Esther 5:13, Question 3. Why does Haman mention “every time?”

  • Referencing that previously-cited story of Haman selling himself as a slave to Mordechai, Rashi writes that Mordechai regularly showed Haman his deed of sale written on his shoe. This is why Haman mentions “every time.”

  • The Me’am Loez notes that Haman does not mention that Mordechai is not bowing down to him. He explains that Haman neglects to mention this because he felt it is beneath him.

  • The Ben Ish Chai is of the opinion that Haman’s deed of sale was tattooed on Haman’s knee. As class participant RS pointed out, decorating Haman with such a tattoo makes sense because he cannot remove such a sign, and therefore cannot deny it later.

  • The Ben Ish Chai continues that Haman knew through numerology that Mordechai would be his chief obstacle in attaining power. This is because their gematrios are similar. How can Haman (5+40+50=95) be similar to Mordechai (40+200+4+20+10=274)? Rather, the gematria of the phrase arrur Haman (“cursed is Haman”) (1+200+6+200+5+40+50=502) is equal to that of baruch Mordechai (“blessed is Mordechai”) (2+200+6+20+40+200+4+20+10=502).
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Esther 5:3, Question 1. Why does Achashverosh ask two questions of Esther?

ג וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ הַמֶּלֶךְ מַהלָּךְ אֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה וּמַהבַּקָּשָׁתֵךְ עַדחֲצִי הַמַּלְכוּת וְיִנָּתֵן לָךְ

3. And the king said to her, “What is for you, Esther the Queen, and what is your request? Until half of the kingdom, and I will give it to you.”

  • R’ Mendel Weinbach writes that, since angels just appeared, Achashverosh realized something of tremendous import was happening. He was therefore asking Esther what important thing she had to say.
  • The Vilna Gaon and Malbim write that Esther broke the law to appear before the king, and she looked weak. Those, then, were the subjects of Achashverosh’s questions: what is happening that you felt compelled to break the law, and why are you looking ill? He likely surmised that either the queen is bothered by something, or she is petitioning the king on behalf of someone else.
  • Class Participant RS suggests that the return of the king’s eyesight compelled him to wonder about the significance of the unfolding events.

Esther 5:2, Question 2. Why does Esther specifically win “chein” (“favor” or “grace”) in Achashverosh’s eyes?

  • The Malbim writes that, due to his great love for her, Achashverosh never intended to apply the death penalty to Esther even for this transgression of approaching him unbidden. This great love, added to her humble aspect as she approached him, gave her additional grace in his eyes.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 15b) writes that, as she was approaching the king, the castle was surrounded by idols, and she was unable to pray. When she movingly asked H-Shem why prayer – her only comfort and strength – was taken from her, H-Shem blessed her with additional favor.
  • Class participant YL suggested that the verse’s use of the word “king” instead of Achashverosh’s name indicates that the verse is discussing the favor Esther received from H-Shem.
  • The Talmud there further states that three angels encountered Esther at this time. One raised her neck. Another hung a string of kindness on her. The third stretched out Achashverosh’s scepter.1
  • The Maharal suggests that there were three angels present because each angel can perform one job at a time. Although these angels all seem to be doing the same thing, the Maharal explains that one angel was there to inspire Achashverosh love Esther, another was there to inspire Esther to love Achashverosh, and the third was there to unify them into a unit.
  • Class participant RS suggested that perhaps Esther earned these three angels for her three days of fasting.
  • Rav Dovid Feinstein suggests that, although Achashverosh indeed saw grace/favor in Esther upon their initial meeting (see Esther 2:17), this feeling seemingly slipped away as it may tend to do, but returned at this moment.
  • Ora v’Simcha quotes the Yalkut Shimoni (1056:5) that Achashverosh became blind upon meeting Esther. This explains why Achashverosh stopped searching for a wife at that point, why he did not proof-read Haman’s letter, and why he did not know he was sleeping with a sheid. At this meeting, however, the sight of Esther allowed the king to regain his eyesight.

1 The Vilna Gaon uses the language of the verse, itself, to demonstrate the need for the angels’ intervention. The verse should have said the active “ka’asher ra’a” (“when he saw”), but instead says “kir’ot” (“when seen by the king”) in the passive voice to allude to the assistance he received from angels. Similarly, the verse’s use of the passive “na’asa chein” (“she received favor”) is unusually passive since TaNaCh typically says this phrase in the more active “matza chein” (“he found favor”). Again, the angel holding up Esther’s head made her a passive participant in earning Achashveosh’s recognition. Finally, the verse’s seemingly unnecessary detail about the scepter being in Achashverosh’s hand shows that the scepter was originally at most long enough for the king to be able to hold it “in his hand.” If she was in the courtyard, the only way she could have reached it is if it was long enough for her to physically reach, which explains the purpose of the third angel.

Esther 4:16, Question 10. Why is “I will be destroyed” written twice here?

