Esther 9:1, Question 3. To which turnaround does the verse refer?

  • The Midrash (Esther Rabba 10:10 and a number of other Midrashim) teaches that the turnaround mentioned in this verse refers to all of Haman’s plans – from the queen whom Haman installed for more power taking his power, to the tree he prepared for Mordechai becoming the one on which he was hanged, to the wealth he gathered becoming Mordechai’s property, to the honors he wanted being given to his enemy, to the date Haman picked for the Jews’ extermination becoming the date of their success – absolutely everything backfiring.

  • The Kol Reena points out that the reason for Haman’s thinking of Adar as the ideal month to wipe out the Jews was that Moshe died on that month. Ironically, Moshe’s merits are what protected them.

  • R’ Hutner notes that even the misuse of Temple vessels (Esther 1:7) in order to show that it would never be rebuilt was turned around because the Purim story led to the Beis Hamikdash being rebuilt.

  • The Dubno Maggid writes that this turnaround shows how much hate Haman had. After all, the Talmud (Brachos 7a) teaches that we can see the evil that Bilam intended from the diametric opposite good with which he blessed the Jews. Here, too, Haman’s hate can be seen from the positive turnaround that resulted.

  • The Maharal notes a principle of physics that when one throws a rock against a wall, it bounces back somewhat. One could measure the level of Haman’s hate from the force with which Haman was punished. As the Torah (Devarim 19:19) commands regarding false witnesses, Haman got back an equal measure of what he intended against the Jewish people.

  • The Dubno Maggid also writes that Haman’s failed decree exposed the Jews’ enemies, who likely gathered arms in preparation for the attack, and this effectively made it easier to expose these Jew haters. Similarly, Yehu gathered together worshipers of Baal by promising a demonstration of his tremendous worship as a ruse to capture them and punish them for idolatry (Melachim 2 10:19).

  • R’ Shmuel Aharon Rubin writes that when the Talmud (Megillah 10b) says “we were slaves, but H-Shem did not abandon us,” it is in relation to the Purim story. He explains that we were like slaves because the Talmud (Kiddushin 36a) says that the Jews are called the children of H-Shem when they fulfill His Will, and are called slaves when they do not. The Jews’ attendance at Achashverosh’s feast demonstrates that they were not fulfilling H-Shem’s directive, but He nevertheless “did not abandon” the Jews.

  • R’ Hutner adds that since the existence of the Jews is without limit, rejoicing on Purim is also without limit. There is a famous story of a friend of mine who had gone missing the day after Purim. He was eventually found on a Sunday night after he had fallen on a hike on Friday. Without nutrition since Friday, he was only able to survive because the day previous was Purim, and the person sitting next to him at the Purim seudah kept piling food onto his plate to encourage him to eat without restraint in fulfillment of the above dictum.

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Esther 7:9, Question 6. Why do the rabbis require us to praise Charvona with the title “zachur latov?”

  • As mentioned previously, the song “Shoshanas Yaakov” concludes with the words, “v’gam Charvona zachur latov” (“and also Charvona should be remembered for good”).
  • R’ Meir Zlotowitz explains that Charvona is so well remembered because his advice prevented Haman from speaking in his defense or offering a bribe.
  • The Ben Ish Chai adds that Esther’s complaint to the kings was rather general. In detailing Haman’s plans, Charvona’s statement was specific.
  • In Maileetz Yosher, the author suggests that Charvona is praised because Achashverosh changed his mind so often because of the Talmudic (Nedarim 10a) dictum that “evil people are filled with regrets.”
  • According to the opinion that this manifestation of Charvona was actually Eliyahu dressed up as Charvona, the Dubno Maggid asks why Charvona is praised if Eliyahu was merely disguised as him. He answers that if people borrowed clothes to go to a wedding, they might bring back some delicacies from the wedding as a way to thank the lenders. Eliyahu, too, gave Charvona praise for allowing him to borrow his identity.
  • The Shaar bas Rabbim explains that Charvona should be praised because when Eliyahu enters a person, he leaves a positive, indelible imprint on that person. This can be seen from a story in the Talmud (Yerushalmi Kiddushin 12:3) in which Rebbi (Yehudah HaNasi) became angry with R’ Chiya, his student. As a form of self-punishment, R’ Chiya stayed away from his teacher. On the 29th day of this self-exile, Eliyahu in the guise of R’ Chiya came to Rebbe and healed him of a certain 13-year-old pain he had. The very next day, R’ Chiya came to apologize, whereupon Rebbe thanked him for healing him. R’ Chiya said, “It was not me,” to which Rebbe responded, “It must have been Eliyahu!” Due to Eliyahu’s borrowing his body, R’ Chiya visited Rebbe the next day because he was inspired and became a better person through his contact with Eliyahu.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech notes that, in the song, “Shoshanas Yaakov,” we sing about Esther and Mordechai who risked their lives, and about Charvona, who seems to have done very little in comparison. This acts to demonstrate the truth of the Talmud’s (Avoda Zara 17a) statement that “there are those who acquire the world in one moment.” He continues to explain that Charvona’s name is therefore written with a hey to hint to his earning this world, which the Talmud (Menachos 29b) says was created with a hey.
  • The Dubno Maggid concludes that either way, Charvona must have had some good because the Talmud (Shabbos 32a) says that H-Shem only causes blessing through those who are worthy.

