Esther 6:13, Question 3. Why do Haman’s advisers speak first?

  • In the previous event in which Haman asked advice from his loved ones (Esther 5:10), Zeresh spoke first.
  • The Dena Pishra points out that here, Haman’s advisers speak first because Haman held Zeresh responsible for what he now considered bad advice.
  • According to the Sfas Emes, that verse called them “loved ones” and this verse calls them “advisers” because these were fair-weather friends, jumping on Haman’s bandwagon in the height of his rise to power, but are just advisers during his fall. He quotes the Mishna (Avos 5:6) that a love that is attached to a reason, once that reason goes away, that love disappears.
  • The Maharal notes that Haman’s male friends, like any good friend, were required for critical statements. The type pf woman Haman would marry is supposed to be his equal, not pointing out his flaws. The Maharal quotes a seeming contradiction between one Talmudic statement (Bava Metzia 59a) that says listening to one’s wife’s advice can lead a man to gehinom, or Hell, and another Talmudic statement (Ibid.) that advises a man with a short wife to bend to hear her advice. The Talmud explains that taking a wife’s advice in religious matters leads a man to gehinom, whereas taking her advice in worldly matters is worth bending for. The Maharal explains that, although there are exceptions, women then did not typically study Talmudic discourse, so taking their advice in that abstract, logical area would be foolish. A man should listen to his wife about the practical, worldly, real-life matters.

Esther 4:11, Question 1. Why does Esther refuse Mordechai’s order?

יא כָּלעַבְדֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְעַםמְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ יֽוֹדְעִים אֲשֶׁר כָּלאִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר יָבוֹאאֶלהַמֶּלֶךְ אֶלהֶחָצֵר הַפְּנִימִית אֲשֶׁר לֹאיִקָּרֵא אַחַת דָּתוֹ לְהָמִית לְבַד מֵאֲשֶׁר יוֹשִׁיטלוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶתשַׁרְבִיט הַזָּהָב וְחָיָה וַאֲנִי לֹא נִקְרֵאתִי לָבוֹא אֶלהַמֶּלֶךְ זֶה שְׁלוֹשִׁים יוֹם

11. “All of the servants of the king and nation of states of the king know that any man and woman who go to the king to the inner courtyard who was not called have one law – to kill, unless that the king would extend to him his gold scepter, and live. And I have not been called to come to the king these thirty days.”

  • The Alshich gives three reasons why Esther refuses Mordechai’s order, at least for the time being:
  • First, he points out that Esther points out to Mordechai that there were eleven months between the decree (in Nisan) and its fulfillment (Adar). There would therefore not be a need to risk the death penalty for coming to the king without having been summoned.
  • Incidentally, the Targum writes that this rule was established by Haman in order to avoid the possibility of Jews petitioning the king unannounced to beg him to change the decree against them. Besides, the king also did not want to be petitioned by Jews for permission to rebuild the Temple.
  • The Alshich’s second reason for Esther’s desire to delay approaching the king is that she felt there was a high probability of her appeal failing.
  • Finally, with eleven months left until the fulfillment of the decree, Esther saw no need to come before the king since there was a good chance that he would summon her at some point before then, anyway.
  • R’ Eliezer Ginzburg writes that Esther’s refusal here is because she felt that she had been suffering all of the humiliations of this forced marriage to Achashverosh to create a “tikun” (“repair”) for the sins of that generation.
  • Perhaps, since Esther was a humble person, she felt unworthy of such this monumental mission.
  • R’ Ginzburg then quotes the Zichron Shmuel who notes that the initial letters of “me’asher yosheet lo hamelech” (“that the king would extend to him”) spell out “milah” (“circumcision”). This is a hint to the idea mentioned earlier that, in reluctance to have relations with an uncircumcised gentile, Esther would ordinarily send a sheid to take her place. Now, she was afraid that she would have to appear before Achashverosh alone, without the aid of a demon.

Esther 3:8, Question 5. Why does Haman stress that Jewish laws are different from the laws of others?

