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Mordecai the righteous and the Queen Esther

The Purim Story – Part 2

"The story behind the story"

21. Mordecai Prepares the Jewish People for Repentance

22. Mordecai and Esther Exchange Messages through an Agent

23. The People Gather in Prayer

24. The Prayers of the Children

25. The Prayers of Esther

26. Esther on her Way to Ahashverus

27. The King and Haman Attend the Feast

28. Zeresh's Suggestion

29. Haman Builds the Gallows

30. Haman and the Jewish Children

31. A Sleepless Night

32. Haman’s Suggestion

33. Haman’s Downfall

34. Mordecai and Haman

35. Admiration and Honor

36. “Thus shall be done to the one whom the king wishes to honor!”

37. Haman Returns Home and Bemoans His Fate

38. Esther Pleads for Her People

39. Haman Meets His End

40. “And It Was Reversed…”

21.  Mordecai Prepares the Jewish People for Repentance

Mordecai removed the garments he wore at court, and donned sackcloth and ashes in their stead.  He gathered the Jews and told them: “My dear children, a horrible decree hangs over our heads.  The king and Haman plan to wipe the Jewish nation off the face of the earth.  Now we are in exile.  Here, we do not have our own king to fight our battles for us.  We have no prophet who can plead with Heaven to have mercy on us.  Here in Persia, we are like a flock of sheep without a shepherd to guide it and protect it from the wolves.  We are like a ship at sea, that has no captain to steer it.  To what place can we flee?  The decree is against all the Jews in every land in the vast empire of Ahashverus.  There is only one solution: only the Holy One Above can save us.  Let us join together and pray to G-d and plead that He have pity on us and on our children, and set aside this evil decree.”

When the people heard the news from Mordecai, they were overcome with fear.  “What shall we do?” they all cried out.

Mordecai answered them: “Take the Holy Ark out to the streets of Shushan, and we shall read the words of the Holy Torah, starting with the section which states:

And when you are in distress, and all these events come upon you, in the end of days, you will return to the L-rd, your G-d, and you will hearken to His voice.  For He is a merciful G-d, your L-rd, …and He will not forget His covenant with your forefathers.”  (Deuteronomy 4.30)

"The Holy One, may He be blessed, warned us to follow His ways and to keep His commandments.  He told us that if we fail to do so, our fate will be bitter.  We have not hearkened to His voice, and even so, He is still waiting patiently for us to repent and to return to Him.  He is merciful, and if we repent with all our hearts, He will certainly accept our prayers and answer them.

"Do you recall what happened to the people of Nineveh?  G-d declared that they die because of their sins.  He sent them the prophet Jonah, who warned them: 'In another forty days, Nineveh will be overturned!'

"The people of Nineveh were terribly frightened.  The king rose from his throne, removed the royal crown from his head, and donned sackcloth and ashes.  He declared a fast in all the land, saying: 'Let neither man nor beast taste any morsel.'

"The entire nation fasted, and prayed and repented, and cried out to G-d.  They returned any stolen property in their possession, and asked one another for forgiveness.  When G-d saw their deeds and their repentance, and heard their prayers, He annulled the decree of destruction against them.

"If we do as the people of Nineveh did, if we return to G-d with all our hearts, if we declare a fast and plead with G-d to help us repent, He will surely forgive us, have pity on us, and annul the evil decree.”

22. Mordecai and Esther Exchange Messages through an Agent

Esther did not know about the decree that Ahashverus and Haman had issued against the Jews.  She was astounded when she heard from her servant girls that her uncle, Mordecai, had stationed himself outside the palace gates, garbed in sackcloth.  At once, she sent Hatach, one of her servants, to ask Mordecai why he was dressed this way, and to take him a better set of clothing.  Mordecai refused to take off his sackcloth, and told Hatach: “How can I dress myself in aristocratic garb when the Jews are suffering so?”

“I will not change my clothes until the Creator takes pity on His people and performs miracles to save us!  Go to Esther, and tell her about the terrible decree against the Jews. Ask her to go to the king to plead with him that he rescind it.”

Hatach did as Mordecai told him.  When Esther heard of the overwhelming tragedy that was threatening her people, she was filled with dread. 

“It is indeed a great tragedy,” said Esther, when she heard the message that Mordecai had sent to her through Hatach.  But how can I do as Mordecai has requested?  Please go and give him this message: ‘Until now, I have done everything just as you instructed me, and I have not revealed to the king that I am Jewish.  How can I tell him now that I am a Jew?  Also, the king has commanded that no one appear before him without an apply to Haman in advance for permission.  The procedure is that first, Haman must summon me, and only then will I be permitted to appear before his majesty.  It is thirty days now that I have not been summoned to the king.'”

Haman was watching Hatach, because he knew that he served as a messenger between Esther and Mordecai.  Now he accosted Hatach and tried to stop him.  When Hatach tried to fulfill his mission even so, Haman fell upon him and killed him.

