Esther 6:10, Question 1. Why does Achashverosh tell Haman to hurry?

י וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהָמָן מַהֵר קַח אֶתהַלְּבוּשׁ וְאֶתהַסּוּס כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ וַעֲשֵׂהכֵן לְמָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי הַיּוֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אַלתַּפֵּל דָּבָר מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ

10. And the king said to Haman, “Hurry! Take the clothing and the horse of which you spoke, and do so to Mordechai the Yehudi who sits in the gate of the king. Do not drop anything from all that you said.”

  • According to Me’am Loez, Achashverosh rushed Haman because he does everything quickly. He rushed unthinking and headlong into every endeavor so far, from ridding himself of Vashti to signing the edict to massacre the Jews and every action in between.
  • Perhaps, as a former general, acting quickly is essential for Achashverosh’s character. The Alshich writes that Achashverosh rushes Haman because he was angry with him.
  • The Yosef Lekach bases his answer on the idea that Achashverosh’s sleep was troubled due to his not identifying Esther’s request. He thought to himself, “If Esther is requesting that I honor Mordechai for saving my life, I need to hurry to get that done before the second party tonight.”
  • Class Participant KL suggested that Achashverosh was rushing Haman to show his alacrity to do this, thereby proving to Esther that he would be doubly zealous to perform her request, whatever that might be.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech says Achashverosh was rushing Haman because he was afraid he might otherwise change his mind.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech also mentions that Achashverosh may have had some compassion for Haman’s self-esteem at this point, and wanted this demeaning act to be performed earlier in the morning, before most people were awake to see it. As we shall see in the next verse (iy”H), Mordechai will delay matters in order to subvert this plan.
  • According to the Vilna Gaon, Achashverosh was concerned of a conspiracy between Mordechai, Esther, and Haman to kill him. Therefore, he wanted Mordechai to be honored quickly to get it out of the way.
  • R’ Yehonoason Eibshutz says Achashverosh was in a hurry because he was aware of a prophecy that a Jew would be wearing the crown of Persia. Indeed, Darius II, the son of Esther would be the next king.

Esther 6:4, Question 3. Why does the verse mention that the gallows were prepared “for him?”

Gallows

  • Besides stressing that the verse mention that the gallows were prepared “for him,” R’ Shlomo Kluger in Ma’amar Mordechai points out that in order to be consistent with Zeresh’s advice earlier (Esther 5:14), the verse should have written “asher asa lo” (“that he made for him”) instead of “asher heichin lo” (“that he prepared for him”).
  • The Talmud (Megillah 16a) explains that the gallows Haman had built were prepared in the ironic sense that they would unintentionally be used for his own hanging.
  • The Vilna Gaon explains that, as opposed to something whose purpose changes, the gallows were never meant for Mordechai at all, and were always for Haman. Some things historically had an intended purpose, and were then appropriated for some other use. T.N.T., for instance, was meant to be used solely for construction. Its being adopted for use in war so traumatized its inventor, Alfred Nobel, that he developed the Nobel Peace Prize for those who allegedly bring peace to the world. These gallows, by contrast, from their inception, were always intended for Haman’s downfall.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein explains that the gallows had to be a perfect fit for Haman, since he and his sons all fit on the same gallows (see Targum Sheini to Esther 9:14). See attached chart.
  • According to the opinion that the gallows were made from the beams of the Beis HaMikdash, the Ben Ish Chai asks how Mordechai could have the right to use them as he will when he hangs Haman (Esther 7:10) since he would thereby desecrate these holy objects (Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer 50). However, answers the Ben Ish Chai, Haman’s using the beams first took away their sanctity, preparing the beams for use in his own death.
  • Using Newtonian physics, the Maharal points out that if an object that is thrown at a wall drops straight down upon impact, this shows the amount of force applied by the thrower. However, if the object bounces back upon impact, this means the thrower applied more force, and it was only the wall’s strength that kept the object from its intended place. Similarly, in yet another example of mida kineged mida, what happened to Haman (and his sons) reflects the vehemence with which they planned to dispatch Mordechai.
  • According to R’ Yehonason Eibshutz in Yaaros Dvash, Haman intended hang a completely different “him” – the king. After all, Haman had planned a conspiracy to take over the monarchy.
  • On a Halachic point, the Chasam Sofer notes that hachana (“preparation”) usually implies in the legal world preparing for the next days. In this case, where Haman prepared the gallows earlier that morning, why is this hachana for the same say? He answers that hachana for gentiles does not need to be for the next days since the Talmud describes them as “holech achar hayom,” that they follow a solar schedule, controlled by the sun.
  • The Belzer Rebbe adds that Halacha recognizes the need for mitzvos to have hachana; this is not true for sins. For example, consider how much planning you needed to put into learning right now, versus how much planning you would have needed to waste your time in front of a tv or computer screen, instead. Therefore, the gallows must have been for Haman since killing out the nation of Amalek is a mitzvah (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 6:4).

