"ותעמוד בחצר בית המלך הפנימית"
“And she stood in the inner court of the King’s palace.” (5:1)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Megillah 15b) says that as she entered the area which was filled with idols, she felt the Shechinah — Divine Presence — leave her, so “vata’amod” — she stood and prayed Keili Keili lamah azavtani” — “My G‑d, my G‑d, why have You forsaken me?” According to Midrash Shachar Tov, with the repetition of “my G‑d” she was alluding, “My G‑d at the sea, my G‑d at Sinai, do not forsake me.”

Why the emphasis on Hashem’s appearance at the sea and Sinai?

ANSWER: Hashem appears in different forms. At Keriat Yam Suf — the splitting of the sea — He appeared as a powerful warrior, and at the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, He appeared in the form of a merciful Sage (Yalkut Shimoni 246).

According to the Arizal, the different forms of revelation depend on the mission to be accomplished. Keriat Yam Suf was against the laws of nature: Water, which normally flows continuously, stood as a pillar. To emphasize that Hashem governs nature and is not limited by it, He appeared as a powerful warrior who conquers and controls. In contrast, the giving of the Torah was not an act contrary to nature, and therefore He appeared as a merciful Sage.

Esther was pleading with Hashem, “The Jewish people are facing an extremely difficult time. We are being threatened with annihilation. You, my G‑d, are the All-powerful; You control nature and are above it. We need Your miraculous help! May it be Your will to perform a miracle on our behalf which is within the laws of nature, as You have done at Sinai, or one which surpasses nature, as You have done at the sea; whatever it may be — please do not forsake me.”

(יערות דבש ח"ב דרוש י')

"ויהי כראות המלך את אסתר המלכה עמדת בחצר נשאה חן בעיניו"
“When the King saw Esther the Queen standing in the court, she obtained grace 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 obtained grace “in his eyes.”

(אורה ושמחה מר' אליהו ב"ר אברהם, שאלוניקי תקנ"ו, חומת אנך)

ויושט המלך לאסתר את שרביט הזהב אשר בידו ותקרב אסתר ותגע בראש השרביט"
“The King held out to Esther the gold scepter that was in his hand, and Esther approached and touched the top of the scepter.” (5:2)

QUESTION: 1) The wordsasher beyado” — “that was in his hand” — are extra. It could have just said, “he extended to Esther the gold scepter.” In fact the second time he extended the scepter to her (see 8:4) the words “asher beyado” are not mentioned?

2) The Gemara (Megillah 15b) says that an angel stretched the King’s golden scepter, which was originally two amot — cubits — towards her either twelve or as much as sixty amot. If so, why was it necessary that “vatikrav Esther” — “Esther approached”?

ANSWER: The golden scepter had a handle. Normally, when the King wanted to extend it to someone, he would hold onto the handle and extend it lengthwise. When Esther appeared, her presence moved him very much, and to show his great love for her, he turned around the scepter and handed her the handle“asher beyado” — the part which was normally in his hand. To show respect to the King, though the handle of the scepter was offered to her, she humbly approached the King and “touched the top of the scepter — the part which was now “in his hand.”

(קהלת משה בשם ר' שמשון זצ"ל מאוסטראפאלי)

"יבא המלך והמן היום"
“Let the King and Haman come today.” (5:4)

QUESTION: The first letters of these words are an acronym of Hashem’s holy four-letter Name. Why, however, isn’t His Name written explicitly anywhere in the Megillah?

ANSWER: The Megillah was written by Mordechai and sent to the Jews in all the King’s provinces. It contained a piece of current history which was of interest to all, and it was therefore entered in the book of chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia. Out of concern that when it would be translated the writers would exchange the Name of Hashem with one of their gods’ names, Mordechai omitted His Name entirely.

(אבן עזרא בהקדמה על מג"א, ועי' רשימות כ"ק אדמו"ר חוברת ו')

* * *

In this pasuk the first letters of the words “yavo hamelech vehaman hayom” (יבא המלך והמן היום) are an acronym for His Name. When Haman said to his wife and friends “[Vechol] zeh eineno shoveh li” ([וכל] זה אינינו שוה לי) — “All this is worth nothing to me” (5:13), His holy Name is hinted to in the final letters of the words and the order is inverted. Why?

The Tetragrammaton represents mercy when it is spelled by initial letters and in the normal order. When it is spelled by final letters and inverted, it connotates din — judgment and severity. Thus, Esther, in seeking to invoke Hashem’s mercy for the Jewish people, alluded to His Name in normal order. Haman was seeking to arouse His wrath against the Jewish people and thus alluded to His Name in final letters and in inverted order.

