Esther 8:17, Question 2. Why do the non-Jews seemingly convert at this time?

  • Rashi translates the unusual verb misyahadim as “converted.” Seemingly, because of their fear of Jewish reprisal, many gentiles converted to Judaism.

  • Agaddas Bireishis (15) explains that non-Jews always want to convert to Judaism whenever the Jews are fulfilling their responsibilities to H-Shem.

  • The Alshich points out that this shows a sharp contrast between the Jews and gentiles. When faced with annihilation, the Jews strengthened their faith with teshuva (“repentance”), whereas the gentiles abandoned the empty faiths of their powerless gods.

  • The Ginzei HaMelech wonders why this contrast occurred at this point, and not in Moshe’s time. In other words, one would expect a lot more converts during the Jews’ exodus and miraculous stay in the desert. He answers that there were so few converts in Moshe’s time because the Talmud (Shabbos 88a) teaches that the Jews were coerced then to accept the Torah. One needs to feel inspired to inspire others, as the Jews felt at the end of the Purim story.

  • The Ralbag disagrees with Rashi’s translation, and suggests that they did not convert, but merely pretended to be Jews.

  • The Vilna Gaon explains that they did not really convert because they would have been motivated by fear.

  • After all, Meseches Geirim (1:7) writes that if a person’s motivation for conversion to Judaism is women, love, or fear, their act is not considered a real conversion.

  • Interestingly, according to R’ Moshe Dovid Valle, Mordechai accepted even the insincere converts, just as had Moshe when accepting the eruv rav, Egyptians who converted to Judaism insincerely when they saw that the Jews were successfully and miraculously leaving Egypt. According to him, their descendants caused problems during second Beis HaMikdash.

  • However, according to M’nos HaLevi, they were not accepted because the Talmud (Kiddushin 70a) writes that converts can be difficult to the Jews. He continues that these gentiles nevertheless dressed in Jewish clothing. The Sfas Emes notes that this is yet another source for the custom to masquerade on Purim.

  • In Likkutei Sichos, the Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that “am ha’aretz” can represent the “basic, fundamental human.” In other words, basic human behavior like sleeping, eating, etc. are obviously applicable to both Jews and gentiles, alike. The actions are the same, but there are different attitudes. For instance, a Jew is required to eat with appreciation and with intent to have a closer bond with H-Shem, to sleep in order to better perform mitzvos the next day, etc. Therefore, even in base, human behaviors, these particular gentiles acted like Jews.

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Esther 6:13, Question 2. Why does Haman not need to summon his friends and family as he had before (Esther 5:10)?

  • In the previous circumstance in which Haman asked his family and friends for advice (Esther 5:10), he had to summon them. According to Ibn Ezra, Haman did not need to call for them now because, after having recommended hanging Mordechai and going to Achashverosh, they stayed around to see the results of their advice.
  • The M’nos HaLevi suggests that they had left, but returned to comfort Haman upon death of his daughter and the other terrible events of the day. He also writes that Haman only told Zeresh, but word spread.

Esther 6:6, Question 5. Why does Haman think that Achashverosh was referring to him?

  • M’nos HaLevi writes that Haman thinks that Achashverosh is referring to him because Achashverosh would only want to honor someone who already has money, so it had to be Haman.
  • The Iturrei Torah gives a more drush explanation. Haman focused on the fact that Achashverosh used the word “ish” (“man”). Since the Talmud (Megillah 12a) notes that Haman is called an ish, he assumed the king was referring to him. It happens to be that the same source calls the actual deserving honoree, Mordechai, an ish, as well.
  • Perhaps Haman also considered that the mispar katan of ish (1+1+3=5) happens to be the same as that of Haman (5+4+5=14=1+4=5).
  • The Sfas Emes writes that Haman was thinking that even if Achashverosh were referring to someone else, he will still do this for him later, as well.

Esther 6:6, Question 1. Why does the verse stress that Haman “came in?”

ו וַיָּבוֹא הָמָן וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ מַהלַעֲשׂוֹת בָּאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הַמֶּלֶךְ חָפֵץ בִּיקָרוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן בְּלִבּוֹ לְמִי יַחְפֹּץ הַמֶּלֶךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת יְקָר יוֹתֵר מִמֶּנִּי

6. And Haman came in. And the king said to him, “What to do in the man whom the king desires in glorifying him?” And Haman said in his heart, “To whom does the king desire glory more from me?”

  • The Dena Pishra writes that the verse stresses that Haman “came in” because he came in on his own, without being summoned. He was concerned that he would otherwise look suspicious and he heard voices speaking within. His attempt to not look suspicious probably backfired as such attempts often do.
  • M’nos HaLevi writes that Achashverosh perceived this as rudeness on Haman’s part, and this is why he does not inquire into the reason for his visit. The Shaarei Bina notes that this verse and the previous verse say “yavo” (“came in”) twice because it includes the two accompanying angels that accompany us. The Talmud (Brachos 60a) teaches that all people are accompanied by angels.
  • It is certainly strange that Haman would have deserved such a entourage. Authorities such as R’ Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook wonder why we sing “Shalom Aleichem” to these accompanying angels every Friday night (Talmud, Shabbos 119b) if we no longer deserve their company, either. He answers that the holiness of Shabbos makes up for our own deficiencies in the areas of holiness, so the angels still accompany us on Friday nights.
  • R’ Yaakov Emden, however, believes that angels accompany all people, not just the holiest. As an example, he cites the Talmud (Taanis 11a) that says that those who are so evil that they disregard the suffering of their own communities cause their accompanying angels to testify against them.
  • Class Participant ID suggested another possible reason for Haman to deserve accompanying angels: they were there because Haman’s visit was actually intended in Heaven to benefit Mordechai, so he was unknowingly performing a mitzvah.

