Esther 10:1, Question 2. Why does Achashverosh charge taxes, and why does TaNaCh mention this?

  • The Talmud (Chagiga 8a) writes that mas, the word used here for taxes, indicates a secular/political tax, rather than a religious one.
  • This seemingly irrelevant event may be included in Megillas Esther because, as R’ Avigdor Miller writes in Torah Nation, this verse gives honor to Persians, and could be an additional proof that the sefer was not written later, as fools claim.
  • The Akeidas Yitzchak adds that this is mentioned here to contrast Jewish leaders with gentile leaders. Jewish leaders focus on what is best for their constituents, whereas gentile leaders typically attempt to benefit from their charges. This is especially unjust considering the Ibn Ezra’s opinion that the taxes were even placed on nations not under Achashverosh’s control.
  • The Vilna Gaon notes that the gematria of mas (“tax”) (40+60=100) and the gematria of vi’iyey (“and islands”) (6+1+10+10=27) supports the Midrash that says that of Achashverosh’s 127 states (Esther 1:1), 100 were on land and 27 were islands.
  • The Talmud (Megilla 11a) teaches that Achachverosh felt the need to tax because the economy of Persia began to suffer. Despite the vast wealth Achashverosh displayed earlier (Esther 1:4), he lost much of it.
  • According to the Rokeach, this tragic loss is hinted to in the last letters of the words “es osher kivod” (“the wealth of the glory”) in that verse, which spell teired (“you will go down”).
  • Perhaps this can be explained by the the Targum’s opinion that Achashverosh exempted the Jews from paying taxes, and was compelled to increase the taxes of all other citizens to make up the difference.
  • According to Shelom Esther, Achashverosh was concerned that pro-Haman forces were still plotting rebellion. The taxes were meant to see if any group refused or delayed. That was one way to weed out any potential traitors.
  • Finally, R’ Moshe Dovid Valle notes that, as this verse mentions the word melech (“king”), it references H-Shem, the King of kings. He approved of Achashverosh’s taxes because He wanted the gentiles to feel how the Jews suffered.

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 5:14, Question 6. Why did Haman (himself) make the gallows?

  • The verse concludes that Haman made the gallows. The Targum explains that, as tired as he was, Haman did nothing else that night. Immediately upon getting the advice, Haman hired builders, he and his sons started hammering, there was rejoicing, they were singing songs, Zeresh and other women played instruments, and they even made a feast.

  • The Shelom Esther writes that Zeresh advised Haman to build the gallows on their land so that nobody could interfere.

  • The Vilna Gaon writes that Haman did it himself because that was the advice when Zeresh said in the beginning of this verse, “yaasu eitz,” which can be translated as either “have a large tree made” or “make a large tree.”

  • However, according to the Alshich, Zeresh advised that others should make it, but Haman did it because, as the Talmud (Sanhedrin 105b) says, “sina mekalekes es hashura” (“hatred changes order”). Rashi (on Bamidbar 22:21) similarly quotes this idea in explaining the strange behavior of another failed enemy of the Jews, Bilam when he saddled his own donkey. When evil people are enthusiastic by their anger, they misplace the natural order of things.