"הקורא את המגילה למפרע לא יצא"
“If one reads the Megillah backwards, he has not fulfilled his obligation.” (Gemara, Megillah 17a)

QUESTION: Why would someone do such a strange thing?

ANSWER: The purpose of reading the Megillah is to underscore that in all generations there are Hamans who plot our destruction. Miraculously, Hashem comes to our salvation thanks to our adherence to Torah and mitzvot.

“Reading the Megillah backwards,” means thinking that the Purim narrative is a historical event with no contemporary relevance. One who takes such an attitude is missing the entire significance of Purim and the Megillah.

(כתר שם טוב הוספות סי' ע"ח)


"אם על המלך טוב יצא דבר מלכות מלפניו... להיות כל איש שרר בביתו"
“If it pleases the King, let there go a forth a royal edict from him... that every man should rule in his own home.” (1:19-22)

QUESTION: The King asked Haman only what to do with Vashti; why did Haman offer additional advice?

ANSWER: It was the custom in Persia that the King not decide any issue of law on his own; instead he would gather his advisers and seek their opinion (see Esther 1:13). Haman desired that this should be changed. Therefore, in addition to advising the King that Vashti should be killed, he suggested that from then on Achashveirosh should make all decisions on his own, without leaving room for appeal. Additionally, from then on every man should be the ruler of his home.

Everything recorded in the Megillah is connected to the Miracle of Purim. Were it not for these two recommendations made by Haman, Esther would not have become Queen, and Haman himself would not have been hung.

After Vashti was killed, a search began for a new queen. Had it not been the rule of the land that each man rule in his home, when agents would have arrived at the home of Mordechai searching for Esther, he would have told them, “I don’t know where Esther is. She left without my permission and did not say when she would return.” Thanks to Haman’s advice, Mordechai was unable to hide Esther, and thus she was forced to come to Achashveirosh and eventually become the Queen.

When Achashveirosh heard from Charvonah that Haman had prepared gallows upon which to hang Mordechai, the King angrily said, “Hang him on it!” (7:9) Haman began to demand, “Before you hang me there must be a trial with a jury deciding if I am guilty.” Achashveirosh told Haman, “Sorry! It was you who advised me some time ago that ‘yeitzei devar malchut milefanav’ — the King should make decisions on his own and no one can appeal them.” Thus, Haman was hung immediately.

(חתם סופר)


"איש יהודי היה בשושן הבירה ושמו מרדכי"
“There was a Jewish man in Shushan the Capital and his name was Mordechai.” (2:5)

QUESTION: When the Megillah is read in public, it is a custom for everyone to say this pasuk aloud. What is special about this pasuk?

ANSWER: In the Megillah we find the expression “Shushan Habirah” — “Shushan the Capital” — ten times, and nine times “Ha’ir Shushan” — “The City of Shushan” — or just plain “Shushan.” Obviously this is intentional. Why the distinction?

Shushan Habirah was the capital of Achashveirosh’s kingdom. Nearby was a suburb known also as “Shushan.” It was forbidden for Jews to live in the capital city, but they were permitted to live in the City of Shushan. Therefore, when the Megillah talks about Achashveirosh or the issuing of decrees, Shushan Habirah is mentioned. Whenever the Megillah talks about the Jewish people, Ha’ir Shushan is mentioned.

By Divine Providence, Mordechai was the only Jew who happened to be living in the capital. Thanks to this, he had access to the King’s palace and was able to overhear the conversation of Bigtan and Teresh, which eventually brought about the downfall of Haman and the miracle of Purim.

(שפתי חכמים בהקדמה על מס' מגילה)

* * *

According to Rabbi Yehudah (Megillah 19a), the reading of the Megillah in public should begin with this pasuk because it portrays “the strength and prominence of Mordechai.” The above-mentioned explanation also offers an insight into Rabbi Yehudah’s opinion.


"ושמו מרדכי"
“And his name was Mordechai.” (2:5)

QUESTION: According to the Gemara (Menachot 65a), Mordechai’s real name was Petachya (פתחיה). There is a מדרש פליאה (“wondrous Midrash) that says that this can be understood through the pasuk “Vehayah reishitecha mitzar ve’acharitecha yisgeh me’od” — “Your beginning will be small, yet your latter end will greatly increase” (Job 8:7).

How through this pasuk is there a connection between מרדכי and פתחיה?

ANSWER: The first letter in the name פתחיה is a "פ", which equals 80. If you divide that in half, the result is 40, which corresponds to "מ". The second letter is a "ת", which equals 400, half of which is 200, which corresponds to "ר". The third letter is a "ח", equaling 8, which divided in half equals 4, corresponding to "ד". The fourth letter, "י", equals 10, which when doubled equals 20, corresponding to "כ". The last letter is a "ה" — 5 — which when doubled equals 10 — "י". Thus, when the beginning (first three letters of פתחיה) is made smaller, and the end (last two letters) is made larger, פתחיה equals מרדכי.

