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was the first to speak up, though in rank he was inferior to the
other six, as appears from the place his name occupies in the list.
However, it is customary, as well among Persians as among Jews,
in passing death sentence, to begin taking the vote with the
youngest of the judges on the bench, to prevent the juniors and the
less prominent from being overawed by the opinion of the more
influential. (42)

It was Memucan's advice to the king to make an example of
Vashti, so that in future no woman should dare refuse obedience to
her husband. Daniel-Memucan had had unpleasant experiences in
his conjugal life. He had married a wealthy Persian lady, who
insisted upon speaking to him in her own language exclusively.
(43) Besides, personal antipathy existed between Daniel and
Vashti. He had in a measure been the cause of her refusal to
appear before the king and his princes. Vashti hated Daniel,
because it was he who had prophesied his death to her father, and
the extinction of his dynasty. She could not endure his sight,
wherefore she would not show herself to the court in his presence.
(44) Also, it was Daniel who, by pronouncing the Name of God,
had caused the beauty of Vashti to vanish, and her face to be
marred. (45) In consequence of all this, Daniel advised, not only
that Vashti should be cast off, but that she should be made
harmless forever by the hangman's hand. His advice was endorsed
by his colleagues, and approved by the king. That the king might
not delay execution of the death sentence, and Daniel himself thus
incur danger to his own life, he made Ahasuerus swear the most
solemn oath known to the Persians, that it would be carried out
forthwith. At the same time a royal edict was promulgated, making
it the duty of wives to obey their husbands. With special reference
to Daniel's domestic difficulties, it was specified that the wife
must speak the language of her lord and master. (46)

The execution of Vashti brought most disastrous consequences in
its train. His whole empire, which is tantamount to saying the
whole world, rose against Ahasuerus. The widespread rebellion
was put down only after his marriage with Esther, but not before it
had inflicted upon him the loss of one hundred and twenty-seven
provinces, the half of his kingdom. Such was his punishment for
refusing permission to rebuild the Temple. It was only after the fall
of Haman, when Mordecai had been made the chancellor of the
empire, that Ahasuerus succeeded in reducing the revolted
provinces to submission. (47)

The death of Vashti was not undeserved punishment, for it had
been she who had prevented the king from giving his consent to
the rebuilding of the Temple. "Wilt thou rebuild the Temple," said
she, reproachfully, "which my ancestors destroyed?" (48)


Ahasuerus is the prototype of the unstable, foolish ruler. He
sacrificed his wife Vashti to his friend Haman-Memucan, and later
on again his friend Haman to his wife Esther. (49) Folly possessed
him, too, when he arranged extravagant festivities for guests from
afar, before he had won, by means of kindly treatment, the
friendship of his surroundings, of the inhabitants of his capital.
(50) Ridiculous is the word that describes his edict bidding wives
obey their husbands. Every one who read it exclaimed: "To be
sure, a man is master in his own house!" However, the silly decree
served its purpose. It revealed his true character to the subjects of
Ahasuerus, and thenceforward they attached little importance to
his edicts. This was the reason why the decree of annihilation
directed against the Jews failed of the effect expected by Haman
and Ahasuerus. The people regarded it as but another of the king's
foolish pranks, and therefore were ready to acquiesce in the
revocation of the edict when it came. (51)

The king's true character appeared when he grew sober after the
episode with Vashti. Learning that he had had her executed, he
burst out furiously against his seven counsellors, and in turn
ordered them to death. (52)

Foolish, too, is the only word to describe the manner in which he
set about discovering the most beautiful woman in his dominion.
King David on a similar occasion wisely sent out messengers who
were to bring to him the most beautiful maiden in the land, and
there was none who was not eager to enjoy the honor of giving a
daughter of his to the king. Ahasuerus's method was to have his
servants gather together a multitude of beautiful maidens and
women from all parts, and among them he proposed to make
choice. The result of this system was that the women concealed
themselves to avoid being taken into the harem of the king, when
it was not certain that they would be found worthy of becoming his
queen. (53)

With his stupidity Ahasuerus combined wantonness. He ordered
force to be used in taking the maidens from their parents and the
wives from their husbands, and then he confined them in his
harem. (54) On the other hand, the moral sense of the heathen was
so degraded that many maidens displayed their charms to public
view, so that they might be sure to attract the admiring attention of
the royal emissaries.

