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This question will collect questions, formatted for the book, for questions about the megillah.

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3

What meaning do the names of the ten sons of Haman have?

Joan asked: Is there a meaning behind the names of the ten sons of Haman who were killed and hung (Esther 9:7–9)? They are פַּרְשַׁנְדָּתָא (Parshandasa), דַּלְפוֹן (Dalphon), אַסְפָּתָא (Aspasa), פּוֹרָתָא (Porasa), אֲדַלְיָא (Adalia), אֲרִידָתָא (Aridasa), פַּרְמַשְׁתָּא (Parmashta), אֲרִיסַי (Arisai), אֲרִידַי (Aridai), and וַיְזָתָא (Vaizasa).


Michoel answered: R. Mordechai Sasson (1747–1830), in his work דבר בעתו, explains that Haman symbolizes the Yetzer Harah (evil inclination), and his ten sons allude to its ten bad character traits. Their death, brought about by Mordechai and Esther, represents the nullification of such evil traits by being overpowered by the Yetzer Tov (good inclination). He goes through the ten sons, and explains the meaning of each name and how each corresponds to a particular type of evil:

  • פרשנדתא (Parshandasa) — the Yetzer Harah distances (מפריש) a person from the Torah (דתא).
  • דלפון (Dalphon) — it is a דלת (door) to פניות רעות (bad intentions): it makes a person who is performing a Mitzvah do so with wrong intentions.
  • אספתא (Aspasa) — means "gathering" — the Yetzer Harah gives a person the desire to gather piles of money so that he will have no time for Torah study and performing Mitzvos.
  • פורתא (Porasa) — פורת spelt backwards is תורף, a word used by the Talmud to indicate a woman's private parts — the Yetzer Harah makes a person desire to gaze at uncovered women.
  • אדליא (Adalia) — from lifted up (דלה) — feelings of haughtiness and arrogance.
  • ארידתא (Aridasa) — the Yetzer Harah appears to a person praying like a lion (ארי) to distract him.
  • פרמשתא (Parmashta) — it rips apart (פורם) the strong connection (שתי, literally criss-cross of a garment) that exists between fellow Jews.
  • אריסי (Arisai) — it continuously poisons a person with the venom (ארס) of the snake.
  • ארידי (Aridai) — the evil that subjugates (רודה) a righteous person with suffering and worries about his livelihood.
  • ויזתא (Vaizasa) — the bitterness of the olive (זית) — symbolizing bitter and strong judgement.

Sources:


Original question: What meaning do the names of the ten sons of Haman have? mi.yodeya.com/q/28326

Contributors:
- Joan mi.yodeya.com/u/2733
- Michoel mi.yodeya.com/u/1535

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  • Instead of or in addition to the HB link for Davar Be'ito, it might be good to have a paper-bibliographic reference. – Isaac Moses Feb 14 '14 at 15:12
  • @IsaacMoses, good now? – msh210 Feb 14 '14 at 15:54
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    Thanks! I guess we still need to determine whether we're doing a bibliography in the back, in which case we'd need a fully-formatted record. If so, there's enough information here to populate one. – Isaac Moses Feb 14 '14 at 15:57
2

Why was Esther afraid to go to the King the second time, but not the first time?

Seth J asked: When Mordechai told Esther that two of the King's guards were plotting to kill him, she went right away to tell the king directly (2:22).

Yet when Mordechai later asked her to approach the king to save all the Jews, she resisted and said she couldn't approach him without having been summoned (4:10 and on).

What happened?


J. C. Salomon answered: The Persian kings had a well-established process—a secret police, even—for reporting threats against the crown. (Source: Rabbi Yehuda Landy’s Purim and the Persian Empire, quoting historical sources.) Esther may have used those channels rather than approaching the king directly.

This may explain why Mordechai was not rewarded immediately: although his name was entered into the record (since Esther told the king—or his agents—in Mordechai’s name (2:22)), initial credit for the report would have been given to Esther.


