"ויהי בימי אחשורוש"
“And it came to pass in the days of Achashveirosh.”

QUESTION: The Gemara (Megillah 10b) says that the phrase “Vayehi bimei” always indicates tzarah — trouble. What was the tzarah here?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Pesachim 87b) says that Hashem performed a kindness for K’lal Yisrael by scattering them among the nations. Thus, it is impossible, G‑d forbid, to annihilate them entirely because they are not all under the control of one nation. Even if the rulers of one nation desire to kill all the Jews under their rule, they will refrain from doing it to avoid being called a genocidal government by the Jews living in other countries.

The Gemara (Megillah 11a) says that Hodu and Cush were either at the ends of the world or neighboring countries, and just as Achashveirosh ruled Hodu and Cush, so he ruled from one end of the world to the other. Consequently, he was in a position, G‑d forbid, to annihilate the entire Jewish people without fear of any consequences. Hence, the statement that Achashveirosh ruled from Hodu to Cush is the explanation of the tzarah alluded to inthe words “Vayehi bimei.”

(מאורי אש - כתנות אור לבעל פנים מאירות, פיורדא תקכ"ו)

Alternatively, in the Gemara (Megillah 14a) there is a discussion as to why Hallel is not recited on Purim. Rava says that the pasuk says, “Give praise you servants of Hashem” (Psalms 113:1), and “Akati avdei Achashveirosh anan” — “we are still servants of Achashveirosh.” Though we were miraculously saved from annihilation, we are still subject to a non-Jewish government.

Regardless of the peace and tranquility we appear to be enjoying, and regardless of the fact that many Mordechais and Esthers hold prominent positions, as long as we are ingalut — exile — under the malchut — kingdom of Achashveirosh — and the kingdom of DavidMashiach — is not reinstated, there is still a great tzarah — suffering — confronting the Jewish people.

(כ"ק אדמו"ר פורים תשכ"ט)

"שבע ועשרים ומאה מדינה"
“A hundred and twenty-seven provinces.” (1:1)

QUESTION: The Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit 58:3) relates that once when Rabbi Akiva was lecturing, the congregants became drowsy. Wishing to awaken them, he remarked, “Why did Esther deserve to reign over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces? The reason is this: Let Esther, the descendant of Sarah, who lived one hundred and twenty-seven years, come and reign over one hundred and twenty seven provinces.”

Why did he use this thought as a way to awaken them?

ANSWER: This particular story may be interpreted as a metaphor. Rabbi Akiva was the leader of the Jewish community when the Romans reigned. They oppressed the Jews and issued harsh decrees forbidding Torah study. Rabbi Akiva noticed that the community was entering a state of “drowsiness,” i.e. they were losing hope and beginning to give up on the coming of Mashiach and the ultimate redemption.

Wanting to infuse them with a measure of strength and bolster their faith, he told them to consider our matriarch Sarah. She lived one hundred and twenty-seven years and encountered many difficulties during her lifetime. Nevertheless, she remained completely righteous during the entire period. She did not witness her reward, and it only came many years later to her descendant Esther.

Rabbi Akiva was thus saying, “Have faith in Hashem, do not despair! The reward for our Torah study and observance of mitzvot will surely come. It may not be as quickly as one could desire, but there is no doubt that Hashem will meet all His obligations to K’lal Yisrael.”

(ילקוט יהודה, וכעי"ז כ' בשם אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי, ודברת בם, שמות א:ז)

"בשושן הבירה"
“In Shushan the Capital.” (1:2)

QUESTION: 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?

ANSWER: Shushan Habirah was the capital of Achashveirosh’s kingdom. Near it was a suburb known also as “Shushan.” The two cities were separated by the Ulai river (see Daniel 8:2). 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 — Shushan the Capital — is mentioned. Whenever the Megillah talks about the Jewish people, Ha’ir Shushan — the City of Shushan — is mentioned.

The Jews who participated in the King’s banquet in Shushan the Capital were not residents of the capital city, but nimtze’im — those who happened to be present — in the capital at the time (1:5).

(שפתי חכמים בהקדמה על מס' מגילה ועי' אבן עזרא ח:ט"ו, יערות דבש ח"ב דף מ"ה ע"ב)

"עשה משתה לכל שריו ועבדיו... ושרי המדינות לפניו"
“He made a feast for all his princes and his servants and the princes of the provinces who were near him” (1:3)

QUESTION: The word “lefanav” — “who were near him” — is superfluous. Moreover, since it says “he made a feast lechol sarav — for all his princes” — didn’t this include the princes of the provinces?