As for Esther, for four years Mordecai kept her concealed in a
chamber, so that the king's scouts could not discover her. But her
beauty had long been known to fame, and when they returned to
Shushan, they had to confess to the king, that the most superbly
beautiful woman in the land eluded their search. Thereupon
Ahasuerus issued a decree ordaining the death penalty for the
woman who should secrete herself before his emissaries. There
was nothing left for Mordecai to do but fetch Esther from her
hiding-place, and immediately she was espied and carried to the
palace of the king. (55)


The descent of Mordecai and of his niece Esther is disposed of in a
few words in the Scripture. But he could trace it all the way back
to the Patriarch Jacob, from whom he was forty-five degrees
removed. (56) Beside the father of Mordecai, the only ancestor of
his who is mentioned by name is Shimei, and he is mentioned for a
specific reason. This Shimei is none other then the notorious son
of Gera, the rebel who had so scoffed and mocked at David fleeing
before Absalom that he would have been killed by Abishai, if
David had not generously interfered in his favor. David's prophetic
eye discerned in Shimei the ancestor of Israel's savior in the time
of Ahasuerus. For this reason he dealt leniently with him, and on
his death-bed he bade his son Solomon reserve vengeance until
Shimei should have reached old age and could beget no more
children. Thus Mordecai deserves both appellations, the Benjamite
and the Judean, for he owed his existence not only to his actual
Benjamite forebears on his father's side, but also to the Judean
David, who kept his ancestor Shimei alive. (57)

Shimei's distinction as the ancestor of Israel's redeemer was due to
the merits of his wife. When Jonathan and Ahimaaz, David's spies
in his war against his son, fled before the myrmidons of Absalom,
they found the gate of Shimei's house open. Entering, they
concealed themselves in the well. That they escaped detection was
due to the ruse of Shimei's pious wife. She quickly transformed the
well into a lady's chamber. When Absalom's men came and looked
about, they desisted from searching the place, because they
reasoned, that men as saintly as Jonathan and Ahimaaz would not
have taken refuge in the private apartment of a woman. God
determined, that for having rescued two pious men He would
reward her with two pious descendants, who should in turn avert
the ruin of Israel. (58)

On his mother's side, Mordecai was, in very deed, a member of the
tribe of Judah. (59) In any event, he was a son of Judah in the true
sense of the word; he publicly acknowledged himself a Jew, and
he refused to touch of the forbidden food which Ahasuerus set
before his guest at his banquet. (60)

His other appellatives likewise point to his piety and his
excellencies. His name Mordecai, for instance, consists of Mor,
meaning "myrrh," and Decai, "pure," for he was as refined and
noble as pure myrrh. Again, he is called Ben Jair, because he
"illumined the eyes of Israel"; and Ben Kish, because when he
knocked at the gates of the Divine mercy, they were opened unto
him, which is likewise the origin of his name Ben Shimei, for he
was heard by God when he offered up prayer. (61) Still another of
Mordecai's epithets was Bilshan, "master of languages." Being a
member of the great Sanhedrin he understood all the seventy
languages spoken in the world. (62) More than that, he knew the
language of the deaf mutes. It once happened that no new grain
could be obtained at Passover time. A deaf mute came and pointed
with one hand to the roof and with the other to the cottage.
Mordecai understood that these signs meant a locality by the name
of Gagot-Zerifim, Cottage-Roofs, and, lo, new grain was found
there for the 'Omer offering. On another occasion a deaf mute
pointed with one hand to his eye and with the other to the staple of
the bolt on the door. Mordecai understood that he meant a place
called En-Soker, "dry well," for eye and spring are the same word,
En, in Aramaic, and Sikra also has a double meaning, staple and
exhaustion. (63)

Mordecai belonged to the highest aristocracy of Jerusalem, he
was of royal blood, and he was deported to Babylonian together
with King Jeconiah, by Nebuchadnezzar, who at that time exiled
only the great of the land. (64) Later he returned to Palestine, but
remained only for a time. He preferred to live in the Diaspora, and
watch over the education of Esther. When Cyrus and Darius
captured Babylon, Mordecai, Daniel, and the Jewish community of
the conquered city accompanied King Cyrus to Shushan, where
Mordecai established his academy. (65)


The birth of Esther caused the death of her mother. Her father had
died a little while before, so she was entirely orphaned. Mordecai
and his wife interested themselves in the poor babe. His wife
became her nurse, and he himself did not hesitate, when there was
need for it, to do services for the child that are usually performed
only by women. (66)

