"ומרדכי ידע את כל אשר נעשה ויקרע מרדכי את בגדיו"
“And Mordechai knew all that had been done; Mordechai rent his clothes.” (4:1)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that his knowledge of what had been done came to him in a dream. What prompts Rashi to say that it was through a dream and not prophetically?

ANSWER: Rashi is “bothered” by a question. According to the Midrash, the extra word “kol” — “everything [that had been done]” — is to allude that Mordechai knew everything: the decree and also Haman’s ultimate downfall. If so, why did he tear his clothes and put on a sackcloth?

The Gemara (Berachot 55a) says that while there is much truth in dreams, there are also devarim beteilim — incorrect and meaningless visions in every dream. Therefore, Rashi writes that Mordechai was distressed and distraught because his knowledge came through a dream, and since not everything in the dream is true, perhaps it was correct that a decree was issued while the favorable outcome that he envisioned was incorrect.

(ר' חנוך העניך זצ"ל מאלכסנדר)

"ויצא בתוך העיר"
“And went out into the midst of the city.” (4:1)

QUESTION: The Midrash Rabbah (7:16) relates that after Haman had the evil decree 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 tira 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 plans, 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” (Isaiah 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 again attempted to wage war against the Jewish people. To prevent the Jews from identifying his people in their prayers for Hashem’s assistance, he ordered his soldiers to use the Canaanite language (Bamidbar 21:1, Rashi).

3) Haman was a descendant of Amalek, and he 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 has sought to harm these people, their G‑d has come 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)

"אבל גדול ליהודים וצום ובכי ומספד שק ואפר יצע לרבים"
“There was great mourning for the Jews, with fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.” (4:3)

QUESTION: The Midrash (Manot Haleivi) says that the mention of the six descriptions of their sadness (“eivel” — “mourning” — “tzom” — “fasting” — “bechi” — “weeping” — “mispeid” — “wailing” — “sak” — “sackcloth” — “eifer” — “ashes”) was to indicate their repentance for the six days that they enjoyed the feast tendered by Achashveirosh.

How does this reconcile with the statement in the Megillah (1:5) that the King made a seven-day feast for all the people?

ANSWER: In describing the feast, it is stated that Achashveirosh displayed his riches for “yamim rabim shemonim ume’at yom” — “many days, — 180 days.” From the words “yamim rabim” — “many days” — which are apparently superfluous since it says “180 days,” it is derived that the feast took place in the summer when “yamim rabim” — the days are longer (Rokei’ach). Thus, from Rosh Chodesh Nissan till Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, with three months being twenty-nine days and the other, thirty days, there is a total of 177 days, and the 180th day was on the third day of Tishrei. This was followed by another feast for seven days, which culminated on the tenth ofTishreiYom Kippur. (See p. 43 for a different calculation.)

The Gemara (Yoma 20a ) says that the word “hasatan” (השטן) — “the Satan” — has the numerical value of 364 to indicate that Satan can instigate the Jewish people to sin only on 364 days of the solar calendar and not on Yom Kippur. Consequently, Satan did not incite the Jewish people to come to the seventh day of the feast, and thus they exhibited only six forms of sadness to express remorse and repentance for participating in six days of festivity.

(יערות דבש ח"א דף י"ט ע"א)

"ותקרא אסתר להתך...ותצוהו על מרדכי"
Esther called for Hatach...and ordered him to go to Mordechai.” (4:5)

QUESTION: Instead of “al Mordechai” — literally, “on Mordechai” — it should have said el Mordechai”“to Mordechai” — as it says later “vatetzaveihu el Mordechai” — “and she commanded him [to give a message] to Mordechai” (4:10)?

ANSWER: According to the Midrash, Haman sold himself as a slave to Mordechai (see p. 83). Halachically, a slave cannot buy anything for himself since all that he owns becomes the possession of his master (Pesachim 88b). Esther, as a prophetess (Megillah 14a), was aware of Haman’s negotiations with Achashveirosh, in which he purchased the Jewish people from him, and was greatly puzzled: How could Haman buy something for himself?

