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.
- 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.
- According to the Ibn Ezra, Achashverosh was angry from the time he woke up from his drunken stupor after following Haman’s decree to rid himself of Vashti (Esther 2:1) until Haman was ultimately hanged.
- The Me’am Loez explains the subsiding of the king’s fury as calm that returned to the universe.
- This is because, as the Sfas Emes writes, when Amalek is in power, H-Shem is more noticeable through His characteristic of din, judgment. This is similar to what Rashi writes in his commentary on Torah (Shemos 17:16).
- Haman’s end brought with it a sense of peace. The Talmud in several places (Rosh HaShanah 12a, Sanhedrin 108b, Zevachim 113b) points out that regarding the Flood, the verse (Bireishis 8:1) says “vayishku mayim” (“and the water subsided”) when the waters cooled down, whereas the phrase in this verse is “v’chamas hamelech shichacha” (“and the fury of the king subsided”). The contrast in phrasing implies that the flood waters were hot to match the burning passions of the licentious people of that time, mida kineged mida.
- Parenthetically, perhaps another connection between the flood and Haman’s downfall is the Midrashic opinion (Yalkut Shimoni 6:1056) that Haman built the gallows from the beams of Noach’s ark.
- Interestingly, shachacha (“subsided”) is a unique word in TaNaCh. R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch (Collected Writings, Volume IV, 319) comments that the word, shachach is phonetically related to shagag, (“not by choice”). In other words, the king’s anger was not something Achashverosh put effort into controlling. It came and subsided without any input from him.
- The Talmud (Megillah 16a) considers that the unique spelling of shacha with an extra letter chuf to read shachacha is due to the fact that two angers were cooled; one belonged to the King of the Universe and the other belonged to Achashverosh. Also, Achashverosh calmed down about the situation of Esther, and the situation of Vashti.
- As Rashi explains, Achashverosh was doubly angry because Haman was seemingly responsible for the death of Vashti, and was now a threat to Esther.
- The Maharsha emphasizes that Achashverosh was still angry from that point (Esther 2:1), chronologically almost a decade earlier.
- R’ Dovid Feinstein explains that Achashverosh had held himself responsible for Vashti’s fate all of this time, but now realizes that he was deceived and manipulated.
- The Vilna Gaon says that the king whose fury subsided was H-Shem, King of the World. This may refer to the Zohar (III 133a), which translates the verse (Tehillim 144:15) that describes the Jewish people as “ha’am shekacha Lo,” or as “the nation that calms Him,” implying that the Jewish people have a tremendous power, if only we were to utilize it.
- The Zer Zahav writes that Esther’s not forgiving Haman finally caused Shaul to be forgiven for taking unwarranted pity on Agag, Haman’s ancestor.
- The Ginzei HaMelech writes that the Shir Ma’on quotes the Sha’aris Yisroel that quotes the great scholars who lived through the Chmielnicki Massacres of 5408-5409 (1648-1649 CE), which was one of the worst attempts at the genocide of the Jewish people in our history. They note that the large letter ches (Esther 1:6) and the large letter suf (Esther 9:29). Together, the letters spell out tach, a Hebrew way to reference the year 5408. This means that the massacre was a manifestation of Haman’s evil decree.
- The Ginzei HaMelech heard from others the contention that the Chmielnicki Massacre was not the end of the effects of Haman’s decree. Rather, the Holocaust of tasha, 5705 (1945 CE), was the final manifestation of Haman’s decree. He proves this from the unique spelling of shachacha; since H-Shem was “calmed” about the Jewish people twice – once in tach, and once in tasha. There is proof of this in the mispar katan of the word shachacha (300+20+20+5=345= 12= 3) being the same as the mispar katan of tasha (400+300+5=705 = 12= 3). H-Shem is no longer anger.
- The Ginzei HaMelech also quotes from Rav Michel Weissmandel that there is a hint to this in the traditional sizes of the letters in the list of Haman’s sons (Esther 9:7-9) as found in the Megillas Esther. The letters suf (400), shin (300), and zayin (7) there are smaller than the surrounding text, which refer to the year tashaz (1946 CE), the year in which ten Nazi officers were hanged at the Nuremberg Trials. There is also a large letter vuv (6), alluding to the sixth officer, Julius Streicher, who shouted “Purim Fest 1946” as he was being led to the gallows, despite the hanging taking place on Hoshana Rabba, the holiday on which the Zohar (III 31b-32a) says H-Shem judges the gentile nations. There was another Nazi who was supposed to be executed that day, Herman Goring, who committed suicide in his cell. He is likened to Haman’s daughter, who also killed herself. The comparison is extenuated by the fact that Goring famously enjoyed wearing women’s clothing.