Both her names, Esther as well as Hadassah, are descriptive of her
virtues. Hadassah, or Myrtle, she is called, because her good deeds
spread her fame abroad, as the sweet fragrance of the myrtle
pervades the air in which it grows. In general, the myrtle is
symbolic of the pious, because, as the myrtle is ever green,
summer and winter alike, so the saints never suffer dishonor,
either in this world or in the world to come. In another way Esther
resembled the myrtle, which, in spite of its pleasant scent, has a
bitter taste. Esther was pleasant to the Jews, but bitterness itself to
Haman and all who belonged to him.

The name Esther is equally significant. In Hebrew it means "she
who conceals," a fitting name for the niece of Mordecai, the
woman who well knew how to guard a secret, and long hid her
descent and faith from the king and the court. She herself had been
kept concealed for years in the house of her uncle, withdrawn from
the searching eyes of the king's spies. Above all she was the hidden
light that suddenly shone upon Israel in his rayless darkness.

In build, Esther was neither tall nor short, she was exactly of
average height, another reason for calling her Myrtle, a plant
which likewise is neither large nor small. In point of fact, Esther
was not a beauty in the real sense of the word. The beholder was
bewitched by her grace and her charm, and that in spite of her
somewhat sallow, myrtle-like complexion. (67) More than this, her
enchanting grace was not the grace of youth, for she was
seventy-five years old when she came to court, and captivated the
hearts of all who saw her, from king to eunuch. This was in
fulfilment of the prophecy which God made to Abraham when he
was leaving the home of his father: "Thou art leaving the house of
thy father at the age of seventy-five. As thou livest, the deliverer of
thy children in Media also shall be seventy-five years old."

Another historical event pointed forward to Esther's achievement.
When the Jews, after the destruction of Jerusalem, broke out into
the wail, "We are orphans and fatherless," God said: "in very sooth,
the redeemer whom I shall send unto you in Media shall also be an
orphan fatherless and motherless." (68)

Ahasuerus put Esther between two groups of beauties, Median
beauties to right of her, and Persian beauties to left of her. Yet
Esther's comeliness outshone them all. (69) Not even Joseph could
vie with the Jewish queen in grace. Grace was suspended above
him, but Esther was fairly laden down with it. (70) Whoever saw
her, pronounced her the ideal of beauty of his nation. The general
exclamation was: "This one is worthy of being queen." (71) In vain
Ahasuerus had sought a wife for four years, in vain fathers had
spent time and money bringing their daughters to him, in the hope
that one or the other would appeal to his fancy. None among the
maidens, none among the women, pleased Ahasuerus. But scarcely
had he set eyes upon Esther when he thrilled with the feeling, that
he had at last found what he had long yearned for. (72)

All these years the portrait of Vashti had hung in his chamber. He
had not forgotten his rejected queen. But once he beheld Esther,
Vashti's picture was replaced by hers. (73) Maiden grace and
womanly charm were in her united. (74)

The change in her worldly position wrought no change in Esther's
ways and manners. As she retained her beauty until old age, so the
queen remained as pure in mind and soul as ever the simple
maiden had been. All the other women who entered the gates of
the royal palace made exaggerated demands, Esther's demeanor
continued modest and unassuming. The others insisted that the
seven girl pages assigned to them should have certain peculiar
qualities, as, that they should not differ, each from her mistress, in
complexion and height. Esther uttered no wish whatsoever.

But her unpretending ways were far from pleasing to Hegai, chief
of the eunuchs of the harem. He feared lest the king discover that
Esther did nothing to preserve her beauty, and would put the blame
for it upon him, an accusation that might bring him to the gallows.
To avoid such a fate, he loaded Esther down with resplendent
jewels, distinguishing her beyond all the other women gathered in
the palace, as Joseph, by means of costly gifts lavished upon him,
had singled out her ancestor Benjamin from among his brethren.

Hegai paid particular attention to what Esther ate. For her he
brought dishes from the royal table, which, however, she refused
obstinately to ouch. Only such things passed her lips as were
permitted to Jews. She lived entirely on vegetable food, as
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had aforetimes done at the court
of Nebuchadnezzar. (75) The forbidden tidbits she passed over to
the non-Jewish servants. (76) Her personal attendants were seven
Jewish maidens as consistently pious as herself, whose devotion to
the ritual law Esther could depend upon.