Esther 5:14, Question 3. Why did Haman’s advisers advise him to go to the king in the morning?

  • The Malbim writes that they wanted Mordechai hanged in the morning because that is when public executions were performed in order to show the strength of the monarchy.
  • The Ben Ish Chai writes that Zeresh was, in effect, telling Haman that Mordechai was in prayer at that time, he wouldn’t be aggravated by the sight of him.
  • The Maharal says that morning represents geulah (redemption). This is why the very next verse (Esther 6:1) begins the positive upswing of Megillas Esther.
  • R’ Yehonasan Eibshutz quotes the Midrash Abba Guria that Zeresh wanted Mordechai to be killed during the time of Shema. That way, Mordechai would be unable to connect geulah to tefillah (prayer)1, which the Talmud promises would have otherwise protected him (Brachos 9b).

1This is a Halachic concept (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 66:7, Mishnah Berurah ibid., sub-paragraph 33) that forbids any interruption between the morning prayer ending in “ga’al Yisroel” (“Savior of Israel”) and the Amidah.

Esther 5:14, Question 2. Why did Haman’s advisers specifically advise for Mordechai to be hanged?

  • The Midrash (Esther Rabba 9:2) writes that Zeresh and Haman’s other advisers recommended that Haman hang Mordechai because this is a form of death from which H-Shem had never previously saved the Jews miraculously.
  • Seeing that they were, however, saved from every other type of death, it seems strange that Zeresh could so grossly misunderstand history. Aruchas Tamid explains that Zeresh thought that the Jews had previously been rescued by using magic. Therefore, Mordechai would be unable to escape hanging since the Talmud (Sanhedrin 44b, Rashi) teaches that magicians need to be standing on the ground to perform their magic. In fact, this is one of the reasons Pharoah’s magicians could not replicate the plague of lice (Shemos 8:14, Da’as Zekeinim Baalei Tosfos), since the lice covered the ground and the magicians could not stand on it. For this reason, in the famous aggadic story in the Talmud when Shimon ben Shetach killed eight magicians (Sanhedrin 45b), he first lifted them from the ground.
  • M’nos HaLevi says that they wanted Mordechai hanged in order to avenge the hanging deaths of Bigsan and Seresh (Esther 2:23), Haman’s friends and possibly co-conspirators. R’ Yehonasan Eibshutz reiterates that killing Mordechai was Haman’s first step in killing Achashverosh and Esther, and becoming king through his friendship with the Greeks, rivals of Persia.

Esther 5:4, Question 3. Why does Esther describe the party as one she made?

  • The Malbim writes that Esther describes the party as one she made in order to parry off any objections to postpone the feast. Since it is made, she intimated, it is ready already.
  • R’ Yehonasan Eibshutz writes that, since this feast will occur on the 15th of Nisan, it is the Yom Tov of Pesach, and the meal is prepared because she had to prepare it before Yom Tov. In contrast, when Esther invites them to the second feast (Esther 5:8), she does not say she made it ready because that meal could be prepared then without the halachic restrictions of Yom Tov.
  • As a hint that this occurred on the 15th of Nisan, the M’nos HaLevi points out that the verse, itself, has 15 words.

Esther 4:14, Question 5. Why does Mordechai reference Esther’s “father’s house?”

