Esther 7:5, Question 2. Why does Achashverosh ask two questions about the identity of the culprit?

  • According to the M’nos HaLevi, Achashverosh asks two questions about the identity of the culprit to imply that wherever he is, Achashverosh would find and punish him.
  • R’ Meir Shapiro teaches that the word hu (“he”) implies somebody not present, whereas the word zeh (“this”) implies something present. In the context of this verse, he was asking if the perpetrator was present, or not. Incidentally, in Esther’s response in the next verse (Esther 7:6), she uses the word zeh to be clear that the Haman whom she was implicating was this one, the one right there.
  • Interestingly, in Purim: Season of Miracles, R’ Zechariah Fendel points out that in the phrase mee hu zeh v‘ai (“who is he? And where?”) the last letter of the first word (yud), the first letter of the second word (hey), the last letter of the third word (vuv), and the first letter of the fourth word (hey) spell out H-Shem’s Name.
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Esther 5:13, Question 2. How do Mordechai’s actions take away from Haman’s list of honors?

  • The M’nos HaLevi writes that the wicked are simply never satisfied.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 15b) says Haman was called a slave who sold himself for bread, referring to the famous Midrash the Haman sold himself into slavery to Mordechai when the two of them were generals and the supplies with which the king entrusted Haman ran out.
  • How do Mordechai’s actions take away from Haman’s list of honors? Rashi writes that Haman forgot about his honor whenever he saw Mordechai. R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that this occurs naturally to most people when we are insulted.
  • The Malbim, consistent in his view, Haman is saying that it is not worthy of his prestige to kill Mordechai.
  • In Sichos Mussar, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz writes that physical things are attainable. Honor, however, is not real, is not physical, and is completely in one’s perspective and imagination. Since it is not real, honor can never be realized.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech brings from the Ne’os Desheh that the last letters of “zeh einenu shava lee” (“this is not worth anything for me”) spell out H-Shem’s Name backwards. According to the Zohar (and quoted by Rabbeinu Bachya in his commentary to Bamidbar), any time the Torah contains H-Shem’s Name backwards, it means He is upset. The Ginzei HaMelech explains that ingratitude (like the kind that Haman is showing here) always angers H-Shem.
  • The Talmud (Chulin 139b) asks where Haman can be found in the Torah. It responds by quoting the verse in Bereishis (3:11), “hamin ha’eitz” (“from the tree”). R’ Aaron Kotler asks, what is the Talmud really asking; after all, Haman in found in Megillas Esther, every time we shout, “boo!” He explains that the Talmud is asking where Haman’s characteristic of ingratitude is in the Torah. Adam, after being given everything in the paradise known as Gan Eden, ends up disregarding his only restriction by eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. That lack of appreciation is Haman in the Torah.

Esther 4:16, Question 5. Why does Esther require three days of fasting?