ANSWER: According to the Targum, the purpose of this feast was to celebrate Achashveirosh’s victory over the provinces that revolted against him. After defeating them, he appointed new princes to head the local governments of those provinces.

Now that Achashveirosh ruled over the entire world he made a feast “lechol sarav” — “for all his princes” — the ones whom he appointed and who recognized his supremacy. In addition, he also invited “sarai hamedinot” — “the princes of the provinces” — “lefanav” — “who were in charge before” — he conquered those provinces and replaced them with his own faithful people.

As an arrogant emperor he wanted to teach them a lesson, so he humiliated them by inviting them to be present at the feast which marked his victory and their defeat.


"ימים רבים שמונים ומאת יום"
“Many days — a hundred and eighty days” (1:4)

QUESTION: Aren’t the words “yamim rabim” — “many days” — superfluous since everyone knows that 180 days are many days?

ANSWER: The Megillah is giving us an idea as to when the feast took place. While a day consists of 24 hours, there is a difference between summer and winter regarding the length of the days and nights. In summer the days are longer and the nights shorter while in winter its the reverse. The summer period begins with Nissan and lasts until Tishrei. Thus, yamim rabim means the period during which the days are much longer.

Since the feast lasted for 180 days and according to the Hebrew calendar, based on the lunar system, one month is 30 and one is 29 days, the 180 day feast began on Rosh Chodesh Nissan and ended on the third day of Tishrei. This was followed by a seven day feast. Hence, the seventh day was the tenth of Tishrei — Yom Kippur. (See page 43 for a different opinion.)

(מנות הלוי, יערות דבש ח"א דף י"ט דפוס ווין תקע"ח)

"שמונים ומאת יום"
“A hundred and eighty days.” (1:4)

QUESTION: Why did he celebrate necessarily 180 days?

ANSWER: According to the Midrash Rabbah (2:1), Nevuchadnezzar hid 1,080 treasures in the Euphrates River. They were revealed to Koresh (Cyrus) as a reward for permitting the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash, and they were later inherited by Achashveirosh. The purpose of his making a celebration was to impress everyone with his vast riches. Each day he showed six of the treasures, as is indicated by the six expressions in this pasuk, which says that he displayed “osher” — “riches” — “kevod” — “glory” — malchut — “kingdom” — “yekar” — “splendor” — tiferet — “excellence” and “gedulah” — “majesty” (see Yalkut Shimoni 1046).

Consequently, the celebration stretched over 180 days since 180 x 6 = 1,080.

(קול אליהו)

Alternatively, in the Beit Hamikdash there was a total of 5,400 vessels, as stated in the book of Ezra (1:11): “All the vessels of gold and silver were 5,400; Sheshbazzar brought them up when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.” All these vessels were taken in captivity by Nevuchadnezzar when he destroyed the Beit Hamikdash and ultimately acquired by Achashveirosh. During the festivity he displayed daily six treasures of the Beit Hamikdash which were in his possession (ibid.).

According to theGemara (Shabbat 126b) a grouping of at least five items constitutes an “otzar” — treasure. Consequently, at the rate of six treasures per day (a total of thirty vessels), it took 180 days to show the entire 5,400 vessels (180 x 6 x 5 = 5400).

(לקוטי אנשי שם)

"חור, כרפס, ותכלת"
“White, green, and blue [hangings].” (1:6)

QUESTION: Why is there a large chet in the word chur?

ANSWER: TheGemara (Megillah 12a) says that in addition to using the vessels of the Beit Hamikdash, Achashveirosh garbed himself in priestly garments. The letter “chet,” which has the numerical value of eight, is large to indicate that he did not wear only the four garments every Kohen would wear, but the eight garments of the Kohen GadolHigh Priest.

(מנות הלוי)

"וכלים מכלים שונים ויין מלכות רב כיד המלך"
“The vessels differed one from the other — and the royal wine was in abundance, according to the bounty of the King.” (1:7)

QUESTION: Placing many different styles of vessels on the table does not appear proper let alone majestic?

