INSIGHTS INTO THE DAILY DAF
prepared by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Yerushalayim
Rosh Kollel: Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld
1) BRINGING REDEMPTION TO THE WORLD
QUESTION: Rebbi Elazar teaches that "when one relates a teaching in the name of the person who originally said it, he brings redemption to the world." He derives this principle from the verse, "And Esther told the king [that Bigsan and Seresh were conspiring to assassinate him] in the name of Mordechai" (Esther 2:22). In the merit of Esther's humbling herself by attributing the source of her information to Mordechai, the Jewish people were redeemed from the mortal threat that faced them.
Rebbi Elazar's teaching is difficult to understand. How can this principle be derived from the actions of Esther? The cause for the redemption from the threat of Haman was clearly a result of the fact that the king recorded Mordechai's name in his ledgers in order to reward him at a later time. The fact that the king owed his life to Mordechai eventually led to the salvation of the Jewish people. How does Rebbi Elazar learn from Esther's attribution of the information to Mordechai that whenever one relates a teaching in the name of the person who said it, he brings redemption to the world? (See RIF in EIN YAKOV here who leaves this question unanswered.)
(a) The IYUN YAKOV understands the Gemara as follows. Logically, Mordechai should have given the information directly to Achashverosh so that the king would have had more gratitude to him. Why did Mordechai instead tell Esther to give the information to Achashverosh? Rebbi Elazar understands that it must be that Mordechai knew that whenever one attributes his information to the person who originally told it to him, he brings redemption to the world. This is why Mordechai specifically wanted Esther to relay the information in his name. He wanted to create a source of merit for redemption.
(b) The ETZ YOSEF in the name of the MANOS HA'LEVI explains the Gemara here differently. He says that Mordechai actually wanted Esther to give the information in her own name in order to boost her standing with the king. Esther, however, was humble and did not want to use the favor for her own prestige, and instead she attributed the information to Mordechai. This trait of humility is a trait of Mashi'ach, who is described as "a poor person who rides a donkey" (Zecharyah 9:9). A genuine redeemer knows that he is not the power behind redemption and that he is merely an agent of Hash-m.
(c) The TORAH TEMIMAH (to Esther 2:22) writes that Rebbi Elazar is not teaching a form of supernatural cause and effect. Rather, his intention is merely to point out that when one attributes his information to its original source, positive outcomes tend to result. Rebbi Elazar uses the word "redemption" because that happens to be the positive outcome that occurred in the case of Esther, who attributed her information to Mordechai. He does not mean that a form of redemption will occur whenever one attributes his information to its original source. (Y. MONTROSE) (See also Insights to Nidah 19:2.)
2) ACHASHVEROSH: DOG OR LION?
QUESTION: The Megilah relates that Mordechai instructed Esther to present herself before Achashverosh in a desperate attempt to save the Jewish people. Until the news of Haman's decree, Esther had not been in the intimate company of Achashverosh unless he had requested her presence; this time, however, she would present herself to him on her own accord. She was Halachically permitted to do this because the survival of the Jewish people was at stake. (The rule of "Yehareg v'Al Ya'avor" did not apply, as the Gemara in Sanhedrin 74b explains.) This concern was uppermost in Esther's mind as she advanced towards the throne room in silent prayer that Hash-m would give her favor in the eyes of the evil king whose golden scepter dictated the fate of those who appeared before him unbidden.
The Gemara says that on her way, Esther passed the royal room of idol worship. At that moment, the Divine Presence that had accompanied her until now departed, and she suddenly felt alone and unprotected. Esther cried out, "My G-d, my G-d, why have You deserted me?" (Tehilim 22:2).
She said, "Perhaps You are judging me for a forbidden act done under duress (in order to save Your people) as if it was done willfully?"
"Or perhaps," she continued, "You are upset with me for calling Achashverosh a 'dog' ('Hatzilah... mi'Yad Kelev Yechidasi,' Tehilim 22:21)? If so, I shall make amends and call him a lion ('Hoshi'eni mi'Pi Aryeh,' Tehilim 22:22)." Esther's reckoning succeeded. The Divine Presence returned to her and she approached the king with renewed confidence -- and Divine protection.
In what way did Esther sin by calling Achashverosh a dog? Why did belittling the evil king cause the Shechinah to depart from her?
Moreover, how was calling Achashverosh a dog related to her first concern, that perhaps Hash-m was punishing her for an act she did out of compulsion?
ANSWER: RAV YAKOV EMDEN quotes his father, the CHACHAM TZVI, who offers the following answer.