G-d was angry with Haman, and declared: “Since this evil-doer has slain the messenger of Mordecai and Esther, I shall send My angels, Michael and Gabriel, to be their messengers and to carry out any orders they are given.”

The two angels went to Mordecai and told him what Esther had replied.  He sent them back to her to tell her: “Know, Esther, that you have been chosen as queen only in order to save your people.  If you remain silent at this time, relief and rescue will arrive for the Jews from another source, and you and your father’s house will be lost.

“Why are you afraid of this evil man?  Is he any stronger than Amalek who tried to attack Israel and was destroyed?  Or is he more powerful than the thirty-one kings who gathered to fight Israel under Joshua, and who were defeated completely?  Is he any greater than Sisera, who was reputed to be the fiercest warrior of his days, but fell into the hands of Israel through Yael?  Is he more mighty than Goliath, the Philistine, whom David, King of Israel beheaded?

“Do not fear!  Be strong and courageous, and the G-d of Israel will help you.  If you choose not to come to the aid of your people in their distress, know that you will be punished if they suffer a tragedy.  When your time comes to stand before the Heavenly Court, you will be asked why you did not help your people.  What will you answer then?

“I ask of you: find the courage and go to the king to plead for your people, and G-d will hear your prayer and help you and protect you from all harm.”

Esther listened to Mordecai’s message, and sent servants back to him to tell him that she agreed to fulfill his request.  “I will go to the king, even at the risk of my life.  It is better for me to die in this world, and not to lose my portion in the World to Come.  But I ask one thing of you: Gather all the Jews of Shushan, and fast for me, three days and three nights.  My maidens and I will also fast.  Then I will approach the king, and if I am lost, so be it.”

Mordecai agreed to her request and sent messengers to gather the people together as Esther had asked.

23. The People Gather in Prayer

Mordecai, the leader of the Jews, declared they should observe three days of fasting and prayer.  On the first night of Passover, he bade the Jews to gather.  As one man, they prayed and repented.  Twelve thousand priests stood before the people, holding Torah scrolls and shofars (ram’s horns).  They wept and cried out to G-d: “Master of the World!  If You destroy us, what will become of Your holy Torah that You have given us?  Who will recall Your Holy Name?  The sun and the moon will grow dark, and the world will be blackened, for they were created only for the benefit of the people of Israel.”

They fell on their faces before G-d and cried out: “Answer us, our G-d, save us!”  They cried and prayed a long time, and blew the shofars until even the hosts of the Heavens cried with them.

24.  The Prayers of the Children

Mordecai knew that the children of Israel were pure of heart.  They had not sinned, and they had no bad deeds to repent for.  Surely their prayers would ascend straight to Heaven and reach G-d’s Throne of Glory.  Therefore he gathered the young boys from school in the synagogue.

The children watched Mordecai with trust in their eyes.  He asked them: “My dear children, are we in the land of our forefathers?”

“No,” they answered.  "We are not in our homeland.  We are in a land of strangers.”

“And do the gentiles here persecute you and disturb you?” Mordecai continued to ask them.

The children answered as one: “Yes, the gentile children always run after us, and throw stones at us, and laugh at us, and make things hard for us.”

This was just the answer Mordecai was waiting to hear.  “And tell me, my dear children, do you know why we are not living in our own homeland, and why the gentiles make such difficulties for us?”

“Because we sinned, and G-d punished us by sending us away from our own country, and giving us over into the hands of the gentiles,” answered the boys.

“You are right,” Mordecai told them.  “We did indeed sin to G-d, and He was angry with us and punished us. But you should know that G-d is just waiting for our prayers and our repentance.  If we turn back to Him with all our hearts, and we keep His commandments, G-d will have pity on us and He will take us back to our own land.  Let’s all pray to G-d, with all our hearts!  Perhaps He will have mercy on us in your merit, my pure children, and He will rescue us from the gentiles.”

Mordecai asked the children to fast, and to wear sackcloth and ashes, and to weep and plead with G-d to annul the decree.  The young children were shaken by his words, and burst into heart-rending weeping.  They fasted for three days, pleading and crying before G-d so that their prayers rose on High, to G-d’s Throne of Glory.

Mordecai himself turned to his Creator and begged: “Our Father in Heaven!  You promised our forefathers that you would multiply their seed as the stars of the heaven, which are so numerous that they cannot be counted.  Now, what will be of Your promise?  What will you say to our saintly forefathers, if we all die?

“Have mercy on us, G-d!  Listen to the prayers of Your servants and fulfill Your promise to Moses, our teacher: ‘Also in the land of their enemies, I shall not reject them and I shall not annul My covenant with them.’  (Leviticus 26:44)

You promised Moses that You would show us Your love even when we are among strangers.  Please, do not abandon us in our time of distress.  Save us!  Rescue us from our enemies!”