ANSWER: The vessels Achashveirosh used for his party were the property of the Beit Hamikdash (Megillah 11b). King Balshatzar who was Achashveirosh’s father-in-law, also used the vessels of the Beit Hamikdash to celebrate his victory. Suddenly, he saw a hand writing a mysterious message on the wall (which Daniel deciphered) and that night Balshatzar was slain (Daniel ch. 5).

It could be said, that the Megillah is not describing the vessels, rather asking a question about them: “vekeilim mikeilim shonim” — why was there a difference between the vessels? Why did Balshatzar receive immediate punishment for using the vessels of the Beit Hamikdash while Achashveirosh who committed the same iniquity remained living?

The answer is, “veyein malchus — “the [outcome] of the King’s wine [feast]” — the killing of his wife Queen Vashti was rav — “great” — i.e. equivalent to the punishment of “keyad Hamelech — the “hand of the King” — Hashem — which struck Balshatzar. Since there is a rule that “ishto kegufo” — “one’s wife is like oneself,” (Berachot 24a) killing Vashti was equivalent to killing Achashveirosh.

(נחל אשכול - להחיד"א)

"ויין מלכות רב כיד המלך"
“And the royal wine was in abundance, according to the bounty of the King.” (1:7)

QUESTION: The words “keyad hamelech” — “according to the bounty of the King” — are superfluous. If the King was the one who gave the party, obviously everything was according to his standards?

ANSWER: On thepasuk “Veyein malchut rav the Gemara (Megillah 12a) says that this teaches that each person was served wine which was “gadol mimeno beshanim” — “greater than him in years” — i.e., older than the person. The Maharsha explains that the Gemara is interpreting the word “rav” to mean “great” because if it meant “abundance,” it should have said “harbeh.”

The famous historian Flavius Josephus places the history of Purim and Achashveirosh under King Artaxerxes Longimanus, as does also the Septuagint interpreter (see Antiquities of the Jews, N.Y. 1809, ch. VI p. 112 fn.). In Greek, the name “Artaxerxes” refers to the fact that he was a great warrior, and because one of his hands was longer than the other, he was called “Longimanus.” The Megillah is thus telling us that the wine was greater than the person, “keyad hamelech” — “just like the hand of the King” — which was much longer than the other.

(שפתי חכמים בפתיחה למס' מגילה)

"והשתיה כדת אין אנס"
“And the drinking was according to the law without coercion.” (1:8)

QUESTION: What were they not coerced to do?

ANSWER: The tradition in Persia at festive meals was that each participant was served a very large cup of approximately two quarts, and he had to drink it in its entirety regardless of the consequences. At this meal, too, Achashveirosh ordered that everyone should be served a large cup filled to the top, lest he be accused of stinginess, but the people were not coerced and they were permitted to drink as much or as little as they desired.

(ילקוט מעם לועז - רש"י)

* * *

Alternatively, the Megillah is describing King Achashveirosh’s wealth. There was a week-long feast for all the people who were present in Shushan the Capital, and all the drinks were served in golden goblets. Nevertheless, there were enough golden goblets to serve the drinks to the tens of thousands of people, and no one was forced to finish drinking so that his goblet could be used for another guest.


"לעשות כרצון איש ואיש"
“To do according to every man’s pleasure.” (1:8)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Megillah 12a) says that “kirtzon ish va’ish” literally means “according to the pleasure of man and man” and refers to Mordechai and Haman, who are both referred to as “ish” — “man” (see 2:5 and 7:6).

Why would both of them want to avoid any coercion to drink?

ANSWER: At the meal they were served non-kosher wine. Haman instructed the butlers not to force the Jews to drink so that when they would drink willfully, they would deserve punishment from the heavenly court and would not be able to claim that they were coerced. On the other hand, Mordechai hoped that by not coercing them to drink, it would be easy for them to avoid drinking and partaking of the non-kosher food served at Achashveirosh’s festivity.

(הרי"ף על עין יעקב)

"להביא את ושתי המלכה...להראות...את יפיה... ותמאן המלכה ושתי לבוא בדבר המלך"
“To bring Vashti the Queen...to show ...her beauty....But Queen Vashti refused to come at the King’s behest.” (1:11, 12)

QUESTION: Why does it first say “Vashti Hamalkah” — “Vashti the Queen” — and then afterwards “Hamalkah Vashti” — “Queen Vashti”?

