"ביום ההוא נתן המלך אחשורוש לאסתר המלכה את בית המן"
“That day, King Achashveirosh gave to the Queen Esther the house of Haman .” (8:1)

QUESTION: It is a positive command to destroy the memory of Amalek (Rambam, Melachim 5:5). Since this was “the estate of Haman,” why did Esther accept it as a gift?

ANSWER: According to halachah the property of people who are put to death by the King automatically becomes the King’s possession (Sanhedrin 48b). Since Achashveirosh personally issued the order that Haman be hung, Haman’s property automatically became his. Consequently, it was permissible for Esther to take it since it was no longer considered the property of an Amalakite. Thus, after King Achashveirosh said to Queen Esther and Mordechai the Jew, “Behold I have given Haman’s estate to Esther,” he also added “and he has been hanged because he plotted against the Jews” (8:8) to emphasize that it was permitted for her to take it since he was hung by the decree of the King.

This is analogous to what the Gemara (Gittin 38a) says regarding the land of Amon and Moav. The Torah forbade us from distressing or provoking war with Moav or Amon, and thus we cannot directly take their lands (Devarim 2:10,19). However, after they were defeated by Sichon and the land was considered Sichon’s, it was permissible for the Jews to take the land.

(עי' מש"כ הר"י פערלא בסהמ"צ רס"ג, ח"א, ע' 523, ולקוטי שיחות חי"ד ע' 90)

* * *

Alternatively, according to Rashi ( Devarim 25:19) this commandment includes men and women regardless of age, and even sheep and oxen, “So the name of Amalek shall not be mentioned even in connection with an animal by someone saying, ‘This animal was of Amalek.’ ” The Rambam (Melachim 5:4) rules that it is a positive commandment to utterly wipe out the seven nations that lived in Israel, as it is written, “You shall utterly destroy them” (20:17) and “You shall not allow any person to live” (20:16), and he concludes, “Ukevar avad zichram” — “Their memory no longer exists” (because Sancherev the King of Assyria inter-mixed all the nations of the world).

The Rambam (5:5) continues, “It is also a positive command to destroy the memory of Amalek, as it says, ‘Timcheh et zeicher Amalek mitachat hashamayim’ — ‘You shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven’ (Devarim 25:19).”

1) Why doesn’t the Rambam add “Ukevar avad zichram” — “Their memory no longer exists” — as he did regarding to the seven nations?

2) Why doesn’t the Rambam mention that there is also a mitzvah to utterly destroy the possessions of Amalek?

The seven nations were those who occupied Eretz Yisrael before the Jewish conquest. Amalek was not one of the seven nations, but he was the arch enemy of the Jewish people. Without any justification, merely out of pure hatred, he fought the Jewish people and sought to annihilate them, G‑d forbid.

Throughout the millennia there have been “Amalekites” of various kinds, anti-Semites who, regardless of their genealogy, have had an imbedded hatred for the Jewish people and who have seized every opportunity to harm them. The mitzvah of wiping out the memory of Amalek does not only apply to the nation of Amalek, but also to all those who have accepted their vicious obsession with harming the Jews.

Thus, in regard to the seven nations whose existence is no longer known, the Rambam says“Ukevar avad zichram” — “Their memory no longer exists” — and therefore presently the mitzvah of destroying them is not applicable. He does not add these words in regard to Amalek, since the mitzvah applies not only to the nation of Amalek, but to all those who follow the Amalekite philosophy of harming the Jews.

The difference between dealing with the nation of Amalek and dealing with those who follow the Amalekite philosophy is as follows: Wiping out the memory of Amalek also includes utterly destroying their possessions so that the name of Amalek shall not be mentioned, “Even in connection with an animal, by someone saying, ‘This was of Amalek.’” However, in the case of the non-Amalek nations who follow in their steps, only the vicious people must be destroyed.

According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Yevamot 2:6) Haman was not an actual descendant of Agag the King of Amalek. He was called “Haman the son of Hammedata the Agagi” to designate him as “kotzeitz ben kotzeitz” — “a murderer and son of a murderer.” Since he followed in the footsteps of Amalek and pursued their philosophy of harming the Jewish people, it was incumbent upon Mordechai to do everything possible to destroy him, but it was permissible to benefit from his possessions afterwards.

(ר' חיים הלוי ז"ל סאלאווייטשיק, ועי' קול צופיך ע' תל"ג)


"ביום ההוא נתן המלך אחשורוש לאסתר המלכה את בית המן"
“That day, King Achashveirosh gave to Esther the Queen the house of Haman.” (8:1)

QUESTION: Why the emphasis “bayom hahu” — “that day”?