  • The Malbim points out how this verse shows how selfless Esther was. According to him, what Esther was saying was that, if she is punished for approaching the king, at least only she will die – and the rest of the Jews will remain.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 15a) writes that Esther’s repeating “I will be destroyed” means that, just as she lost her father by being orphaned, so is she expecting to lose to her relationship to Mordechai through this act.
  • R’ Henach Leibowitz explains the Talmud’s use of the phrase “my father’s house” that one of our duties in life is to utilize our past experiences to further our personal growth. He continues that an orphan, like Esther, should use the loss of their parents to reawaken the feeling of trust in H-Shem that orphan had when still with parents.
  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle writes that Esther used this phrase to indicate that she knew she would be disappointing one king or another – either Achashverosh or the King of kings. Either way, she was concerned she would be losing one king.
  • R’ Shimon Schwab wonders why Esther is concerned about losing her husband if she is anyway using a sheid to get out of relations with Achashverosh. He explains that the demon was created miraculously in reward for her resisting the gentile king. Such a miracle would not occur once she submits to him.
  • R’ David Forman writes in The Queen You Thought You Knew that there is a parallel verse in the Torah where the word ka’asher is followed by a double-verb. When Yaakov allows his sons to bring Binyamin to Mitzrayim he says, “ka’asher shakolti, shakolti” (“as I am mourning, so I am mourning”) (Bireishis 33:14). The parallel phrasing also parallels similar situations of national strife; Just as there, friction between Jews caused the threat on Jewish existence, and peace between Jews would bring their redemption.
  • Class participant RS pointed out another parallel in the fact that Esther descends from King Shaul, who was from the tribe of Binyamin.

Esther 3:7, Question 2. Why does Haman feel the need to cast lots?

  • Haman’s motivation for casting lots depends on what those lots were. According to the Vilna Gaon, Haman wanted to see when his plan would be most spiritually effective. He wanted to find the time that the Jews were at their spiritual weakest. He found Adar appealing because the Jews had no Holy Day for which to prepare, and no special merit to protect them, so were thus spiritually weak then. If that is the case, why then was Haman not successful? Because, says the Vilna Gaon, “ein mazal b’Yisroel” (“Jews have no [effects of] constellations”) (Talmud, Shabbos 156a). What this means is that, with Torah, Jewish people can channel the natural astrological influence of the horoscope.
  • If these lots are like our contemporary dice, opposite sides add up to seven. One is opposite to six, four is opposite to three, etc. Midrash Talpios says that, instead of numbers, Haman’s dice have Hebrew letters. Therefore, in gematria, if there is an aleph on one side, its opposite side had a vuv. Haman cast the dice three times. The dice read aleph, then gimmel, then gimmel again. This spells “Agag,” king of Amalek conquered by King Shaul (as mentioned previously). On the bottom of that combination would be a vuv, daled, and daled. A combination of these letters spells “David,” and Haman thought this meant Agag would succeed against David. In other words, Haman was under the impression that the lots he rolled predicted his victory over the Jews.
  • Ben Ish Chai says that Haman was so arrogant that he did not even consider the letters spelling out David. Rather, Haman was too busy noticing that the gematria of David (4+6+4) is 14, with a mispar katan1 of five. The mispar katan of Haman’s name is also five (5+40+50=95).
  • According to Rabbi Yehonason Eibshutz, Haman’s lottery consisted of his writing on separate papers all of the days of the year. After he chose a particular date (Adar 13th), he wanted to verify that this was not just a random date. He then got twelve papers with the twelve months of the year. That paper matched up to Adar. Class participant RS pointed out that the days of the solar year are also 365, which also has a mispar katan equal to Haman’s name.
  • Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi says Haman realized that the Jews were weak and in exile. He threw lots to find his one spiritual strength in relation to the spiritual strength of the Jewish people.

1A “mispar katan” is a form of gematria in which one adds all the numerals in a number until one arrives at a one-numeral number. For instance, the mispar katan of 19 is 1+9, which is 10. Since this is not a single-numeral number, the process is repeated with these numerals thus: 1+0, until one arrives at 1. Therefore, the mispar katan of 19 is 1.

Esther 3:4, Question 2. Why does the verse use the phrase “yom vayom” (“day and day”)?

  • As mentioned earlier in our commentary to Esther 2:11, the Tarlaz notes that Megillas Esther uses the language of “yom v’yom” (“day and day”) in regard to Mordechai’s refusal to bow to Haman to highlight, yet again, the tzaddik’s consistency.
  • The Maharatz Dushinsky says the verse uses the expression because the servants of the king hoped that Mordechai would change his mind. As class participant RS pointed out, perhaps they even did this for Mordechai’s own good. Like members of other religions attempting to win Jews over to their ideas, it need not necessarily be out of hate – but can come from their sincere care and desire to take a person out of something they view as harmful. In other words, the use of this phrase indicates that they were not merely questioning him, but were actively attempting to proselytize him to their position.
  • The Ohel Moshe points out that constant pressure is one of the greatest challenges to Judaism. It breaks down our defenses, and Mordechai had the power to stand up against this constant barrage of pressure.