- Furthermore, the gematria of shachacha is the same as Moshe (40+300+5=345) because even good leaders are taken when H-Shem chooses to punish a generation. As the Talmud (Brachos 62b) teaches, a plague takes away the greatest of the generation together with the masses. Indeed, a storm sweeps away the good grain together with the chaff.
- According to the Nachal Eshkol, another reason this gematria corresponds to Moshe is because the Midrash (Esther Rabba 6:2) says that yet another reason the Jews were saved from genocide was in the merit of Moshe. His merit should continue to be with us, and rescue us finally from this exile, bimheira biyameinu.
- Rav Galico writes that the verse calls Haman’s advisers wise because these were those of his friends who were wise.
- The M’nos HaLevi say they were wise due to the straight talk they provide. Therefore, the verse calls them “wise” instead of “loved ones.”
- According to the Talmud (Megillah 16a), anyone who says something wise, whether Jew or gentile, is called wise. After all, the Talmud (Megillah 6b) admits that there is wisdom among the gentile nations.
- R’ Shlomo Kluger says they were wise because they saw that all of these events Haman described did not just happen, but occurred due to the snowball effect that have built up over many years – perhaps since the time of Amalek.
- R’ Mendel Weinbach says they are wise because all wisdom can come from the Torah. The Vilna Gaon, for instance, could purportedly give entire discourses on calculus without ever having seen a textbook on the subject.
- Rav Avraham Chadida writes that these advisers knew that when things are out of their expected order are a sign that something good is about to occur. He gives the example of Rivka’s wonder at her unusual pains in pregnancy (Bireishis 25:22), Moshe’s curiosity at the burning bush (Shemos 3:2-3), and even cold weather in the middle of a summer.
- Shar bas Rabim notes that the Talmud (Tamid 32a) defines a wise person as “haro’eh es hanolad,” or someone who can predict future events by logically observing history. Actually, these advisers were indeed correct!
- According to Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller, Esther planned for the next party to specifically occur the next day in order to “intensify the effect of her plan.” This would make the tension between Achashverosh and Haman more palpable.
- According to Rav Dovid Feinstein, this immediacy of the next party would pique Achashverosh’s curiosity, and keep him in suspense. Besides this, it is important to remember that the Jews were already fasting for two straight days, and Esther had asked the Jews to fast for three days, culminating in the next day. The merit of their fasting will both spiritually and psychologically support Esther’s efforts at that day’s feast.
- According to R’ Meir Arama, pushing the next party into the next day was Esther’s attempt to stall her inevitable request from the king. Without a clear sign from H-Shem, she was confused if she should fight Amalek using Yaakov’s method, or Moshe’s. Yaakov (Bireishis 32:9) attempted to defeat Eisav, Amalek’s ancestor, through gifts. Moshe (Shemos 17:8-13) utilized prayer and war against the nation of Amalek.
- The Yalkut Shimoni (1056) writes that Amalek is defeated machar, tomorrow. This is because Moshe, at the first national encounter against Amalek, said “tomorrow I will stand on top of the mountain” (Shemos 17:9).
- The Maharal explains that Amalek does not recognize an other, a tomorrow. Amalek causes religious doubt (the Hebrew word safek has the same gematria as Amalek.) by forcing the brain to consider only one approach to a Torah dilemma; if that approach does not work, there can be no other way to look at the topic.
- Perhaps another reason why the next day was so critical to Esther’s plan can be gleaned from the gematria of the Hebrew word machar, (“tomorrow”) (40+8+200=248). This is the same number as the positive commandments (Makkos 23b-24a), which themselves correspond to the major bones and sinews in a man1. Therefore, one more day of the Jews performing positive mitzvos and teshuva will help Esther. Perhaps this is the reason why the Midrash later notes that Haman was advised to approach Achashverosh specifically baboker (“in the morning”) (Esther 5:14), which the Midrash says is the time of reading the Shema.
1The significance of this number is also the reason for adding three words to the twice daily recitation of the Shema, which would only have 245 words alone (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 61:3 and Mishnah Berurah 61:6).
ח אִם–מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְאִם–עַל–הַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב לָתֵת אֶת–שְׁאֵלָתִי וְלַֽעֲשׂוֹת אֶת–בַּקָּשָׁתִי יָבוֹא הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהָמָן אֶל–הַמִּשְׁתֶּה אֲשֶׁר אֶעֱשֶׂה לָהֶם וּמָחָר אֶעֱשֶׂה כִּדְבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ
8. “If I have found favor in the eyes of the king, and if it good on the king, to give my request and to do my petition, the king and Haman should come to the drinking party that I have made for them. And tomorrow do according to the word of the king.”