ANSWER: In his decree Haman wrote, “To exterminate all Jews...in a single day...and to plunder their possessions” (3:13). Since Hashem conducts Himself with man midah keneged midah” — “measure for measure” — therefore “bayom hahu” — “on that very day” — i.e. the day of Haman’s downfall, he was killed and all his possessions were taken away from him and given over to Esther.

(יוסף לקח)

* * *

Though she was the Queen and lacked nothing, Achashveirosh gave her beit Haman — the house of Haman — and she appointed Mordechai over it (8:2), so that his punishment would be “measure for measure.” Since the gallows he made was “omeid bebeit Haman — standing in the house of Haman (7:9), he deserved to be hanged on a gallows which is standing in the house of Esther and Mordechai.

(ילקוט מעם לועז בשם מלא הרועים)


"ותשם אסתר את מרדכי על בית המן"
“Esther appointed Mordechai over the house of Haman.” (8:2)

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 p. 83), Haman sold 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 appointed Mordechai over Haman’s house since in reality he was the rightful owner of it.

(הרב אברהם מרדכי זצ"ל מגור)


"כי איככה אוכל וראיתי ברעה אשר ימצא את עמי ואיככה אוכל וראיתי באבדן מולדתי"
“For how could I endure to look on the disaster that is to befall my people, How could I endure to look on the extermination of my relatives?” (8:6)

QUESTION: Why did Esther speak in redundancies?

ANSWER: Esther was saying to Achashveirosh, “I don’t know the precise nature of Haman’s deal with you regarding the Jews. It may have been‘le’abdam’ with an alefאבדם), which means physical annihilation or spiritual annihilation, i.e. forced to forsake their religion, or ‘le’abdam’ — with an ayin — (לעבדם), which means slavery. Thus, I beg of you to countermand the letters of decree he issued, because if the intention was slavery, then how can I bear to witness the disaster that will befall my people (should they all become slaves or forced to assimilate), and if the letters meant annihilation, how can I bear to witness the extermination of my relatives?”

(בית יעקב – מסולתן, נחל אשכול)


"ויאמר המלך אחשורוש לאסתר...ואתו תלו על העץ... ואתם כתבו על היהודים כטוב בעיניכם בשם המלך"
“Then King Achashveirosh said to Esther...and he has been hanged on the gallows...And you write concerning the Jews, as it may be good in your eyes, in the King’s name.” (8:7, 8)

QUESTION: Why did he preface his permission to send favorable letters annulling the decree with the fact that Haman had been hanged on the gallows?

ANSWER: Achashveirosh was concerned about his own image. How would the people view the fact that he had written one letter condemning the Jews and then a second one exonerating them? The Gemara (Ta’anit 29a) says that there was a rule among many ancient governments that when a decree was issued and one of the high officers would die, the decree would be nullified. Therefore, he told Mordechai and Esther, “Now that ‘he has been hanged on the gallows,’ the entire populace will know that the decree which was issued is no longer valid. Hence, you have a ‘green light’ to send a new letter with the royal signet-ring regarding the Jews, and no one will question my integrity or state of mind.”

(דרכי דוד)


"כתבו על היהודים כטוב בעיניכם בשם המלך וחתמו בטבעת המלך כי כתב אשר נכתב בשם המלך ונחתום בטבעת המלך אין להשיב"
“Write concerning the Jews as it may be good in your eyes, in the King’s name, and seal it with the King’s signet-ring, for a writing which is written in the King’s name and sealed with the King’s signet-ring cannot be revoked.” (8:8)

QUESTION: 1) Achashveirosh seems to be contradicting himself. If an edict issued by the King cannot be revoked, what will be accomplished by a second letter? 2) Instead of “kitvu al haYehudim” — “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 le’abaid et kol — to exterminate all — i.e. all thegoyim 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 entire 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 through — haYehudim —the Jews. A second letter which is only for clarification is in accordance with accepted decorum.”

(אלשיך)


"ויקראו ספר המלך בעת ההיא בחדש השלישי הוא חדש סיון בשלושה ועשרים בו"
“And the King’s scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month — that is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day thereof.” (8:9)

QUESTION: Haman’s letters to annihilate the Jews were written in the first month on the thirteenth of Nissan (3:12). Why did Mordechai wait seventy days to send his letters of countermand (announcing the repeal of the decree)?

ANSWER: When Yaakov expired, “Egypt mourned him for seventy days” (Bereishit 50:3). The honor they gave Yaakov was so great that even the Canaanites exclaimed, “This is a grievous mourning to Egypt” (ibid. 50:11). The seventy days which elapsed between the first letter and the second correspond to the seventy days that the Egyptians showed kindness to Yaakov.

As a reward for their behavior they merited that during the seventy days the Jews feared them instead of the reverse.