ANSWER: Vashti had an impressive pedigree and possessed royal blood even before her marriage to Achashveirosh. She was the great granddaughter of the great monarch Nevuchadnezzar and the daughter of King Balshatzar. Achashveirosh, wanting to de-emphasize her personal royalty, referred to her as “Vashti Hamalkah” — implying that she was an ordinary person named Vashti, who thanks to him had become a Queen. Therefore, he summoned her to show everyone that her beauty was exceptional and that this is why he taken her as his wife and Queen.

She refuted this and referred to herself as “Hamalkah Vashti” — “Queen Vashti” — accentuating that she was a Queen in her own right; immediately at birth, even before she was named Vashti, she was a member of royalty.

When she refused to heed Achashveirosh’s orders, he conferred with experts concerning the fate of “Malkah Vashti,” who did not obey the bidding of the King (1:15). Here he mentioned the title “Malkah” before her name because he realized that his order was incorrect, and wanting to spare her, he reminded them that she was indeed a daughter of royalty and a Queen in her own right.

The wicked Haman, refusing to hear Achashveirosh’s plea for mercy, said, “It is not only the King whom Vashti the Queen has wronged” (1:16). He mentioned her name before her title to indicate that the King should not spare her because it was thanks to him that she had become Queen. Haman the Wicked even went on to advise that in the book of records she should be stripped of the title “Queen” altogether, and therefore proposed that it should be written, “That because Vashti did not appear before the King, ‘malchuta’ — ‘her royalty’ — should be conferred upon another who is better than she” (1:19).

(נשמת חיים דרוש ה' שבת זכור, מר' חיים ז"ל אבואלעפייא, שאלוניקי תקנ"ו)

"ותמאן המלכה ושתי לבוא בדבר המלך"
“But Queen Vashti refused to come at the King’s behest.” (1:12)

QUESTION: Why did she refuse to show her beauty — was she modest?

ANSWER: According to commentaries, the term “Hamelech” — “the King” — in the Megillah is also a reference to Hashem, the King of the world (Zohar, Vayikra 109a, Midrash Rabbah 3:10). The Megillah is telling us that it wasn’t she who refused to come. She and Achashveirosh both intended to commit immoral acts (Megillah 12a), and if it were up to her she would have gladly come. Her refusal was “bidvar Hamelech” — Hashem refused to let her go so that the King would be furious at her. This was part of His laying the foundation for the great miracle He was planning for his beloved people.

(מגילת סתרים לר' יעקב ז"ל מליסא בעמח"ס נתיבות המשפט)

"ותמאן המלכה ושתי לבוא בדבר המלך"
“But Queen Vashti refused to come at the King’s behest” (1:12)

QUESTION: The word “Vashti” is superfluous since it is already mentioned twice before that the Queen’s name was Vashti?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Megillah 12b) says Achashveirosh wanted Vashti to appear naked at his party and Vashti refused. The Gemara asks, she was a lewd woman, and both Achashveirosh and Vashti intended to act immorally. If so, why did she refuse to appear naked? The Gemara answers, she would have normally complied, but she was embarrassed to appear naked because the angel Gavriel “ahsah lah zanav” — “made her grow a tail.”

The extra word “Vashti” is alluding to this since the word Vashti (ושתי) numerically adds up to 716, as do the words “Gavriel ahsah la zanav” (גבריאל עשה לה זנב) — “Gavriel made her a tail.” (im hakolel — when the statement is counted as one, 715+1=716.)

(נחל אשכול - להחיד"א)

"ויקצף המלך מאד וחמתו בערה בו"
“And the King was very wroth, and his anger burnt in him.” (1:12)

QUESTION: Normally, either a person restrains his anger without expressing it, or he expresses it and relieves himself of it. Why is it that in Achashveirosh’s case, even after expressing it, “his anger burnt in him”?

ANSWER: When the chamberlains came to Vashti with the message that she expose herself improperly before the King and the people, she became upset. Angrily she told them to tell Achashveirosh that he had served as the stable keeper for her father, who was able to drink a toast with a thousand people without becoming intoxicated, while drinking wine caused Achashveirosh to act stupidly (Megillah 12b).

The large crowd was eagerly awaiting Vashti’s appearance. When the messengers came back without her and conveyed her message, the King was openly incensed that she had impudently refused his order and flew into a rage. However, he was unable to repeat her embarrassing comments about his personality out of shame, and therefore his anger continued to burn in him.

