Haman’s plot

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Haman’s Plot: [1]

Haman’s wrath boiled at Mordechai and his people and he decided to annihilate all the Jews in the kingdom. In the month of Nissan Haman played a lottery to determine which month would be most auspicious to destroy the Jewish people. The lottery fell on the month of Adar. He discussed the plot with the king who acquiesced to his request and the signed decree was sent forth to the governors of all nations on the 13th of Nissan. At first, Haman offered money to the king in exchange for the right to destroy the Jews, however the King gladly obliged with the request and forgave the money. The king and Haman sat for a feast and the city of Shushan was in confusion.



The discussion between Achashveirosh and Haman:[2]

At first the king was reluctant to allow the Jews to be killed, as he feared Divine repercussion for these actions. Haman replied that the Jews are not following the Mitzvos and hence their G-d will not take vengeance.[3] The king replied that they have Sages that are righteous. Haman replied that they are considered one nation [and hence G-d agrees to punish them collectively]. Haman then told the king that the Jews do not eat our foods, they do not marry our daughters and do not give their daughters to us, and they spend the entire year on holiday from work due to their Shabbos and festivals. If a fly falls in their cup they remove it and drink the wine. If however the king touches their wine they spill it out.[4] They are an economic burden on society. Their prayers and holidays are also filled with hate against the gentile nations, and contain constant requests for our destruction.[5] Haman continued pestering Achashveirosh day and night to kill the Jews.[6] Achashveirosh then held an urgent meeting with all the Sages of the world and they agreed that it can’t be done due to fear of repercussion. However Haman convinced them otherwise.[7] The Midrash[8] concludes that Hashem, upon hearing this discussion, stated “Haman you know very well to count the festivals of the Jews and complain about them. Well, in your honor the Jews will now be given another two days of festival-the festival of Purim”.[9]


Why was such a severe decree made against the Jewish people?[10]

This was a punishment for the Jews serving idolatry.[11] In addition, the Jews in Shushan were independently liable for annihilation being they benefited from the feast of Achashveirosh.[12] During the feast the Jews ate foods cooked by the gentiles [Bishul Akum].[13] Others[14] state the sin was for the fact they partook in a feast that was celebrating the destruction of the Temple. This showed that the Jews relied more on the gentile king than on G-d, and thus Hashem concealed His providence from them and left them like a sheep without a Sheppard that is surrounded by 70 wolves.[15]


The Heavenly occurrences behind the decree:

The Midrash[16] states that after the feast in Shushan the Satan came to Hashem and told him: Until when will you stick to this nation of sinners. If it is your will, destroy this nation from the earth as they will never repent. Hashem replied: What will be with the Torah? The Satan answered that the Torah will remain in the upper spheres. At that moment Hashem agreed to destroy His people. He said: For what do I need a nation that for it I have performed miracles and wonders to save them from their enemies. I will destroy them from the earth. He told the Satan “Bring me a Megillah and I will inscribe them a death sentence”. Immediately the Torah, the supernal angels, the sun, the moon, and the stars all came before G-d wearing sackcloth, begging and crying for His mercy. Eliyahu Hanavi then went and awoke the Avos and told them to stop sleeping and help save the Jewish people. They replied “What can we do if they transgressed the laws and Hashem decided to destroy them”. Eliyahu then went to Moshe to help stop the decree and Moshe asked him “Is there any Kosher man still left in their generation”. Eliyahu replied that Mordechai is a righteous man. Moshe said “Go tell him to pray for the Jews below and I will pray for them above and ask for mercy from G-d.”


Did Haman make any decrees against the Jewish religion?[17]

Yes. Haman decreed against the Jews keeping Holidays, learning Torah, performing circumcisions and wearing Tefillin. This is the reason that Chazal[18] state that when the battle was won the Jews were Orah-Torah; Simcha-Yom Tov; Sason-Bris; Vikar-Tefillin.


Was every Jew under the threat of annihilation due to the decrees of Haman?[19]

The Midrash[20] writes that there were 252 countries in existence at that time. Achashveirosh ruled over 127 of those countries. Hence there were certainly many countries that contained Jews that were not under the threat of Haman.[21] However the Gemara[22] states that Achashveirosh was king over the entire world. Perhaps however one can say that he had influence over the entire world but was not able to control and decree upon all 252 countries, and only fully controlled 127 of them. Alternatively all the Jews of the world lived within the 127 countries and hence all the Jews were under the threat.


