Esther 9:6, Question 1. Why does the verse tell us the death toll only in Shushan, and why does the verse remind us that it is the capital?

ו וּבְשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה הָרְגוּ הַיְּהוּדִים וְאַבֵּד חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת אִישׁ

6. And in Shushan the capital, the Yehudim killed and destroyed five hundred man.

  • The M’nos HaLevi translates habira, not as “the capital,” but as the “palace,” so the verse is intimating, according to R’ Yosef Gakon, how safe the Jews felt in the palace compound to have killed 500 servants of the king in his presence.
  • Similarly, the Ibn Ezra adds that, outside Shushan, the Jews feared the influence of Haman and his sons.
  • Interestingly, the Vilna Gaon notes that the verse uses the word vi’abed (“and destroyed”) because the Jews destroyed the property of their enemies. The reason for this is to assist the Persians in forgetting this event ever took place. Nations in general have poor memories, and the lack of physical reminders can help avoid the anti-Jewish sentiment this massacre could later conjure.

Esther 9:5, Question 2. Why does the verse mention different methods of killing?

  • According to the Midrash, the Jews killed the enemies inside their houses with the sword, but killed those who were outside with other methods. Those who were hiding needed to be brought out to the battlefield.
  • The Alshich explains that some gentiles openly threatened the Jews, while others harbored hate privately. Each group received a punishment commensurate with their behavior – some were wounded with the sword, some were killed, and yet others were destroyed together with their possessions.
  • The Maharal points out that hitting the enemies with the sword could potentially kill them, and once they are killed, they may need to be buried. But once they are destroyed, the enemies are gone.
  • R’ Moshe Katzenellenbogen writes that, in big cities, Jews could only kill bigger, more obvious enemies. In the smaller cities, the Jews stripped the weaker leaders of their power and humiliated them.
  • The Vilna Gaon explains these three methods were utilized at different stages of the battle. During the first stage, the Jews used swords, then graduated to burning those hiding out of the buildings, and finally arrested the residents.
  • The Ben Ish Chai points out that the rearranged initial letters (not counting the article letter vuv‘s) of makas cherev vi’hereg vi’avdal (“striking of the sword, and killed, and destroyed”) spell out the word emcheh (“I will destroy”). H-Shem (Shemos 17:14) uses this very word in His promise to eradicate Amalek, the nation responsible for this massacre. He also points out that these three expressions parallel Haman’s plan (Esther 3:13) to kill, destroy, and annihilate the Jews. The Jews merited to overcome this triple fate by fasting for three days (Esther 4:16).
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that the destruction in this verse refers to the Jews destroyed the property of their enemies. This was done to demonstrate that their intent was not to conquer the wealth of others. Perhaps this was also intentionally contrary to Achasverosh’s order (Esther 4:11) in order to have the excuse that they could not take the possessions, since they were destroyed.

Esther 8:7, Question 2. Why does Achashverosh mention his recent actions?

  • Rashi explains that Achashverosh was using his recent hanging of Haman to demonstrate his fealty to Esther’s position, giving implicit permission for her to write a new decree. The Persian people will, after all, realize that Esther has the kingdom’s full support.
  • According to the Ibn Ezra, Achashverosh felt that his people would think Haman’s hanging implied that the earlier decree (written less than a week earlier) was a fraud.
  • However, the Alshich notes that only the residents of Shushan know Haman was hanged; those living in the remaining cities and villages of the kingdom’s 127 provinces did not know Achashverosh’s feelings on the matter. Therefore, new decrees needed to be written to keep them abreast of the changing political climate.
  • The Darchei Dovid explains Achashverosh’s reference to Haman’s hanging by quoting the Talmud (Taanis 29a) that a rule in Rome – and presumably in other ancient civilizations – was that when an officer of the court died, all decrees were annulled. This was due to the fact that people considered the death to be a punishment for a seemingly unfavorable decree. Therefore, Achashverosh argues, Haman’s death should have annulled the decree against the Jews.
  • R’ Elisha Gallico writes that Achashverosh felt people needed to know that Haman’s property was given to Esther (Esther 8:1) because Haman bought the rights to the Jews from Achashverosh (Esther 3:9). His hanging, and the transfer of his property to Esther, effectively bestowing upon Esther control of her people’s fate.
  • The Dena Pishra explains that Achashverosh was telling Esther to not worry about his people harming the Jews because Haman was not only hanged, but even remained hanging.

Esther 8:2, Question 2. Why does Esther appoint Mordechai in charge of Haman’s property?

  • According to Shelom Esther, by appointing Mordechai in charge of Haman’s property, Esther was in effect making Haman’s family into Mordechai’s slaves.
  • R’ Avraham Mordechai and R’ Dovid Feinstein both quote the Talmudic (Pesachim 88b) dictum that what belongs to the slave is really the master’s. Therefore, Esther’s action returned Mordechai’s property back to him.
  • The M’nos HaLevi and R’ Shmuel de Ozeida note that Esther could not have given this to Mordechai outright because it was from Achashverosh (see Esther 8:1). It could seem like a slight to Achashverosh’s honor if she were to re-gift Haman’s property directly, so she appointed Mordechai in charge of it, instead.
  • The Sfas Emes interprets Haman’s estate as the other-worldly powers he amassed. At this point, Mordechai became the master of these. Perhaps this black magic can best be described as the power to change the spiritual world. Just as H-Shem placed us into a physical world where we can do such things as control electrical currents with switches and harness the wind with sails, He created our souls in a spiritual world which we can also affect if we want to.
  • The Maharal notes that this act points to a major theme throughout the entire Megillas Esther: that absolutely every single thing Haman attempted to do was turned around on him.