In her mind she concluded that the only way for Haman to make a purchase is that Mordechai had freed him. Therefore, she sent Hatach and commanded him to say, Al Mordechai” — “It is on you, Mordechai — i.e. you are responsible for what happened. Had you not freed Haman, this would never have occurred.”

Mordechai told him, “eit kol asher karahu” — “all that happened to him” (4:7).

The Midrash Rabbah (8:5)says that his message was that the descendant of “Karahu” (literally, “met him”), meaning Amalek, of whom it is said, “asher karcha baderech” — “who met you by the way” (Devarim 25:18) — is the one who was plotting the annihilation of the Jews. With this he meant that according to halachah (Gittin 38b) it is forbidden for a Jew to free a slave, especially not an Amalekite who was under his control. He concluded, “I would not do something that is in violation of the halachah, and thus, I can in no way be blamed for what happened.

“Although the halachah is that whatever Haman acquires is mine, and undoubtedly it will all turn out for the good, presently a great danger looms over us and it is incumbent upon you as Queen to get involved and intercede on behalf of the Jewish people and do everything in your power to avert it.”

(בית יעקב - מסולתון)

"ויגד לו מרדכי את כל אשר קרהו"
“And Mordechai told him all that had befallen him.” (4:7)

QUESTION: Instead of informing him of “karahu” — “all that had befallen him” — he should have told him all that had befallenthem — the Jewish people?

ANSWER: Mordechai was Queen Esther’s relative, an advisor to the King, and one who had not participated in the feast which caused the rise of Haman and the threat of annihilation. Thus, he did not have any reason to fear the decree. A true leader, however, is not one who merely sympathizes with his subjects or participates in their happiness and sorrows, but one who considers their trials and tribulations, joy and simchah, as his own. In the words of the prophet, he is one who, “bore our ills and carried our pains” (Isaiah 53:4). Thus, the Megillah is telling us that Mordechai was a leader of the highest calibre, and he viewed the troubles confronting his brethren as something which had befallen him — his own personal troubles.

(התועדיות תשמ"ה ע' 1418)

"ואת פרשת הכסף אשר אמר המן לשקול"
“The fixed sum of silver which Haman promised to weigh out.” (4:7)

QUESTION: Why was it necessary to tell her of the silver that Haman said he would give but never gave?

ANSWER: Throughout history, Jews have secured their existence by bribing their money-hungry oppressors. Mordechai, knew very well that Esther would send him back a message to do the same. Therefore, he let her know about Haman's money offer which Achashveirosh declined to convince her that bribe-money would not alleviate the problem. His reluctance to accept Haman’s generous offer demonstrated his immense hatred for the Jews and desire to be rid of us regardless of cost.

(שער בת רבים בשם דברי שאול)

"אשר אמר המן לשקול על גנזי המלך ביהודיים לאבדם"
“Which Haman had promised to weigh out into the treasures of the King for the Jews to destroy them.” (4:7)

QUESTION: Why, when Mordechai sent word to Esther of Haman’s evil decree, is the word “Yehudim” — “Jews” — spelled with two “yuddin” whereas later in describing the Jewish deliverance, “And for the Jews there was light” (8:16), the word “Yehudim” is spelled with one yud?

ANSWER: A maskil — proponent of the enlightenment — who was an apikores — atheist — once visited the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the third Rebbe of Lubavitch) and asked him this question.

The Tzemach Tzedek replied: “The two yuds correspond to the Inclinations, the Virtuous and Evil. Both the Evil and Virtuous Inclinations contain the ten qualities of the soul.

“There are two kinds of yuds: The yud of the Virtuous Inclination and the yud of the Evil Inclination. Haman’s decree was not directed specifically against G‑d fearing Jews, those of the Virtuous Inclination; he sought also to destroy those who were irreligious, who acted in accord with the Evil Inclination. They, too, were included in his edict.”

