.
The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:8) teaches that, by answering that he is a Jew, Mordechai really intended to emphasize that, as a Jew, he is forbidden to worship anyone or anything besides H-Shem.
Rav Shlomo Kluger says that “Mordechai’s words” indicate his reporting the plot of Bigsan and Seresh. Mordechai wanted to see if his demonstrated loyalty to the king would be enough to excuse him (and perhaps the other Jews) from this bowing.
The Chasam Sofer says that the words “that he is a Yehudi” refers to Haman. As mentioned in the Talmud (Megillah 15a), Haman sold himself as a slave to Mordechai. Yalkut Shimoni (953) tells us there was rebellion against Achashverosh in one of his Indian states. Haman and Mordechai were chosen to command two of Achashverosh’s battalions. Due to his spending practices, Haman ran out of provisions. Mordechai, due to his righteous care for his resources (see Rashi to Bireishis 32:25 and Talmud, Chullin 91a), did not. Haman begged Mordechai for some of his rations, on condition that Mordechai sell himself to him as a slave, to which Haman agreed. Having nothing on which to write handy, Mordechai wrote the deed on his shoe, or armor he had on his feet. That being the case, a slave to a Jew who then goes free becomes Jewish, himself (Talmud, Chagigah 4a and brought down in Halachah in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 267:3-5, 11). According to the Chasam Sofer, then, Mordechai was saying that he does not have to bow down to him since Haman was once his slave. For that reason, according to the Midrash, every time Haman would pass by, Mordechai would point down to his shoe.
The verse makes it sound as though the servants did not trust Mordechai, and Mi’archei Lev writes that Mordechai gave them reason to respond this way. After all, it was well-known that he was from Benyamin, but he aroused suspicion by saying he was a Yehudi.
Rabbi Yehonasan Eibshutz writes that Haman felt confident about conquering Mordechai as he was from Benyamin. Here, Mordechai is pointing out that he comes from another tribe as well – Yehudah. Yehudah, being the tribe of Moshiach, is the great challenge to the power of Amalek. Mordechai represents the Yehudi who can conquer the power of evil. Rav Eibshutz also writes that Haman set up a test for Mordechai by one time coming out without a statue. Nevertheless, Mordechai still refused to bow to him. Even though Mordechai knew there was no statue, other people didn’t know, and this would constitute maaris ayin.