Esther 8:1, Question 2. Why does Achashverosh give this to Esther?

  • It seems problematic that Achashverosh gave Haman’s property to Esther since the Mechilta (on Shemos 17:14) says Amalek – of which Haman descended – is to be completely destroyed together with its property, so nobody should ever say they gained from Amalek.
  • Esther may have been allowed Haman’s property because the Rabbeinu Bachya (on Bishalach) answers that this Mechilta only refers to possessions obtained in the course of war.
  • In Vedibarta Bam, Rabbi Bogamilsky points out from the Talmud (Sanhedrin 48b) that such property actually belongs to Achashverosh.
  • Similarly, the Talmud (Gittin 38a) teaches that the Jews were allowed the possessions of Moav and Amon because Sichon had already conquered them previously.
  • Given that Esther was allowed Haman’s property, the Alshich writes that Achashverosh gave it to her because the kingdom did not need Haman’s house, after all. This is especially true if Haman destroyed his own home by utilizing its crossbeam in the building of his gallows.
  • The Alshich adds that the decree to kill out the Jews had not yet been revoked, and Achashverosh wanted to show that Esther and Mordechai were exempt.
  • On the other hand, the Yad HaMelech says that the king did this so that those who knew of the decree would not harm the Jews, effectively annulling the decree.
  • The M’nos HaLevi explains that Achashverosh gave her the property to reassure Esther, that although she had seen him angry that day, the anger was not directed at her.
  • The Malbim writes that this was Haman’s property, which should belong to Achashverosh after his rebellious behavior. However, in a continued effort to salvage his honor, Achashverosh wanted to show that Haman was really going against the queen and her people. Accordingly, the verse emphasizes that Haman was the tzorer (“antagonizer”) of the Yehudim.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech explains that Achashverosh’s main concern was his security, especially around Haman’s presumed allies. He therefore said Haman tried to seduce the queen, and therefore owed her money. A similar incident occurred when Avimelech took Sarah, and then gave Avraham money (Bireishis 20:14) as a testament of Sarah’s virtue.
  • The Vilna Gaon quotes a verse (Koheles 2:26) that a person who deserves H-Shem’s Pleasure receives wisdom, intelligent, and joy, but a sinner must constantly accumulate. The Talmud (Megillah 10b) says that this verse applies to Mordechai because the wicked Haman accrued the very wealth through which the righteous prospered.
  • The Maharal asks why the righteous should prosper from the efforts of the wicked. After all, should the righteous not prosper from their own efforts? He answers that the wicked work and work tirelessly to gain more wealth because they are never satisfied. The righteous are easily satisfied, so they do not have to go through the grunt work of acquiring wealth.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein explains this as yet another example of mida kineged mida “measure for measure” because Haman wanted to take what was most precious to Esther – the lives of her people. Therefore, he lost what was most precious to him – his money.
  • The Me’am Loez says that another example of mida kineged mida is that since Haman wanted to hang Mordechai in his house, Haman’s hanging occurred in what is now Mordechai’s house.
  • Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller adds that Achashverosh took the property because Haman was Mordechai’s slave. According to Jewish law, the property always really belonged to Haman’s master, Mordechai. With the property comes Haman’s identity. She suggests that taking over someone’s identity is another reason  for the custom to masquerade on Purim.

Esther 8:1, Question 1. Why does the verse stress that this happened on “that day?”

א בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא נָתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ לְאֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה אֶתבֵּית הָמָן צֹרֵר הַיְּהוּדִיים [הַיְּהוּדִים] וּמָרְדֳּכַי בָּ֚א לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּיהִגִּידָה אֶסְתֵּר מַה הוּאלָהּ

1. On that day, the King Achashverosh gave to Esther the Queen the house of Haman, oppressor of the Yehudim. And Mordechai came before the king because Esther related to him what he was to her.

  • According to the Alshich, the verse stresses that this event occurred on “that day” to emphasize that this was the same day that Haman was hanged.
  • Yosef Lekach points out that this all happened in one day because Haman’s decree to eradicate the Jews was to be fulfilled “in one day” (Esther 3:13), so mida kineged mida (“measure for measure”), Haman’s death and this event occurred in one day.
  • In fact, the Dena Pishra writes that the property was given before Haman’s death so that he would realize that his wealth did not save him. Class Participant YML suggests that perhaps the lesson was not for Haman, but for the reader to learn that wealth does not help on the day of death.
  • According to Ma’amar Mordechai, H-Shem inspired Achashverosh to do this immediately so that he would not change his mind, as he had done often in the past.
  • In the Maharal’s perspective, this occurred immediately after Haman’s hanging to show that there is a causal relationship between Mordechai’s wealth (Esther 8:2) and Haman’s death (Esther 7:10).
  • The Vilna Gaon points out that when things are going well, they happen in a  single day, but bad days are in plural. Besides the psychological effect of time seeming to “fly when you’re having fun,” there is a deeper spiritual reason for this, as well. This sort of feeling encourages depression, which is the most powerful ally of the Yetzer HaRa (“Evil Inclination”).
  • The Midrash Shmuel notes that on the very day Haman fell, Mordechai rose. This is a fulfillment of the prophecy mentioned in the Torah (Bireishis 25:23) regarding Yaakov (ancestor of Mordechai) and Eisav (ancestor of Haman) that one would fall as one would rise.