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.

Esther 5:14, Question 6. Why did Haman (himself) make the gallows?

  • The verse concludes that Haman made the gallows. The Targum explains that, as tired as he was, Haman did nothing else that night. Immediately upon getting the advice, Haman hired builders, he and his sons started hammering, there was rejoicing, they were singing songs, Zeresh and other women played instruments, and they even made a feast.

  • The Shelom Esther writes that Zeresh advised Haman to build the gallows on their land so that nobody could interfere.

  • The Vilna Gaon writes that Haman did it himself because that was the advice when Zeresh said in the beginning of this verse, “yaasu eitz,” which can be translated as either “have a large tree made” or “make a large tree.”

  • However, according to the Alshich, Zeresh advised that others should make it, but Haman did it because, as the Talmud (Sanhedrin 105b) says, “sina mekalekes es hashura” (“hatred changes order”). Rashi (on Bamidbar 22:21) similarly quotes this idea in explaining the strange behavior of another failed enemy of the Jews, Bilam when he saddled his own donkey. When evil people are enthusiastic by their anger, they misplace the natural order of things.

Esther 5:4, Question 3. Why does Esther describe the party as one she made?

  • The Malbim writes that Esther describes the party as one she made in order to parry off any objections to postpone the feast. Since it is made, she intimated, it is ready already.
  • R’ Yehonasan Eibshutz writes that, since this feast will occur on the 15th of Nisan, it is the Yom Tov of Pesach, and the meal is prepared because she had to prepare it before Yom Tov. In contrast, when Esther invites them to the second feast (Esther 5:8), she does not say she made it ready because that meal could be prepared then without the halachic restrictions of Yom Tov.
  • As a hint that this occurred on the 15th of Nisan, the M’nos HaLevi points out that the verse, itself, has 15 words.

Esther 5:4, Question 2. Why does Esther invite them to a party at all?

  • Rashi explains that Esther invited them to a party to get them drunk, as the name of a feast (mishteh, from shetiya, drink), would imply.
  • The Vilna Gaon writes that another reason she invited them to a party because he might be in foul mood due to her recent transgressing of his rule in visiting him un-summoned. Esther would have wanted him in a more agreeable mood before making her request.

Esther 5:4, Question 1. Why does Esther specifically invite Achashverosh and Haman to the party?

ד וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר אִםעַלהַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב יָבוֹא הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהָמָן הַיּוֹם אֶלהַמִּשְׁתֶּה אֲשֶׁרעָשִׂיתִי לוֹ

4. And Esther said, “If it is good for the king, the king and Haman should come today to the drinking party that I made for him.”

The Talmud (Megillah 15b) has a total of twelve reasons for Esther to have invited Haman to the feast:

a) R’ Eliezer says she was laying traps for him, as it says in Tehillim (69:23), “their tables will be their own traps.” In other words, Haman’s presence may give him the opportunity to say or do something he shouldn’t, giving the king prerogative to have his head.

b) R’ Yehoshua says Esther learned this from the house of her father1: Mishlei (25:22) teaches, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him bread.” In other words, one method of taking on one’s enemy is by surrendering some non-essential concession to him, thereby ultimately taking control of the situation when the opportunity strikes.

c) R’ Meir says Esther did this so that Haman would not take good advice, and rebel. In other words, Esther was hoping that her invitation’s stroking Haman’s ego would encourage him to rebel.

d) R’ Yehuda says Esther invited Haman so that he would not suspect that she is a Jewess.

e) Similarly, R’ Nechemia says Esther invited Haman in order for the Jews to not become complacent from their prayers and repentance by comforting themselves that they have a “sister” in the palace who can save them from this genocide.

f) R’ Yose says Esther invited Haman so that he would be available to her at all times. In other words, she wanted her “enemies close” to be able to manipulate his behavior to the benefit of her people.

g) R’ Shimon ben Menasya says Esther invited Haman thinking that, perhaps, H-Shem will become “emotional,” either through mercy or anger, and create a miracle to rescue the Jewish people.

h) R’ Yehoshua ben Karcha says Esther invited Haman in order to smile at him, evoking the king’s jealousy, leading him to execute both Haman and Esther. She was thus willing to sacrifice herself for her people.

i) Rabban Gamliel says Esther invited Haman because Achashverosh was fickle, and prone to inconsistent behavior. If the king gets the opportunity to spend more time with Haman, the statistical chances of him changing his positive opinion of him grow exponentially. Furthermore, had Haman not been at the feast when Esther convinced Achashverosh to kill Haman, his fickleness may lead him to change his mind by the time Haman is found.