  • R’ Dovid Feinstein points out that, since Mordechai raised and taught Esther, he is in a sense her father. When Mordechai references Esther’s “father’s house,” he is saying that her apathy to the needs of the Jewish people will be a mark of shame upon him.
  • Pachad Yitzchak writes that prayer is the tool of our ancestors, so Mordechai is telling Esther to utilize the power of her “father’s house” – prayer – to save the Jews from their current threat. When someone approaches an earthly king, it is one thing to provide him with a gift, but something altogether more powerful if one has the references. The king would be more likely to listen to the request because he feels like he has more of a connection with the requester.
  • In explaining this verse, R’ Henoch Leibowitz quotes a Midrash (Tehillim 22) that advises people to “push away with the right hand, and pull people in with the left.” In this case, Mordechai’s methods of convincing Esther to approach the king include “pulling with the left” by his reminding her of her noble, royal roots, and also “pushing away with the right” by warning her to not lose her chance. As R’ Leibowitz continues, if Esther – as righteous as she is – needs this form of convincing, how much more-so do we need to utilize this in our relationships with people. Instead of yelling at a child for doing something wrong, it is important to tell the child, “Doing this is beneath you.”
  • According to the Akeidas Yitzchak, Mordechai’s reference to Esther’s “father’s house” was meant to emphasize that, considering the precarious state of the Jewish people, she should use her Jewish lineage as an explanation as to why she should be allowed to visit the king unbidden.
  • The Alshich and the Megillas Sesarim both say that the “father’s house” is a reference to King Shaul, and his sin of allowing Agag to live when he had the chance to fulfill the command to obliterate Amalek. It thus become Esther’s duty to undo that error.
  • R’ Yehonason Eibshutz notes historically, there is always someone standing in the way of the Jews earning their rescue. In this case, it was Haman. Mordechai was thus telling Esther that he could, himself, get rid of Haman, but that would not make up for Esther’s ancestor’s mistake, which only she could accomplish. Halachically, Esther’s going to Achashverosh voluntarily would forbid her to Mordechai as a wife forever.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech also points out that Shaul did go through the steps of teshuva (Shmuel 1 15:26, 28). This being the case, why does Esther need to fix his error? Although regret is one step in teshuva, the result of his actions still remained. There is a story of a woman who felt her husband was emotionally abusive. The rabbi she consulted told her to purchase a block of wood and bag of nails. Each time she felt abused, he said, she should hammer a nail into the block of wood. After a few such incidents, the husband became curious about the loud knocking his wife would initiate after each fight. He asked her about it, and the wife told him what the rav had said, and showed him this porcupine of a block of wood. He instantly felt regret for his past deeds, and he made a deal that for every nice act of his toward her, she would remove one nail. Eventually, the block was nail-free. The husband said, “Look! It’s all better! There are no more nails!” “Yes,” she said, “The nails are gone…but the holes are still there.” A sin can be erased, but the consequences of that sin can last forever.

Esther 3:15, Question 3. Why is Shushan described as confused?

  • The Me’am Loez writes that the people of Shushan were confused about Haman’s new promotion from lowly barber to the point where he had the power to order the annihilation of an entire people.
  • Still going according to his theory, the Malbim says the confusion stemmed from nobody knowing the content of the letters.
  • R’ Mendel Weinbach adds that, since nobody knew which group was being wiped out on the thirteenth of the following Adar, each ethnic group in Achashverosh’s 127 states was worried that they were the intended target.
  • However, the Yerushalmi writes that the confusion of Shushan stemmed from the polar opposite reactions to this decree (which the Yerushalmi clearly presumes everybody knew). The Jews in the city were scared and simultaneously anti-Semites in the city were overjoyed.
  • The Talmud (Makkos 12a-b) discusses a case in which a tree is planted on the border of the city of refuge to which a person who committed negligent homicide must flee, and asks if such a killer would be allowed to safely stay under this tree. After all, while he is in the city of refuge, the “go’el hadam” (“blood avenger”) cannot kill the negligent killer (Bamidbar 35:19). The Talmud answers that we follow the lenient opinion, but the lenient opinion for whom – the go’el hadam or the accidental murderer? Just like the news in Shushan about the impending annihilation of the Jews, it is a question of perspective.
  • Similarly, the Vilna Gaon writes that the gentiles did not know for what they needed to be prepared, while according to Rashi, the Jews were confused because they were pondering the age-old question of why the Jews are so hated.
  • The Yalkut Shimoni and the Alshich comment that this confusion came from seemingly random accidents occurring throughout the city as the city became suddenly accident-prone.
  • R’ Dovid Feinstein suggests that the gentiles were concerned about the economic effects of the upcoming massacre. When the Jews are in trouble, commerce is affected. As it says in Mishlei (29:2) “When evil rules, the nation sighs.” In other words, everybody loses when wicked are in charge; even the wicked leader’s allies cannot sleep securely.
  • R’ Shlomo Kluger writes that the people were worried because Achashverosh had just drunk. With a history of abhorrent behavior when imbibing (see 2:1 above), the people were scared about what he may do next.
  • The Maharal has the exact opposite opinion. According to him, the two sat down to drink in order to calm the populace. They were sending the message, “We are not doing anything to serious. Look, we are just sitting down for casual drinks.” Perhaps the order of these last two verses are testifying to the fact that this plan failed miserably, as the entire city was lost in confusion.
  • Ultimately, regardless of the reason for the city’s confusion, Rav Hirsch (Collected Writings, Volume II, 404) writes that Achashverosh’s drinking at this historical crux shows he was “aloof from his subjects in unapproachable majesty.”
  • R’ Yehonasan Eibshutz quotes Yosipon as saying that, in the ancient world, making a decree and then drinking means agreeing with the decree, and that it cannot be rescinded. However, making a decree after drinking means the decree is not legitimate, and can therefore be rescinded. Later in the story (Esther 8:8), when Achashverosh allows Mordechai and Esther to uproot this decree, he was implying that they drank first, which is clearly a lie. The city was confused because they did not know the order in this case. This is a powerful contrast from the Jewish G-d, the King of Kings, who, as we shall see in the coming chapters, cares intimately about His people, and has orchestrated these events in a way that will ultimately lead to the Jews’ salvation, it should come soon. Amen.