(ר' שמשון זצ"ל מאסטראפאלי)


"ובמות אביה ואמה לקחה מרדכי לו לבת"
“And when her father and mother had died, Mordechai adopted her as his daughter.” (2:7)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Megillah 13a) says, “read not ‘lebat’ — ‘a daughter’ — but ‘lebayit’ — ‘a wife,’ ” [lit. “a home”]. Instead of alluding, why doesn’t it say “bayit” explicitly?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Ketubot 59b) says that the purpose and desire of a women is in three things. 1) “banim” (בנים) — children. 2) “yofi” (יופי) — beauty. 3) “tachshitim” (תכשיטים) — jewelry. The acronym of these three is the word “bayit” בית)).

The Gemara (Megillah 13a) says, “Esther was of greenish complexion (like a myrtle). However, G‑d endowed her with a ingratiating kindness.” This made her appear beautiful in the eyes of Achashveirosh and all the people (Rashi).

Consequently, of the three main allurements of women, Esther lacked “yofi,” symbolized by the yud.” Hence, the Megillah, referring to the two allurements that she did possess, deletes the yud and refers to her as a “bat” — “daughter” — but our sages tell us that she was really a “bayit” — a full-fledged wife.

(בחירת אברהם)


"קצף בגתן ותרש... ויבקשו לשלח יד במלך אחשורש: ויודע הדבר למרדכי ויגד לאסתר המלכה ותאמר אסתר למלך בשם מרדכי... אחר הדברים האלה גדל המלך אחשורוש את המן"
“After these things King Achashveirosh promoted Haman.” (2:21-22, 3:1)

QUESTION: Why was Haman promoted and not Mordechai, who saved the King from Bigtan and Teresh?

ANSWER: Achashveirosh figured that if Mordechai was in fact concerned about his well-being, rather than telling Esther about the plotted assassination, he should have come directly to him. Therefore, he was in doubt as to Mordechai’s true intentions. However, Esther, who revealed the secret plot to him, was indeed loyal and deserving of a reward. Since Esther as Queen had the maximum any woman could desire, Achashveirosh was faced with a dilemma: what more could he give her?

Achashveirosh concluded that Esther esteemed Haman very highly, because upon his advice Vashti was killed, thus making it possible for her to become Queen. Assuming Haman to be Esther’s trusted ally, Achashveirosh rewarded Esther by promoting him.

(שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי' ק"ה)


"ויגידו להמן לראות היעמדו דברי מרדכי כי הגיד להם אשר הוא יהודי"
“They told Haman, to see whether Mordechai’s words would avail; for he had told them that he was a Jew.” (3:4)

QUESTION: What words of Mordechai did they convey to Haman?

ANSWER: Achashveirosh was once at war with another country. He selected two armies and placed one under the command of Mordechai and the other under the command of Haman. He gave each army a supply of food which was to last for the duration of the war. When Haman mismanaged his allotment and quickly ran out of food, his soldiers became very angry and planned a mutiny against him. Helpless, he ran to Mordechai and begged for food for his troops. Mordechai agreed to give him food on the condition that Haman become his slave (Yalkut Shimoni).

According to halachah, when a Jew acquires a gentile as a slave, he is required to put him through a ritual in which he is converted to be a quasi-Jew, and he becomes required to fulfill some mitzvot (Chagigah 4a).

When the people questioned Mordechai’s violation of the King’s edict to bow down to Haman, he answered, Asher hu Yehudi” — that Haman, by becoming his slave, was really a Jew. As his master, he could not be expected to bow down to him. The people were surprised to hear this and conveyed these words to Haman to see whether Mordechai’s words would avail. Haman, knowing this to be true, was embarrassed and filled with rage.

(תורת משה)


"ויבז בעיניו לשלח יד במרדכי לבדו כי הגידו לו את עם מרדכי ויבקש המן להשמיד את כל היהודים"
“It seemed contemptible to him to lay hands on Mordechai alone, for they had made known to him the people of Mordechai. So Haman sought to destroy all the Jews.” (3:6)

QUESTION: What did Haman hear about Mordechai’s people that made him decide to kill the entire nation and not just Mordechai alone?

ANSWER: Mordechai’s refusal to bow down to him upset Haman immensely. He considered this a great chutzpah and wanted to kill him. When he discussed it with his advisors, they told him, “You do not know who and what the Jewish people are. Mordechai is not unique! The Jewish people are ‘Am Mordechai’— a nation consisting of many Mordechais. Killing Mordechai will not accomplish anything because immediately a new leader with the same ideals as Mordechai will take over.” He therefore decided to get rid of the entire people and, thus, there would no longer, G‑d forbid, be any Mordechais to contend with.