25.  The Prayers of Esther

Esther also fasted three days and prayed intensely, pleading to G-d to save not only herself, but also her entire nation.  On the fourth day, she dressed herself in her best garments, adorned herself with precious gems, and placed the royal crown on her head.  Before she left for the king’s court, she bowed her head in prayer again and called out to her Creator: “My G –d and the G-d of my fathers, I know that I was chosen for the throne not because of my good deeds, but in order to save the people of Israel from the hand of their enemies.  Today I am about to fulfill my task.

“Please, G-d, help me to do my duty.  If Your children are destroyed, who will declare before You, three times a day: ‘Holy, holy, holy is G-d, Master of legions; the whole world is filled with His glory’? (Isaiah 6:3) 

Look down upon us and see what has happened to us.  For ten thousand talents of silver, the king has sold us to Haman, who seeks to destroy us. 

"Please, G-d, see my tears, and remember Abraham our father who withstood all ten trials.  I have fasted three days to recall before You the three days that our father, Abraham, traveled in order to reach the site where You commanded him to offer up his only son, Isaac.  Just as Your nation comprises three sections, the priests, the Levites, and the Israelites, I have fasted three days.  They all stood before You at Mount Sinai and called out: 'We shall do and we shall listen!'

“And if those merits are not enough to save us, please listen to the voices of the angels on high who call out to You and plead with you to have mercy on us.

“O merciful G-d, take pity on me today as I go before the king to ask for mercy on Your nation.  Send the angel of mercy before me, that I find favor in the eyes of the king, so that he will accept me and listen to my pleas.  Just as You hearkened to the prayers of Chananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah, and You saved Daniel from the den of lions, so, too, hearken to our prayers and save us from those who seek our doom.”

26.  Esther on her Way to Ahashverus

Three ladies-in-waiting accompanied Esther to the king, one on her right, one on her left, and the third, to carry the train of her robe, which was embroidered with precious jewels.   G-d made His presence shine upon her and garbed her with a saintly aura that added much graciousness to her appearance.

When the guards of the court noticed that Esther, royally garbed, was approaching the entrance, they were amazed at her courage.  They knew that she had not been summoned to appear before the king, and wondered how it was that she did not fear to enter without permission.  They thought within their evil hearts: “If only the king will execute her, perhaps we will get those exquisite clothes she is wearing, and all the jewels, for ourselves!”

They looked at her with such animosity that her courage began to falter.   Then she passed by the statues of Ahashverus that adorned the entrance hall, and served as idols, and G-d’s presence departed from her.  Esther cried out in desperation: “My G-d!  My G-d!  Why have You forsaken me!  Why have you left me as a lone sheep among seventy wolves?  You know that I am not going to the king for my own benefit, but for the sake of your people, Israel, who are in danger!”

Esther’s selfless prayer reached up to the heavens.  At once, G-d sent three angels to guard her and to give her courage.  One angel made her appear taller and more impressive, and a second one endowed her with grace and kindliness, so that she won favor in the eyes of all who beheld her.

When the king learned that Esther was in the outer court, he grew very angry with her, and thought to himself.  “I asked my wife Vashti to come, and she refused.  Now this wife is coming even when I haven’t summoned her!”  He turned his face to one side, so that he would not see her as she entered the throne room, but, just at that moment, the third angel came and turned his head back in Esther’s direction. 

When Ahashverus beheld Esther in all her dignified beauty and glory, she found favor in his eyes, and his heart was filled with love for her.  He stretched out his golden scepter toward her, as a sign that she was welcome to draw near.  Esther was so faint from the fast and the strain of the moment that she did not have the strength to reach out and touch the head of the scepter. The angel Michael immediately took her hand and reached out to touch it to the scepter.

The king said to her: “I see that you have a major request to make of me, for if you risked your life to come here, it must be for something very important to you.  Tell me what you would like, and I will do all I can to grant your wish.  Just do not ask that I rebuild the Temple of the Jews in Jerusalem, because I have promised that I will never rebuild the Jew’s Temple!”

When she heard the king’s comment about the Temple, Esther decided that the time was not ripe to reveal that she was Jewish, and had come to plead on behalf of her people.  “Surely he will grow very angry if I reveal my true identity to him right now.”

Instead, Esther told the king that she had come to invite his highness and Haman to a feast which she had prepared for them.  The king agreed to attend, and assured her that he would bring Haman with him.

“What is your petition, Queen Esther, and what is your request?  Even if it be half the kingdom, it shall be granted to you,” the king declared.

Esther returned to the women’s palace with a happy heart.  “It was a good idea to invite Haman to the feast.  I chose him, above all the other ministers, so that the king will be jealous, because he will suspect that I think more highly of Haman that I do of him.  Ahashverus will be angry with Haman, and do away with him.  That way, the decree against the Jews will be annulled, for it is written in the laws of Persia and Media that if one of the king’s ministers is executed, any decree which he issued beforehand is automatically annulled.”