Esther 3:9, Question 4. Why does Haman mention the people who are going to perform the action?

  • R’ Yehonason Eibshutz writes that Haman mentions the people who are going to perform the action because the potential Jew-killers involved in this massacre would themselves be willing to pay the money for the opportunity to participate in this endeavor.
  • Even according to the Malbim, who feels Haman is tricking the king into thinking Haman’s plan is to acculturate the foreign Jews, he writes that Haman here is stressing that this will not cost the king anything. People would volunteer, as they have throughout history, to help in the altruistic effort of helping this strange lot become more palatably Persian.

Esther 3:4, Question 5. What exactly is Mordechai’s claim?

  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:8) teaches that, by answering that he is a Jew, Mordechai really intended to emphasize that, as a Jew, he is forbidden to worship anyone or anything besides H-Shem.
  • Rav Shlomo Kluger says that “Mordechai’s words” indicate his reporting the plot of Bigsan and Seresh. Mordechai wanted to see if his demonstrated loyalty to the king would be enough to excuse him (and perhaps the other Jews) from this bowing.
  • The Chasam Sofer says that the words “that he is a Yehudi” refers to Haman. As mentioned in the Talmud (Megillah 15a), Haman sold himself as a slave to Mordechai. Yalkut Shimoni (953) tells us there was rebellion against Achashverosh in one of his Indian states. Haman and Mordechai were chosen to command two of Achashverosh’s battalions. Due to his spending practices, Haman ran out of provisions. Mordechai, due to his righteous care for his resources (see Rashi to Bireishis 32:25 and Talmud, Chullin 91a), did not. Haman begged Mordechai for some of his rations, on condition that Mordechai sell himself to him as a slave, to which Haman agreed. Having nothing on which to write handy, Mordechai wrote the deed on his shoe, or armor he had on his feet. That being the case, a slave to a Jew who then goes free becomes Jewish, himself (Talmud, Chagigah 4a and brought down in Halachah in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 267:3-5, 11). According to the Chasam Sofer, then, Mordechai was saying that he does not have to bow down to him since Haman was once his slave. For that reason, according to the Midrash, every time Haman would pass by, Mordechai would point down to his shoe.
  • The verse makes it sound as though the servants did not trust Mordechai, and Mi’archei Lev writes that Mordechai gave them reason to respond this way. After all, it was well-known that he was from Benyamin, but he aroused suspicion by saying he was a Yehudi.
  • Rabbi Yehonasan Eibshutz writes that Haman felt confident about conquering Mordechai as he was from Benyamin. Here, Mordechai is pointing out that he comes from another tribe as well – Yehudah. Yehudah, being the tribe of Moshiach, is the great challenge to the power of Amalek. Mordechai represents the Yehudi who can conquer the power of evil. Rav Eibshutz also writes that Haman set up a test for Mordechai by one time coming out without a statue. Nevertheless, Mordechai still refused to bow to him. Even though Mordechai knew there was no statue, other people didn’t know, and this would constitute maaris ayin.