(כ"ק אדמו"ר, פורים תשל"ו)


"המן בן המדתא האגגי צרר היהודים"
“Haman the son of Hamdata the Agagite the enemy of the Jews.” (3:10)

QUESTION: Haman is described with many adjectives; how did he acquire the title “Tzoreir haYehudim”?

ANSWER: When Haman maligned the Jewish people, he told the King, “Yeshno am echad mefuzar umeforad” — “There is one nation, scattered and separated” (3:8). Commentators explain this to mean that they were in total disharmony. To counteract this, Esther felt that unity was the call of the hour and therefore instructed Mordechai, “Leich kenos et kol haYehudim” — “Go gather together all the Jews” (4:16).

In Hebrew, the word “tzoreir” means to bind and tie together (see Bereishit 42:39, Chullin 107b). Haman, through vicious plots against the Jewish people, united and bound them together.

(עיטורי תורה - הרב צבי יחזקאל מיכאלזאהן ז"ל מווארשא)


"ויאמר המלך להמן הכסף נתון לך והעם לעשות בו כטוב בעיניך"
“And the King said to Haman: The silver is given to you, the people also, to do with it as it seems good in your eyes.” (3:11)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Megillah 14a) portrays the feelings of Haman and Achashveirosh towards the Jewish people with the following parable:

There were once two farmers; one had a mountain of earth in his field while the other had a deep pit. The owner of the earth thought, “I would happily pay this man to permit me to dump my earth in his pit.” On the other hand, the owner of the pit thought to himself, “I would unhesitatingly pay this man to fill my pit with his earth.” When these two men encountered one another, the owner of the pit offered to pay for the earth, and the owner of the earth responded immediately, “It is all yours; take it without cost and fill up your pit.”

What insight regarding their hatred is added through this parable?

ANSWER: Undoubtedly, Achashveirosh and Haman both hated the Jewish people with a passion. However, they differed as to what was the best way to destroy them. The intent of the parable is to reveal the profound ideological differences between Achashveirosh and Haman as to how to destroy the Jewish people. Achashveirosh took the “mountain” philosophy. He elevated the Jews to important government positions and invited them to festive meals. Surely they would assimilate and relinquish their Jewish identity.

Haman pursued the “pit philosophy”: The Jews should be broken physically, degraded, oppressed, and killed. Thus, they would cease to exist. To bring his plan to fruition, he offered the King money to physically kill every member of the Jewish people. Achashveirosh told him, “They are yours ‘for free’; do with them as you wish.”

(הרב מאיר ז"ל שאפירא מלובלין)


"ומרדכי ידע...ויצא בתוך העיר"
“And Mordechai knew...and went out in the midst of the city.” (4:1)

QUESTION: The Midrash Rabbah (7:16) relates that after Haman had the evil decrees written and signed, Mordechai met three children returning home from yeshivah and asked them, “What did you learn today?” The first child quoted the pasuk, “Al tirah mipachad pitom” — “Do not fear sudden terror” (Proverbs 3:25). The second one mentioned the pasuk “Utzu eitzah vetufar dabru davar velo yakum ki imanu keil” — “They will make plans, but it will be foiled, they will discuss thoughts, but it will not materialize, for G‑d is with us” (Isaiah 8:10). The third child quoted the pasuk “Ve’ad ziknah ani hu ve’ad seivah ani esbol...ve’amaleit” — “Until old age I am with you, to your aged years I will sustain you ... and deliver you” (ibid. 46:4). Upon hearing this Mordechai was very happy. What good tidings did Mordechai see in the words of the children?

ANSWER: The Jewish people were confronted by Amalek three times:

1) Upon leaving Egypt, they were suddenly attacked by Amalek (Devarim 25:18, Rashi).

2) Years later Amalek appeared, talking like a Canaanite, and attempted to wage war against the Jewish people (Bamidbar 21:1, Rashi).

3) Haman was a descendant of Amalek, and viciously planned the annihilation of the Jewish people.

Mordechai understood the words of the first child, “Do not fear sudden terror...” as an allusion to Amalek’s first attack. The second child’s message, “dabru davar velo yakum” — “they will speak, but it will not materialize” — was that regardless of Amalek’s attempts to disguise himself and change his dialect, it would be to no avail because Hashem was with the Jewish people.

When Haman discussed his evil plans for the Jews with his advisors, they told him, “Don’t be a fool, whenever someone sought to harm these people, their G‑d came to their salvation and destroyed the enemy. Stay away from them or you will suffer the consequences.” Haman presumptuously told them, “There is nothing to fear, their G‑d is now old and weak and unable to help them” (Midrash, ibid.). Mordechai understood the words of the third child as a message from Hashem. Although Haman thinks that I am old, I have not changed; I will carry, sustain, and save the Jewish people now and at all times.”