Esther 7:9, Question 1. Who is Charvona?

ט וַיֹּאמֶר חַרְבוֹנָה אֶחָד מִןהַסָּרִיסִים לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ גַּם הִנֵּההָעֵץ אֲשֶׁרעָשָׂה הָמָן לְמָרְדֳּכַי אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּרטוֹב עַלהַמֶּלֶךְ עֹמֵד בְּבֵית הָמָן גָּבֹהַּ חֲמִשִּׁים אַמָּה וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ תְּלֻהוּ עָלָיו

9. And Charvona, one of the eunuchs before the king, said, “Also, behold! Here is the tree that Haman made for Mordechai who said good regarding on the king. It is standing in Haman’s house fifty-cubit tall.” And the king said, “Hang him on it.”

  •  The Malbim, Vilna Gaon, and Yosef Lekach propose that Charvona was simply one of the chamberlains sent to fetch Haman to feast (Esther 6:14).
  • According to the Talmud (Megillah 16a), Charvona was an evil ally of Haman’s, intent on killing Mordechai. Once he saw that the plan would not succeed, he surrendered. This fits with the verse (Iyov 27:22) that allies of the wicked “will surely flee.”
  • The Dubno Maggid explains this with the following allegory: A blind beggar works with a young boy. One day, the boy stole the blind beggar’s wallet with 30 coins. When he saw the beggar crying pitiably, the boy returned the wallet saying, “I found the wallet with the 30 coins.” Instead of thanking the boy, the beggar began to beat the boy mercilessly for the theft. How did he know that the boy stole it? How else could the boy have known that there were 30 coins in the bag? Likewise, the Talmud knows that Charvona is evil because how else could he have known that the gallows were 50 amos tall if he were not in on the plot.
  • The Ben Ish Chai points out that Charvona noticed that Haman lost the ability to defend himself, and this emboldened him to speak up.
  • The Midrash (Esther Rabba 10:9) lists what many of the angels and other Heavenly Beings were doing during the climax of the Purim story. It says that Eliyahu appeared like Charvona, and said the words attributed to him in this verse.
  • Another Midrash (Yalkut 1059) and the Ibn Ezra concur that Charvona is Eliyahu.
  • The Alshich adds that another proof that Charvona is Eliyahu is that the verse describes him as “before the king,” and Eliyahu is certainly a minister of the King of kings.
  • Interestingly, the song, “Shoshanas Yaakov,” sung on Purim after the public reading of Megillas Esther ends with the words, “v’gam Charvona zachur latov” (“and also Charvona should be remembered for good”). Charvona is the only person who shares the epithet, “zachur latov” with Eliyahu.
  • When Charvona is mentioned earlier (Esther 1:10), he is the third in a list of the king’s chamberlains/eunichs. The M’nos HaLevi notes that the name is spelled with a letter aleph at the end there, and with a letter hey at the end here. He explains that when Charvona was on the side of evil, his name is spelled with an aleph. When he repents, and is Eliyahu, it is spelled with a hey.
  • In an explanation, R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that this name ending with an aleph means destruction in Aramaic. With a hey, it is a composite of “charav boneh” (“destroy, build”). In the process of true repentance, he was rebuilding that which he had earlier wanted to destroy – namely, Mordechai.
  • Rabbeinu Bachya, in his commentary on the Torah writes that he was called Charvona because he helped destroy Haman.
  • The Chasam Sofer and R’ Dovid Feinstein both say that with an aleph, it is the gentile Aramaic; with a hey, it is Hebrew, so it is Jewish.