Esther 3:1, Question 2. Why does the king promote Haman?

  • Apparently basing itself on the idea that King here refers to H-Shem, the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:1) cites a verse in Tehillim (37:20) to relate that H-Shem allowed for Haman to be elevated only in order for his fall to be all-the-more steep and painful. There is a parable told there of a horse, a donkey, and a pig. The farmer feeds the donkey and horse a limited amount, and feeds the pig without measure. One day, the horse asks the donkey, “We do actual work, yet are fed less. This is not fair!” The wise donkey tells the horse to be patient and realize that the pig is not well-fed for its own good, but to be fattened up to be eaten by the farmer.
  • In the next Midrash (ibid. 7:2) a story is told of a king who felt it beneath his dignity to kill a peasant, so he promotes him in order to execute him without degrading himself. Such is the case with Haman, made great only to be cut down the more painfully.
  • The Chida calculates that Haman was at the peak of his power for a total of seventy days. He sent out the letters to kill the Jews on the 13th of Nisan. Seventy days later, on the 23rd of Sivan, Mordechai sent out the letters for the Jews to rescue themselves. Similarly, there are seventy verses between this verse where Haman is elevated and the verse where Haman is hanged (7:10).
  • The Ginzei HaMelech writes that, by elevating Haman, H-Shem was rewarding him for his advice to rid the world of the evil Vashti.
  • According to Rav Dovid Feinstein, Haman was elevated at this point as a consequence for King Shaul’s (Mordechai and Esther’s ancestor) misdirected kindness in keeping Agag (Haman’s ancestor) alive.
  • Tanna D’vei Eliyahu (21) writes that Haman’s elevation is a reward for Agag’s sincere prayer when he was locked up in prison, awaiting his death. Because of this evil man’s last prayer, a ruler was destined to come from him, as is alluded to in the verse (Bamidbar 24:7), “and He raised from Agag his kingship.” Based on this, the Ginzei HaMelech asks, how could Haman, a thoroughly evil man only in power for 70 days, be considered a reward? He answers that the Talmud (Sanhedrin 96b) teaches that Haman’s grandchildren learn Torah in Bnei Brak, truly a reward for anybody.
  • The Maharal writes that Haman is rewarded here instead of Mordechai because the righteous generally are not rewarded with wealth in this world, but accrue reward in the World to Come.
  • Rav Shmuel Aharon Rubin cites Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak in the Talmud (Megillah 11a), who applies the verse in Tehillim (124:2) that discusses H-Shem rescuing us from a man to the Purim story. Since kings have not free will of their own, he continues, H-Shem needed to elevate a man – since free will is the mark of humanity – to this position from which he could threaten the Jewish people. It is a bigger miracle that Pesach in that way because Pharaoh’s heart was Divinely hardened. Haman, on the other hand, could make his own decisions, and chose evil all the same.
  • The Vilna Gaon tells us that if Haman is Memuchan (as asserted before), the human king had reason to reward him, as well. After all, it was Haman who advised that Vashti should be removed. First, this advice allowed the king to marry Esther. Second, Esther helped save the king’s life from the assassination plot of Bigsan and Seresh (Esther 2:21).
  • But if the motivation to elevate Haman came from Achashverosh for this, why did he not reward Mordechai? The Tirosh Vayitz’har writes that Achashverosh was unsure about Mordechai’s intention. Perhaps he was a part of the plot, after all. The only one he was sure of was Esther, so he rewarded her by elevating the man whose advice led to her being queen.
  • Rabbi Shlomo Kluger writes that, after surviving the assassination attempt, Achashverosh realized that he was at risk – especially from Haman – and knew that he needed to keep him close by. As the old saying goes, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
  • This is the exact opposite view from Chacham Tzvi, whose opinion is that Achashverosh mistrusted Haman and thought he conspired together with Esther to kill him. However, once Esther reported the assassination plot in Mordechai’s name – Mordechai being Haman’s arch rival – Achashverosh (thought he) knew that Haman was loyal.
  • According to the Malbim, the king simply forgot about Mordechai completely.
  • Rabbi Yehonasan Eibshutz notes that it makes little logical sense for Mordechai to have been so passed over, and instead condemned to die along with the other Jews. After all, he saved the king’s life when he had no need to. Therefore, this verse is yet another proof that it is impossible to understand the Purim story – or even Jewish history, in general – without the understanding that H-Shem miraculously protects His beloved people.