The visitor then asked, “Why is it that in a later verse, ‘And the Jews in Shushan gathered’ (9:15), we once again find a spelling of two yuds?”

The Tzemach Tzedek replied, “This is because the Jews in Shushan, being in the center of all the events, perceived and were profoundly influenced by both the danger and the miracle of Purim, so much so that even non-observant Jews returned to the ways of Torah and Yiddishkeit.” The Tzemach Tzedek concluded, “The same is true of you; when you will suffer greatly, then you, too, will change greatly.”

Afterwards themaskil was afflicted with fever which lasted three months. Affected by his suffering, he repented and returned to Judaism.

(ספר השיחות תש"ב ע' 82)

"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), but it 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.


"כי אם החרש תחרישי בעת הזאת...ואת ובית אביך תאבדו"
“If you remain 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 however, he spared the life of their leader, Agag. 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.


"לך כנוס את כל היהודים הנמצאים בשושן וצומו עלי"
“Go assemble together all the Jews who are present in Shushan and fast for me.” (4:16)

QUESTION: Esther’s main concern was that the Jews fast for three days and pray for her success. Whether Mordechai would get the message to them through messengers or through writing etc. was not her business. Why did she tell him “leich kenos” — “go assemble”?

ANSWER: Nothing in this world happens accidentally. It is all through Divine Providence. The Heavenly acceptance of Haman’s plot was due to the lashon hara — slander — that he spoke against the Jewish people in saying that they were “mefuzar umeforad” — “dispersed and disunited” — and lacking unity among themselves. To counteract this, Esther told Mordechai that two things were necessary: “Firstly, leich kenos — go assemble together — i.e. reunite — all the Jews present in Shushan. It is incumbent that unity and brotherly love prevail among them. Secondly, if everyone fasts and does teshuvah, I will undoubtedly succeed in my mission.”

(ספר השיחות תשמ"ט ע' 301)

According to the above, Esther asked Mordechai to do two things: 1) To unite the Jewish people and stress ahavat Yisrael — brotherly love. 2) to refrain from eating and drinking, i.e. to fast. The reason she made these two requests is the following:

According to an opinion in Gemara (Megillah 12a) the decree against the Jews was issued due to their partaking in Achashveirosh’s festivities. According to Midrash Rabbah (7:25) it was a punishment for the brothers sale of Yosef as a slave.

Thus, to rectify the wrongful eating and drinking, Esther asked that Mordechai tell them to fast and refrain from eating or drinking. The sale of Yosef was an outcome of their animosity towards him as the Torah says, “They hated him, and they were unable to speak to him peaceably” (Bereishit 37:4). Therefore, Esther recommended that this could be rectified by kenos et kol hayehudim — a gathering together of all the Jews — absolute unity and ahavat Yisrael.

"לך כנוס את כל היהודים"
“Go, assemble all the Jews” (4:16)

QUESTION: Instead of “kenos” — “assemble” — why didn’t she say “hakhail” which is the Biblical term (Devarim 31:12) for assembling?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Gittin 57b) explains Yitzchak’s words, “The voice is Jacob’s voice and the hands are Eisav’s hands” (Bereishit 27:22) to mean that Yaakov’s power was in his voice — prayer — and Eisav’s power was in his murderous hands. The Midrash Rabbah (ibid.65:20) says that, “When the voice of Yaakov sings out in the synagogue, Eisav has no hands” — his might is powerless against them.

The word “kenos” (כנוס) — “assemble” — has the numerical value of one hundred and thirty-six, which is also the numerical value of the word “kol” (קול) — “voice” — i.e. prayer. Esther was telling Mordechai, “Gather together all the Jews in prayer, and Haman’s plans for our annihilation will be nullified.”

