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.

Esther 6:12, Question 2. How and why is Haman propelled home?

  • The Ibn Ezra writes that Haman pushed his way home.
  • M’nos HaLevi explains that this detail needed to be said here because his pushing his way forward was unique for Haman since he usually had servants to do it for him, but not on this tragically embarrassing night.
  • The Vilna Gaon says he ran because he was embarrassed.
  • R’ Yitzchak Eliyahu Landau writes that Haman was pushed away by others because he smelled from his daughter’s chamber pot.
  • The Steipler Gaon writes that the king’s guards pushed Haman because thet were concerned that he was coming to speak with Achashverosh in his current, dirty state.
  • M’nos HaLevi and Dena Pishra write that Haman had to push through the crowd, which was unique for him since people used to push to see him.
  • M’nos HaLevi also cites a verse in Divrei HaYamim 2 (26:20) that Uziya pushed through people because he suffered from tzaras on his last days, and was embarrassed to be found that way. Similarly, Haman was embarrassed by his disgusting situation at the end of his own reign.
  • In R’ Dovid Feinstein’s view, this important day started out with Haman wanting to persuade Achashverosh to kill Mordechai, but the events of the day pushed/forced Haman to go home, instead.
  • The Ben Ish Chai explains that the word nidchaf (“was propelled”) can mean nad (“eulogy”) and yachaf (“barefoot”) indicating the Talmud’s (Megillah 16a) opinion that he was in mourning for his daughter. It can also indicate nad (“moved”) pach (“trap”), emphasizing that Haman’s trap for Mordechai had been moved from his jurisdiction.
  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle shows that Haman’s own harsh decrees pushed him. He writes, “nafal sora chadad l’sechina,” or the sharp bull fell on a knife. H-Shem’s supervision of the world allows justice to triumph in the end. As the prophet tells us (Yirmiya 17:11), “oseh osher v’lo b’mishpat, b’chatzi yamav yi’azvenu, u’bi’achariso yih’ye naval,” or one who becomes wealthy unjustly will lose it in the course of one’s days, and in one’s end will be a fool. Haman’s wealth, too, came to him with lying about not being a slave, and his current appearance indeed makes him seem foolish.

Esther 6:10, Question 4. Why does Achashverosh emphasize that Haman should follow every detail?

  • The Alshich writes that, in his desire to uncover the conspiracy he so fears, Achashverosh is emphatic that Haman should perform everything he suggested.
  • The Me’am Loez explains that the nature of a person who is forced to do something is to delay and ignore as many steps as possible.
  • According to the Talmud (Megillah 16a), once Haman saw that he would have to honor Mordechai in this degrading way, he suggested new methods of honoring him that would not detract from his own self-love, like naming a river or village after Mordechai. In an ironic twist, Achashverosh therefore stresses that Haman should follow every detail to include those other things Haman suggested, as well.
  • The Shaar Bas Rabbim writes that this phrase includes the crown. Although Achashverosh is not happy with the idea, even showing his disapproval, he nevertheless agrees to it reluctantly, not even able to say the word.
  • The Ben Ish Chai writes that H-Shem wanted Mordechai to be pampered with all of these honors for two reasons. First, on the Earthly level, Mordechai deserves reward for having saved the life of Achashverosh, allowing him to be pampered in palace luxury. Second, on the Heavenly plane, the Talmud (Gittin 62a) refers to scholars as royalty, deserving of the best in this life and the next.
  • In the spirit of the idea that the entire Purim story teaches us that H-Shem runs His world through mida kineged mida, M’nos HaLevi explains that when Mordechai first learned of the decree to annihilate the Jews, he is described (Esther 4:1) as putting on sackcloth, walking through the streets of Shushan, and crying bitterly. In reward for putting on the sackcloth, he is now to put on royal garments; in reward for walking through the streets, he is now to be escorted on the king’s horse; and in reward for his bitter cry, his greatness is to be proclaimed throughout the city.
  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle points out that the initial letters of the last three words in this verse “mikol asher dibarta” (“from all that you said”) spell out the word m’od (“much”). The Torah (Bireishis 15:1) describes Avraham’s – and by extension, every righteous person’s – reward as s’charcha harbeh m’od, “your reward will be very great.”
  • R’ Chaim Fasman once pointed out that the only part of the daily amida in which we request that somebody actually get something is in the prayer for the righteous, where we ask H-Shem that He give the righteous s’char, reward. The reason for this is that it is an inspirational kiddush H-Shem for all of us when we see the righteous rewarded.
  • The Targum Sheini, with its embedded commentary, says that Achashverosh told Haman a detailed list of the items which he was supposed to give to Mordechai, including Achashverosh’s Macedonian crown, Ethiopian sword, African cloak, and the horse he rode from the beginning of his reign named Shifrigaz. The gematria of Shifrigaz (300+10+80+200+3+7=600) is 600, the same as sheker (300+100+200=600), falsehood. Perhaps this alludes to the idea that wealth and honor are fleeting, impermanent things, as the verse in Koheles (6:2) says, “a man to whom G-d has given […] wealth and honor […] and yet G-d has not given him the opportunity to eat from it, […] this is futile and an evil disease.”