Esther 7:6, Question 1. Why does Esther call Haman an “ish” (“man”)?

ו וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר אִישׁ צַר וְאוֹיֵב הָמָן הָרָע הַזֶּה וְהָמָן נִבְעַת מִלִּפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַמַּלְכָּה

6. And Esther said, “A man who is an adversary and an enemy, this evil Haman.” And Haman was bewildered from before the king and the queen.

  • It is especially puzzling that Esther calls Haman an “ish” (“man”) since, as R’ Dovid Feinstein points out, it usually signifies an important person. In this case, he writes, Haman is called an “ish” because he thought highly of himself.
  • The Dubno Maggid writes that the word ish followed by an adjective indicates a central aspect of the subject’s character. Esther is therefore answering both of Achashverosh’s questions from above; who the person is and why he is doing it. As proof of this idea, the Dubno Maggid quotes the verse in the Torah that first describes Eisav1 (Bireishis 25:27), in which he is called an “ish sadeh” (“man of the field”). In other words, the field is an intrinsic part of Eisav’s being. Therefore, Haman’s main characteristic is that he is a “tzar v’oivev,” an enemy. Amalek hates the Jews for no reason. The Dubno Maggid brings the allegory of a glutton who goes around a party, eating left-overs after party is over. He is not hungry. Similarly, the Torah (Devarim 25:18) testifies that when Amalek attacked the Jews, they went after the “weak ones.” Also, in Tehillim (137:7), King David prophecies that the Temple would be destroyed “to its foundation.” The Romans were not satisfied with the Temple burning – they wanted the Temple more than destroyed.

1It is interesting to note that Eisav is the ancestor of Amalek, and thus Haman.

Esther 6:14, Question 1. Why does the verse stress that the king’s servants arrived while Haman’s advisers were still speaking with him?

יד עוֹדָם מְדַבְּרִים עִמּוֹ וְסָרִיסֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ הִגִּיעוּ וַיַּבְהִלוּ לְהָבִיא אֶתהָמָן אֶלהַמִּשְׁתֶּה אֲשֶׁרעָשְׂתָה אֶסְתֵּר

14. They were still speaking with him, and the eunuchs of the king arrived. And they rushed to bring Haman to the drinking party that Esther made.

  • The M’nos HaLevi and Malbim write that the verse stresses that the king’s eunuchs arrived while Haman’s advisers were still speaking with him because this is an example of hashgacha pratis, H-Shem’s supervision of the world on a seemingly minor scale. As such, Haman did not get the sound advice from his advisers.
  • R’ Eliezer Ashkenazi and the Malbim write that this is how Charvonah learned of the gallows (see Esther 7:9 below).
  • The Dubno Maggid asks that, since Haman’s advisers were wise, why did they not consider this an opening for the Satan, based the Talmudic (Kesubos 8b) principle of al tiftach peh l’satan – not saying something that would give the Heavenly accuser an opportunity to do something unfavorable? He explains that they had planned to conclude their remarks with the good side, but the eunuchs’ sudden arrival interrupted them.
  • The Degel Machaneh Efrayim adds that, as soon as the advisers questioned if Mordechai were Jewish, H-Shem sent Achashverosh’s servants as an answer. This is because He answers prayers even before they are uttered, as it says in Yeshaya (65:24) “od heim midabrim vaAni eshma” (“while they were speaking, and I heard”). All of this is possible because, unlimited by the dimension of time, H-Shem knows what we will do before we do it.

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.

Esther 5:6, Question 2. Why does Achashverosh use the same nouns as before (5:3)?

  • On a simple level, the Vilna Gaon explains that, as before (Esther 5:3), a request is personal, whereas a petition is for the needs of others. After all, it is the duty of a queen to petition her king.
  • Similarly, the Maharal writes that a “request” is a natural desire. A “petition” is an above-average request.
  • Rav Moshe Dovid Valle writes that “request” can be answered immediately, but a “petition” would require more time and effort.
  • The Malbim writes that a “request” is just the act of asking for something. A “petition” is the providing of a reason for that request. A child can request from his father money with the petitioned purpose of acquiring some land. A father may want to hear both the plea and its reason, especially if he may want to provide both the money and the land.
  • The Dubno Maggid writes that this was Achashverosh’s intent – to provide Esther with both her desired goal and its means.
  • Perhaps, as suggested by class participant CL, Achashverosh was suspicious of Esther, and wanted to know the core intent of her request.