27.  The King and Haman Attend the Feast

That night, the king and Haman attended the banquet which Esther had prepared for them.  As he was enjoying the tasty dishes being served, Haman took off his crown and set it to one side.  Esther followed suit, and laid her crown next to Haman’s, hoping to subtly arouse the king’s jealousy.  She also moved her chair closer to that of Haman.  The king observed her actions, and was surprised at her attitude toward his minister.

When the banquet came to a conclusion, the king again asked Esther what she would like.  The queen replied, “If it pleases the king, let him and Haman attend the banquet which I will make tomorrow.”  His highness and Haman agreed readily, and the two men left Esther’s quarters in a happy frame of mind.

28.  Zeresh's  Suggestion

As he was on his way home from the banquet with Esther and Ahashverus, Haman was in a particularly good mood.  He thought to himself: “I am the highest ranking minister in the king’s court.  In fact, I am more important to the king and queen than anyone else.  Of all the officials at court, I was the only one invited to dine with them.

As he was dwelling on his good fortune, he passed next to Mordecai the Jew.  As always in the past, this time, too, Mordecai refused to kneel down or even to bow before Haman.  Instead, he stretched out his leg so that Haman would spot the piece of paper which Haman had signed when Mordecai saved his life, committing himself to be Mordecai’s eternal servant.  When Haman recalled the incident, his mood changed completely, and his heart was filled with anger.

When he reached his home, Haman burst in and flew into a rage.  He called for his wife, Zeresh, and his advisors, and demanded: “What shall I do to that cursed Jew, Mordecai? You all know that I am the most important minister in King Ahashverus’ court.  Even the queen respects me.  I’m the only minister she has invited to dine with her and the king.  Tomorrow I’m also invited to a banquet with the king and queen.

“But all this means nothing to me when I see Mordecai the Jew sitting there at the palace gates, and mocking me by not bowing or kneeling the way everyone else does.

“Give me an idea how I can get rid of that old Jew!”

Zeresh, Haman’s wife, was the first to answer.  “If he’s a Jew, there’s nothing you can do to him, because his G-d will protect him,” she said.  “If you try to cast him into a glowing furnace, he will be saved just as Hananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah were saved.  If you put him in prison, he will be released, just as Joseph, his ancestor, went free and became the viceroy of all Egypt.   If you banish him to the desert, nothing will happen to him; his forefathers survived in the wilderness for forty years, and their G-d looked after them and they lacked for nothing.  If you put out his eyes, just look at Samson.  He killed more Philistines when he was blind than he did when he could see with both eyes.  

“Your only hope is to build a high gallows, and hang him on it.  Not one of his ancestors has yet been saved from the gallows.”

All the advisors liked Zeresh’s suggestion.  Haman told her: “You have spoken wisely, my dear wife, and I am going to follow your suggestion.  Let’s get started right now building a gallows for this cursed Jew!”

29.  Haman Builds the Gallows

Haman left his house to order lumber for the gallows.  He wouldn’t let himself go to sleep that night until the job was done.  He sent his servant to summon workmen to erect the gallows, and promised them a large bonus and a fancy banquet after Mordecai was hung.

“Make it fifty cubits high,” Haman told them.  However, the workmen could not find a plank that was long enough.  Suddenly, Haman remembered that there was an exceptionally long plank there in the yard of their mansion.  He told his servants: “My son, Parshandata, who was governor in the Ararat region, brought that plank from the remnants of Noah’s ark.  G-d left it after the flood as a souvenir of the flood, and now we can use it to hang Mordecai.”

The workmen set to their jobs. They sawed the wood, hammered the scaffold into place, and set up the gallows.  When everything was finished, Haman surveyed the results with great satisfaction.  He mounted the scaffold, and said: “I’m the same height as Mordecai.  If it fits me, it will fit him.”

At that moment a Heavenly voice declared: “Haman, son of Hamdata, you are right!  This gallows is fitting and suitable for you.  You have done well to prepare a gallows for yourself.”

When all the preparations had been completed, Haman and his wife Zeresh and their sons celebrated.  Zeresh played her violin, the sons danced and rejoiced, and the whole family was extremely happy.

30.  Haman and the Jewish Children

From the window of his room, Haman could see the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.  From one minute to the next, his glee grew by leaps and bounds, at the thought of the forthcoming execution.  Impatient, Haman went out to the street to find the Jew Mordecai.  He wanted to have the pleasure of telling him about the gallows, and gloating over him.

He discovered the elderly Jew in a Beit Midrash, a central study hall, where the children had gathered to fast and to pray together.  There were thousands of young boys in the hall, all wearing sackcloth.  How they prayed and wept and pleaded with G-d to be saved!

Haman ordered his men to bring ropes and to tie them around the children’s necks, as one ties a leash on a dog.  “Stay here with these children, and guard them to make certain that not one of them gets away!” he ordered his men.  Tomorrow, we will hang Mordecai on the gallows and kill all the children,” he told his staff.  Then he left them to guard the study hall and went his way.