(קול אליהו)

"ויאמר המלך לחכמים ידעי העתים"
“And the King said to the wise men who knew the times.” (1:13)

QUESTION: TheGemara (Megillah 12b) explains that, “the wise men who knew the times” were the rabbis who knew how to calculate leap years or determine the day of Rosh Chodesh. Why would Achashveirosh seek their council on the Vashti matter?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 3a) says that the years of the gentile kings are counted from Tishrei; i.e. if one became a King a few months before Tishrei, when Tishrei arrives he starts the second year of his rulership. The party, which was “in the third year of his reign” (1:3), started in Tishrei. The Midrash (Manot Haleivi) observes that in the phrase, “yamim rabim shemonim ume’at yom” — “many days, one hundred and eighty days” (1:4) — the words “yamim rabim” are apparently superfluous. The Midrash explains that since the minimum of a plural is two, “yamim” means two days and “rabim” refers to another three days. This teaches us that before Achashveirosh started the one hundred and eighty days of festivity, he held a private party which lasted five days. Thus, the one hundred-eighty day feast commenced on the sixth of Tishrei. (See page 34 for a different opinion.)

Counting from the sixth of Tishrei and calculating based on alternative months of twenty-nine days and thirty days, one hundred and eighty days later would be on the eighth of Nissan. Consequently, the last day of the seven-day festive meal for the people of Shushan, at which he called for Vashti, was on the fifteenth day of Nissan.

Vashti was the daughter of King Balshatzar, who erroneously calculated that Hashem would no longer take the Jews out of exile and that he was thus the sole owner of the vessels of the Beit Hamikdash. He celebrated this on the night of Pesach — the fifteenth of Nissan — and by heavenly intervention he was killed instantly (see Daniel 5:30, Hagaddah Shel Pesach, “Vayehi Bachatzi Halailah). Therefore, this day marked the anniversary of her father’s passing and was an occasion for great mourning.

Achashveirosh loved Vashti and endeavored to minimize the iniquity she had committed against him. Consequently, in retrospect he thought that since she had been in mourning for her father’s death that day, it had been wrong of him to call her to make a grand appearance before the people on that day and she deserved to be dealt with compassionately.

However, if the third year of Achashveirosh’s reign was a leap year, then the festivities actually culminated on the fifteenth of Adar Sheini and Vashti had no justification for her disobedience. Consequently, he called the rabbis who were experts on setting the Jewish calendar, hoping that they would tell him that it was not a leap year, thus providing him with a way to save his beloved Queen Vashti.

(יערות דבש ח"א דרוש י"ז, ע' צ"ד, דפוס ווין תקע"ח)

"ראי פני המלך הישבים ראשונה במלכות"
“Who saw the King’s face, who sat in the first rank in the kingdom.” (1:14)

QUESTION: If they sit in the first rank, isn’t it obvious that they see the King’s face?

ANSWER: When Achashveirosh needed to make a legal decision it was his custom to present the matter before a congress of legislators which consisted of “all who knew law and judgment” (1:13).

The ones who sat in the first rank had a very good view of his facial expressions, and thus, they had an insight as to the outcome desired by the King. Thus, they would vote based on their understanding of his facial expressions and usually the rest of the congress would follow suit.

Achashveirosh loved Vashti very much and wanted her spared. He hoped that the ministers “nearest to him,” whom, he considered his best friends, when they “see his face” would understand based on his facial expressions that he wanted her spared and only given a “slap over the wrist.” To his great dismay his close confidant declared her a rebel against the entire kingdom (מורדת במלכות) and asserted that she deserved nothing less than the death penalty.


"כדת מה לעשות במלכה ושתי על אשר לא עשתה את מאמר המלך אחשורוש "
“What according to law shall be done with Queen Vashti, because she had not fulfilled the order of King Achashveirosh.” (1:15)

QUESTION: Vashti’s disobedience of a direct order from the King was a grave iniquity and tantamount to treason. Why did Achashveirosh have any doubt whether she should be put to death?

ANSWER: At first there was a one-hundred and-eighty-day party at which the King demonstrated his glorious kingdom. Since the intent was to portray his majestic splendor, it was imperative for everything to be conducted in accordance with the decorum of the King’s court. This was succeeded by a seven-day party for the people of Shushan the Capital, at which the strict observance of decorum was relaxed, “For the King enjoined on all the officers of his house la’asot kirtzon ish va’ish — to do according to every man’s pleasure” (1:8).