Finally, theMegillah says that Haman realized, “ki kaltah eilav hara’ah”י כלתה אליו הרעה) — “that evil was fully determined against him” (7:7). The holy Name here is written at the end of the words and in normal order, alluding to both rachamim — mercy — and din — severity — because Hashem with His great mercy saved the Jews by exercising His severity upon Haman.

(נחל אשכול להחיד"א - וספר נר למאה על עניני פורים מר' ירחמיאל שי' זעלצער)

"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 already been mentioned previously that he was invited to the “mishteh” — “banquet” — and that he came to the “mishteh” (5:4,5); 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) how spiritually propitious a time it is when people unite in a “wine feast.” Then Hashem takes pride in them and asks, “What is your desire?” and He is prepared to fulfill their requests.

(ר' מנחם מענדל זצ"ל מקוצק, ועי' זהר ח"ג ע' ק"ט ע"א רקנטי בראשית כ"ט:י, ומחיר יין)

* * *

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 – אוהל יוסף יצחק)

"ויספר להם המן את כבוד עשרו ורב בניו ...
“And Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children ...” (5:11, 12)

QUESTION: Haman called his friends and wife to seek their advice about how to deal with Mordechai. Why did he have to tell them about his riches, children, prominence, and his exclusive invitation to the party with Esther?

ANSWER: Haman was telling them that he had a few ideas of his own about how to get rid of Mordechai: 1) Thanks to his wealth he had many “friends” who would definitely help him get rid of his enemy. 2) His many children would not allow Mordechai to torment their father. 3) His being elevated above all the government officials gave him the power to issue decrees, and he could make Mordechai’s life unpleasant and even have him killed. 4) Finally, there was no fear that Esther would help Mordechai, because the fact that he and not Mordechai was invited to the feast with Achashveirosh proved that she was his friend.

In the end all his allusions got him nowhere. His estate was given over to Mordechai (8:2). His sons were hung (9:13). He ended up serving Mordechai (6:11), and ultimately Mordechai became the highest official in the government(8:15), and in fact it was Esther who exposed him as “an adversary and enemy, this wicked Haman” (7:6).

(עקידת יצחק)

"וכל זה איננו שוה לי"
“Yet all this means nothing to me.” (5:13)

QUESTION: The word “zeh” — “this” — seems superfluous; it could have just said “ve’eineno shoveh li” — “and it means nothing 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,” taking 40 as 4, 200 as 2, etc.), 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 “single numerals”). Haman responded, “Mordechai alone adds up to 13 as does Esther alone. Thirteen, is also the numerical value of the word echad (אחד), indicating that the One and Only — Hashem — is with each of them. It also indicates that there is unity between 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 between us.”

(בית יעקב-מסולתן, בשם לקוטים מפרדס)

"וכל-זה איננו שוה לי בכל-עת אשר אני ראה את-מרדכי היהודי"
“Yet all this means nothing to me every time that I see Mordechai the Jew” (5:13)

QUESTION: Why, when he saw Mordechai, did his vast riches and multitude of children mean nothing to him?

ANSWER: When Haman led an army of the Kings soldiers and due to his mismanagement was unable to feed them, Mordechai provided him with food on the condition that he sell himself to him as a slave (see p. 83). Regarding the non-Jewish slave there is a halachah that “Kol mah shekanah eved kanah rabo” — “Whatever a slave acquires becomes the belongings of his master” (Pesachim 88b).

Haman told his people of his vast riches and multitude of children. “But” he said, “this is only an illusion. When I see Mordechai, he reminds me that I’m his slave, and thus, all I think I have is really nothing to me because it all belongs to him. I personally own absolutely nothing.”

"ותאמר לו זרש אשתו וכל אהביו יעשו עץ"
“Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, ‘Let them make a gallows.” (5:14)

QUESTION: According to Midrash Rabbah (9:2) Haman had three hundred and sixty-five advisors, but none could give him counsel as well as his wife Zeresh. What great wisdom was there in her idea to make a gallows?

