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.
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Esther 7:6, Question 2. Why does Esther use these three descriptions for Haman?

  • In the Rashbam’s commentary on the Torah (Bireishis 24:65), he writes that a grammatical rule, the word hazeh (“this”) refers to a close object, whereas the word halazeh (“ this”) refers to an object that is far. Already in this word, Esther means that the person responsible is someone close-by.
  • Similarly, the Malbim distinguishes between the two words for enemy – tzar and oyev. According to him, based on a verse in the Torah (Bamidbar 10:9) a tzar is someone who has already done harm. Based on a different verse (Devarim 21:10), an oyev is someone who wants to do harm. Both definitions fit Haman. Accordingly, Esther is answering both of Achashverosh’s questions, the first of which was who did this. Her answer: the wicked Haman. In answering his second question of the motive, Esther responds that it is an adversary and an enemy.
  • Interestingly, she answers the second question first, and then the first question, as Rabbeinu Yonah in his commentary Mishnah (Avos 5:9) recommends for wise people to do when appropriate. Similarly, the Talmud often (see Brachos 2a) comments on the latter point of a Mishnah before commenting on the former.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein and R’ Gallico write that Esther was saying that Haman is evil and dangerous for all – not just for the Jews. This is based on the Midrash (Shemos Rabba 38:4), which quotes a verse (Devarim 33:27) that says H-Shem will push away all of our enemies. Regarding Haman, he is an enemy below as well as above; he terrorized our forefathers and he wants to terrorize our children; he is an enemy to me, and he is an enemy to you.
  • Similarly, Midreshai Torah write that Haman hates Achashverosh as much as he hates the Jews.
  • According to R’ Chadida, Esther is saying that Haman hates Jews for historical reasons, and therefore involving Achashverosh and his kingdom unnecessarily into an ancient feud. (Today also, many international leaders and their nations stumble into the Middle East quagmire without a thorough knowledge of the historic animosities and loyalties that are endemic to that region.)
  • The Alshich writes that Esther is saying that Haman is hated below and an enemy above.
  • The Targum translates this verse as: Haman wanted to kill you last night. After failing, he suggested wearing your clothes, and even the royal crown. H-Shem made it work out that Mordechai, a Jew garnered these honors, and now Haman wants the person who saved and represents you dead. As Yossipon points out, it is Mordechai who is looking out for conspiracies and plots against you.
  • The Lekach Tov writes that Haman is called by three descriptors because he had three intentions quoted by the verse (Esther 3:13) to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate the Jews.
  • Asking why the verse uses the word hazeh (“this”), the Ben Ish Chai explains that since all people have good in them, only the evil part of Haman should be hated. He quotes the AriZal’s (Shaar HaKavanos) interpretation of the Talmudic (Megillah 7a) practice of ad d’lo yada as advising us to only bless Haman when we are drunk. This means that inside our klipa (“shell”) we all hold great potential. After all, from Haman emerged his grandson, R’ Shmuel ben Shailot. That is the good trapped within him. The Talmud (Gittin 57b) famously says Haman’s grandchildren learn Torah. Although it says in Tehillim (97:10) to hate evil people, it means that we should only hate the evil part within those people. To see how far this goes, the verse that tells us to kill out Amalek (Shemos 17:14) tells us to destroy the remembrance of Amalek, since there is some good hidden deep within them.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 16a), also seemingly bothered by the amount of descriptions Esther uses for Haman, writes that Esther was actually going to point to Achashverosh, but an angel pointed her finger toward Haman.
  • R’ Meir Shapiro explains that the word hu means something outward, whereas zeh means something hidden. Here, Haman is the obvious, explicit enemy. Like any deft politician, Achashverosh can claim deniability, and wash his hands of the entire plan. The Talmud is saying that Esther is hinting to Achashverosh that she considers him equally guilty of the planned annihilation of the Jews.
  • On the other hand, R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that Esther was literally going to point to Achashverosh because she was upset with Achashverosh for claiming ignorance.