Thus, the King thought that Vashti’s refusal to obey his order to appear immodestly at his party should not be viewed as audacity, but on the contrary, it was in compliance with the King’s order that the pleasure of every man be satisfied. And since her pleasure was not to demonstrate herself naked in front of all the people, she deserved no punishment.

On the other hand, however, one can argue that since this was not integrally related to the banquet feast (see Rashi to 1:8), the rule to the officers to do according to every man’s pleasure did not apply. Moreover, the order applied to the public at large who were in attendance, but not to the Queen, particularly when it was not a direct order from the King to her.

Due to his reasonable doubts, the King consulted his wise men. Haman aggrandized Vashti’s iniquities by telling him that her behavior could have a devastating effect on the entire populace and government structure, and recommended the death penalty.

(לקוטי שיחות חל"ו ע' 161)

ויאמר מומכן
“And Memuchan said.” (1:16)

QUESTION: Why is his name now written with the vav between the two “mems” (מומכן) and not with the vav after the two “mems” (ממוכן), as in 1:14 and 1:21?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Megillah 12b) says that Memuchan is Haman, who was “muchan” — “destined” (מוכן) for trouble (to be hung). The Midrash (Manot Haleivi) says that Haman’s reign lasted only seventy days. This is derived from the pasuk, “Ki chein tzivah lo hamelech” — “For so had the King commanded concerning him” (3:2) — since the word “chein” (כן) has the numerical value of seventy.

When Memuchan is spelled with a “vav” between the two “mems,” it is a combination of two words “mum chein” meaning that Haman was a blemish (מום), and indicating prophetically that the Jewish people would suffer from this blemish only “chein” (כן) for seventy days (see p. 164).

(נחל אשכול)

* * *

Alternatively, a “vav” has the numerical value of six. It was taken out of its proper place and moved forward, to indicate that Haman acted like an ignoramus and proceeded to speak before the other six advisors (1:14), who were his elders and superiors.

(מסורת הברית ר' דוד טעבלי מפוזנא, פרמישלא תרנ"ו)

"ויאמר מומכן לפני המלך והשרים"
“Memuchan declared before the King and the princes.” (1:16)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Megillah 12b) says that the fact that Memuchan, who was the lowest in rank among the officials (see 1:14), was the first to speak up proves that “hedyot kofeitz berosh” — “The boor thrusts himself to the forefront.”

What proof is there that he sprang to speak first? Perhaps he spoke after all the others, and his advice is recorded since it lead to the killing of Vashti and the anointment of Esther as Queen?

ANSWER: Since it was already stated that the King conferred with the experts (1:13), the words “lifnei hamelech vehasarim” — “before the King and the officers” — are superfluous. The text could have just quoted Memuchan’s statements? Therefore, our Sages conclude that the word “lifnei” here does not mean “in front of” but “ahead of,” and since he began to speak “ahead of” the King and all the other officers, though he was the lowest in rank, it proves that “hedyot kofeitz berosh.”

(קול אליהו)

* * *

A difficulty still remains; perhaps Memuchan — Haman — spoke before every one because he was the senior advisor and the reason he is mentioned last is because they are listed are from the lowest in rank to the highest?

Since it says “the King promoted Haman... and placed his seat above that of all the princes” (3:1), it is obvious that previously he was the lowest and therefore listed last. Thus, were it not that “hedyot kofetz berosh,” he should have not have spoken his opinion before his seniors.

(עיטורי תורה על מג"א)

"לא על המלך לבדו עותה ושתי המלכה כי על כל השרים"
“Not against the King alone has Vashti the Queen done wrong, but also against all the princes.” (1:16)

QUESTION: By saying, “It is not only the King whom Vashti has wronged, but also all the officials,” isn’t he is insulting the King, for in a sense he is saying that the officials are more important than the King?

ANSWER: Haman advocated a change in the procedure for issuing laws. Till then the King had to discuss proposed new laws with all those “who knew law and judgment” (see 1:13), and from then on the King himself was to issue them.

Now, if Vashti would only have sinned against the King, it would not be proper for him to rule on the issue due to his personal involvement. Therefore, Haman cunningly said, “It is not only the King whom Vashti has wronged, but also all the officials.” Thus, it is impossible to find an impartial judge; consequently, out of lack of alternative, you are the one who must issue the ruling in this matter, and don’t think of it as your issue but something that affects all the people of your kingdom.”