The Mishnah in Bava Metzia (93b) teaches that if a lion attacks sheep, the shepherd (who is a Shomer Sachar, a paid guardian) is exempt from damages because he is not expected to be able to repel a lion. Such an attack is considered an "Ones," beyond the control of the shepherd. However, if the sheep are attacked by a dog, or even by several dogs, the shepherd is held liable for the damages because the attack is not considered an "Ones." It is within the capability of the shepherd to fend off dogs.
The words of Esther are now understood. Esther justified her action with the claim that she was "Ones," acting under duress. She then remembered that she had called Achashverosh a dog in her prayer for salvation, a contradiction to her present claim for Divine amnesty. If Achashverosh was considered like an attacking dog, then her act should not be considered an "Ones," an act beyond her control, because the attack of a dog can easily be repelled as the Mishnah in Bava Metzia states. Hence, she immediately corrected her mistake and admitted that Achashverosh was more than just a "dog." It was far more appropriate to compare him to a lion; after all, his domain extended to vast distances and his power was virtually unlimited. Since Achashverosh was a "lion," his attack is considered an "Ones" for which Esther should be vindicated.
3) AGADAH: QUEEN ESTHER'S INTENTION IN MAKING A BANQUET FOR ACHASHVEROSH AND HAMAN
The Gemara suggests ten explanations for why Esther invited Haman to join her and the king at the first banquet she made in the king's honor as part of her plan to persuade the king to rescind the decree against the Jews. Since she had no intention to reveal her identity as a Jew or to beseech the king to save her people from the evil plot of Haman until the second banquet, why did she invite Haman to the first?
The VILNA GA'ON (in KOL ELIYAHU 142) cites the Gemara in Pesachim (111a) to explain Esther's motivation. The Vilna Ga'on writes that "had I been there, I would have added another reason why she invited him." The Gemara earlier (15a) says that when Esther heard the news of Haman's plot against the Jews, it shocked her so much that she became a Nidah. Three days later, she made the first party for Achashverosh and Haman. Her motivation was to invite the two of them and to situate herself, a Nidah, between them.
The Gemara in Pesachim says that if a woman walks between two men while she is a Nidah, a tragedy will result. If she has just begun her state of Nidah, one of the men will be killed. If she is near the end of her flow, a quarrel will arise between the two men.
Esther reasoned that if she was at the beginning of her state of Nidah, then either Haman or Achashverosh would die, and the decree would be annulled. (The Gemara in Ta'anis (29a) says that when the senate issued a decree and, subsequently, one member of the senate died, his death was interpreted as an omen that the decree must be annulled. However, it is not clear that this rule actually applied in the case of Haman, because it is evident from the Megilah that his death did not cause the decree to be rescinded since the decree was signed with the king's signet and it was necessary for the king himself to repeal it.)
If she was at the end of her state of Nidah, then a quarrel would arise between Haman and Achashverosh, and again Achashverosh would rescind the decree. Either way, the decree would be revoked as a result of Esther's strategy. (In the end, her strategy was successful in both ways. A quarrel erupted between Haman and Achashverosh, and Haman was killed.) (See also Insights to Pesachim 111:1.)
4) AGADAH: AROUSING THE KING'S JEALOUSY
The Gemara suggests ten explanations for why Esther invited Haman to join her and the king at the first banquet she made in the king's honor as part of her plan to persuade the king to rescind the decree against the Jews (see previous Insight).
Raban Gamliel states that the reason suggested by Rebbi Eliezer ha'Moda'i is the most fitting of all. Rebbi Eliezer ha'Moda'i said that Esther's intention was to make the king and all of the other officers jealous of Haman, which indeed is what ultimately happened. When the king stepped out into the palace garden during Esther's second banquet, Haman pleaded before Esther for his life. When Achashverosh returned he found that Haman had fallen on the couch with Esther. Achashverosh exclaimed, "ha'Gam li'Chbosh Es ha'Malkah Imi ba'Bayis!" -- "Does he even want to overtake the queen with me in the house!" (Esther 7:8). Charvonah, one of the king's officers, suggested to the king that he hang Haman on his own gallows.
A remarkable allusion supports Rebbi Eliezer ha'Moda'i's explanation for why Esther invited Haman to her banquet. There is only one verse in all of Tanach in which the word "Mishteh" (banquet) appears as an acronym (either as Roshei Teivos, the first letters of four consecutive words, or as Sofei Teivos, the last letters of four consecutive words). This singular appearance of this acronym occurs in none other than the very verse which expresses how jealous Achashverosh became of Haman -- "ha'Ga*m* li'Chbo*sh* E*t* ha'Malka*h* Imi ba'Bayis." (RAV MORDECHAI ARAN in NIFLA'OS MI'TORASECHA)