(בראשית רבה פרק ק:ו')

* * *

The seventy day period, on the basis of “a day for a year” (Bamidbar 14:34), corresponded to the seventy year average lifespan of man (Psalms 90:10). During these seventy days of profound repentance and preparedness to die al kiddush Hashem — in sanctification of Hashem — they merited to rectify their entire lives and were worthy of His salvation.

(עץ יוסף על מד"ר, יערות דבש ח"א דף ק' ע"א)


"הרצים...יצאו מבהלים ודחופים בדבר המלך"
“The couriers...went out bewildered and pushed by the King’s order.” (8:14)

QUESTION: When the first letters were sent, the Megillah writes, “Haratzim yatzu dechufin” — “The couriers went forth hurriedly [by order of the King]” (3:15). Why does it say here, “The couriers went mevohalim udechufinbewildered and hurriedly”?

ANSWER: Throughout history it has been common for the gentiles to persecute, oppress, and torture the Jews. Haman’s decree was nothing new, but merely history repeating itself. Thus, the couriers who usually are quick, went hurriedly. The second letters, however, in which Mordechai called on the Jews to declare war against their enemies, surprised them. Hence, though by nature they operate hurriedly, the King’s consent for the Jews revenge against the gentiles left the couriers “mevohalim” — “bewildered.”

(מנות הלוי)


"ליהודים היתה אורה"
“For the Jews there was light.” (8:16)

QUESTION: Why does the Megillah use the word “hayetah” — “there was” — which is past tense?

ANSWER: According to the Sefer Midrash Eliyahu, (R. Eliyahu Hakohen of Izmir, Izmir, 5519) Haman was happy when the lots he cast fell on Adar because the plague of darkness in Egypt took place in that month. His mistake, however, was failing to realize that the Torah states, “For all the Children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” (Shemot 10:23). The Megillah is thus telling us that the foundation upon which Haman built his hopes to annihilate the Jewish people was illusory because he miscalculated and failed to realize that there was light then for the Jews in Egypt.

(נחל אשכול)


"שמחה וששון ליהודים...ורבים מעמי הארץ מתיהדים"
“There was joy and gladness for the Jews...and many of the people of the land became Jews.” (8:17)

QUESTION: The pasuk starts with the happiness and joy the Jews experienced. Why does it conclude with the fact that the non-Jews began to “act” like Jews?

ANSWER: The term “am ha’aretz” — “people of the land” — can be an allusion to worldly and bodily matters, which apply to Jew and non-Jew alike. Physically the Jew and non-Jew appear similar. All mankind eat and drink to sustain themselves, and all engage in business to earn a livelihood. The difference is that we conduct all our worldly and mundane affairs in accordance with Torah guidance and instruction. The food we eat must meet kashrut standards, and a blessing must be recited before and after eating. In the world of business, Torah has established many laws for ethical business and financial dealing, and the Jew, in his endeavor to succeed, may not succumb to the glitter of the dollar, but must adhere strictly to Torah guidance and restrictions.

Rabbi Moshe Isserlis of Krakow, in his commentary Mechir Yayin on Megillat Esther, explains that the words “ki nafal pachad hayehudim aleihen” — “for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them” — do not mean that they were afraid of the Jews, but that the fear for the One for whom the Jews have fear, i.e. Hashem, had fallen upon them, and they too now had yirat shamayim — fear of Heaven.

The Megillah is telling us that not only did the Jews have much joy and happiness, but even in regard to “am ha’aretz” — “worldly matters” — they were “mityahadim” — openly acting like Jews. From their conduct it was obvious to all that “pachad hayehudim” — fear of Heaven — was upon them. When non-Jews see Jews living such a lifestyle, the result is that literally “pachad hayehudim aleihen” — they are permeated with fear for such Jews.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ד ע' 1282)


"ורבים מעמי הארץ מתיהדים"
“Many of the people of the land became Jews.” (8:17)

QUESTION: According to the Gemara (Yevamot 24b) a proselyte can be accepted only if he wholeheartedly desires to adopt the Jewish religion, and not if he is merely seeking to benefit from the glory the Jews are experiencing.

Since they were only motivated by fear of the Jews, why were they converted?

ANSWER: The Beit Din in the days of Mordechai and Esther did not accept any of these gentiles as members of the Jewish people. However, out of fear for the Jewish people, the gentiles were “mityahadim” — masquerading as proselytes hoping that the Jews would be friendly to them and not do them any harm.

(מנות הלוי דף קי"ז ע"ב)

Incidentally, this may be a source for the custom of dressing up on Purim and hiding one’s true identity. Just as non-Jews “masqueraded” as proselytes, we also masquerade to commemorate the miracle.

(שפת אמת, ליקוטים)