j) R’ Gamliel says that all of these answers may explain why Esther invited Haman, but we still require the answer of the R’ Eliezer the Moda’ai to explain why Esther invited only Haman, and not the other advisers. He says she intended to make the rest of the court jealous, since Haman was invited to the meal, whereas they were overlooked. Class participant CRL suggested that having the other advisers attend would require the presence of Mordechai, who should have been celebrating the Pesach seder at the time.

k) Rabba says Haman was invited because “pride comes before destruction” (Mishlei 16:18). Like the English expression, the taller they are, the harder they fall, Esther is bating Haman’s ego to help precipitate his destruction. Incidentally, the Rokeach points out that the gematria of the above phrase from Mishlei (zehu lifnei shever ga’on) (7+5+6+30+80+50+10+300+2+200+3+1+6+50=750) is equal to the words from this verse from Esther that Haman was invited to the feast (hamishteh) (5+40+300+400+5= 750).

l) Abayey and Rava both say Esther’s intent can be seen in the verse “in their heat, I prepare their meal” (Yirmiya 51:39). This verse refers to the drunken death of Balshatzar, and Esther hoped this drunken revelry, too, would kill both Haman and Achashverosh. Incidentally, the Rokeach points out that the gematria of the above word for “in their heat” (bichumam) (2+8+6+40+40=96) is equal to Haman (5+40+50=95) with its kollel.

m) When Rabba son of Avuha met with Eliyahu HaNavi, he asked him which of these opinions is correct regarding Esther’s intent. Eliyahu HaNavi answered that they are all correct.

  • Eliyahu’s answer lends support, writes Rav Shwab, to the idea that when the verse says Esther donned royalty (Esther 5:1), it means she gained ruach hakodesh, the Holy Spirit.
  • Rabbeinu Bachya points out that the initial letters of “the king and Haman should come today” (yavo hamelech viHaman hayom) spell out H-Shem’s Name. H-Shem’s Name is not ever explicitly in Megillas Esther.
  • According to Ibn Ezra, this is because this was a public document in Persia, and the Rabbis were concerned that the Persians might supplant their own gods’ names for H-Shem’s if it were there. Another reason is to teach that H-Shem is available in all situations – good and (seemingly) bad.
  • The Ari, in his list (Pri Etz Chaim) of twelve places where H-Shem’s Name is secretly hidden in Megillas Esther, lists this as one of the places.
  • The Ohel Moshe writes that H-Shem’s Name is specifically at this point because the Talmud (Sukkah 14a) writes that when the righteous pray, they overturn H-Shem’s Anger to Mercy.

1Rashi points out that, not actually growing up in her father’s house, Esther must have overheard this teaching from Mordechai’s conversations with his students.

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 4:16, Question 3. Why and how are the Jews expected to fast for Esther specifically?

  • The M’nos HaLevi writes that the reason Esther wanted the Jews to fast for her is, as it says in the Talmud (Baba Kama 92a), when we pray for someone else to have rachamim (“pity”), we earn rachamim, too.
  • R’ Dovid Chadida points out that Esther is really the only person in danger now. The Jews, after all, are only threatened in a year from this point. To answer why Esther wants the people to fast specifically for her, he quotes the Rambam’s commentary on the Mishna (Taanis 1:5) that a city can only establish a fast day for itself for one day. This only applies when it is a city in danger. However, when we pray for one person, the fast can last for multiple days.
  • The Me’am Loez brings another Mishnah (Taanis 2:1) that fasting alone is meaningless; the point is to pray, cry ,and perform teshuva (“repentance”).
  • Esther’s emphasis on fasting is to help the Jews realize that attending Achashverosh’s feast was the act for which they were to repent. Assuming she did not attend the feast, then, Ginzei HaMelech asks why Esther has to fast. He suggests the Jews went to the party because, on some level, they had a lack of faith in their relationship with H-Shem, thinking they were unworthy of His love and concern. According to the Ginzei HaMelech, Esther has been displaying a similar lack of faith in herself.
  • Incidentally, the Ben Ish Chai writes that she asked the Jews to fast eilai, for her, which can be spelled ayin (seventy) lee (“for me”), meaning that she, herself would only fast for seventy hours, which will be explained later, G-d Willing.