Were Mordechai and Esther under threat of the decree?[23]

Mordechai and Esther were not under the threat of the decree as they enjoyed the protection of the king. Esther was the wife of the king and he was a respected official in the Kingdom of Achashveirosh.


How was the lottery performed?

Haman first performed a lottery for the day of the week. Then he performed a lottery for the month.[24] He also performed a lottery on the date of the month.[25]


Why did Haman make a lottery to choose the month of destruction?[26]

The purpose of the lottery was use spiritual forces that are above intellect to determine the most opportune time to annihilate the Jews. According to intellect, the Jews are the chosen nation, and there is hence no room to allow for their destruction. The lottery’s function was to arouse its spiritual counterpart in G-dliness that transcends intellect and hence allow for the annihilation of the Jewish people.


Why did Haman rejoice that the date fell on Adar?

As this is the month that Moshe died.[27] Now although other great Jewish leaders died in other months, nevertheless Moshe’s death came as a result of his sin of the Meiy Meriva, and he prayed many supplications before G-d to remove the decree of his death, and nevertheless he was unanswered. Hence Haman thought that  G-d does not answer prayers in this month and thus he rejoiced.[28] What Haman did not know was that this was the month that Moshe was born and Hashem had him die in that month in order to complete his years.[29]


Did Achashveirosh hate the Jews as much as Haman?

Yes. The Gemara[30] compares this to the following parable: There were two people who were in need of each other, one which had a ditch that needed to be filled and another that had a mound that needed to be flattened. They met and came up with a solution; the earth of the mound would be used to fill the ditch. Similarly Achashveirosh and Haman both wanted to destroy the Jews and he was waiting for the right person to carry out his plan. The Midrash[31] in fact states that Achashveirosh hated the Jews even more than Haman. However some Mefarshim[32] explain that in truth Achashveirosh did not intend to truly kill the Jews and simply agreed to frighten them with the royal threat. This is inferred from the fact that Haman merely asked the king to write that they be destroyed and not to actually destroy them! That is why he refused to accept the money from Haman, as the plot was never truly to be carried out. However Haman the wicked had every intent on following through with the decree. This evil intent was only discovered by Achashveirosh at the second banquet when Esther informed him.


Why did Achashveirosh decline to accept the money from Haman?

As he viewed it as if Haman was doing him a favor. [See previous answer!] However some Mefarshim[33] explain that in truth Achashveirosh did accept the money, and the meaning of the verse is that he told Haman to keep the money of the Jews as spoil.


What did Haman plan on doing with the money offered to the king?[34]

He wanted the moneys to be distributed to charity in order to gain Divine consent for the successfulness of his plot. This is why the Gemara states that the Jews already preceded their Shekalim to the Shekalim of Haman, as they preceded their charity to Haman’s charity.


What was written in the letter of the decree that was sent to all the provinces?

The Midrash[35] writes the following was the content of the letter that Haman wrote:[36] A lowly nation sits in our midst. They appear like madmen which strive for evil to befall us. They are ungrateful. Pharaoh hosted them in his land and fed them during times of famine and they repaid him with evil by cunningly telling him they need to leave for three days for a sacrificial holiday for their G-d, and they borrowed all the gold and silver and never returned. They had a prophet called Moshe that whispered to his staff and caused the sea to split. Pharaoh and the Egyptians went through to only be drowned. My ancestor Amaleik then came to battle them and Moshe sent his cruel student Yehoshua to attack them. Moshe whispered some words and many Amaleikim fell. They did the same to each nation in Canaan. Then came this King David who fought against all the kingdoms, and his son who built this house in which they would enter and perform these unknown ceremonies. This ended when Nebuchadnezzar came and destroyed them and exiled them to these countries. Nevertheless they still did not change their putrid ways which scoff at us and our deities. We are an abomination in their eyes and they don’t marry into us. There are many more matters which cannot even be written. So we have made a lottery to destroy them on the 13th of Adar and when you receive this letter, destroy them and annihilate them, men, women and children, and do not leave anyone for refuge.