(קול אליהו)


"ואת פתשגן כתב הדת... נתן לו להראות את אסתר..."
“And he gave him the copy of the writ of the decree... to show it to Esther...” (4:8)

QUESTION: How was it possible that Esther should not know anything about the decree against the Jewish people?

ANSWER: Haman sent two letters. One was confidential and addressed to the governors and high officials of all the provinces, informing them of the planned extermination of the Jewish people. The letter was sealed (3:13) and bore instructions that it should not be opened before the 13th of Adar. In these letters he outlined the details of his vicious plan to exterminate all the Jews.

The other letter was “galu lechol ha’amim” — “published to all the peoples.” It merely informed them to prepare for war on the 13th of Adar (3:14). This letter did not reveal any details concerning the identity of the enemy. Thus, no one would detect Haman’s vicious plan, and the Jews would not be alerted in time to flee or plead their case before the King.

Fortunately, Mordechai “learned of all that had been done” (4:1), and thus he knew that Haman’s vicious plan was to destroy the Jewish people. Therefore, he sent Esther “pateshegen ketav hadat” — “a copy of the text of the decree” — which was distributed to the public, telling them to be “ready for that day.” He also told her exactly what the intention was, and instructed her to tell the King her nationality and beseech him to save her people.

(מלבי"ם)


"כי אם החרש תחרישי בעת הזאת...ואת ובית אביך תאבדו"
“If you persist in keeping silent at a time like this...you and your father’s house will perish.” (4:14)

QUESTION: Why would Esther’s “silence” and non-intervention on behalf of the Jewish people cause her father’s house to perish?

ANSWER: King Shaul was instructed to destroy the entire people of Amalek. Out of compassion for their leader Agag, he spared his life. The next morning the prophet Shmuel killed Agag and admonished Shaul for not following instructions. The preceding night however, Agag married a maid who later gave birth to the ancestor of Haman (see Megillah 13a).

Mordechai reminded Esther that she was a descendant of King Shaul and that her rise to glory was by Divine Providence. By bringing about the downfall of Haman she would remove the blemish on King Shaul, which was caused by his oversight. Should the salvation of the Jewish people come about through other means, her father’s house would perish due to King Shaul’s unforgiven iniquity.

(אלשיך)


"וצומו עלי ואל תאכלו ואל תשתו שלשת ימים"
“And fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days.” (4:16)

QUESTION: Why did Esther tell Mordechai that the Jews should fast three days and nights?

ANSWER: To celebrate the success of his kingdom, Achashveirosh made a seven-day feast for the residents of Shushan Habirah. Unfortunately, the Jews attended and partook in the non-kosher festivities. The seventh and final day was Shabbat. Since the celebrations were held in a garden, the Jews refrained from coming, out of fear that they might violate the Shabbat by pouring liquids on the ground (Gemara, Megillah 12a).

The Jews’ eating of non-kosher food for six days caused the rise of Haman. To counteract this, Esther told Mordechai to have the Jews fast for three days and three nights, which would atone for the six days of eating non-kosher.

(יערות דבש ח"א, י"ז)


"ויהי כראות המלך את אסתר המלכה עמדת בחצר נשאה חן בעיניו"
“When the King saw Esther standing in the courtyard, she found favor in his eyes.” (5:2)

QUESTION: Why was the King so gracious to Esther?

ANSWER: After Achashveirosh married Esther he was struck with blindness (Yalkut Shimoni 1056:5). As soon as Esther walked in, an angel turned his head in her direction and suddenly he regained his vision and was able to see her. Thus, “when the King saw Esther,” he realized that this miracle happened to him in her merit, and therefore, she found favor in his eyes.

(אורה ושמחה)


"ויאמר המלך לאסתר במשתה היין מה שאלתך וינתן לך ומה בקשתך עד חצי המלכות ותעש"
“And the King said to Esther at the banquet of wine, ‘What is your petition? and it shall be granted you: and what is your request? even if it be half of the kingdom it shall be fulfilled.’” (5:6)

QUESTION: It has been mentioned twice previously that he was invited to the “mishteh” — “banquet” — and that he came to the “mishteh”; why are the words “mishteh hayayin” repeated here?

ANSWER: Although the name of Hashem is not explicitly mentioned in the Megillah, according to Midrashim the term Hamelech — the King — refers also to the King of the world — Hashem. “Lamelech Achashveirosh” refers to the King, sh’acharit vereishit shelo — who is in command of past and future. The name “Esther” refers to K’lal Yisrael when they are in Exile and Hashem’s Divine revelation is concealed (see Chullin 139b).