  • R’ Avigdor Miller points out that fasting for three days is difficult, and accomplished an unprecedented amount of teshuva.
  • The Talmud (Yevamos 121b) uses this verse to inform us that it is difficult, although not miraculous to be without food for that long.
  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 8:7) writes that these three days corresponded with the 13th, 14th, and 15th of Nisan, which included the first day of Pesach. When questioned regarding why Pesach should be foregone, Esther pointed out that there would be no Pesach if the Jews were wiped out.
  • The M’nos HaLevi quotes from the Yalkut Shimoni that these three days were the 14th, 15th, and 16th of Nisan. The Ohel Moshe points out that the main difference is whether or not the Jews of Persia had the second Seder.
  • The Maylitz Yosher writes that the Jews were expected to fast on Pesach in order to shock them into realizing the seriousness of their predicament.
  • The M’nos HaLevi writes that the three days correspond to three sins regarding which Esther expects to be guilty: eat non-kosher food, submit herself to Achashverosh, and partial complicity in the death of Hasach.
  • Rabbeinu Bachya writes that H-Shem only challenges tzaddikim for three days. For example, when Avraham went to potentially sacrifice his son, he found Mount Moriah in three days (Bireishis 22:4). Also, when the brothers were taken by Yosef, they were imprisoned for three days (Ibid. 42:18). Furthermore, Yonah remained inside the big fish that swallowed him for three days (Yonah 2:1). R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that the three sections of the Written Law (Torah, Nevi’im, and Kesuvim) were given to three groups of Jews (Kohanim, Levi’im, and Yisroelim) for which they needed to prepare for three days (Shemos 19:11).
  • The Ben Ish Chai writes that the Torah affects us on three different levels: thought, speech, and action. Therefore, Esther was telling Mordechai that the Jews need to prepare these three days to perform honest repentance through thought, speech, and action.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech quotes the Vilna Gaon (on Bireishis 27:13) that when Rivka told the nervous Yaakov to place the blame of his upcoming deception “eilai” (“on me”), this word can be an acronym for Eisav, Lavan, and Yosef. Those may be the greatest of Yaakov’s tests in life, that came along with the blessing he gets from his father.
  • Also, the Ginzei HaMelech points out that these are three different types of people: Eisav represents a glutton; Lavan represents idolatry, and Yosef represents the challenge of intermarriage. These same three issues are the ones for which Jewish existence was threatened in the Purim story. Pri Tzedek quotes from the Zohar on Chukas that the three patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, represent three characteristics: kindness, awe, and truth. These are the polar opposites of the three characteristics which, according to the Mishnah (Avos 4:21), destroy one’s life: jealousy, lust, and honor. During these three days, then, Esther wanted the Jews to perfect themselves in these three areas.
  • The Ben Ish Chai points out that three days is 72 hours, and this is the gematria of chesed, (“kindness”) (8+60+4=72). Therefore, the Jews were supposed to spend these days evoking H-Shem’s Kindness.
  • R’ Avraham Sutton points out that 72 is also the gematria of H-Shem’s four-letter Name when each letter is spelled out with all the yuds included ([10+6+4]+[5+10]+[6+10+6]+[5+10]=72).

Esther 4:16, Question 1. Why does Esther ask Mordechai to gather the Jews?

טז לֵךְ כְּנוֹס אֶתכָּלהַיְּהוּדִים הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשָׁן וְצוּמוּ עׇלַי וְאַלתֹּאכְלוּ וְאַלתִּשְׁתּוּ שְׁלשֶׁת יָמִים לַיְלָה וָיוֹם גַּםאֲנִי וְנַֽעֲרֹתַי אָצוּם כֵּן וּבְכֵן אָבוֹא אֶלהַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר לֹאכַדָּת וְכַאֲשֶׁר אָבַדְתִּי אָבָדְתִּי

16. “Go gather all of the Yehudim found in Shushan and have them fast for me, and not eat, and not drink three days, night and day. Also I and my maidens will fast so. And so I will go to the king, which is not like the law. And as I will be destroyed, I will be destroyed.”

  • According to Me’am Loez, Esther wanted to bring the Jews together in order to contradict Haman’s slander in Esther 3:5 that the Jews were not unified.
  • According to Vidibarta Bam, the sale of Yosef is one opinion in the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:25) for the Jews’ existence to be threatened. Unity for that prayer would be the correction of this sale.
  • According to Nachal Eshkol, the gematria of kinos (“gather”) (20+50+6+60= 136) is the same as kol, (“voice”) (100+6+30= 136). The voice is usually symbolic throughout Torah literature of prayer, and thus indicates that Esther also requested that the Jews pray for her, as is indicated in the fact that they did so in Esther 9:31.
  • Why, in fact, did the verse then not say explicitly that the Jews prayed? As Rav Avigdor Miller points out in Torah Nation, if the authors of Megillas Esther would write that the Jews prayed, they would also have to write to Whom they prayed. However, since Megillas Esther regularly performs mental acrobatics to avoid using H-Shem’s Name, it did not mention the Jews’ praying.
  • R’ Yechezkiel Levenstein quotes the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:19), which writes that after the decree against the Jews, the Torah dressed in widow’s garb, the angels cried, the sun and the moon dimmed, etc. Only the prayer of Mordechai, one man, could overturn the decree. Of course, prayer is powerful, but as the Maharal points out from the Talmud (Brachos 8a), prayer together in a gathering (at least a minyan) is amplified.