(הגר"א, ועי' יערות דבש ח"ב דרוש ב')

"כי-יצא דבר-המלכה על-כל-הנשים... והיום הזה תאמרנה שרות פרס-ומדי אשר שמעו את-דבר המלכה..."
“For this deed of the Queen will spread to all the women... And this day the princesses of Persia and Media, who have heard of the deed of the Queen...” (1:17-18)

QUESTION: It seems that Haman warned Achashveirosh of two consequences; what were they?

ANSWER: At Vashti’s feast the princesses of Persia and Media were present, but not ordinary women from all parts of the country. Therefore, Haman said “Ki yeitzei dvar hamalkah al kol hanashim — eventually when the incident about the Queen will go out (become known) to the entire country, the woman will be making their husbands contemptible in their eyes, by saying ‘Why should we listen to you if the Queen didn’t listen to the King!’ ”

“Don’t think,” Haman continued, “you can wait to take any action since it will take some time for this to occur. This is not so; there is an immediate danger! Already hayom hazeh — this day — the princesses of Persian and Media who were present and who witnessed the entire spectacle and actually heard dvar halmakah — the insulting words — Vashti spoke about you, will act disrespectfully towards their husbands.”

(משתה יין - מר' מאיר חיים ז"ל אייזנשטאט – פיורדא תנ"ז)

"והיום הזה תאמרנה שרות פרס-ומדי אשר שמעו את-דבר המלכה לכל שרי המלך וכדי בזיון וקצף"
“And this day the princesses of Persia and Media, who have heard of the deed of the Queen, will say to all the princes of the King; and there will be much contempt and quarrel.” (1:18)

QUESTION: What will the princesses say?

ANSWER: Haman told the King that swift action had to be taken against Vashti. “Otherwise,” he stated, “all the princesses present at her feast who have heard the way she spoke about you and saw that she refused to listen to you, will derive that the one who really runs the government is not the King but the Queen. Hence, they will say that everything in the world is to be conducted in the same fashion as in the King’s palace. Namely, the Queen is the supreme authority of the kingdom and the princesses are her official spokespersons. The Queen together with the princesses will set the tone and make the rules, and your majesty and us your princes will lose all our authority.”

(מגילת סתרים)

"ויכתב בדתי פרס ומדי ולא יעבור אשר לא תבוא ושתי לפני המלך אחשורוש"
“And let it be written among the laws of Persia and Media, and let it not be revoked, that Vashti come no more before King Achashveirosh.” (1:19)

QUESTION: Why did Haman speak in future tense “lo tavo” — “come no more” — and not in past tense asher lo ba’ah” — “because she did not come” — before the King, and therefore deserved the death penalty?

ANSWER: Haman knew very well that Achashveirosh was a feeble minded person who could easily be swayed into changing his decisions, especially if his beloved Vashti would request it. If this had occurred, Vashti would ultimately remain the Queen and he would have faced serious consequences. Therefore, he cunningly advised the King that immediately an irrevocable order should be given by his majesty that “Vashti come no more before King Achashveirosh.” Thus, she would not have the opportunity to plead her case with him and convince him to change his mind and maintain her as Queen.

(רוקח, רלב"ג, ועי' תרגום)

Haman did not say openly she should be executed, but implied it by saying “Vashti should come no more before the King Achashveirosh” i.e. her ability to come to the King should be cancelled — which meant she should be executed.

(מגילת סתרים)

"ומלכותה יתן המלך לרעותה הטובה ממנה"
“And let the King give her royal position to another who is better than she.” (1:19)

QUESTION: The word “lire’usah” — lit. “her friend” — is superfluous — it could have just said “lehatovah mimenah” — to the better [one] than she?”

ANSWER: The word “lire’usah” (לרעותה) has the numerical value of 711, as does the words “lecha Esther” — “Esther is for you” (לך אסתר). Unintentionally, Haman alluded to Achashveirosh that it would be better for him to have Esther as a Queen than Vashti.

(מנות הלוי)

"לרעותה הטובה ממנה"
“To another who is better than she.” (1:19)

QUESTION: How did Haman convince Achashveirosh that the next Queen would be “hatovah mimenah” — “one who is better than she”?

ANSWER: Haman could have merely said that “her royal position should be given to another.” To encourage the King to follow his advice and kill Vashti, he added that he could thus be assured that anyone he took in her place would definitely be “hatovah” — “the better one” — because she would learn “mimenah” — “from her” — to have absolute subordination to the King.