When the mothers of the boys saw that they did not come home in the evening, they came to the Beit Midrash, bringing food and drink to revive their children after their fast.  At the sight of their children tied with ropes, they burst into tears.

The boys refused to eat and drink.  “Let us die in our fast, with pure, holy souls,” they told their mothers.

These words brought tears to the eyes of Mordecai. The mothers wept uncontrollably, and the children joined them.  Their voices rose on High.  G-d heard their weeping and their anguish, and asked His angels: “What is this sound of sheep and kids that I hear?”

Moses came before G-d and said to Him: “It is not the voice of kids ba-a-hing that you heard, My L-rd, but it is the voice of the children of Israel bemoaning their bitter fate that you have heard.  Haman bound them with bonds of steel and tomorrow he will take them out to the slaughter.  This is the third day that they are fasting and praying to you.”

At once G-d’s mercy was aroused.  He moved from the Throne of Justice and seated Himself on the Throne of Mercy.  He tore Haman’s decree to pieces and smashed the seal to splinters.  Then He summoned the angel Michael and said to him.  “Go quickly down to Ahashverus, make him fearful, and do not let sleep come to his eyes, for I am about to rescue My people from the hands of their enemies.”

31.  A Sleepless Night

That night, the angel Michael descended from Heaven and entered Ahashverus’s bedchamber.  He tossed the king out of his bed and beat him.  Other angels stood around the king and shouted: “Ingrate!  Show your gratitude to those who deal kindly with you!”

The king awoke in a fright and thought to himself: “Perhaps my servants are angry with me because I did not pay them their wages?  Or perhaps I did not pay them well for their good conduct?”

At once he ordered his servant to bring him the Book of Chronicles of Persia and Media.  Shimshi, a son of Haman, the king’s chief scribe, stood next to Ahashverus’ bed and read to him.

At the same time, the angel Michael came to the king and said: “Haman the son of Hamdata wants to rule in your stead. He is trying to find a way to assassinate you.  To prove that this is  true, here is a sign: towards morning, Haman will come to the palace and ask you for permission to hang the man who saved your life.  If you ask him what to do to someone whom the king wishes to honor, he will answer: ‘Let him be dressed in royal garb and be mounted on a horse upon which his majesty has ridden, and he will also ask for the king’s crown.  You should know that he will think that the person you intend to honor is none other than himself.  That is why he will ask for all the honors due a true monarch.”

The king was very upset at the angel’s words.  His thoughts raced through his mind and gave him no peace.   He could not find any entry in the Book of Chronicles that spoke of someone who had done him a favor and not been rewarded, because Shimshi skipped over the pages which told how Mordecai the Jew had saved the king’s life.

However, G-d made a miracle take place, and the words were read out by themselves.  When the king heard the report about Bigtan and Teresh and how they had planned to poison him, he exclaimed: “Ah! Now I know!  I was wrong not to reward Mordecai, who saved me.  Tomorrow I will give him a reward for his good deed.”

The king was tired.  He closed his eyes and fell asleep, but once again, he had frightening dreams.  In his dream, he saw Haman standing over him with his sword drawn.  Ahashverus woke up shaking with fear, and commanded his servants: “Go quickly and tell Haman to come here at once!”

At that very moment, Haman was on his way to the king to ask for permission to hang Mordecai.  When the king’s servants saw him, they told him, “The king wants you to come to him at once!”

They turned and went back to the king and told him that they had just met Haman in the outer court of the palace.  This made Ahashverus recall the words of the angel, saying that Haman would come to seek permission to execute the man who had saved his life.  “It was not a meaningless dream that I saw,” he thought to himself.  “It must be true that Haman wants to kill me and to rule in my stead.  Otherwise, why would he come here to the palace before daybreak?”

He told his servants: “Bring Haman the son of Hamdata inside, and let us hear what he has to say.”

32.  Haman’s Suggestion

Haman was not aware that Ahashverus had not slept well that night.  He did not suspect anything was amiss when the king turned to him and said: “You are my chief advisor.  I wanted to ask you how I can reward someone whom I want to make feel more important than anyone else in the kingdom.”

The question took Haman by surprise.  His first reaction was to think to himself: “Whom would the king want to honor more than me, his chief advisor?  There is no one in the entire land who is more important to him than I am.”

Without hesitation, Haman gave his answer: “The person whom the king wishes to honor should be dressed in royal garments, in clothes that the king himself has worn, and mounted on a horse upon which the king has ridden, and they shall put on his head a crown which was on the head of the king.”

When Ahashverus heard all this, he grew very angry.  “Haman really does want to kill me and to reign instead of me,” he thought to himself.  “Everything I dreamed this night was true!”

Haman was frightened when he saw how angry the king was, but it was too late to take back his words.  He continued: “Let one of the important ministers dress this person royally, and then lead him through the streets, crying out: 'Thus shall it be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor.'  That way, everyone will know that this is someone important, who has earned more prestige in the eyes of the king than anyone else in the country.”

