It did not take the sly Haman very long to work out a scheme by which he hoped to destroy all the Jews in the 127 provinces of King Achashverosh, and among them his most hated enemy, Mordechai.

Haman lost no time in compiling a long list of false accusations against the Jews, intermingled with a few truths and half-truths to make it appear genuine to the foolish King.

Haman came to the King and told him that the people were getting restless, and that it was necessary to give them some diversion. "The time is now ripe," Haman said, "for persecuting the Jews."

"But," said the King timidly, "they have a powerful G‑d, and perhaps I will suffer the same fate as Nebuchadnezzar and other Kings who caused harm to the Jews."

"Oh, they have long deserted their G‑d," replied Haman.

"But are there not among them any pious and devoted Jews?" continued the King.

"They are all alike, one is no better than the other," Haman replied.

"But the interests of our Empire might suffer," argued the King.

"They are scattered over the entire Kingdom and their elimination would not be noticed," answered Haman readily.

Haman thereupon proceeded to slander and malign the Jews before the King: "They keep themselves apart from everyone; they live amongst themselves, and eat and drink amongst themselves. They do not mingle with the rest of the people and do not marry our daughters. They are good for nothing and lazy, for they are forever observing days of rest: Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Succot, and many others."

Hearing this, G‑d said, "You wicked man! Because you complain of the many holidays the Jews celebrate, I will give them yet another one, which they will celebrate over your downfall! "

Haman offered the King ten thousand silver pieces to offset any financial loss that the persecution of the Jews might entail.

But the King smiled and said, "Keep the money and take the Jews as well. Do with them as you wish."

To show that he really meant it, King Achashverosh removed his signet ring from his finger, and handed it to Haman the Agagite, thus investing him with absolute power.

The wicked Haman now had a free hand. He alone could issue decrees and orders concerning the fate of the Jews. They were completely at his mercy. Haman gloated over his new success.

He wasted no time in carrying out his evil designs. He sent for the King's scribes without delay, and commanded them to prepare two royal decrees addressed to all the King's ambassadors and governors in all the one hundred twenty seven provinces.

The first decree was an open order to all the governors of the provinces, to arm the population for the thirteenth of Adar, when they should rise to a man and massacre "a certain group of harmful people." That date was determined by the casting of lots. The identity of this group was contained in the second decree, which was a sealed order not to be opened before the thirteenth day of Adar.

In this sealed order the decree was clearly spelled out. The people of Persia should attack and kill all the Jews, young and old, women and children, wherever they might be found in the vast Persian Empire.

Both decrees were duly signed, sealed, and delivered posthaste to the various governors of the provinces. They bore the impression of the King's royal signet and could not be revoked.

The sly Haman had taken every precaution to keep his plan secret, so that the Jews would be taken completely by surprise and would not be in a position to avert their doom. Haman rubbed his hands with evil satisfaction and left the palace to tell his wicked wife, Zeresh, of his clever scheme.

Mordechai, who was standing outside the gates of the royal palace, noticed the expression of glee on Haman's wicked face. He knew that the wicked Haman had something up his sleeve. He stopped three Jewish schoolchildren coming out of school, and asked them to quote to him from what they had learned that day.

Said one: "Do not fear sudden terror, nor of the destruction of the wicked when it comes." (Proverbs 3:25)

Said the second: "Contrive a scheme, but it will be foiled; conspire a plot but it will not materialize; for G‑d is with us." (Isaiah 8: 10)

Said the third: "Even to your old age I am with you; even to your hoary years will I sustain you; I have made you, and I will bear you; I will sustain and deliver you." (Isaiah 46:4)

Mordechai's face lit up, and he lovingly embraced the children.

Haman, witnessing the scene, became curious.

"What did the children tell you, Mordechai, that made you so happy?" asked Haman.

"They told me good tidings, bless them; they told me to have no fear of your evil designs . . . " Mordechai answered triumphantly.

Haman flew into a rage. "I will get even with the Jewish children first!" he roared, shaking his hand at them menacingly.