Esther 6:9, Question 3. Why does Haman think of these specific actions?

  • Rebbetzin Heller notes that Haman’s imagining these actions seems childish. In actuality, having wealth and honor already, the idea of being king for a day is the only thing Haman lacked.
  • The Ben Ish Chai points out that the letters that spell the word melech (“king”) could be an acronym for merkava (“transportation”), levush (“clothing”), and chroz (“proclamation”). In other words, the three things Haman suggests all represent the essential elements of royalty.
  • From the exact opposite perspective, R’ Elisha Gallico adds that Haman was thinking that, just in case these honors were not meant for him, they are still non-substantial and without any actual permanent position change. Throughout his advice, then, Haman can be seen as asking for the greatest honor for himself, with the backup plan of this being meaningless if it is meant for someone else.

Esther 5:11, Question 1. Why does Haman mention these facts? Why does he stress the honor of his wealth?

  • The Vilna Gaon and Yosef Lekach both write that Haman was simply reminding himself of his wealth, importance, and accomplishments to get out of the bad mood in which he found himself. After, all, as the Alshich writes, three things bring us happiness: wealth, children, and power.1

  • The Malbim connects this statement with Haman’s root cause for needing advice. Since he considered killing Mordechai a lowly act beneath him, he mentions his greatness to emphasize his need for his advice.

  • M’nos HaLevi, focusing on the fact that Haman emphasizes the honor and glory of his wealth rather than the quantity of it, explains that Haman intended to stress the qualitative power of his money.

  • For instance, his offering silver to Achashverosh (see Esther 3:9 above) brought about his eagerly anticipated destruction of the Jews.

  • According to the Ben Ish Chai, Haman was attempting to imply that he came by his wealth honorably, i.e. honestly.

  • Akeidas Yitzchak points out that he wanted to use his wealth to kill Mordechai, his numerous children to overpower any Jewish resistance, and his power to enforce his decree. The Akeidas Yitzchak continues that these are also the very things he loses (in the same order as mentioned in this verse!). He is first humbled by leading Mordechai on a horse (see Esther 6:10-12 below); then he has to give his wealth to Esther (see Esther 8:1 below); and finally, his many sons are hanged (see Esther 9:7-10 below).

1This is not so different from Abraham Maslow’s idea of “Hierarchy of Needs” in his 1943 “A Theory of Human Motivation.”

Esther 3:13, Question 5. Why does the decree include a proviso to plunder the Jews’ wealth?

  • R’ Dovid Feinstein writes that Haman ordered the plundering of the Jews’ wealth to increase incentive for the Persians.
  • Furthermore, the Alshich writes that this plunder was meant to make it impossible for the Jews to bribe their way out of this.

Esther 1:4, Question 1. Why does the Megillah list so many nouns to describe Achashverosh’s wealth?

ד בְּהַרְאֹתוֹ אֶת-עשֶׁר כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ וְאֶת-יְקָר תִּפְאֶרֶת גְּדוּלָּתוֹ יָמִים רַבִּים שְׁמוֹנִים וּמְאַת יוֹם

4. In his showing the wealth and honor of his kingship and the splendor beauty of his greatness for many days – eighty and a hundred day.

One reason for the description is to overwhelm even the reader. As we know, not all leaders can command both wealth and prestige. According to the Malbim, Achashverosh is saying that he has both. The Midrash suggests that six nouns are used to describe Achashverosh’s wealth because he felt compelled to show six great gifts each day1. According to the Vilna Gaon (in his peshat commentary), the Midrash goes on to explain that Nebuchadnezzer had 1080 treasures which were bequeathed upon Cyrus, and which now fell into the hands of Achashverosh. Showing six of the 1080 treasures per day would require 180 days, the exact length of the party.

1RoS, one class participant, suggests that six, being the “mispar katan” of sheker, falsehood, may be indicative of the vapid, superficial nature of Achashverosh’s supposed wealth.