Otherwise Esther was cut off from all intercourse with Jews, and
she was in danger of forgetting when the Sabbath bath came
around. She therefore adopted the device of giving her seven
attendants peculiar names, to keep her in mind of the passage of
time. The first one was called Hulta, "Workaday," and she was in
attendance upon Esther on Sundays. On Mondays, she was served
by Rok`ita, to remind her of Rek`ia, "the Firmament," which was
created on the second day of the world. Tuesday's maid was called
Genunita, "Garden," the third day of creation having produced the
world of plants. On Wednesday, she was reminded by Nehorita's
name, "the Luminous," that it was the day on which God had made
the great luminaries, to shed their light in the sky; on Thursday by
Ruhshita, "Movement," for on the fifth day the first animated
beings were created; on Friday, the day on which the beasts came
into being, by Hurfita, "little Ewelamb"; and on the Sabbath her
bidding was done by Rego`ita, "Rest." Thus she was sure to
remember the Sabbath day week after week. (77)

Mordecai's daily visits to the gate of the palace had a similar
purpose. Thus Esther was afforded the opportunity of obtaining
instruction from him on all ritual doubts that might assail her. (78)
This lively interest displayed by Mordecai in Esther's physical and
spiritual welfare is not wholly attributable to an uncle's and
guardian's solicitude in behalf of an orphaned niece. A much
closer bond, the bond between husband and wife, united them, for
when Esther had grown to maidenhood, Mordecai had espoused
her. (79) Naturally, Esther would have been ready to defend her
conjugal honor with her life. She would gladly have suffered death
at the hands of the king's bailiffs rather than yield herself to a man
not her husband. Luckily, there was no need for this sacrifice, for
her marriage with Ahasuerus was but a feigned union. God has
sent down a female spirit in the guise of Esther to take her place
with the king. Esther herself never lived with Ahasuerus as his
wife. (80)

At the advice of her uncle, Esther kept her descent and her faith a
secret. Mordecai's injunction was dictated by several motives. First
of all it was his modesty that suggested secrecy. He thought the
king, if he heard from Esther that she had been raised by him,
might offer to install him in some high office. In point of fact,
Mordecai was right in his conjecture; Ahasuerus had pledged
himself to make lords, princes, and kings of Esther's friends and
kinspeople, if she would but name them.

Another reason for keeping Esther's Jewish affiliations a secret
was Mordecai's apprehension, that the fate of Vashti overtake
Esther, too. If such were in store for her, he desired at least to
guard against the Jews' becoming her fellowsuffers. Besides,
Mordecai knew only too well the inimical feelings entertained by
the heathen toward the Jews, ever since their exile from the Holy
Land, and he feared that the Jew-haters, to gratify their hostility
against the Jews, might bring about the ruin of Esther and her
house. (81)

Mindful of the perils to which Esther was exposed, Mordecai
allowed no day to pass without assuring himself of her well-being.
His compensation therefore came from God: "Thou makest the
well-being of a single soul they intimate concern. As thou livest,
the well-being and good of thy whole nation Israel shall be
entrusted to thee as thy task." (82) And to reward him for his
modesty, God said: "Thou withdrawest thyself from greatness; as
thou livest, I will honor thee more than all men on earth." (83)

Vain were the efforts made by Ahasuerus to draw her secret from
Esther. He arranged great festivities for the purpose, but she
guarded it well. She had an answer ready for his most insistent
questions: "I know neither my people nor my family, for I lost my
parents in my earliest infancy." But as the king desired greatly to
show himself gracious to the nation to which the queen belonged,
he released all the peoples under his dominion from the payment
of taxes and imposts. In this way, he thought, her nation was bound
to be benefited. (84)

When the king saw that kindness and generosity left her
untouched, he sought to wrest the secret from her by threats. Once
when she parried his inquiries in the customary way, saying, "I am
an orphan, and God, the Father of the fatherless, in His mercy, has
brought me up," he retorted: I shall gather virgins together the
second time." His purpose was to provoke the jealousy of Esther,
"for a woman is jealous of nothing so much as a rival."