When the king heard this, he thought to himself: “Haman is rebelling against the crown."  He decided then and there that he would humiliate him immensely and make him grovel in the dust.  He said to him: “Quickly go to my treasure house, and take royal garments from there, with gold and jewels and embroidery.  Choose a golden crown, a hat and armor of mine, and two pearl bracelets.  Then go to my stables and get my personal stallion.  Take all these to Mordecai the Jew, for I wish to honor him.”

33.  Haman’s Downfall

Even in his worst nightmares, Haman had never dreamed that he might one day have to honor Mordecai the Jew in this way.  When he heard the king’s orders, his head started to swim.  He was filled with anger and humiliation; he was so astonished that he could not utter a sound.

When he recovered from his initial shock, Haman tried to weasel his way out of the painful assignment.  “There are a lot of people in the kingdom who are called Mordecai,” he told the king.  “I don’t know which one you mean.”

“I am referring to Mordecai the Jew,” answered the king.

“There are many Jews called Mordecai,” Haman continued to try to evade the issue.

“I mean the one who sits at the palace gate,” answered the king.

Haman still didn’t give up.  “There are many gates to the palace,” he said.  “I don’t know which one Mordecai sits at.”

The king grew impatient.  “Don’t play games with me!  Go to Mordecai the Jew who sits at the gate that leads from the women’s palace to the main palace, and carry out all my orders with him!”

Now Haman changed his tone.  “Your Highness!  Why do you order me to give such honor to my enemy?  I am prepared to give the king ten thousand talents of silver rather than giving Mordecai such honors.

“I like your offer,” responded Ahashverus.  “Give Mordecai ten thousand silver talents, and also, I’ll appoint him to administer your mansion and grounds.  All this is not instead of carrying out my previous orders, but in addition to them.

Haman tried desperately once again to evade the king’s command.  “Please, Your Highness, do not force me to honor Mordecai the Jew.  I have ten sons at home.  I’ll send them all here to be your servants, and they will run before your horses, if you will only release me from having to honor my enemy in this manner.

Ahashverus did not budge.  “Even if you and your wife, not only your sons, become my slaves, I will not withhold this honor from the man who saved my life!”

When Haman saw that the king was determined to honor Mordecai, he tried a different tactic.  “Your Highness, do you know that Mordecai the Jew is very poor?  If you wish to honor him, appoint him to be a minister or a mayor of one of your large cities, or even a governor of one of your states, and everyone in his territory will show him great honor.”

“I like this idea of yours also,” replied the king.  "Let Mordecai rule over all the cities and states, and I shall order everyone to bow down to him.  But that doesn’t change my orders to you right now!”

It was so difficult for Haman to give Mordecai such great honor that he was willing to give up even his favorite project, which he had worked so long to bring about: destroying all the Jews.   He turned to Ahashverus and said: “I am willing to forget about my plans to kill the Jews.  Let the king send out couriers with a decree that cancels the first decree, the one to kill all the Jews on the thirteenth of Adar.  I’ll agree not to harm a single Jew, but please, please, don’t show such honor to Mordecai!”

The king did not want to hear another word from Haman.  In a fury, he declared: “I shall rescind my decree against the Jews, out of respect for Mordecai.  Don’t say another word!  Now, go quickly take the royal garb and the stallion and do everything to Mordecai the Jew, just as I have commanded!”

Haman left the inner court a broken man with a heavy heart.  He took the clothing and the stallion, and went to look for Mordecai.  Two of the king’s men went with him, for Ahashverus had sent them to check on all that Haman did, and to make sure that the king’s orders were carried out fully.

34.  Mordecai and Haman

Right then, Mordecai was busy teaching Jewish children Torah.  When he saw Haman approaching on horseback, he was afraid that he wanted to ride into the group and trample them under the horse’s feet.  He shouted out to the boys: “Run away and scatter before this wicked man tramples us with his horse!”

But the boys remained where they were.  “Our teacher and master!” they called out.  “We will not abandon you.  If your life is in danger, so is ours!” 

Mordecai wrapped himself in his talis (prayer shawl) and hugged his students.  Haman drew near and reined in his horse to a full stop.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.

The boys answered: “We are learning from our teacher about the commandment of the omer that was offered in the Temple when it was standing.” 

“What was this omer made of?  Gold?  Silver?” Haman asked.

“Not of gold, and not of silver,” they replied.  “It was a measure of oats that grew in the field, and it was worth only ten perutot.”

Haman gave a great sigh and told them: “Your ten little coins have won out over my ten thousand talents of silver that I wanted to pay the king so that he would allow me to kill you all.”

Then Haman turned to Mordecai and said to him: “Rise from your mourning, Mordecai, and shed your sackcloth, because these royal garments have been sent to you from King Ahashverus.”

Mordecai did not believe Haman.  He said to him, “Leave me alone.  Why do you ridicule me before my students?  Why do you embitter the final minutes of my life?