While it is customary to use prayer as a way to beseech Hashem, the Megillah is hinting that the King told Esther (a metaphor for Hashem telling K’lal Yisrael) that when people unite in a “wine feast,” He is very proud of them and asks, “What is your desire?” and He is prepared to fulfill it.

(ר' מנחם מענדל מקוצק זצ"ל, ועי' מחיר יין א:י"ב, ועי' ספר המאמרים תשי"ז ע' 120)

* * *

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, related that the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, once said that when chassidim get together in farbrengen and in simchah, they can accomplish even more than the angel Michael can.

(קובץ מכתבים על תהלים)


"וכל זה איננו שוה לי בכל עת אשר אני ראה את מרדכי"
“Yet all this is not worth anything to me so long as I see Mordechai.” (5:13)

QUESTION: The word “zeh” — “this” — seems superfluous; it could have just said “ve’eineno shoveh li” — “and it is not worth anything to me”?

ANSWER: Haman told his wife Zeresh and his advisors about the royal treatment the King had afforded him. In the course of the conversation, he also expressed his fear of Mordechai and Esther, observing that together the numerical value of their names (מרדכי-אסתר) totaled 26 (in single numerals), which is the numerical value of Hashem’s four-letter name, indicating that He was with them.

Zeresh comforted Haman that he had nothing to worry about, because their names, Haman (המן) and Zeresh (זרש), also added up to 26 (in singular numerals). Haman responded, “Mordechai alone adds up to 13 as does Esther alone. 13 is the numerical value of the word “echad” (אחד), indicating that the one and only — Hashem — is with each of them. Also, there is unity among them, and in unity there is strength. However, my name alone adds up to 14 and I am short 12. Thus, the “zeh” (זה), which has the numerical value of 12, which you, Zeresh, contribute, is worthless because Hashem is not with us and there is also no unity among us.”

(בית יעקב, לקוטים מפרדס)


"ותאמר לו זרש אשתו וכל אהביו יעשו עץ גבה חמשים אמה ובבקר אמר למלך ויתלו את מרדכי עליו"
“Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, ‘Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and tomorrow speak to the King and have them hang Mordechai on it.’” (5:14)

QUESTION: Why doesn’t it say what they advised Haman to tell the King?

If their advice was that he should ask the King to have Mordechai hung on the gallows, they should have said to him “[speak to the King] sheyitlu” — “they should hang” — not “veyitlu” — “and they will hang.”

ANSWER: Haman complained to his family about Mordechai. Their advice was that he should tell the King that Mordechai so distressed him that he had built a gallows 50 cubit high on which to commit suicide. “Achashveirosh,” they said, “loves you and would undoubtedly say, ‘I cannot afford to lose you,’ and thus, “veyitlu” — he will order Mordechai’s death on the gallows.

Incidentally, later on it is stated, “Haman had just come into the outer court of the palace to speak to the King about hanging Mordechai on the gallows — asher heichin lo” — that he had prepared for him” (6:4). On this, the Gemara (Megillah 16a) says that “lo” means “for himself” — “Haman.”

(שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי' ק"ה)


"וימצא כתוב אשר הגיד מרדכי על בגתנא ותרש"
“It was found written what Mordechai reported about Bigtana and Teresh.” (6:2)

QUESTION: In the beginning of the Megillah (2:21), it is stated that the servants who plotted to kill the King were Bigtan and Teresh. Why in the records was the name spelled “Bigtana” (בגתנא)?

ANSWER: The secretaries who recorded the event were sons of Haman. They were concerned that some day historians would read the King’s book of records and conclude that credit was due to a Jewish person for saving the King’s life. Therefore, they falsified the records and wrote that Mordechai reported about Bigtan or Teresh (בגתן או תרש). This would mean that Mordechai was not really sure if it was Bigtan or Teresh who plotted to kill the King. Since both were put to death, an innocent person had been killed through Mordechai, and thus he did not deserve any reward.

A miracle occurred and the word "או" which means “or” separated itself and the "א" moved close to בגתן and the "ו" close to תרש. Thus, it read that Mordechai told about Bigtana and Teresh (בגתנא ותרש), that the two of them plotted to kill the King, and thanks to Mordechai’s alertness the King’s life was saved, rightfully entitling Mordechai to a great reward.

(מדרש תלפיות)


"מהר קח את הלבוש ואת הסוס כאשר דברת ועשה כן למרדכי היהודי"
“Hurry, take the robes and horse as you said, and do this for Mordechai the Jew.” (6:10)

QUESTION: Why did Achashveirosh insist that Mordechai receive his acknowledgment speedily?