When Mordecai noticed that women were being brought to court
anew, he was overcome with anxiety for his niece. Thinking that
the fate of Vashti might have befallen her, he was impelled to
make inquires about her. (85)

As for Esther herself, she was but following the example of her
race. She could keep silent in all modesty, as Rachel, the mother of
Benjamin, had kept a modest silence when her father gave her
sister Leah to Jacob for wife instead of herself, and as Saul the
Benjamite was modestly reserved when, questioned by his uncle,
he told about the finding of his she-asses, but nothing about his
elevation to the kingship. Rachel and Saul were recompensed for
their self-abnegation by being given a descendant like Esther. (86)


Once the following conversation took place between Ahasuerus
and Esther. The king asked Esther: "Whose daughter art thou?"

Esther: "And whose son art thou?"

Ahasuerus: "I am a king, and the son of a king."

Esther: "And I am a queen, the daughter of kings, a descendant of
the royal family of Saul. If thou art, indeed, a real prince, how
couldst thou put Vashti to death?"

Ahasuerus: "It was not to gratify my own wish, but at the advice of
the great princes of Persia and Media."

Esther: "Thy predecessors took no advice from ordinary
intelligences; they were guided by prophetical counsel. Arioch
brought Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and
Belshazzar, too, summoned Daniel before him."

Ahasuerus: "Is there aught left of those toothsome morsels? Are
there still prophets abroad?

Esther: "Seek and thou wilt find." (87)

The result was that Mordecai was given the position at court once
occupied by the chamberlains Bigthan and Teresh. Indignant that a
place once filled by senators should be given to a barbarian, the
ousted officials resolved to be revenged upon the king and take his
life. Their purpose was to administer poison, which seemed easy
of accomplishment, as they were the royal butlers, and could find
many occasions to drop poison into a cup of water before handing
it to the king. The plan successfully carried out would have
satisfied their vengeful feelings, not only as to the king, but as to
Mordecai as well. It would have made it appear that the death of
Ahasuerus was attributable to the circumstance, that he had
entrusted his person to the care of the Jew, as his life had been
secure under Bigthan and Teresh. They discussed their plans in the
presence of Mordecai, acting upon the unwarranted assumption,
that he would not understand the language they spoke, the Tarsian,
their native tongue. They were ignorant of the fact, that Mordecai
was a member of the Sanhedrin, and as such knew all the seventy
languages of the world. Thus their own tongue betrayed them to

However, Mordecai had no need to make use of his great
knowledge of languages; he obtained his information about the
plot of the two chamberlains through prophetical channels.
Accordingly, he appeared one night in the palace. By a miracle the
guards at the gates had not seen him, and he could enter
unrestrained. Thus he overheard the conversation between the two

Mordecai had more than a single reason for preventing the death
of Ahasuerus. In the first place, he desired to secure the king's
friendship for the Jews, and more especially his permission for the
rebuilding of the Temple. Then he feared, if the king were
murdered immediately after his rise to a high place in the state, the
heathen would assign as the cause of the disaster his connection
with the Jews his marriage with Esther and the appointment of
Mordecai to office.

Esther's confidence in Mordecai's piety was so great that she
unhesitatingly gave credence to the message she received from
him concerning the mischievous plot hatched against the king. She
believed that God would execute the wishes of Mordecai. Albeit
Bigthan and Teresh had no plans of the sort attributed to them by
her uncle, they would conceive then now in order to make
Mordecai's words true. That Esther's confidence was justified
appeared at once. The conspirators got wind of their betrayal to the
king, and in good time they removed the poison they had already
placed in Ahasuerus's cup. But that the lie might not be given to
Mordecai, God caused poison to appear where none had been, and
the conspirators were convicted of their crime. (88) The king had
the water analyzed which he was given to drink, and it was made
manifest that it contained poison. (89) Other evidence besides
existed against the two plotters. It was established that both had at
the same time busied themselves about the person of the king,
though the regulations of the palace assigned definite hours of
service to the one different from those assigned to the other. This
made it clear that they intended to perpetrate a dark deed in
common. (90)

The two conspirators sought to escape the legitimate punishment
for their dastardly deed by ending their own life. But their
intention was frustrated, and they were nailed to the cross. (91)


The conspiracy of Bigthan and Teresh determined the king never
again to have two chamberlains guard his person. Henceforward he
would entrust his safety to a single individual, and he appointed
Haman to the place. This was an act of ingratitude toward
Mordecai, who, as the king's savior, had the most cogent claims
upon the post. (92) But Haman possessed one important
advantage, he was the owner of great wealth. With the exception
of Korah he was the richest man that had ever lived, for he had
appropriated to himself the treasures of the Judean kings and of
the Temple. (93)