  • The Vilna Gaon explains that, like a Freudian slip, Esther pointed at Achashverosh at this point because it is the nature of people to say X if they are thinking of X, even when they consciously want to say Y. Since the righteous are constantly thinking of H-Shem, so Esther is pointing to the King.
  • The Chazon Ish asks why, at this critically sensitive time for the Jews, would Esther endanger their lives? He explains that she had inculcated the characteristic of emes (“truth”) to such a degree that she found it impossible to lie, implying that Achashverosh was innocent. H-Shem had to send an angel to save the day.
  • Similarly, the Ohel Moshe quotes R’ Puvarsky (Mussar V’Daas) that Esther’s body could only tell the truth. We have the power to train your body to copy your soul, as it says in Tehillim (63:2), “my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You.” We have the ability to train our flesh to want what the soul wants, as it says in the Mishnah (Avos 2:4). Similarly, Chovos HaLevavos writes that introspection will benefit you in both worlds, as it says in Tehillim (119:59) “I consider my ways, and I turn my feet to Your testimonies.” That is the foundation of mussar philosophy, that the goal of self-improvement.
  • The Maharal points out that Esther would be lying saying that this was entirely Haman’s doing, since Haman could do nothing without Achashverosh. The verse in Tehillim (101:7) says, “He who performs deceit shall not dwell in My house.” A lie cannot save the Jewish people since geulah (“redemption”) cannot result from falsehood.
  • R’ Hanoch Leibowitz answers the question somewhat differently. He explains that Esther, having been forcibly taken to be his wife for twelve long years, subconsciously hated Achashverosh. She therefore pointed at him, though he was not entirely responsible for decree. Even great ones err when affected by their subconscious desires. If such a one as Esther can fall prey to such desires, all people must plan out their actions before doing anything, and then think back and investigate the motivations and results of all behaviors.
  • R’ Eliyahu Lopian says that the angel saved Esther because no harm can come to one who is performing His Will, like speaking the truth.
  • The Torah in Bamidbar (33:55) commands the Jews entering the land of Canaan that they must drive out all bad influences from there, or else the remainders would be “thorns in your eyes, and pricks in your sides” which Ramban interprets as spiritual blindness and physical harassment. Perhaps this verse can also refer to Haman, who forced everyone to bow to his idol, and he tried to physically annihilate the Jews.
  • Also interestingly, the gematria of tzar (90+200=290) (“adversary”) is the same as the word pri (80+200+10=290) (“fruit”), whereas the ­gematria of oyev (1+6+10+2=19) (“enemy”) is the same as the name Chava (8+6+5=19). Perhaps this hints to the Talmudic dictum (Chullin 139b) that the verse about the tree in Gan Eden (Bireishis 3:11) alludes to Haman.

Esther 1:22, Question 2. What is the significance of Achashverosh’s law saying that every man should rule his home?

  • According to the Talmud (Megillah 12b) this decree made the king seem foolish in the eyes of the people. They thought to themselves, “This king is a fool! He has to tell me that I rule my home? Ha! Even the lowest laborer rules his shack.” This, in turn, allowed for future decrees to be treated irreverently. If the king is saying foolish things in this instance, future edicts can also be ignored. In particular, the decree to exterminate the Jews (Esther 3:13) could have been taken more seriously, with the Persians preparing for the big day by stockpiling weapons, planning an assault strategy, and beginning the process of choosing and harassing their prey.
  • Another reason for the people’s perspective on the decree is, as Rav Soloveitchik writes in Days of Deliverance (pg. 59), that if a woman is strong, “she will dominate her husband regardless of the royal decree.”
  • According to Megillas Sesarim, Achashverosh’s decree restricted the citizens’ influence over the home, in effect telling them that only the king can tell them when to attack the Jews. Along those lines, it could be that since it was a given before this edict that men rule their homes, and the king’s having to command it meant that nothing was a given anymore. Therefore, a “given” conventional wisdom like “it’s perfectly acceptable to terrorize the Jews” was no longer a given, and this is why the people refrained from doing so.