Esther 8:11, Question 1. Why do the letters require the Jews to gather?

יא אֲשֶׁר נָתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ לַיְּהוּדִים ׀ אֲשֶׁר בְּכָלעִירוָעִיר לְהִקָּהֵל וְלַעֲמֹד עַלנַפְשָׁם לְהַשְׁמִיד וְלַהֲרֹג וּלְאַבֵּד אֶתכָּלחֵיל עַם וּמְדִינָה הַצָּרִים אֹתָם טַף וְנָשִׁים וּשְׁלָלָם לָבוֹז

11. “That the king gave to the Yehudim who were in each city and city to gather, and to stand on their souls, to annihilate, and to kill, and to destroy any army of the nation and state who antagonize them, infants, and women. And their property they should plunder.

  • According to Dena Pishra, the letters required the Jews to gather because Jewish unity is a powerful method of attaining H-Shem’s assistance.

  • The Sfas Emes adds that Jews have an aggregate soul, and our combined effort is especially needed when we are in danger.

  • Furthermore, the Ginzei HaMelech asks that if the word “unify” requires two or more people, and the word “stand” implies one [as one person stands for oneself], which is the letters’ intent? Based on Rashi’s comment on the Talmud (Shabbos 127b) that “stand” means to pray, he answers that the Talmud (Bava Kama 97a) promises a Jew that when one prays for another’s needs, one’s prayers are never rejected. The Talmud (Brachos 8a) says the same idea regarding communal prayer.

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Esther 8:9, Question 3. Why does Mordechai send these letters to the leaders?

  • According to the Vilna Gaon, Mordechai sends these letters to the leaders in order for them to fear Mordechai. Had he sent the letters to the general populace, who were unaware of the political situation in the royal palace, they might have disregarded the letter.
  • The Dena Pishra points out that Mordechai sent fewer letters (only to the leaders) because time was of the essence. To save the Jews’ lives, it was worthwhile to rush.

Esther 8:7, Question 2. Why does Achashverosh mention his recent actions?

  • Rashi explains that Achashverosh was using his recent hanging of Haman to demonstrate his fealty to Esther’s position, giving implicit permission for her to write a new decree. The Persian people will, after all, realize that Esther has the kingdom’s full support.
  • According to the Ibn Ezra, Achashverosh felt that his people would think Haman’s hanging implied that the earlier decree (written less than a week earlier) was a fraud.
  • However, the Alshich notes that only the residents of Shushan know Haman was hanged; those living in the remaining cities and villages of the kingdom’s 127 provinces did not know Achashverosh’s feelings on the matter. Therefore, new decrees needed to be written to keep them abreast of the changing political climate.
  • The Darchei Dovid explains Achashverosh’s reference to Haman’s hanging by quoting the Talmud (Taanis 29a) that a rule in Rome – and presumably in other ancient civilizations – was that when an officer of the court died, all decrees were annulled. This was due to the fact that people considered the death to be a punishment for a seemingly unfavorable decree. Therefore, Achashverosh argues, Haman’s death should have annulled the decree against the Jews.
  • R’ Elisha Gallico writes that Achashverosh felt people needed to know that Haman’s property was given to Esther (Esther 8:1) because Haman bought the rights to the Jews from Achashverosh (Esther 3:9). His hanging, and the transfer of his property to Esther, effectively bestowing upon Esther control of her people’s fate.
  • The Dena Pishra explains that Achashverosh was telling Esther to not worry about his people harming the Jews because Haman was not only hanged, but even remained hanging.

Esther 8:3, Question 1. Why does Esther perform all of these actions?

ג וַתּוֹסֶף אֶסְתֵּר וַתְּדַבֵּר לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וַתִּפֹּל לִפְנֵי רַגְלָיו וַתֵּבְךְּ וַתִּתְחַנֶּןלוֹ לְהַעֲבִיר אֶתרָעַת הָמָן הָאֲגָגִי וְאֵת מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר חָשַׁב עַלהַיְּהוּדִים

3. And Esther added and spoke before the king. And she fell before his feet, and cried, and pleaded with him to annul the evil of Haman the Aggagite and his intentions that he intended on the Yehudim.

  •  The Maharal is troubled by the verse’s use of the word vatosef (“and she added”) when it does not initially seem that there is any conversation that is being continued here. He answers that this is a continuation of the previous verse in which Esther appointed Mordechai, seemingly verbally, as master of Haman’s estate.
  • M’nos HaLevi notes that the Talmud (Makkos 10b-11a) teaches that daber, the root of word vatidaber (“and she spoke”) implies a harsh language. He explains that Esther was speaking in a forceful and direct manner to the king, saying that Haman lied to him. She then regretted her boldness, and fell pleading for mercy.
  • According to the Malbim, Esther performs all of these actions because she tried various methods to convince Achashverosh – rhetoric, and logic, and emotion. As is well-known, when logic fails, the emotional appeal can still be effective.
  • As the M’nos HaLevi points out, the Talmud (Brachos 32b) teaches that since the time the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, only the gates of tears remain open.
  • In a famous comment on this verse, the Vilna Gaon teaches in the name of the Zohar that genuine crying always comes from the heart, and cannot be artificially manufactured. He also connects Esther’s behavior in this verse to various stages of the Jew’s regular prayer routine. He writes that vatosef (“and she added”) is a reference to Pesukei Dezimra (introductory verses of praise) because the Talmud (Brachos 32a) teachers that these were added by the Rabbis to help people concentrate during Shemoneh Esrei; vatidaber (“and she spoke”) is a reference to Shema (“verses in which we accept the authority of H-Shem”) because the Talmud Yerushalmi (Brachos 9a, 9b) teaches that the Shema has references to the Ten Commandments, the Asseres HaDibros, vatipol (“and she fell”) is a reference to nefilas apayim (“putting down the face,” or Tachanun), vateiv’k (“and she cried”) is a reference to tefilla (“the silent prayer, or Shemoneh Esrei”), and vatit’chanen (“and she pleaded”) is a reference to Elokai Nitzur (the additional prayers after tefillah). Esther’s act of pleading before the king, was also her pleading before the King of kings.
  • The Dena Pishra writes similarly that the verse references the king because Esther was really praying to H-Shem to spare the Jews.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech writes that Esther did all of these actions because she saw the cause of Achashverosh’s previous behavior as passion due to anger. Now that she saw him calm down, she was concerned that he would return to his old, anti-Semitic self. She was really risking her life because his anger could have returned at any moment.

