- According to Megillas Sefer, Haman was saying to Esther that if she forgives him, Achashverosh will, too.
- The Vilna Gaon writes that Haman tried to tell Esther that he didn’t know that the Jews were her people.
- The Meshech Chochmo writes that Haman realized that the invitations came from Esther, so she is the one with the most power.
- According to the Ben Ish Chai, Haman tried to convince Esther that he put her in this position of power by getting rid of Vashti, so she owed him a favor. The Malbim posits that perhaps Haman would not have approached her under any normal conditions, but she was the only one left, so he tried his alternative (Plan B) excuses on her. Seeing that she is a woman, and particularly a Jewish woman, he was hoping she would show Haman mercy.
- The Sfas Emes writes that Esther fought the urge to be merciful, unlike Shaul with Agag. She accomplished this by having been exposed to Haman. In this way, she emotionally hated what she was intellectually commanded to hate. Similarly, first the verse (Devarim 25:17) commands us to remember Amalek, and only then (Devarim 25:19) to destroy it. First, one is required to have the emotion, and then to perform the act.
- The Sfas Emes points out that, on a spiritual level, this act of Esther’s was a tikkun (“repair”) for Shaul’s error of allowing Agag to live. The Zer Zahav adds that Haman’s begging was a great test for Esther’s sense of improperly placed mercy. After all, the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuva 2:1) writes that the ideal way to demonstrate complete repentance is to be faced with the same challenge, and to nevertheless overcome it, and this was almost a direct parallel to the story of Shaul and Agag.
- The Alshich says that the nation refers specifically to Benyamin, Mordechai’s ancestor.
- According to the Talmud (Megillah 13b), the nation to which Haman aims his hatred is the rabbis – the elite leadership of the nation. M’nos HaLevi tells us that killing the rabbis would leave the Jews as sheep without a shepherd. The Jewish nation cannot survive without Torah leadership. The Yad HaMelech says Haman did not want to kill out the Jews, but only wanted to kill out the rabbis. His intent would be to enrage the Jews over the death of the rabbis, and blame Mordechai. They would then kill Mordechai, themselves. Haman believed that, this way, they would deserve to be wiped out by H-Shem. This idea of causing the Jews to deserve their own destruction is nothing new. Both Bilaam and Haman attempted just such a strategy in the incident of the daughters of Moav (Bamidbar 25:1-3) and Achashverosh’s party (Esther 1:1-10), respectively.
- Why such hatred? Why did Haman so want to kill out the Jews? The Malbim and Akeidas Yitzchak posit that, since Mordechai refused to bow to him on religious grounds, Haman desired the death of that nation that followed those self-same tenets.
- In his Vedibarta Bam on Megillas Esther, Rabbi Bogomilsky brings that Haman realized that all of the Yehudim were an “am Mordechai” – a nation of Mordechais. Even if Haman were to eliminate that Mordechai who won’t bow to him, there will be other “Mordechais” who will pop up to do the same.
- Rabbi Yitzchak Blazer asks why, if Haman wanted everyone to bow to him, did he not simply decree that Mordechai have to do it. Seeing their leader doing so should inspire most people to ape that behavior. Rav Blazer answers that Jews are different. If we see our leader acting contrary to our beliefs, we feel disgusted by that leader, and want nothing to do with him.
- According to the Ben Ish Chai, he wanted to kill the Jews due to his slave status. As his master, Mordechai could take possession over everything Haman owned. With Mordechai dead, a relative or other heir would become lord over Haman’s assets, leaving him virtually powerless. As long as there is a Jew alive, Haman could not have power. Power-hungry to his core, Haman needed to be rid of all possible heirs to Mordechai’s property, and this included all of the Jews.
- The Eshkol HaKofer writes that if Achashverosh had not commanded artificial respect for Haman, he would not have received it organically. Either the people did not like Haman, as we shall see below (6:3), or as the Eshkol HaKofer suggests, they saw him for what he truly was.
- After all, the Yalkut Shimoni and the Targum Sheini write that Haman was originally a barber – a low position in Persian culture as it implied, besides cutting hair, more menial tasks like removing warts, bleeding, etc. A person would hardly bow to such a person in those times unless commanded otherwise by the crown.
- The M’nos HaLevi notes that the word “chein” (“so”) used here to describe the king’s command, has the gematria of 70 (20+50). Again, this represents the peak of Haman’s power because that is how long he was in power.
The Malbim says Esther was brought to the king’s bedroom. Although we may think otherwise, a human king is not really in charge of everything all the time. In reality, he can only control his own, personal environment. His private quarters was the only place where Achashverosh was truly in control.
כא וַיִּיטַב הַדָּבָר בְּעֵינֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַשָּׂרִים וַיַּעַשׂ הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּדְבַר מְמוּכָן
21. And the word seemed good in the eyes of the King and the officers and the King did according to the word of Memuchan.
The Malbim writes that, by following this advice, Achashverosh would truly have absolute power. He would have power that even history’s strongest dictators did not have – power over the home. True, Mussolini had the trains running on time in Italy, but he could not effectively govern the domestic goings-on of his citizenry.
The capital city had been Bavel for thousands of years. Achashverosh moved the capital to another city to show his ability to yield his power and influence.
The Midrash (Esther Rabba 1:13) asks how Achashverosh can be said to have kingship if “kingship is H-Shem’s” (Tehillim 22:29), and only He is the real king? The Midrash answers that since Israel lost – through its sins – ruler-ship over themselves, H-Shem gave dominion over them to the nations of the world. In Mayan Beis HaShoeivah (pg. 470-1), Rav Shimon Schwab (zt”l) asks how this answers the question of the Midrash. What does the dominion of the other nations over Israel have to do with H-Shem’s control of the world? He answers that H-Shem rules the world in a unique way; Being the King of kings, He controls the rulers of the world like a chess master moving the pieces. Like the verse in Mishlei (21:1) says, “lev hamelech b’yad H-Shem” (“the heart of a king is in the hand of H-Shem.”) In His direct supervision of the Jewish people, H-Shem influences the decisions of powerful people more-so than other people’s decisions. Rav Schwab uses this idea to explain a puzzling statement of the Sages. The Talmud (Megillah 15b), in interpreting Chapter 22 in Tehillim as a prophetic vision of the Purim story, says that Esther momentarily lost the sense of the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) as a result of calling Achashverosh a dog (cf. Tehillim 22:21). Why would there be such a punishment if Achashverosh was not someone worthy of defending, as we shall see in the coming days? In light of the idea that kingship is given and controlled by H-Shem, it begins to be clear. H-Shem is concerned about the honor due a king – even one as evil as Achashverosh – because kingship is a gift He bestowed upon someone He felt was deserving. (Rav Schwab writes similarly regarding H-Shem’s commanding Moshe to treat Pharoah with respect (Shemos 6:13).) One of the more famous teachings of the Midrash (Esther Rabba 3:10) regarding Megillas Esther is that every mention of “King Achashverosh,” as in our current verse, means just Achashverosh. Any generic mention of just a “king” mean both Achashverosh and H-Shem. Practically speaking, how would this work? If, theoretically, a verse in Esther would say, “The King agreed,” who actually agreed: Achashverosh or H-Shem? Actually, a verse like this would mean that both Achashverosh and H-Shem agreed. In effect, H-Shem’s agreeing is the reason Achashverosh agrees, too – because H-Shem is controlling him.