Menachem answered: Esther 4:11 explicitly gives the reason why Esther was nervous. "but I have not been summoned to come to the king these thirty days."

She felt the king was not warm to her at the time, and that made her nervous; seemingly that was not the case at the time of her first visit, either because she had then been summoned within the previous thirty days or because the king had not then been acting coolly toward her.

See Rashi to Esther 4:14, explaining Mordechai's response:

and who knows whether at a time like this: And who knows whether the king will desire you next year, which is the time of the massacre.

In other words, you're scared to visit the king now because you're not sure how he feels about you, how do you know the situation won't be the same when it comes time to save your life.


Sources:


Original question: Why was Esther afraid to go to the King the second time, but not the first time? mi.yodeya.com/q/26589

Contributors:
- Seth J mi.yodeya.com/u/5
- J. C. Salomon mi.yodeya.com/u/70
- Menachem mi.yodeya.com/u/603

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2

Why did Esther make her second party?

SimchasTorah asked: What was the purpose of the two parties that Esther made for Haman and Achashverosh (Esther 5:4–8 and chapter 7), if one could have done the job? In other words, what happened that she needed a second party?


Alex answered: R' Yonasan Eibeschutz explains as follows:

When Esther entered Achashverosh's throne room, a place full of idols, the Divine Presence left her (Gemara Megillah 15b). She realized, then, that such a place is not suitable for a miracle to take place. So she was going to have to get Achashverosh someplace where none of these would be present in order to be successful in her mission; the one place in the palace where that would be the case would be in her own private apartments. So she invited Achashverosh there for a party, and (for reasons listed in the Gemara there) had to invite Haman too.

The problem was that Haman came wearing his favorite outfit, the one on which he had embroidered a design of an idol (Esther Rabbah 7:5). So that spoiled her plan, and she needed to try again.

The next day was the one where Haman ended up having to lead Mordechai in procession around the city. Naturally, he didn't want his "god" having to witness his humiliation! So he wore a different outfit. Now Esther seized her chance: almost as soon as he got home, covered in filth and thoroughly discouraged, "the king's attendants arrived and made him hurry to Esther's party" (6:14) — that was at her instigation, so that he wouldn't have time to change into the outfit with the embroidered images. And so indeed the second party was free of idols, and Esther felt free to make her plea, which indeed was successful.


msh210 suggested: The Tora T'mima (note 16, to 5:4) gives, in the G'ra's name, something that may perhaps also serve as a reason she wanted to put off her revelation a day: she wanted him handy at sof nidasah, since that is a good time for instigating an argument between Haman and Achashverosh. (However, it's clear from there that she knew of this reason when she asked Mord'chay to fast, so I don't know why she couldn't put off the fast a day and have only the "second" party.) (No source for its being a possible answer to this question.)


He also noted: Some of the various reasons given in the g'mara (M'gila 15 amud 2) for Ester's inviting Haman — such as to make sure the Jews not depend on her being their friend in high places and cease praying, to appear to be befriending Haman so as to get him killed, and that pride comes before a fall — are strengthened by her giving two parties rather than one. (No source.)


Shalom answered: It builds a lot more suspense. Achashverosh was more likely to respond to her plea if she'd built up more suspense first. (No source.)


Sources:


Original question: Why did Esther make two parties; why not just one? mi.yodeya.com/q/5835

Contributors:
- SimchasTorah mi.yodeya.com/u/87
- Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37
- msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170
- Shalom mi.yodeya.com/u/21

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1

Would Esther really have kept silent?

'none' asked: In Esther 7:4 we read:

וְאִלּוּ לַעֲבָדִים וְלִשְׁפָחוֹת נִמְכַּרְנוּ הֶחֱרַשְׁתִּי כִּי אֵין הַצָּר שֹׁוֶה בְּנֵזֶק הַמֶּלֶךְ

But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my peace, for the adversary is not worthy that the king be endamaged.

Is this true? Had, in fact, the entire Jewish population been sold as slaves, would Esther not have said a word about it? Is this simply hyperbole? How do we understand this?