(נחל אשכול)

Incidentally, this is evident from the letters Esther and Mordechai sent to all the Jews about “divrei hatzomot veza’akatam” — “the matters of their fasts and prayers” (9:31).

"ואל תאכלו ואל תשתו שלשת ימים לילה ויום"
“And do not eat or drink for three days; night or day.” (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 all that were present in Shushan Habirah. Unfortunately, the Jews attended and partook in the non-kosher festivities. The seventh and final day, however, 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 and thus they only attended the feast for six days (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. (See also p. 107.)

(יערות דבש ח"א, דף י"ז)

וצומו עלי ... שלשת ימים
“Fast for me…three days.” (4:16)

QUESTION: Which three days did they fast?

ANSWER: The couriers went out with Haman’s letters on the thirteenth of Nissan, and Mordechai declared a fast for the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth of Nissan (Erev Pesach, the first and second days of Pesach).

When the Megillah says “On the third day Esther clothed herself regally” (5:1), it refers to the fifteenth of Nissan, which was the third day since the dispatching of the letters and the second day of the fasting.

(רש"י על מגילת אסתר ד:י"ז)

Alternatively, the fast was declared for the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of Nissan. Thus, it was on the third day of the fast that Esther invited Achashveirosh to the first banquet.

(רש"י מסכת מגילה ט"ו ע"ב ועי' מהרש"א ומד"ר פ"ח:ז', וביפה ענף)

* * *

According to the opinion that Esther’s first banquet was on the third day of the fast, we can explain a difficulty in the Megillah.

Regarding the second banquet it says, “The King and Haman came to drink with Queen Esther” (7:1). However, about the first banquet the text only says, “The King and Haman came to the banquet that Esther made” (5:5), and it does not mention “to drink with Esther.” This is because during the first banquet (on the fifteenth) she was also fasting and thus did not drink with them. At the second banquet (on the sixteenth), she was no longer fasting and thus joined them in the feast.

(כפלים לתושיה מר' יצחק אליהו ז"ל לאנדא, ווילנא תרכ"ב)

וצומו עלי ואל תאכלו ואל תשתו שלשת ימים
Fast for me, and do not eat or drink for three days (4:16)

QUESTION: Why is the fast on the day before Purim called “Ta’anit Esther” — “the Fast of Esther”? (The three-day fast which Mordechai proclaimed upon Esther’s request took place during Pesach, see Megillah 15a.)

ANSWER: Though Achashveirosh originally agreed to Haman’s plan to kill all the Jews, young and old, children and women, on the 13th of Adar, he later instructed the Jews to defend themselves against the Persian armies. According to halachah, people defending themselves against enemies are forbidden to fast so as not to weaken their strength (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 571:3). Consequently, on the 13th of Adar it was forbidden for any Jew to fast. Esther lived in the King’s palace and thus did not fear the armies. Hence, she was the only person permitted to fast while the Jewish people defended themselves against the Persians. Therefore, the day is known as Ta’anit Esther.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ו, ע' 372)

"גם אני ונערותי אצום"
“Also I with my maidens will fast.” (4:16)

QUESTION: Since she was talking about herself and her maidens, instead of “atzum” — “I will fast” — she should have said “natzum” — “we will fast”?

ANSWER: Esther asked Mordechai to encourage all the Jews to fast, adding that she would also encourage her maidens to do so. In reality, however, she could only promise for herself and not for them. Even if they promised to fast, they could violate it secretly. Therefore, she told Mordechai, “Though I will instruct my maidens to fast, I can only guarantee for myself that ‘atzum’ — ‘I will fast’ — but not for them.”

(ספר החיים, לר' חיים ב"ר בצלאל ז"ל, ח"ג, פ"ז:ז)

Alternatively, she expressed herself this way because the word “atzum” — “I will fast” (אָצוּם) — can also be read “atzaveim” — “I will order them” (אַצַוֵם). Thus, Esther told Mordechai that she, too, would join in the fast and command her maidens (atzaveim) to do likewise. However, she could only assure that “atzum” — “I will fast.”