ANSWER: The Midrash (ibid.) explains that she said to him, “This man about whom you are inquiring — if he is of the seed of the Jews, you will not prevail against him unless you contrive something against him which no one of his nation has ever experienced. If you throw him into a fiery furnace, Chananiah and his companions have already been delivered from this; if you place him into a lion’s den, Daniel has already escaped one. If you imprison him in a dungeon, Yosef has already escaped from one. If you make him sit on hot irons, Menashe has already prayed and has been answered by the Holy One, blessed be He, and escaped from this (see Midrash Rabbah Ruth 5:6). If you banish him into the wilderness, his ancestors have already been fruitful and multiplied in the wilderness, and they underwent many trials there and withstood them all and were delivered. If you put out his eyes, there was Shimshon who killed a great many of the Philistines when he was blind. Hang him therefore on a gallows, for we have not found one of his people who was delivered from that.”

"ותאמר לו זרש אשתו וכל אהביו יעשו עץ גבה חמשים אמה"
“Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, ‘Let them make a gallows of fifty cubits high.” (5:14)

QUESTION: Why did she think that Mordechai would not be able to escape the gallows?

ANSWER: Zeresh told Haman that the Jews had survived all this persecution because they are great sorcerers. Whenever they are in a difficult situation they perform sorcery and free themselves. However, for sorcery to be effective, the feet of the sorcerer must be touching the ground (see Sanhedrin 44b, Rashi). She proved this by citing the fact that though the Egyptian sorcerers were able to turn water into blood and produce more frogs, they were unable to produce lice. The lice covered the entire ground and since their feet lacked direct contact with the earth, their sorcery was nullified (see Shemot 8:14, Da’at Zekeinim Miba’alei Hatosafot). Also, when Shimon ben Shatach killed eighty sorcerers, he lifted them (Sanhedrin 45b) so that their feet would be off the ground and they would be unable to apply their skills to save themselves. Hence, she concluded that the only way to definitely get rid of Mordechai was through hanging him up in the air so that no sorcery would help him.

(ארוחת תמיד ר' שמואל יצחק ז"ל מודיליאני, שאלוניקי תקט"ז)

"יעשו עץ גבוה חמשים אמה"
“Let them make a gallows of fifty cubits high.” (5:14)

QUESTION: Why such a tall gallows?

ANSWER: In a dream Haman saw Mordechai flying over his house. When he related it to his wife and friends, they interpreted it to mean that eventually he would conquer Mordechai and hang him on a gallows which would be taller than the castle in which he lived. Thus, he made a fifty foot gallows, one taller than his house.

The real meaning of the dream, however, was that ultimately the King would take away the house that he gave him and give it to Esther, who in turn would put Mordechai in charge of it.

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

"ובבקר אמר למלך"
“In the morning speak to the King.” (5:14)

QUESTION: Why necessarily in the morning?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Berachot 9b) says that the “vatikin” — “devoted ones” — who were meticulous in performing mitzvot, would rise early in the morning to complete the recitation of Shema before sunrise and then say the Shemoneh Esreih at sunrise so that they would join the redemption blessing (which follows immediately after the Shema) to the Prayer. Rabbi Yose ben Elyakim testified in the name of the Holy Congregation in Jerusalem, “If one joins the redemption blessing to the Prayer at sunrise, no harm will befall him all that day.”

Hence, to be sure that the hanging of Mordechai would be approved by the King, they told Haman to discuss it with the King early in the morning before Mordechai recited the Shema and the Shemoneh Esreih.

(יערות דבש ח"א דרוש י"ז)

"ובבקר אמר למלך ויתלו את מרדכי עליו"
“And in the morning speak to the King and they will hang Mordechai on it.’ ” (5:14)

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

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

ANSWER: When Haman complained to his friends about Mordechai, their advice was that in the morning he should go to the King and tell him 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, the abovementioned fits very well with a comment of our Sages. 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)

"ויטב הדבר לפני המן ויעש העץ"
“And the thing please Haman and he made the gallows.” (5:14)

QUESTION: Their advice to Haman was “Ya’asu eitz” — “let gallows be made” why did Haman make it himself?

ANSWER: His wife and all his friends told him that the best thing for him would be for Mordechai to be wiped out. However, they cautioned him, that it was below his dignity to be personally involved in the whole sordid process. Therefore, “Ya’asu eitz” — “Let gallows be made” — by artisans, and “veyitlu et Mordechai alav” — “The executioners will hang Mordechai on it.”

Our Sages tell us that, “sin’ah mekalekelet et hashurah” — “Hatred disrupts the correct order of things” (Rashi to Bamidbar, 22:21), and people deviate from the norm when acting out of hatred. Consequently, Haman who hated Mordechai with a passion did not wait for any workers, but immediately, vaya’as ha’eitz — he personally made the gallows.