Shmuel Brin answered: The Meam Loez says that she meant that Achashveirosh shouldn't kill the Jews, as he would thereby lose out. Had the Jews been sold as slaves, Achashveirosh could have always changed his mind later on (once realized how useful the Jews are). However, once they would be dead, he couldn't have done anything.


Shalom answered: Esther knew she had to tread lightly. Ask for too much, and she'd find herself queen no longer.

We approach this with a different attitude today because we're used to governments that, thank G-d, give Jews a great deal of freedom.

To illustrate: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's younger years were spent living under Communist Russia. There was no way you could attack it head-on: if you did that, you were shot. You tried to accept it as best you could and cautiously work with/around it as much as possible. ("Of course we're not condemning the great Soviet co-ed bathhouse; we're just old-fashioned and too squeamish to use it, and if the Jews never bathed it would create a diseased population likely to contaminate everyone else; thus could the Jewish men and women please each have a few hours a week for private bathhouse use?") Thus it's no surprise that in the late twentieth century, when many Americans were demonstrating for Soviet Jewry and yelling "let my people go!", that wasn't Rabbi Feinstein's world. He thought "please let my people live" (i.e. improved conditions within the USSR) was the most you could ask of Russia.

So I don't think Esther's statement sounded outlandish to many Jews, even fifty years ago.


Shmuel Brin also answered: I saw an answer in the Midrash Rabba (end of Pesichta 3). Esther was saying that she would be silent, since it could be that they deserved to be sold as slaves. After all, the Torah says in the Tochacha (Admonition) that if the Jews don't keep the Torah they will be sold as slaves.

However, there is no curse in the Torah that says the Jews will be all eradicated. Since she knew that this punishment wasn't "coming from Hashem" (kavyachol), she had to do whatever it took to get rid of it.


Original question: Would Esther really have kept silent? mi.yodeya.com/q/14737

Contributors:
- none mi.yodeya.com/u/1255
- Shmuel Brin mi.yodeya.com/u/732
- Shalom mi.yodeya.com/u/21

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0

Why do we honor Charvona, specifically?

Isaac Moses asked: The song we sing after reading the Megilla on Purim, "Shoshanat Yaakov," concludes with "and may Charvona also be remembered favorably." According to the Megilla (Esther 7:9), all Charvona did was, when Achashverosh was angry at Haman, mention that Haman had made a gallows for hanging Achashverosh's friend Mordechai.

I get that we should appreciate people who do good things, but there are other bit players in the Megilla who did good. What about, for example, Hegai, the attendant who was kind to Esther when she was waiting to meet Achashveirosh (Esther 2:8-9)? Why does Charvona get the honor of being the last person mentioned after we read the Megilla?


Shalom suggested: He was a small person with no particular ax to grind, yet he chose to speak up and said the right thing at the right time to get Haman executed (instead of just arrested). The Malbim says that Charvona was one of the few people who knew about the gallows because he'd gone to Haman's house to escort him to the party. But yes it's funny. (Hegai, for instance, did a good thing, but it was his job to help out the queen candidates, especially the promising-looking ones.) Often it's the neutral people taking action that's more interesting than the heroes just acting heroic because they're heroes.

WAF said: Harvona, by the very subtlety of his importance to the story, brings out an important theme in the M'gila. Had he not acted, it seems, not much of consequence would have been different. For example, Haman would still be harshly punished (possibly even killed) for his insubordination, Mordechai would still be elevated politically and influentially (see 7:1), Esther would still be just as positioned to appeal to the king to issue a new decree, etc.

However, the prominence of Harvona lies in the manner in which he exerts himself. He gets Haman dispatched in a way equal, opposite and historically just to his own erstwhile plan. Harvona exemplifies the theme of unforeseen diametric reversals that is important in broadly understanding the message of the M'gila.

