Esther 8:7, Question 4. Why is the word “Yehudim” Masoretically spelled with and extra letter, yud?

  • For a similar question above, it was assumed that, the gematria of yud being ten, the additional yud may represents the Ten Commandments, and that perhaps the spelling implied that the Jews were rescued from the decree in the merit of their teshuva (“repentance”) (see Esther 9:27).
  • The total gematria of Yehudim with the extra yud (10+5+6+4+10+10+40=85) is 85, the same gematria as peh (“mouth”) (80+5=85). This represents prayer, which is what rescued the Jews from the decree.
  • Interestingly, with the above verse (Esther 8:1), there seems to be a reference to two mouths, perhaps implying a parallel with the verse (Shemos 33:11) in which H-Shem praises Moshe as one with whom He communicates “peh el peh” (“mouth to mouth”). Part of the reason the Jews were saved was in the merit of Moshe, as the Midrash (Esther Rabba 7:14) says explicitly. Throughout Jewish philosophy, Moshe represents the Torah that he received and taught. Taken all together, the Jews’ repentance, prayer, and acceptance of Torah rescued them from this terrible fate.
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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 8:2, Question 2. Why does Esther appoint Mordechai in charge of Haman’s property?

  • According to Shelom Esther, by appointing Mordechai in charge of Haman’s property, Esther was in effect making Haman’s family into Mordechai’s slaves.
  • R’ Avraham Mordechai and R’ Dovid Feinstein both quote the Talmudic (Pesachim 88b) dictum that what belongs to the slave is really the master’s. Therefore, Esther’s action returned Mordechai’s property back to him.
  • The M’nos HaLevi and R’ Shmuel de Ozeida note that Esther could not have given this to Mordechai outright because it was from Achashverosh (see Esther 8:1). It could seem like a slight to Achashverosh’s honor if she were to re-gift Haman’s property directly, so she appointed Mordechai in charge of it, instead.
  • The Sfas Emes interprets Haman’s estate as the other-worldly powers he amassed. At this point, Mordechai became the master of these. Perhaps this black magic can best be described as the power to change the spiritual world. Just as H-Shem placed us into a physical world where we can do such things as control electrical currents with switches and harness the wind with sails, He created our souls in a spiritual world which we can also affect if we want to.
  • The Maharal notes that this act points to a major theme throughout the entire Megillas Esther: that absolutely every single thing Haman attempted to do was turned around on him.

Esther 7:1, Question 3. Why does the verse call Esther a queen?

  • According to M’nos HaLevi, the verse calls Esther a queen to emphasize Haman’s jealousy. After all, Haman was upset that his daughter was not chosen to be the queen, effectively robbing Haman of more influence on Achashverosh.

  • Perhaps the verse also calls Esther a queen because, according to the Talmud (Kesubos 65a), women do not generally drink – especially together with men. However, Esther’s behavior can be excused as exceptional because her status in royalty makes her an exception to the rule.

  • Perhaps the verse is calling Esther a queen because she was engaged in the holy work of fulfilling a prophecy. The Midrash (Tanchuma 14) applies a verse (Bireishis 49:27) that “Benyamin is a wolf that captures; in the morning it will eat its prey and in the evening it will divide its spoils” to Esther’s actions. Esther “captured” Achashverosh and Haman by luring them to a party, and then pounced. She “ate her prey” by having Haman executed (Esther 7:10), and then “divided her spoils” by carving up Haman’s property (Esther 8:1).

Esther 5:11, Question 1. Why does Haman mention these facts? Why does he stress the honor of his wealth?

  • The Vilna Gaon and Yosef Lekach both write that Haman was simply reminding himself of his wealth, importance, and accomplishments to get out of the bad mood in which he found himself. After, all, as the Alshich writes, three things bring us happiness: wealth, children, and power.1

  • The Malbim connects this statement with Haman’s root cause for needing advice. Since he considered killing Mordechai a lowly act beneath him, he mentions his greatness to emphasize his need for his advice.

  • M’nos HaLevi, focusing on the fact that Haman emphasizes the honor and glory of his wealth rather than the quantity of it, explains that Haman intended to stress the qualitative power of his money.

  • For instance, his offering silver to Achashverosh (see Esther 3:9 above) brought about his eagerly anticipated destruction of the Jews.

  • According to the Ben Ish Chai, Haman was attempting to imply that he came by his wealth honorably, i.e. honestly.

  • Akeidas Yitzchak points out that he wanted to use his wealth to kill Mordechai, his numerous children to overpower any Jewish resistance, and his power to enforce his decree. The Akeidas Yitzchak continues that these are also the very things he loses (in the same order as mentioned in this verse!). He is first humbled by leading Mordechai on a horse (see Esther 6:10-12 below); then he has to give his wealth to Esther (see Esther 8:1 below); and finally, his many sons are hanged (see Esther 9:7-10 below).

1This is not so different from Abraham Maslow’s idea of “Hierarchy of Needs” in his 1943 “A Theory of Human Motivation.”

Esther 3:10, Question 4. What is the significance of the Talmud’s pit analogy?

The Talmud (Megillah 14a) compares Achashverosh and Haman to two land owners. One has a giant mound of excess land. The other has a ditch in his field. The person who has a ditch wants land to fill in the field. The person with the dirt is looking for a ditch to dump his dirt. Simply put, this analogy indicates a symbiotic relationship between Achashverosh and Haman; the two need each other. Achashverosh has too many Jews, while Haman is looking for Jews to kill.

  • The Ben Ish Chai on the Talmud (in Sefer Benayahu) writes that this analogy means to indicate that, like the dirt-owner, Achashverosh did not accept Haman’s financial offer because he was doing him a favor ridding the nation of Jews.
  • R’ Meir Shapiro and the Chasam Sofer say that Achashverosh and Haman had different theories as to how to defeat the Jews. Achashverosh thought the best method for this was to invite them to his feast, elevate them, and watch as assimilation destroyed the Jews from within. Therefore, he built them up, like a mound. Haman, however, considered the best method degradation, making them low as if they were lower than a ditch1.
  • Similarly, R’ Mendel Weinbach writes that Achashverosh considered the Jews a threat to his power. After all, if the Jews were to rebuild their Temple, Achashverosh would lose some of his esteem. Therefore, to him, the Jews were respected, like a mound. In contrast, Haman considered the Jews disgusting and lowly, like a ditch. Rabbi Weinbach also writes that the mound and the ditch metaphors can be different ways for Jews to view assimilation. One way to avoid assimilation is to build up Jews like a mound, placing them on a pedestal by pointing out Jewish accomplishments to build up Jewish pride. Another way to avoid assimilation is to paint Jews as so different, so “uncool,” as to belong on a completely separate level, like a ditch.
  • In answering the question of why Achashverosh does not seem to be punished in the end of Megillas Esther, the Ben Ish Chai tells the following parable: two hooligans kidnap the king’s son. When the king refuses to pay their ransom, Hooligan A becomes incensed, and wants to kill the prince. Hooligan B feels this to be unnecessarily cruel, and they begin to argue. As they do, they are both captured. The king pardons Hooligan B for being kind to the prince, but Hooligan A is summarily burned for his evil intentions. Similarly, both Achashverosh and Haman are, indeed, evil. However, due to the respect Achashverosh will show the Jews (see 6:10 and 8:1-2 below), he will be treated in a kinder fashion.

1It is amazing how Nazi propaganda depicted Jews as dirty rodents on the one hand, and over-intellectual snobs on the other, ignoring the inherent contradiction in these estimations.