ANSWER: When Esther told Achashveirosh at the banquet that she would not reveal her request until the next day, he was very puzzled. What did she want? During the sleepless night that followed, they read to him from the book of chronicles that Mordechai did not receive a befitting honorarium for saving his life. Suddenly, it dawned on him that perhaps this was what Esther wanted to speak to him about. Therefore, he hurried Haman to quickly give Mordechai the honors due him, so that if Esther would bring it up during today’s banquet, he would be able to tell her that he was very sorry for the oversight and that it was already taken care of earlier in the day.

(יוסף לקח - אלשיך)


"ויספר המן..את כל אשר קרהו ויאמרו לו חכמיו..אם מזרע היהודים מרדכי אשר החלות לנפול לפניו לא תוכל לו כי נפל תפול לפניו"
“Haman told them all that happened to him... and his wise men said to him... ‘If Mordechai is of Jewish descent you will not prevail against him, but will undoubtedly fall before him.’” (6:13)

QUESTION: Haman called his advisors for counsel, not a prediction of the future. What sage counsel did his “wise men” give him?

ANSWER: Haman came home and conveyed to his family and friends the humiliation he experienced. He had no faith in Divine Providence and arrogantly told them that this was “karahu” — “a haphazard occurrence.” “Moreover,” he said, “now that Mordechai received his reward, I will return to my glorious position and no longer suffer from him.”

His wise men told him that he was mistaken: “Mordechai is a descendant of the Jewish people and his G‑d is not allowing you to prevail against him. Your only salvation may be ‘ki nafol tipol lefanav’ — ‘Bow to him and beg him to forgive you.’ The Jewish people are a merciful people. King Shaul had compassion and spared our grandfather Agag; likewise Mordechai will pardon you if you beg his forgiveness.”

Out of desperation, Haman considered following their advice. However, before he had a chance to speak to Mordechai, the King’s chamberlains arrived and hurried him off to the banquet which Esther had arranged.

Later Haman, when Haman sensed the King’s intention to execute him, he tried to follow his wise men’s advice and fell on Esther’s couch. The King, however, entered the room and became enraged. Before anything else could happen, they covered Haman’s face (7:8).

(אלשיך)


"כי נמכרנו אני ועמי להשמיד להרוג ולאבד ואלו לעבדים ולשפחות נמכרנו החרשתי...ויאמר המלך אחשורוש... מי הוא זה ואי-זה הוא אשר מלאו לבו לעשות כן"
“‘For we have been sold, I and my people, to be annihilated, and had we been sold as slaves I would have been silent... ‘King Achashveirosh exclaimed... ‘Who is this and where is he who had the audacity to do this?’” (7:4-5)

QUESTION: 1) Why would she be silent if the Jews were sold for slaves? 2) Haman operated with Achashveirosh’s consent. Why did he naively ask “Who had the audacity to do this”?

ANSWER: Haman hated the Jewish people and yearned to wipe them out, but he doubted that Achashveirosh would agree. Therefore, he fooled Achashveirosh into issuing a decree to destroy the Jewish people.

Haman said to Achashveirosh, “im al hamelech tov yikateiv le’avdam (3:9) — “If the King agrees, letters should be sent out to make slavesעבדם) out of the Jewish people.” Achashveirosh consented and gave Haman authority to send the letters. However, in the letters, Haman did not write לעבדם (slavery) but "לאבדם" (le’abdam) “complete annihilation.”

Therefore, Esther said to Achashveirosh, “If we were being sold into slavery as you and Haman originally planned, I would reluctantly keep silent because you are the King and this is your wish, but the scoundrel tricked you and has sent letters in your name ordering the annihilation of the Jewish people.”

When Achashveirosh heard that he had been fooled, he became furious and bellowed, “Who is this who had the audacity to do such a thing?”

(אוהב ישראל)


"ויאמר לאסתר המלכה מי הוא זה ואי-זה הוא...ותאמר אסתר איש צר ואויב המן הרע הזה"
“And he said to Esther the Queen, ‘Who is he, and where is he...?’ And Esther said, ‘The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.’” (7:5-6)

QUESTION: Achashveirosh and Haman together planned the destruction of the Jewish people. Why did Achashveirosh suddenly ask Esther, “Who..”? Moreover, when Esther responded, she should have said only one word, “Haman”?

ANSWER: In Hebrew grammar the word “hu” is used for someone not present, and the Hebrew grammatical term for this is nistar — literally “hidden.” The word “zeh” applies to a subject matter which is present and therefore revealed.

Esther told Achashveirosh that the Jewish people were suffering from two enemies: “One openly displays his hatred, while the other hates us deep down in his heart, though he does not say so openly.” Achashveirosh asked Esther, “Since you talk of two enemies, please tell me mi hu — who do you refer to as — ‘zeh’ — ‘the open enemy’ — and ve’ei-zeh — who is it that you consider — ‘hu’ — ‘the hidden enemy’ ”?