"ונשמע פתגם המלך אשר יעשה בכל מלכותו כי רבה היא"
“And when the King’s decree, which he will make, shall be published throughout all his kingdom, however great it is.” (1:20)

QUESTION: The words “ki rabah hi — “however great it is” — are superfluous. He advised that the decree be published “throughout all his kingdom” and everyone knows that one hundred and twenty-seven provinces is a vast area?

ANSWER: Haman was not referring to the extent of the kingdom. This statement was a reference to Vashti. He told Achashveirosh, in reality “rabah hi“She is of greater pedigree than you: Her ancestors were Balshatzar and Nevuchadnezzar. When it will be publicized in all your kingdom that she was put to death for not obeying your orders, ki rabah hi — although she is greater than you — in her own rights, then “all the wives will show respect to their husbands great and small alike.” Regardless of whether the men are greater or lesser than their wives in pedigree, accomplishments, etc., they will respect them.”


"וייטב הדבר בעיני המלך והשרים ויעש המלך כדבר ממוכן"
“The proposal was pleasing in the eyes of the King and the princes and the King did according to the word of Memuchan.” (1:21)

QUESTION: Why is it necessary to mention that “the proposal was pleasing to the King and the princes.” Since the King did according to the word of Memuchan — i.e. he killed Vashti, isn’t it obvious that the idea was pleasing to him?

ANSWER: Achashveirosh really did not want Vashti killed, and in fact he regretted it afterwards (see p. 57). The wise men also did not concur with this advice, but Haman spoke up first and they were not given a chance to be heard. At that moment, however, so that the miracle of Purim could take place, Hashem put it into Achashveirosh’s mind and that of his princes to be pleased with Haman’s foolish recommendation. This gives credence to the adage, “The heart of the kings and princes are in the hand of Hashem.” (See Likkutei Sichot vol. 13 p. 285, re: source of adage.)


"ויעש המלך כדבר ממוכן"
“The King did according to the word of Memuchan.” (1:21)

QUESTION: The following pasuk tells precisely what he did (the issuing of orders), so these words are unnecessary?

ANSWER: As explained (see page 50), Haman was very careful and never said openly that Vashti should be killed. Haman, however, succinctly alluded to it.

The statement “and the King did according to the word of Memuchan” tells us that the King “understood” very well what Haman meant, and actually had her head chopped off. In addition to this he sent letters, as the following pasuk states.

(מנות הלוי)

"יצא דבר מלכות מלפניו... להיות כל איש שרר בביתו"
“Let there go a forth a royal edict from him... that every man dominate 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 would not decide any issue of law on his own; instead he would gather his advisers and seek their opinion (see 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 every man rule in his home, when agents arrived at Mordechai’s home 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 the gallows 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)

"ומדבר כלשון עמו"
“And speak according to the language of his nationality.” (1:22)

QUESTION: The main thing was that a woman should obey her husband’s order; why did Haman recommend that this too be added to the edict?

ANSWER: Achashveirosh sent messengers to tell Vashti to appear naked before him and the public. Not only did she refuse, but she also sent him a very embarrassing message: “You stable boy of my father! Balshezzar, my father, drank a lot of wine and did not get drunk, whereas you have become foolish from drinking wine.” Upon hearing this, immediately his anger burned within him (Megillah 12b).

One may rightfully ask, why did the messengers deliver this insulting message? They could have just said, “Vashti refused to come.” Conveying her words was very undiplomatic and caused embarrassment to the King.

Achashveirosh was a Persian and Queen Vashti was Chaldean. Since the King wanted to please his wife, they would converse among themselves in her native tongue — Chaldean (Mei’am Lo’eiz). The King’s messengers were Persian and they did not understand the Chaldean language. When they told her what the King desired of her, she became very upset and told them in Chaldean what they should say to the King. They repeated her words verbatim, not knowing what it meant. The King upon hearing this insult became enraged.

Haman desiring to exhibit his concern, told the King that the whole problem arose because Vashti never changed her dialect to Persian. Had she spoken your language you would not have suffered any embarrassment since the messengers who are prudent Persian diplomats would not have repeated her demeaning words to you. To assure that such does not happen to you in the future, I advise that you issue an edict, that a wife must always speak the language of her husband’s nationality.

(משתה יין - מר' מאיר חיים ז"ל אייזנשטאט – פיורדא תנ"ז)