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 9:29, Question 5. Why does the verse use the word, tokef (authority”)?

  • In Torah Nation (pg. 40-1), R’ Avigdor Miller explains that the verse uses the word, tokef (authority”), because Esther used her authority as queen to make sure the Jews knew the seriousness of their accepting her words.
  • Rashi seems to translate the word as “power,” and explains that the verse is hinting to the power of the Purim miracle’s effect on the principle players of the story, Achashverosh, Mordechai, Haman, and Esther.
  • The Ben Ish Chai suggests that the events in which the different characters rose to power are the reasons for the different opinions in the Talmud’s (Megilla 19a) theoretical discussion regarding the point in Megillas Esther from which one is required to read during the public reading on Purim.
  • M’nos HaLevi writes that Esther needed to reinforce the establishment of Purim with her authority because it may become difficult in future generations to keep the holiday, but it must nevertheless be celebrated.
  • The Midrash (Rus Rabba 2:4) notes that Jews outside of Shushan reacted negatively to the first document, so this second letter needed to be stamped with authority.
  • Malbim, focusing on the fact that the verse says, “kol tofek,” or “all the authority,” explains that the letter needed two different kinds of authority; the throne’s to be published, and Mordechai’s to make it part of the TaNaCh canon.
  • Rav Schwab adds that Esther is called a queen here to give legitimacy to Daryavesh, her descendant.
  • In response to the rabbis’ question in the Talmud (Megilla 7a) about why Megillas Esther needs to be read like a Torah scroll, Esther convinces them that it is much like the Torah in that both are concerned with the war against Amalek. This furthers her argument that Megillas Esther belongs in TaNaCh, since it is written with ruach hakodesh.
  • R’ Elisha Gallico writes that Esther wanted Megillas Esther in TaNaCh because she was married to a gentile, and wanted future generations to know what led to such an unfortunate situation.
  • In Keemu v’Keeblu, Rav Brevda likewise writes that this was the reason it was in Persian’s royal chronicles. Ancient chronicles were often not objective, so the very presence of this story in the royal chronicle was proof that the king approves. Then, rightfully, if we were to be derided for celebrating this holiday, we could respond that “we Jews celebrate because the king celebrates.”

Esther 4:16, Question 1. Why does Esther ask Mordechai to gather the Jews?

טז לֵךְ כְּנוֹס אֶתכָּלהַיְּהוּדִים הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשָׁן וְצוּמוּ עׇלַי וְאַלתֹּאכְלוּ וְאַלתִּשְׁתּוּ שְׁלשֶׁת יָמִים לַיְלָה וָיוֹם גַּםאֲנִי וְנַֽעֲרֹתַי אָצוּם כֵּן וּבְכֵן אָבוֹא אֶלהַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר לֹאכַדָּת וְכַאֲשֶׁר אָבַדְתִּי אָבָדְתִּי

16. “Go gather all of the Yehudim found in Shushan and have them fast for me, and not eat, and not drink three days, night and day. Also I and my maidens will fast so. And so I will go to the king, which is not like the law. And as I will be destroyed, I will be destroyed.”

  • According to Me’am Loez, Esther wanted to bring the Jews together in order to contradict Haman’s slander in Esther 3:5 that the Jews were not unified.
  • According to Vidibarta Bam, the sale of Yosef is one opinion in the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:25) for the Jews’ existence to be threatened. Unity for that prayer would be the correction of this sale.
  • According to Nachal Eshkol, the gematria of kinos (“gather”) (20+50+6+60= 136) is the same as kol, (“voice”) (100+6+30= 136). The voice is usually symbolic throughout Torah literature of prayer, and thus indicates that Esther also requested that the Jews pray for her, as is indicated in the fact that they did so in Esther 9:31.
  • Why, in fact, did the verse then not say explicitly that the Jews prayed? As Rav Avigdor Miller points out in Torah Nation, if the authors of Megillas Esther would write that the Jews prayed, they would also have to write to Whom they prayed. However, since Megillas Esther regularly performs mental acrobatics to avoid using H-Shem’s Name, it did not mention the Jews’ praying.
  • R’ Yechezkiel Levenstein quotes the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:19), which writes that after the decree against the Jews, the Torah dressed in widow’s garb, the angels cried, the sun and the moon dimmed, etc. Only the prayer of Mordechai, one man, could overturn the decree. Of course, prayer is powerful, but as the Maharal points out from the Talmud (Brachos 8a), prayer together in a gathering (at least a minyan) is amplified.

Esther 2:22, Question 1. How does Mordechai learn of Bigsan and Seresh’s assassination plot?

כב וַיִּוָּדַע הַדָּבָר לְמָרְדֳּכַי וַיַּגֵּד לְאֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר לַמֶּלֶךְ בְּשֵׁם מָרְדֳּכָי

22. And the thing was known to Mordechai, and he related it to Esther the Queen, and Esther told it to the king in Mordechai’s name.

  • The Ma’amar Mordechai says that Bigsan and Seresh tried to get Mordechai involved in Haman’s rebellion mentioned in the last post. After all, as a Jew, Mordechai was a member of a down-trodden people, the perfect candidate to desire a change in rule.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 13b) teaches that Bigsan and Seresh were from a place called Turis. They were plotting the assassination by getting poison (perhaps a poison snake), but they did not know that Mordechai was on the Sanhedrin, so knew all of the 70 root languages (see Mishnah, Shekalim 5:1). Thus, Mordechai heard and understood their plan.
  • The Chiddushei HaRim once had a meeting in Warsaw with the famous philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefoire, where they discussed this verse. Sir Montefoire said our verse is proof that Jewish children should be taught foreign languages, so they can save the Jews from the plots of our enemies. The Chiddushei HaRim retorted that the very opposite is true – if every Jew would have learned foreign languages, Bigsan and Seresh would know this, and would be more secretive around Jews. It is the rarity of Mordechai’s ability that allowed for it to be effective.
  • One of the proofs the Talmud (Megillah 7a) uses that Megillas Esther was written prophetically in ruach hakodesh (see Introduction) is that the conspiracy “was known” to Mordechai, implying that he found out prophetically. Rav Pam says this opinion need not necessarily contradict the opinion that he overheard the plot. He writes that Jews respect privacy, and do not listen in on conversations. To illustrate this point, Rav Pam tells a story about a rabbi who was arrested in Poland on trumped up charges of espionage. In court, his two guards were speaking amongst themselves in Polish, assuming he knew nothing of their language. This rabbi backed away from them. Seeing this, the prosecuting attorney yelled at him for showing disrespect. The rabbi responded, “I do not mean disrespect. I am trying not to eavesdrop on your conversation.” The judge, after hearing this exchange, immediately freed the Jewish prisoner saying, “Such a one would not be a spy.” Rav Pam says Mordechai did the same thing. When he heard Bigsan and Seresh speaking in Tursish, he left the area so as not to hear them. Then, he received ruach hakodesh, Divine prophecy regarding their plot.
  • In Torah Nation, Rav Avigdor Miller writes that Mordechai was Divinely rewarded with this discovery in reward for his vigilance in daily risking his life to check on Esther (as mentioned in previous posts).