Esther responded “Haman hara — the wicked Haman — is ‘hazeh’ — our open and revealed enemy” and she left it to Achashveirosh’s imagination to figure out who was — “hu” — the “concealed” enemy.

(הרב מאיר ז"ל שאפירא מלובלין)


"ויאמר חרבונה.... גם הנה העץ אשר עשה המן למרדכי אשר דבר טוב על המלך עמד בבית המן גבה חמשים אמה"
“Charvonah said, ‘Furthermore the 50 cubit high gallows which Haman made for Mordechai who spoke good for the King, is standing in Haman’s house.’” (7:9)

QUESTION: When did Mordechai ever “speak good” for King Achashveirosh?

ANSWER: Haman’s advisors told him to make a gallows and get the King’s consent to hang Mordechai. Immediately, he hired one of the best carpenters in Shushan Habirah and instructed him to build a 50-cubit-high pole. The carpenter was not aware of its purpose, but, knowing Haman’s wealth, he made it of the most expensive wood and adorned it with gold.

Upon completion, he handed Haman a hefty bill. Somewhat surprised, he said to the carpenter, “Who ever heard of paying such a huge amount for a 50-cubit pole?” The carpenter replied, “Why don’t you look at what I made and then you will agree that my fee is reasonable.” When Haman saw the golden pole, he became enraged and shouted, “I wanted this to serve as a gallows for Mordechai; the one you made is tov al hamelech — good for the King!”

Upon hearing from Charvonah that Haman said the gallows “is good for the King,” Achashveirosh immediately bellowed, “hang him on it!”

(שמעתי מהרב שמואל צבי שי' פוקס)


"ביום ההוא נתן המלך אחשורוש לאסתר המלכה את בית המן ותשם אסתר את מרדכי על בית המן"
“On that day, King Achashveirosh gave Queen Esther the house of Haman. Esther placed Mordechai over Haman’s house.” (8:1-2)

QUESTION: Why did Esther appoint Mordechai over the house of Haman?

ANSWER: In the famous incident in which Mordechai and Haman were both in command of armies (see 3:4), Haman had to sell himself as a slave to Mordechai for food.

According to halachah, “mah shekanah eved kanah rabo” — “Whatever a slave acquires becomes the property of his master” (Pesachim 88b). Consequently, in keeping within the realm of halachah, Esther conveyed the house to Mordechai, who in reality was the rightful owner.

(הרב אברהם מרדכי זצ"ל מגור)


"ואתם כתבו על היהודים כטוב בעיניכם בשם המלך וחתמו בטבעת המלך כי כתב אשר נכתב בשם המלך ונחתום בטבעת המלך אין להשיב"
“Write for the Jews in the name of the King as you please, and seal it with the King’s ring, for something written in the King’s name and sealed with the King’s ring cannot be retracted.” (8:8)

QUESTION: 1) Achashveirosh seems to be contradicting himself. If an edict issued by the King cannot be retracted, what will be accomplished by a second letter? 2) Instead of “kitvo al haYehhudim” — “write about the Jews” — he should have said, “kitvu laYehudim” — write to the Jews”?

ANSWER: To save face, Achashveirosh told Esther that he was a sincere friend of the Jewish people and furious at Haman. He told Esther, “We agreed to write ‘lehashmid laharog ule’abeid et kol haYehudim’ — ‘to destroy, to slay, and to exterminate all Jews’ (3:13). However, I had instructed him to put a comma before the word‘haYehudim’ because my intent was that all the goyim should be wiped out, and it should be accomplished through ‘haYehudim’ — ‘the Jews.’ Haman left out a comma between the words ‘kol’ — ‘all’ — and ‘haYehudim.’ Thus, it can be interpreted to mean ‘to annihilate the Jewish people.’

Therefore, I advise you to write a letter explaining ‘al haYehudim’ — the reference to ‘Yehudim’ in the previous letter — in a way which is favorable and beneficial to you. Consequently, your second letter will merely clarify and support my intention in the first letter: that all the goyim should be killed al haYehudimthrough the Jews. A second letter which is only for clarification is in accordance with accepted decorum.”

(אלשיך)


"לעשות אותם ימי משתה ושמחה ומשלח מנות איש לרעהו ומתנות לאביונים"
“That they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” (9:22)

QUESTION: The Rambam in Hilchot Megillah (2:17) writes: “It is better to increase in gifts to the poor than in sending portions to one another.” If so, why in the pasuk is sending portions to one another mentioned before gifts to the poor?

ANSWER: When giving tzedakah to the poor, it is very important that one should be extremely careful not to embarrass the recipient. (See Rambam, Matanot Aniyim 10.)