'Shtikler' answered: If one reads only the text of the Megillah without any awareness of the talmudic materials on it or the history surrounding it, Achashveirosh seems like a pretty neutral king. However, having been the one personally responsible for the halting of the building of the Beis HaMikdash, he was certainly part of the problem in many respects. What one can see simply from the text of the Megillah is a glimpse into his personality. He was very impulsive decision maker who always acted on the moment. Once the moment was gone, it was gone. His anger with Vashti spelled her demise almost instantaneously. He didn't hesitate to grant Haman's request on the spot. "Kill the Jews? Sure." When Mordechai saved his life, he was certainly most grateful but nothing was ever done. So he forgot about it completely and had to be reminded. Even with Haman's decree, he does seem to have totally forgotten about it later on.

Although Achashveirosh was not from Amaleik this trait is very much in step with the theme of Amaleik — chance and happenstance. Rashi (Devarim 25:18) explains that Amaleik "happened" upon B'nei Yisroel as they came out of Egypt (despite Midrashim to the contrary). The live-in-the-moment mentality of Amaleik is diametrically opposed to that of the Jews who understand that there is no chance and nothing happens without purpose. Not only was Achashveirosh physically a threat to B'nei Yisroel, his mentality was spiritually in opposition with ours.

Charvonah understood this about Achashveirosh. He knew Haman was evil but he knew that for Achashveirosh to adequately punish him, he needed to seize the moment. Achashveirosh was already quite agitated and might not have appreciated Charvonah's intervention. But he knew that Achashveirosh could easily forget about this if time were to go on. So Charvonah jumped in and gave Achashveirosh a great idea that was too ironic to pass up. Charvonah was responsible for making sure Haman met his just and immediate demise. If not for him — who knows what would have happened?

The Rebbetzin's Husband answered:

As I understand it, Charvonah is the linchpin of the Megilah, the meeting of two separate plots.

Without Charvonah, Mordechai's rescue of King Achashverosh ends with his pony ride around Shushan. And without Charvonah, Esther's plea for her nation might have fallen on deaf ears; Achashverosh might well have decided to side with his chief advisor, who had been by his side for a while before Esther's time.

Charvonah comes along and demonstrates that Haman is also an arch-enemy of the man who saved the king's life — and so Mordechai's rescue bolsters Esther's plea, and the two together are sufficient to sway King Achashverosh.

efrex noted: One of my beloved mentors has given a dvar Torah on just this topic for the better part of two decades (and possibly longer) at his annual Purim seudah. Charvonah was not just a passive character who became active; according to a medrash, he was actually responsible for building the gallows! Charvonah turned on Haman when he saw that the tide was turning to save his own neck.

Far too often, we demand purity of motive from our helpers, be it Jews or non-Jews. When someone, even a former enemy, even for selfish motivations, helps us, it behooves us to acknowledge his contribution and remember him for good. This does not mean that we should just forget the past, but we should be aware and appreciative of the assistance rendered.

Ahron answered: According to the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 10:9), Charvona was really Eliyahu HaNavi, and it is for that reason that we mention him here. (See Maharil (Hilchos Purim), Hagahos Maimonios (Hilchos Megillah 1:6), Chida (Kisei Rachamim to Sofrim 14:3).)


Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/311

Contributors:
- Isaac Moses mi.yodeya.com/u/2
- Shalom mi.yodeya.com/u/21
- WAF mi.yodeya.com/u/3
- Shtikler mi.yodeya.com/u/58
- The Rebbetzin's Husband mi.yodeya.com/u/59
- efrex mi.yodeya.com/u/-1
- Ahron mi.yodeya.com/u/139

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  • Note: efrex's account is gone. Thus, there's nothing to link to. Can we use his/her quotation without a linking attribution (under the license in place on the site in March 2010)? – msh210 Feb 20 '14 at 1:34
  • (Followup on previous comment.) The Wayback Machine tells me the license was cc by-sa 3.0, which means we should be fine. Note though that cc by-sa 3.0 requires us to link to (or include) the license itself, which we should do. (I'll mention that somewhere more central, so it doesn't get lost.) (IANAL.) – msh210 Feb 20 '14 at 1:38

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