Why was the city of Shushan in confusion?

One Midrash[37] states that Hashem caused many tragedies to occur in Shushan. A woman would go up to her roof to spread the fruits and would fall and die. A man would go to the well to draw water and he would fall into it and die. Another Midrash[38] states that acts of anti-Semitism increased in Shushan. A man would go to the marketplace to purchase some food and the Persian would choke him and tell him tomorrow I will kill you and take all your money. 


[1] 3/5-15

[2] Megillah 13b; Yalkut Shimoni 1054; Esther Raba 18

[3] The Yalkut Shimoni ibid writes as follows: The king remarked: How can I sell you the Jews who have been placed to be guarded within my possessions? I fear that I will see the same fate as my predecessors who were all punished for harming the Jews. Haman replied: All those punishments were only given being that the Jews had a Temple and gave their Shekalim to the treasury. However now they do not have these merits and G-d is angry with them. I will pay you a half shekel per head of the 600,000 which is a total of 10,000 Kikar Kesef. The king replied: The Jews have been placed in my hands and I will not sell them to you. I will do a raffle. If the money falls to me and the people to you then I will sell them to you. If the people fall to me and the money to you then I will not sell them.

[4] Megillah ibid

[5] Yalkut Shimoni 1054

[6] Yalkut Shimoni 1057

[7] Esther Raba 18

[8] Yalkut Shimoni 1054; Esther Raba 17

[9] See Sichas Purim 1970

[10] Megillah 12a


This question was asked by the students of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai to their teacher Rebbe Shimon. Rav Shimon said that they should give an attempted answer to which they replied the reason is because the Jews at that time benefited and partook from the feast of Achashveirosh.  Rebbe Shimon asked them “If so then why did all the Jews in the world deserve annihilation. The decree should have been limited to Shushan?” He then told them the reason was because they bowed down to idols. They then asked on this why the Jews deserved punishment if they were forced to bow down and did not do so willingly. Rebbe Shimon replied that just like the Jews only externally sinned so too the decree was only external, as in truth Hashem already created the “Refua” through Esther even before the decree. [See Iyun Yaakov Megillah ibid] See however Esther Raba 18 that the reason behind the decree was the sins performed by the feast and no mention is made of the sin of idolatry.

[11] The final answer of Rebbe Shimon. The Jews were forced to serve idolatry in the times of Nebuchadnezzar. [Iyun Yaakov Megillah 11b]

[12] The attempted answer of the students. Rebbe Shimon did not argue on this matter regarding Shushan and simply stated it would not explain why the decree applied to other Jews as well.

[13] Yalkut Shimoni 1048

[14] Rif on Eiyn Yaakov Megillah 12a

[15] Likkutei Sichos 31 p. 171

[16] Esther Raba 18; Yalkut Shimoni 1057

[17] Maharsha on Megillah 16b

[18] Megillah 16b

[19] Kaf Hachaim 689/1

[20] Esther Raba 1/7

[21] Yifei Laleiv 3/1 brought in Kaf Hachaim 689/1

[22] Megillah 11a

[23] Hisvadyus 1985 p. 1418

[24] Esther Raba 16 [7/11]

[25] Rashi 3/7

[26] Mamar “Al Kein Karu Leyamim Haeilu Purim” 1953 [printed in Sefer Hamamarim Melukat Adar p. 65]; Igros Kodesh 2/105; Likkutei Sichos 3/916 footnote 21

[27] Megillah 13b

[28] Iyun Yaakov Megillah ibid

[29] Megillah ibid; Iyun Yaakov ibid

[30] Megillah 14a

[31] Yalkut Shimoni 1054; Esther Raba 18

[32] Iyun Yaakov Megillah 13b

[33] Iyun Yaakov ibid

[34] Iyun Yaakov ibid

[35] Yalkut Shimoni 1054; Esther Raba 18

[36] Esther Raba ibid writes that the letter was written by the Sages of the world and the following was its introduction: Peace onto all of you!  You all know that there is a certain man amongst us from the seed of kingship, the descendent of Amaleik, and he is one of the Gedolei Hador. His name is Haman. He has sat with us and told us about this nation……!

[37] Yalkut Shimoni 1054

[38] Esther Raba 23

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