When Mordechai instituted Purim as a day of giving gifts to the poor, he was greatly concerned lest it become known as the poor man’s day to receive handouts. Therefore, he also instituted the exchanging of portions among friends so that an observer would be unable to distinguish gifts to the poor from gifts to friends. To conceal the gifts to the poor, the Megillah preceded it with sending portions to one another.

(אפריון ועי' שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי' קע"ב)

* * *

With the above-mentioned we can understand why no berachah is made over the mitzvah of mishlo’ach manot — sending portions to one another.

The Rashba (Responsa 18) writes that when one performs the mitzvah of tzedakah, he does not make a berachah — because possibly the person will refuse to accept. However, according to Rama (Orach Chaim 615:4), when one sends mishlo’ach manot — portions on Purim, he fulfills the mitzvah even if the recipient refuses them.

Consequently, if a berachah would be made for mishlo’ach manot and not for matanot le’evyonim, it would be obvious which gift is which, thus defeating the entire purpose of instituting mishlo’ach manot.

(שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי' קע"ב)


"לעשות אותם ימי משתה ושמחה ומשלח מנות איש לרעהו ומתנות לאביונים"
“They should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” (9:22)

QUESTION: Why did Mordechai institute this as a way to celebrate the miracle of Purim?

ANSWER: Haman derided the Jewish people by telling Achashveirosh that though they were only one nation among many nations, they were “mefuzar umeforad bein ha’amim” — in total disharmony among themselves. They lacked love and compassion for their fellow Jews. To counteract this claim, Esther said to Mordechai, “Go gather together all the Jews” (4:16), and stress to them the importance of unity and ahavat Yisrael.

Since the decree was caused by Haman’s allegation that there was disunity among the Jewish people, Mordechai instituted that on Purim we exchange edibles with friends and give gifts to the poor to demonstrate our love for one another.

(מנות הלוי)


"על כן קראו לימים האלה פורים על שם הפור"
“Therefore they called these days ‘Purim’ because of the Pur (the Lot).” (9:26)

QUESTION: Naming the holiday Purim because of the lots, seems to indicate that this was the most important part of the miracle. How were the Jews saved through the lots?

ANSWER: Haman hated the Jewish people, and Achashveirosh hated them even more. In the month of Nissan, Haman decided to have the Jewish people annihilated. To select an appropriate date for his vile plan, he cast lots which told him that the best date would be twelve months later, on the thirteenth day of Adar.

Thanks to this, Mordechai had ample time to have Esther intercede and to win the King over to his side. Letters were also sent warning the Jewish community and instructing them to be prepared. Thus, were it not for the lots, Haman in his moment of rage could have easily persuaded the King to issue an immediate decree to annihilate the Jewish people. Unprepared, the Jews would have, G‑d forbid, suffered a catastrophe. Consequently, thanks to Haman’s idea to cast lots, the Jewish people were saved.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר בשם דעת דברי חכמים)


"על כן קראו לימים האלה פורים על שם הפור"
“Therefore they called these days ‘Purim’ because of the Pur (the Lot).” (9:26)

QUESTION: “Purim” is the plural for pur. Why isn’t the yom tov called “Pur”?

ANSWER: In order to be sure that the day determined by the ‘lot’ was indeed correct, Haman made two lots. In one box he placed 13 pieces of paper, each containing one of the Hebrew months of the year (the miracle of Purim took place in a leap year, see Jerusalem Talmud Megillah 1:5, P’nei Moshe). In the other box he put 385 pieces of paper, each containing a number from 1 to 385, for all the days of the year. Haman thought as follows: If, for instance he pulled the month of Sivan (the third month) from the first box and the number 200 from the second box, then something would be wrong, since the 200th day of the year cannot occur in the third month.

Haman was pleased when he pulled Adar Sheini (the thirteenth month) from the first box, and the number 368 from the second, because this came out to be the 13th day of Adar Sheini, and obviously the two lots supported each other. Hence, the yom tov is known as “Purim,” because of the two lots.

(יערות דבש דרוש ג' ועי' שו"ת חת'ס סי' קס"ג ולקו"ש חט"ז ע' 349)


"ודבר שלום לכל זרעו - ויהי בימי ..."
“Concerned for the welfare of all his posterity. And it was in the days…” (10:3, 1:1)

QUESTION: Torah is never ending, and the end and the beginning are linked together. What is the connection between the last and first words of the Megillah?

ANSWER: The first word “Vayehi” (ויהי) has the numerical value of thirty-one, and the last word “zaro” (זרעו) has the numerical value of two hundred and eighty-three. The two together total three hundred and fourteen, which is exactly the numerical value of “Mordechai Hayehudi” (מרדכי היהודי). The first and last words are an indication that the Megillah was written by Mordechai from beginning to end.

(נחל אשכול, ועי' רש"י ט:כ)