“Let me go home first, and then you can hang me as you plan to do.”

“Do I look like someone who is jesting?  Know that your sackcloth and ashes are more influential than my ten thousand talents of silver.  Your G-d has heard your prayers.  Like the miracles He did with your forefathers, so, too, has He performed a miracle with you.  I have just been sent by the king to garb you in royal robes and to lead you through the streets of Shushan mounted on the royal steed, and to cry out before you: ‘Thus shall it be done to the one whom the king wishes to honor!’  The king wishes to honor you before all his subjects throughout the states of his empire.”

35.  Admiration and Honor

Mordecai asked Haman: “How can I put on royal garments when my body is covered with ashes?”

Haman replied: “Wait here, and I will go wake up the bathhouse attendant and tell him to prepare to bathe you and to anoint you with perfumed oils, as it befits someone who dons royal garments.”

Haman ran to find a bathhouse attendant, but could not find one, because Queen Esther had commanded that the residents of the city not go to work.  In the end, he had no choice but to take Mordecai to the bathhouse himself and to help him bathe and cleanse himself from the ashes.  Then he dressed him in the royal garments.

When Haman wanted to place the crown on Mordecai, the elderly Jew said: “It is not fitting to place a royal crown on a head of long, unkempt hair like mine!”

Haman said: “Wait here, and I’ll go fetch a barber.”  However, he could not find one; because of Esther’s decree, no one had opened his shop that day.

As a last resort, Haman rushed out of his house to get a pair of barber scissors, and ran back to cut Mordecai’s hair.  As he was snipping away at Mordecai’s locks, he gave a great sigh.

“Why are you upset?” asked Mordecai.

“Why shouldn’t I be upset?” answered Haman.  “Why should I not bemoan my bitter fate?  Here I am, the most important and prestigious of the king‘s ministers, the most powerful of them all, and now I must stand before you and wait upon you as though I were a mere bathhouse attendant and barber!”

Mordecai had known Haman when he was a pauper, and rebuked him: “Do you think that I have forgotten who you really are, and who your father was?  For twenty-two years, your father worked as a bathhouse attendant and a barber.  The things you brought to the bathhouse and the scissors you are using to cut my hair, used to be your father’s!”

When Mordecai was fully groomed and dressed, and the crown on his head, it was time to mount the horse.  However, after his long fast and intense prayers, he was too weak to lift himself up onto the steed.  Haman had to kneel down and let Mordecai climb on him as though he were a stool so that he could reach the horse.  Once he was seated on the horse, Mordecai gave Haman a sharp kick.

This took Haman by surprise.  He was very insulted, and said to Mordecai, “I am surprised at you.  Doesn’t it say in your Torah: ‘Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad, when he stumbles’? (Proverbs 24:17)  Why do you attack me just when I am in distress?”

Mordecai answered him, “Yes, it does say that in the Torah.  If you were only my personal enemy, I would not do a thing to you, and I would not rejoice.  But you are the enemy of all the People of Israel, and I am duty-bound to kick you, as it says: ‘Happy are you, O Israel, who is like you? A people saved by the L-rd…, and your enemies shall dwindle away before you, and you will tread upon their high places.’” (Deuteronomy 33:29)

36.  “Thus shall be done to the one whom the king wishes to honor!”

Haman led Mordecai the Jew through the street of Shushan, crying out as he went along: “Thus shall be done to the one whom the king wishes to honor!”  An honor guard went before him, holding gold and silver chalices, and they, too, called out: “Thus shall it be done to the one whom the king wishes to honor!”

When the Jews saw that their leader was being honored in this manner, they came out of their homes with flaming torches and called out: “Thus shall it be done to the one whom the King of the Universe, Creator of heaven and earth, wishes to honor!”

As the procession approached, people ran to the windows and balconies and roofs to see it.  Everyone saw Haman’s disgrace as he led Mordecai’s steed through the streets.  Haman’s daughter looked out the window of their house, which was very high. She was certain that it was none other than her father who was seated on the king’s stallion, and that Mordecai was the one leading the horse.  She took a pail of filthy water and poured it onto the head of the person holding the reins of the horse, thinking that this was her father’s enemy, Mordecai.

Haman looked up to see who it was that had added such insult to his humiliation, and was astonished to discover that it was none other than his own daughter!

When he looked up, his daughter recognized her father and realized her mistake. She was so mortified that she fell from the roof and died.

37.  Haman Returns Home and Bemoans His Fate

Covered with dirt, dust, and the filthy water his daughter had poured down on him, Haman returned home. He told his wife Zerech and his admirers everything that had happened to him.  Zeresh commented: “If this Mordecai is of Jewish descent, now that you have started to fall before him, you will not be able to overcome him.  Without a doubt, you will fall before him.

“The great honor which has come to Mordecai the Jew through you is a sign that the rescue and salvation of the people of Israel is on its way, and your end will be bitter.”