- The Malbim writes that Esther is very wise. In giving two qualifications, she is implying that pleasing the king is her main objective. Her question is secondary, making the king feel like he is primary on Esther’s esteem.
- Consistent with his opinion that the request and petition refer to a personal request and a national petition, respectively, the Vilna Gaon here writes that Esther requests the king’s grace for the personal request and wants the king’s “good” for the good of the group for whom she will petition him. She is thus preparing the king for her eventual requests.
- The Ginzei HaMelech writes that the letter vuv connects the request and the petition, making both one. In doing so, she is saying that her request is the same as the Jews’ because she finally felt the Jews’ pain as if it were her own, despite the fact that she could feel confident in the palace as a secret Jewess. This manner of caring for other Jews as if we are parts of one whole can be learned from Moshe, when he left the palace of Pharoah to see (and feel) the burdens of his brethren (Shemos 2:11). Like the famous story of Rabbi Aryeh Levine, who took his wife to the doctor and said, “My wife’s foot is hurting us,” we are expected to keen feel the needs of others as if they were our own.
- On a yet deeper level, Esther’s submitting to the king is a form of tikun for her ancestor, Shaul’s, ignoring the order of the prophet Shmuel to kill out Amalek.
- The Vilna Gaon writes that the verse emphasizes Mordechai’s telling Esther about the destruction of the Jews to clarify that the public documents vaguely informing Shushan to be ready actually intended the annihilation of the Jews.
- R’ Yehonason Eibshutz breaks apart the word “li’avdam” (“to destroy”) into the words “lo badam” (“not with blood”). In explanation, he cites the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:14) that relates the following allegorical anecdote:
[After the Satan convinced H-Shem to agree that Yisroel deserved destruction, and various levels of H-Shem’s servants respond,] Eliyahu (of Blessed Memory) ran in terror to the Patriarchs and Moshe son of Amram. And he said to them, “How long will the Patriarchs of old remain asleep? Are you not paying attention to the evils in which your children find themselves? The ministering angels, the sun, the moon, the stars and constellations, Heaven and Earth, and all the Heavenly servants are bitterly crying. And you are standing by, not paying attention?!” They said to him, “Why [were they found worthy of destruction]?” He said to them, “Because Yisroel enjoyed themselves at the feast of Achashverosh. Because of this, H-Shem decreed upon them a decree to annihilate them from the world, and to destroy their memory.” Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov said to him, “If they transgressed the Will of the Holy One, Blessed is He, and this decree is sealed, what are we able to do?” Eliyahu returned, and said to Moshe, “Trustworthy shepherd! How often have you stood in the breach for the sake of Yisroel, and nullified the decree against them to avoid their annihilation? As it is written, ‘Did not Moshe, His chosen, stand in the breach before Him to turn back His anger from destroying’ (Tehillim 106:23). How do you answer this evil?” […] Moshe said to him, “Is there anyone good in this generation?” [Eliyahu] said, “There is, and his name is Mordechai.” [Moshe] said to him, “Go and tell him that when he stands there to pray, and I from here, and he seeks mercy for them before the Holy One, Blessed is He…” [Eliyahu] said to him, “Trustworthy shepherd! It is already written, this letter of destruction of Yisroel!” Moshe said to him, “If it is written in clay, our prayers will be heard. And if it is written in blood, it is already done.” [Eliyahu] said, “It is written in clay.” Moshe our Teacher said to him, “Go and tell Mordechai.”
R’ Eibshutz asks on this this story: What is the symbolic significance of the document being written in blood or clay? Why would a decree written in blood be irreversible? He explains that Adam was created from earth and soul (Bireishis 2:7). Clay is made from earth and the Torah testifies that blood is the essence of the nefesh, soul (Vayikra 17:14, see Ramban to Vayikra 17:11). Thus, clay represents the physical and blood represents the spiritual. In the Midrash, then, Moshe was asking Eliyahu if the decree against the Jews was written for physical reasons (i.e. their enjoying Achashverosh’s feast) or spiritual reasons (i.e. bowing to an idol of Nevuchadnetzer). Had it been for their spiritual rejection of H-Shem (G-d forbid!), the decree would stand. In our verse, Mordechai was telling Esther that the decree was “lo b’dam,” not written in blood, and thus had a physical root that could be reversed with the power of prayer1.
1It is unclear to the author why the cause should be unclear; the above-cited Midrash explicitly stated that the decree was written and sealed due to the Jews’ enjoying Achashverosh’s feast. Perhaps the question was regarding the Jews’ motivation in attending the feast, and is not related to the seeming worship of Nevuchadnetzer’s statue. Tzarich iyun.