  • Many cultures in large nations like Achashverosh’s would have their own unique set of rules, customs, and even mores. Here, Haman is stressing that Jewish laws not only different, but even antagonistic to the laws of the land. According to the Talmud (Megillah 13b), Haman is complaining that the Jews “won’t eat our food, won’t marry from us, won’t marry to us.” Haman even uses his knowledge of Jewish law to defame Judaism. He tells the king that if a fly were to touch a Jew’s cup, he would remove it and continue drinking. However, if the king were to touch a Jew’s cup, the Jew would throw the wine away. Alluding to the law of yayin nesech (see Talmud, Avodah Zarah 30a), Haman is telling the king that the Jews view the Persians as unclean (see the Targum Sheini).
  • According to Rav Dovid Feinstein, Haman is saying the Jews view their own laws as superior, and therefore even trumping, the king’s gentile law. On one hand, he is right. Although the Talmud in numerous places (Gittin 10b, Baba Kama 113a, Baba Basra 54b, Nedarim 28a) notes a concept called “dina d’malchusa dina” (“the law of the kingdom is the law”) which means is that Jews are expected to follow the laws of the lands in which we find ourselves, this is only true as long as those laws do not directly contradict Jewish law.
  • On the other hand, as Megillas Sefer learns, Haman is saying that the Jews even go to the extreme measure of mutilating their sons (through circumcision) to avoid intermarrying with the gentiles around us. Poor, little innocent children are cut for their parents’ religious fanaticism. Interestingly, had it not been a command, its cruelty would make it abhorrent. Rav Hirsch (Collected Writings, Volume II, 385) writes, “In exile, in disrepute, tiny to behold, yet always conspicuous, it is a nation which calls attention to itself, prods others into action and yet, despite its dispersal, manages to preserve its unique heritage and even to transmit it from one generation to the other.”
  • The Targum Sheini writes that Haman’s criticism of the Jews here was that the Jews “have warm water in winter and cold water in summer.” The Ben Ish Chai explains that Haman is saying the Jews focus on physical pleasure. He also says notes that the Jews manipulate their own calendars from twenty-nine to thirty days, depending on when they want Rosh Chodesh to fall out. In Haman’s estimation, these designations are arbitrary and to the Jews’ own benefit.

Esther 2:15, Question 2. Why does this verse mention Esther’s father’s name, one of two times (the other in 9:29) in the entire Megillas Esther?

  • The Malbim contends that Esther, besides possessing health and beauty, also had great character because of her distinguished father. We know that he was a great man because it says in the Talmud (hinted at in Megillah 10b) that all prophets must have good genealogy.
  • Another reason for her father to be mentioned here comes from the Maharal. He quotes the verse in the Torah (Bireishis 2:24) that says a man who finds his intended should cling to her. Maharal continues that a woman, too, clings to her husband after marriage. Therefore, Esther was connected to Mordechai up until this point, and will now have to cling to her new “husband,” Achashverosh.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 13b) says that Esther’s ancestors Rachel, Benyamin, and Shaul were all able to keep secrets. This characteristic was passed down through Avichayil to Esther. Rav Chaim Kanievsky says this verse emphasizes this genetic link to secrecy. This is why Esther’s father was not mentioned earlier when her secrecy was first mentioned (2:10 above), because there, she was commanded to be secretive by Mordechai, and this verse is attesting to her innate ability to do so for this long period of time.

Esther 2:7, Question 4. If the verse already mentioned Mordechai’s raising Esther, why does the verse tell us that he took her for a daughter?

  • The Talmud (Megillah 13a) says Esther never had parents – her father died when Esther was conceived, and her mother died when she was born. Mordechai took her for a daughter because her parents died. According to the Talmud, the word “l’bas” (“as a daughter”) can also he read “l’bayis” (“as a house”).1 A house represents a wife because a woman is the foundation of the house (Tehillim 113:9), meaning that Mordechai married Esther. Noda B’Yehudah notes that the verse’s use of the term “lak’cha” (“acquired”), similar to the Mishnah’s (Kiddushin 1:1) idea of Jewish marriage being, among other things, a legal acquisition. If they were married, why is the Megillah not explicit about this marriage? First, Rabbi Mendel Weinbach points out, one must realize that this text existed during Achashverosh’s reign, and his wife’s being married to another man would not bode well for her. Also, according to the Sfas Emes, this marriage was not explicitly stated because this verse also discusses her beauty. We should not think that Mordechai married Esther for those sorts of superficial reasons, but because he truly cared for her.
  • Finally, Ibn Ezra says that Mordechai only wanted to marry Esther, but did not actually go through with it. Similarly, the Maharal considers Esther a “bas zug” (“exact match”) for Mordechai, or perhaps a sort of character foil, as a wife should be a match for her husband (see Talmud, Shabbos 118b).
  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 6:1) tells us, that the verse in Tehillim which says, “Praiseworthy are those who keep the law, who perform kindness at all times” (Tehillim 106:3) refers to Mordechai because he adopts an orphan, and raising somebody is a full-time 24/7 occupation with kindness. Since many people in history adopted children, the Dubno Maggid explains that the Midrash connects this verse specifically to Mordechai because he also “keeps the law.” This great kindness was that first he followed the law, and then he did “chesed” (“kindness”). Many people do chesed, but without Torah, it is not real kindness, but token fluff. Rabbi Elisha Gallico reminds us of how great is the mitzvah of adoption. If Mordechai’s taking care of his niece earned him the honor to rescue the Jewish people, how much more so a person who adopts somebody with no relation to them!
  • Perhaps one could also say that the verses mention Esther’s being an orphan twice because one of those references alludes to the Jews, who complained of being left like orphans when they learned of the plot to exterminate them (Esther Rabbah 6:7).

1Rabbeinu Bachya points out in his Torah commentary that such exegesis is only made by the Rabbis when the two words are somehow related.