38.  Esther Pleads for Her People

Before Haman managed to recover from his tremendous humiliation, the royal chamberlains arrived from the palace to invite him to the feast which Esther had prepared for that evening in honor of the king and Haman.  The king’s men would not wait; they did not even give Haman a chance to wash and prepare himself properly before they rushed him off to Esther’s palace still wet and dirty.

During the feast, Ahashverus again asked Esther: “What is your request, and what is your petition, Esther, and I will grant it for you.”

Esther replied: “If I have found favor in your eyes, and if it pleases the king, let my life be granted to me as my request, and my people’s lives as my petition.  For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, slain, and annihilated.”

Ahashverus was appalled at Esther’s words.  He flew into a rage and asked: “Who is it?  Where is the one who dared to do this?”

Esther was alarmed at the anger on his face.  She pointed an accusing finger at Haman and said to the king: “The enemy of my people is the man who wanted to rebel against Your Highness, the King.  He is the one who wanted your mighty steed for himself, and your royal robes, and your crown.  He is an opponent and an enemy, this wicked Haman!”

Suddenly Ahashverus recalled his frightening dreams about Haman, and all his suspicions that he wished to overthrow him and take the throne for himself.  He was so furious that he rose to his feet and rushed out to the palace garden to calm himself somewhat.

G-d sent His angels to the palace garden, in the form of Haman’s ten sons, who were picking fruit from the royal trees and tearing down trees from his superb gardens.  The king could not believe his eyes, and roared at them: “Who gave you permission to destroy this garden?”  The angels replied, “Our father, Haman, sent us to uproot all the trees and plantings in your garden.”

Ahashverus could bear no more.  In a fury, he raced back into the banquet room to pour out his wrath on Haman.

Just then, Haman was kneeling at Esther’s feet and pleading with her to have pity on him.  When the king burst into the hall, the angel Gabriel came down from Heaven and shoved Haman onto the divan that Esther was seated upon. The king thought that Haman wanted Esther for himself, and shouted out in a rage: “Would he actually attack the queen while I am here in the house?  Is it not enough what he has already done with his corrupt deeds?”

39.  Haman Meets His End

At the sound of the king’s shouts of anger, one of the chamberlains, Charvona, hurried into the room.  “Your Highness,” he said to the king, “this is not all that Haman has done.  It is he who urged Bigtan and Teresh to poison you, and when Mordecai saved your life, this man of evil began to detest him.  In the courtyard of his mansion he has constructed a high gallows on which he intends to hang Mordecai.  Let Your Highness send his men to Haman’s house to see whether it is not so, just as I say.”

The king sent his servants to Haman’s house, and they returned at once to confirm what Charvona had reported.  “The gallows are there, all ready and waiting, in the yard of Haman’s mansion.”

“Hang him on the gallows that he prepared for Mordecai!”  ordered Ahashverus in his fury.

The kings servants hurried to Mordecai and handed him the document from Ahashverus ordering that Haman be hung on the gallows he had built in his own yard.

Mordecai turned to Haman and said: ”The king has ordered me to hang you on the gallows which you prepared for me.”  When Haman heard the decree against him, he burst out crying.  “No, no,” he pleaded with Mordecai.  “If I must die, cut my head off, but don’t hang me on the gallows the way a common criminal is executed.”

But Mordecai did not heed Haman’s pleas.  He hung Haman on the gallows which he himself had prepared.

After Haman was executed, the king presented his estate and all his assets to Mordecai the Jew, who divided it into three parts.  One portion he donated to the upkeep of the study halls and synagogues, so that more people would be able to study Torah.  One third he set aside to contribute to the reconstruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the third portion he kept for himself and for Esther.

Mordecai found favor in the eyes of Ahashverus, who appointed him his head minister.  The king placed his new Jewish minister in charge of all his assets.  Mordecai served the king faithfully and administered all his accounts and made certain that all the countries paid the taxes due to the crown on time.  From then on, Mordecai knew no trouble or want.  He was beloved and admired by all the people in all of King Ahashverus’ empire.

40.  “And It Was Reversed…”

In order to revoke the cruel decree against the Jews, Ahashverus sent new messages to all the lands under his rule.  He demanded that the people honor the Jews and not harm them in any way.  The thirteenth of Adar, the day which had been chosen for the annihilation of Jews, and the fourteenth of Adar, became days of celebrating and feasting for the Jews.

There were gentiles who had looked forward gleefully to killing Jews; now they were the ones to be attacked and eliminated, for the king allowed the Jews to gather and to defend themselves against their enemies.  “It was reversed; the Jews gained the control over their enemies.”

In order that the great miracle never be forgotten, Queen Esther sent a letter to the Sages of Israel and asked them to establish the holiday of Purim as a festive day for all coming generations.

The Sages of Israel recorded all the events that had happened.  This record is called the Scroll or the Book of Esther.  To this day, it is read by Jews throughout the world, each Purim, amid much rejoicing and expressions of thanksgiving to G-d for all the miracles He performed for His people.


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