Esther 8:4, Question 2. Why does Esther stand?

  • Continuing his thoughts on the previous verse, the Vilna Gaon writes that Esther’s rising up alludes to the end of the morning prayer service, and her standing alludes to the kaddish prayer.

  • Similarly, the Dena Pishra explains that Esther was standing here because she was pleading before H-Shem, and this is why the verse refers to Him as King.

  • The Shelah writes that we should stand in prayer before H-Shem the same way we do before a human king.

  • R’ Moshe Feinstein would famously stand still during prayer instead of shukeling back and forth, as many do. The source of this custom was an incident in which, as a rabbi in communist Russia, he was called before the police commandant. He recalled that one of the most frightening events of his life was standing there, stock still, unable to move. Realizing that one is standing before an authority should cause one to avoid any movement.

Esther 8:1, Question 1. Why does the verse stress that this happened on “that day?”

א בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא נָתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ לְאֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה אֶתבֵּית הָמָן צֹרֵר הַיְּהוּדִיים [הַיְּהוּדִים] וּמָרְדֳּכַי בָּ֚א לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּיהִגִּידָה אֶסְתֵּר מַה הוּאלָהּ

1. On that day, the King Achashverosh gave to Esther the Queen the house of Haman, oppressor of the Yehudim. And Mordechai came before the king because Esther related to him what he was to her.

  • According to the Alshich, the verse stresses that this event occurred on “that day” to emphasize that this was the same day that Haman was hanged.
  • Yosef Lekach points out that this all happened in one day because Haman’s decree to eradicate the Jews was to be fulfilled “in one day” (Esther 3:13), so mida kineged mida (“measure for measure”), Haman’s death and this event occurred in one day.
  • In fact, the Dena Pishra writes that the property was given before Haman’s death so that he would realize that his wealth did not save him. Class Participant YML suggests that perhaps the lesson was not for Haman, but for the reader to learn that wealth does not help on the day of death.
  • According to Ma’amar Mordechai, H-Shem inspired Achashverosh to do this immediately so that he would not change his mind, as he had done often in the past.
  • In the Maharal’s perspective, this occurred immediately after Haman’s hanging to show that there is a causal relationship between Mordechai’s wealth (Esther 8:2) and Haman’s death (Esther 7:10).
  • The Vilna Gaon points out that when things are going well, they happen in a  single day, but bad days are in plural. Besides the psychological effect of time seeming to “fly when you’re having fun,” there is a deeper spiritual reason for this, as well. This sort of feeling encourages depression, which is the most powerful ally of the Yetzer HaRa (“Evil Inclination”).
  • The Midrash Shmuel notes that on the very day Haman fell, Mordechai rose. This is a fulfillment of the prophecy mentioned in the Torah (Bireishis 25:23) regarding Yaakov (ancestor of Mordechai) and Eisav (ancestor of Haman) that one would fall as one would rise.

Esther 7:9, Question 5. Why does Charvona mention the height of the gallows?

  • The Malbim, Vilna Gaon, and Yosef Lekach write that since Charvona was one of the chamberlains sent to fetch Haman to the feast (Esther 6:14), he overheard Haman’s plot, and that is how he knew the height of the gallows.
  • According to the Malbim, Charvona mentions the height of the gallows now because it would add an additional layer of embarrassment for Achashverosh because, at such a height, Mordechai would have been seen publicly hanging while wearing royal robes in which the king dressed him1.
  • A more conspiratorial explanation comes from the Dena Pishra, who writes that Charvona mentions the height because it is obviously too high to serve the purpose of hanging only Mordechai. Clearly, then, Haman also wanted to hang more people, namely Achashverosh and his advisers.
  • R’ Yehonason Eibshutz quotes a Mishnah (Bava Basra 2:9) that a dead body, if it is not buried deeply enough, must be buried 50 amos from a city due to its offensive odor. Since Mordechai is righteous, and the righteous do not decompose, then the 50 amos height of the gallows were indented for someone else – the king.
  • According to Targum Sheini (on Esther 2:1), Achashverosh had been angry with the advisers who convinced him to remove Vashti, and had them hanged. The Aruchas Tamid writes that Haman, the adviser who originates the plan, was actually hanged along with the other advisers, but miraculously fell from the gallows alive. As a precursor to America’s rule of “double jeopardy,” Persian law then dictated that a condemned criminal could not hang twice for the same crime. The Aruchas Tamid continues that since Haman fell when hanged before, Achashverosh was concerned that he might be freed again as per that Persian law. However, these gallows’ height being 50 cubits meant that Haman would die even if he were to fall free.

1Class Participant YML pointed out that Haman could not have intended on Mordechai being hanged on those gallows while wearing the king’s robes. After all, it was only that morning that Mordechai was paraded in the streets of Shushan wearing the royal garb, and Haman built the gallows the night before that – not knowing what the next 24 hours had in store for him and his plans. Perhaps, as the king’s adviser, Mordechai regularly wore clothing akin to a uniform which identified him as belonging to the king’s court.