Esther 9:20, Question 1. What does Mordechai write?

כ וַיִּכְתֹּב מָרְדֳּכַי אֶתהַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וַיִּשְׁלַח סְפָרִים אֶלכָּלהַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בְּכָלמְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ הַקְּרוֹבִים וְהָרְחוֹקִים

20. And Mordechai wrote these things and sent books to all of the Yehudim in all of the states of King Achashverosh, the near and the far.

  • Malbim says that what Mordechai wrote were the details of what occurred, since he was concerned that Jews outside of Shushan knew very little about the miraculous success of the Jews of Shushan.
  • According to Rashi, what Mordechai wrote is the content of Megillas Esther, exactly as it appears today.
  • The Ibn Ezra wrote down the reason for the previously mentioned joy.
  • Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer writes that Mordechai wrote this down as the head of the Sanhedrin.
  • The Vilna Gaon explains that this means that he wrote the Halachic details of how to properly commemorate Purim, with what can and cannot be done on this day.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein emphasizes that Mordechai is making the changes for the holiday that the Jews had accepted upon themselves spontaneously.
  • R’ Elisha Gallico notes that it is so important to remember the real source of Purim, there are two readings of Megillas Esther every Purim. This is why Moredechai did not make Purim an actual Yom Tov in order to allow the Jews to perform the other mitzvos of the day.
  • The Oznei Yehoshua notes that if we had Purim without its rules, we would end up having an empty, meaningless holiday. As it stands, Purim is the epitome of giving in the Jewish community.
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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 6:9, Question 3. Why does Haman think of these specific actions?

  • Rebbetzin Heller notes that Haman’s imagining these actions seems childish. In actuality, having wealth and honor already, the idea of being king for a day is the only thing Haman lacked.
  • The Ben Ish Chai points out that the letters that spell the word melech (“king”) could be an acronym for merkava (“transportation”), levush (“clothing”), and chroz (“proclamation”). In other words, the three things Haman suggests all represent the essential elements of royalty.
  • From the exact opposite perspective, R’ Elisha Gallico adds that Haman was thinking that, just in case these honors were not meant for him, they are still non-substantial and without any actual permanent position change. Throughout his advice, then, Haman can be seen as asking for the greatest honor for himself, with the backup plan of this being meaningless if it is meant for someone else.

Esther 4:16, Question 4. Why does Esther need to stress “and do not eat” after telling the Jews to fast?

  • Esther needed to stress “and do not eat” after telling the Jews to fast in order to prove, as the Yalkut says, that the decree against the Jews was punishment for their sin of attending Achashverosh’s feast.
  • To explain this, R’ Shlomo Kluger tell a parable about a pauper who stole. He was caught and fined a lot of money. The thief told the court, “The money you are fining me is little to you, but is a lot to me. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind foregoing it…” The judge answered, “The fine we imposing is not for us; it is for you. The fine is meant to teach you a lesson.” Esther is therefore telling the Jews not to eat because it is meant to teach them a lesson.
  • R’ Elisha Gallico tells us “don’t eat” means even at the Seder, since this fast would include the first day of Pesach.

Esther 4:13, Question 3. What does Mordechai think Esther is thinking regarding her security?

  • Rashi’s simple explanation is that Mordechai thinks Esther believes she will be safe in the palace on the day of the massacre. Rabbi Avigdor Bonchek, however, sees in Rashi’s words an irony that Esther’s safety can only be guaranteed through self-sacrifice.
  • The Vilna Gaon writes that Mordechai thought that Esther was under the impression that her volunteering herself to Achashverosh was one of the carnal sins for which one should sacrifice one’s life rather than sin, even for the sake of others.
  • The Sfas Emes points out that the Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 157:1) requires a city under siege to refuse to give up any resident requested for execution by the attacking army. This is the case if this oppressive army does not specify their victim. However, if they they want a specific person, the community must give that person up to save themselves, since that person is threatened either way. This is only true when that person is threatened along with everyone else. Mordechai thinks Esther considers herself to be in this latter situation, safely tucked away in the palace.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that Mordechai was saying that H-Shem will save His people, as He always does. However, if Esther acts selfishly, she will not be among the other Jews.
  • Similarly, due to the fact that Mordechai mentions the king’s palace, and every mention of the word “king” is a reference to H-Shem, R’ Dovid Moshe Valle adds that the King can reach anywhere.
  • R’ Elisha Gallico notes that, in fact, Esther was actually in more danger staying in the palace. The reason for this, explains the Maharal, is that considering Achashverosh’s virulent hate for the Jews, Esther is safer away from the man who signed the edict to annihilate her nation. The Maharal compares this to living inside a basket with a snake. This is even moreso the case if Esther thinks of herself as an individual, and thus lacking the power of the united nation.
  • The Alshich says that, in Mordechai’s estimation, the root of Esther’s mission was to fix King Shaul’s error of allowing Agag to live.
  • According to Ginzei HaMelech, this is the reason why Mordechai is giving Esther such strong rebuke here; Esther needs to know that the only reason she was in that position was for this goal. Furthermore, Ginzei HaMelech points out that Torah is honest. Here, since Megillas Esther was written by Esther, herself, she nevertheless did not censor out this scene in which she looks weak. The Ginzei HaMelech furthermore adds that this case it was not appropriate to stay private.
  • R’ Menachem Ziemba was asked before the Warsaw ghetto uprising if the Chassidim should be involved in the fighting. He answered that it is indeed a mitzvah to give up one’s life when given the choice between death or their faith. When given no such choice, it is a mitzvah to fight.
  • According to the Kisei Shlomo, Mordechai was telling Esther she was responsible for Hasach’s death, and thus more invested now in the rescue of the Jews.
  • Rav Yitzchak Hutner writes in Pachad Ytizchak that when Person A needs something, and decides to also pray for Person B who also needs that, this makes Person A’s prayer more effective (Talmud, Baba Kama 92a). Rav Hutner explains that this principle works because prayer is stronger if it is performed with the whole heart (Talmud, Sotah 5b), meaning that it is more strongly felt. Therefore, Mordechai is telling Esther that she needs the same rescue as the Jews. In other words, she was already intent on praying for the Jews; what Mordechai wanted Esther to realize was that she was in the same precarious situation. Realizing that she also needs H-Shem to rescue her would cause Esther to feel that prayer with her whole heart, making her prayer stronger, and thus more effective.

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 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.