Esther 6:5, Question 2. Why do Achashverosh’s youths stress that Haman is “standing” in the courtyard?

  • The Alshich writes, consistent with his previous interpretation, that Achashverosh’s youths respond that it is Haman who is in charge, and he’s here now.
  • M’nos HaLevi, however, explains that the the youths were saying that Haman actually means to cause harm to the king, and he’s standing there waiting to see that all are sleeping and it is an opportune time to secretly strike at the king.

Esther 6:2, Question 2. Why does the verse call the first conspirator Bigsana with an extra aleph?

  • The Alshich and M’nos HaLevi explain that the verse calls the first conspirator Bigsana with an extra letter aleph appended to his name because Haman’s son, to minimize Mordechai’s action, in describing the attempt on the king’s life, wrote “Bigsan o Seresh” (“Bigsan or Seresh”), as if Mordechai didn’t know which. If this were to be the case, then both were thereby punished and killed, one innocently so. Therefore, Mordechai would stand unworthy of reward. The angel, Gavriel, moved the letter vuv in between the names to the end of Bigsan’s name.

Esther 6:2, Question 1. Why does the verse describe the incident as “found?”

ב וַיִּמָּצֵא כָתוּב אֲשֶׁר הִגִּיד מָרְדֳּכַי עַלבִּגְתָנָא וָתֶרֶשׁ שְׁנֵי סָרִיסֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ מִשֹּׁמְרֵי הַסַּף אֲשֶׁר בִּקְשׁוּ לִשְׁלֹחַ יָד בַּמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ

2. And it was found writing that Mordechai related on Bigsana and Seresh, two eunuchs of the king from the guards of the threshold who sought to send their arm at King Achashverosh.

  • According to the Midrash (Esther Rabba 1:3), the verse describe the incident as “found” because, as bad as Achashverosh was, one good thing about Achashverosh was that he had everything recorded. One positive aspect of this is that he wrote both positive and negative events, a sign of humility. Another positive aspect of this is that writing down a chronicle of events helps a person grow spiritually (Pri Tzaddik, Chukas 4). After being inspired, the absence of a written record may cause that inspiration to disappear. There is an incident in which, as a young man, Rav Shlomo Brevda was walking in a poorly-maintained street when the street lights went out. He walked carefully, and when the lights cam back on, he found himself on the precipice of a large hole. He was inspired to pray the next morning with extra feeling and gratitude. However, when the next morning arrived, he found this inspiration gone like a deflated balloon. Upon asking several rabbis for an explanation of this phenomenon, he was directed to the Chazon Ish. After a rather lengthy bus ride to seek out this gadol’s advice, the Chazon Ish explained to him, “there is a special yetzer hara designed to deflate your inspiration immediately after a miracle.” One way to fight this and tap into your emotion is to write down that event.
  • The Malbim writes that Haman erased mention of Mordechai from the public document, and replaced any mention of him with his own name. Since he was unable to erase Mordechai’s name from the king’s private record, Achashverosh found it odd, if not suspicious, that Mordechai was the one who helped save him. This will help explain why his treatment of Haman and Mordechai from this point become the polar opposite of his treatment of them previously.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 16a), commenting on the abnormality that the verse says kasuv (“writing”) instead of kasav (“written”), which Rashi explains (there) means that it was being written anew teaches that Haman’s son, Shimshi, was attempting to erase Mordechai’s name, but the angel Gavriel was rewriting it. Interestingly, the Rokeach and M’nos HaLevi point out that the gematria of the first six words of our verse, “vayimazei chasuv asher heegeed Mordechai al” (6+10+40+90+1+20+400+6+2+1+300+200+5+3+10+4+40+200+4+20+10+70+30=1,472) is equal to this Talmud’s statement = “shimshi mochek v’Gavriel kosev” (300+40+300+10+40+6+8+100+6+3+2+200+10+1+30+20+6+400+2=1,484)1.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 16a) continues that if something is written about the Jews below cannot be erased, how much more-so is this true in Heaven! In explanation, the Bobover Rebbe says this is hinting to H-Shem’s two books – one below and one above, mentioned in the Mishnah (Avos 2:20) in which H-Shem does His accounting for our behavior.
  • Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller stresses the tremendous effect of one human’s singular act written in a book leading the Jews to redemption. Accordingly, this is why the Rambam writes (Mishnah Torah, Hilchos Teshuva 3:1) that just one good deed tips the scales for individual and for the whole world.

1I have yet to see a commentary explaining the apparent discrepancy of 22. Tzarich iyun.