(זכות הרבים, מר' יצחק ז"ל פרחי, קושטנדינא תקפ"ט)

"גם אני ונערתי אצום כן ובכן אבוא אל המלך אשר לא כדת"
“Also I with my maidens, will fast in like manner, then I will go in to the King contrary to the law.” (4:16)

QUESTION: The words “kein” and “u’b’chein” are superfluous. She should have just said, “I and my maidens will fast, and I will come to the King contrary to the law”?

ANSWER: When one fasts seventy-two hours consecutively, he usually has bad breath. Therefore, she told Mordechai to make a fast for 72 hours, adding “I and my maidens will also fast; [however, as far as I am concerned] atzum kein — I will fast for only kein — 70 hours — (the word kein (כן) has the numerical value of 70) because, ubechein — should I fast bechein — 72 hours — (the word bechein (בכן) has the numerical value of 72), avo el hamelechasherlokadat—IwouldbecomingtotheKingin violation of the law — since it would be insulting to appear before the King with bad breath.”

(בית יעקב - מסלתון)

* * *

Incidentally, Haman’s reign of terror lasted only for seventy days (see p. 46). Esther with her seventy hours of fasting, merited to put an end to Haman’s seventy-day reign of terror.

"ויעבר מרדכי"
“And Mordechai went about.” (4:17)

QUESTION: According to an opinion in the Gemara (Megillah 15a) “vaya’avor” means “he crossed [a river].” What was the purpose of crossing a river?

ANSWER: As previously explained (see p. 32), it was not permitted for the Jews to live in Shushan Habirah — Shushan the Capital. Therefore many of the Jews lived in the city of Shushan, which was separated from the capital by the Ulai river (see Daniel 8:2). When Esther sent a message to Mordechai regarding a fast, she told him, “Go assemble all the Jews to be found in Shushan.” Since Mordechai lived in Shushan the Capital, it was necessary that “vaya’avor” — he cross over the river which separated Shushan the Capital from the city of Shushan.

(יערות דבש ח"ב דף מ"ה ע"ב)

"ויעבור מרדכי"
“And Mordechai went about.” (4:17)

QUESTION: Rashi translates the word “vaya’avor” to mean “transgressed.” Thus, the pasuk is saying that Mordechai transgressed the halachah by declaring a fast for three days, which included the first (and second) day of Pesach.

Why would Mordechai commit such a grave sin not to eat matzah on Pesach?

ANSWER: Mordechai, perplexed that his prayers were not penetrating the heavens, concluded that he was experiencing the same phenomenon which the prophet Yirmiyahu cries about, “Though I would cry out and plead, He shut out my prayer” (Lamentations 3:8).

Therefore, he wisely decided to commit a serious aveirah — transgression — to fast on Pesach. Satan would relish this and quickly run to the Heavenly tribunal to prosecute him. Thus, when he would be investigated, the entire picture will come to light. It would be recognized that his transgression was actually lishmah — with good intent — and the Heavenly intervention he sought to arouse would be forthcoming.

(ר' שמחה בונים זצ"ל מפשיסחא)

"ויעש ככל אשר צותה עליו אסתר"
“And did in accordance with all that Esther had commanded him.” (4:17)

QUESTION: Why did Esther insist that they fast on Pesach and not wait at least till after Yom Tov?

ANSWER: According to the Zohar (Shemot 40b), Hashem looks forward with anticipation to the Yom Tov of Pesach, and His shechinah personally comes to witness the Jews sitting at the seder table and expressing their love for Him. Esther planned that because of the vacuum they would create by forgoing proper observance of the seder night, Hashem would realize what He would be missing by permitting the annihilation, G‑d forbid, of the Jewish people. He would thus come to their rescue and miraculously save them from Haman’s evil plans.

(תפארת שלמה - רדומסק)