Ahasuerus had an additional reason for distinguishing Haman. He
was well aware of Mordecai's ardent desire to see the Temple
restored, and he instinctively felt he could not deny the wish of the
man who had snatched him from untimely death. Yet he was not
prepared to grant it. To escape from the dilemma he endeavored to
make Haman act as a counterpoise against Mordecai, that "what
the one built up, the other might pull down." (94)

Ahasuerus had long been acquainted with Haman's feeling against
the Jews. When the quarrel about the rebuilding of the Temple
broke out between the Jews and their heathen adversaries, and the
sons of Haman denounced the Jews before Ahasuerus, the two
parties at odds agreed to send each a representative to the king, to
advocate his case. Mordecai was appointed the Jewish delegate,
and no more rabid Jew-hater could be found than Haman, to plead
the cause of the antagonists of the Temple builders. (95)

As for his character, that, too, King Ahasuerus had had occasion to
see in its true light, because Haman is but another name for
Memucan, the prince who is chargeable in the last resort with the
death of Vashti. At the time of the king's wrath against the queen,
Memucan was still lowest in the rank among the seven princes of
Persia, yet, arrogant as he was, he was the first to speak up when
the king put his question about the punishment due to Vashti an
illustration of the popular adage: "The common man rushes to the
front." (96) Haman's hostility toward Vashti dated from her
banquet, to which the queen had failed to bid his wife as guest.
Moreover, she had once insulted him by striking him a blow in the
face. Besides, Haman calculated, if only Vashti's repudiation could
be brought about, he might succeed in marrying his own daughter
to the king. (97) He was not the only disappointed man at court. In
part the conspiracy of Bigthan and Teresh was a measure of
revenge against Ahasuerus for having made choice of Esther
instead of a kinswoman of theirs. (98)

Esther once married to the king, however, Haman made the best of
a bad bargain. He tried by every means in his power to win the
friendship of the queen. Whether she was Jewess or heathen, he
desired to claim kinship with her as a Jewess through the
fraternal bond between Esau and Jacob, as a heathen easily
enough, "for all the heathen area akin to one another." (99)


When Ahasuerus raised Haman to his high office, he at the same
time issued the order, that all who saw him were to prostrate
themselves before him and pay him Divine honors. To make it
manifest that the homage due to him had an idolatrous character,
Haman had the image of an idol fastened to his clothes, so that
whoever bowed down before him, worshipped an idol at the same
time. (100) Mordecai alone of all at court refused to obey the royal
order. The highest officials, even the most exalted judges, showed
Haman the reverence bidden by the king. The Jews themselves
entreated Mordecai not to call forth the fury of Haman, and cause
the ruin of Israel thereby. Mordecai, however, remained steadfast;
no persuasions could move him to pay to a mortal the tribute due
to Divinity. (101)

Also the servants of the king who sat at the gate of the royal palace
said to Mordecai: "Wherein art thou better than we, that we should
pay reverence to Haman and prostrate ourselves, and thou doest
naught of all commanded us in the matter?" Mordecai answered,
saying "O ye fools without understanding! Hear ye my words and
make meet reply thereunto. Who is man that he should act proudly
and arrogantly man born of woman and few in days? At his birth
there is weeping and travailing, in his youth pain and groans, all
his days are 'full of trouble,' and in the end he returns unto dust.
Before such an one I should prostrate myself? I bend the knee
before God alone, the only living One in heaven, He who is the fire
consuming all other fires; who holds the earth in His arms; who
stretches out the heavens in His might; who darkens the sun when
it pleases Him, and illumines the darkness; who commanded the
sand to set bounds unto the seas; who made the waters of the sea
salt, and caused its waves to spread an aroma as of wine; who
chained the sea as with manacles, and held it fast in the depths of
the abyss that it might not overflow the land; it rages, yet it cannot
pass its limits. With His word He created the firmament, which He
stretched out like a cloud in the air; He cast it over the world like a
dark vault, like a tent it is spread over the earth. In His strength He
upholds all there is above and below. The sun, the moon, and the
Pleiades run before Him, the stars and the planets are not idle for a
single moment; they rest not, they speed before Him as His
messengers, going to the right and to the left, to do the will of Him
who created them. To Him praise is due, before Him we must
prostrate ourselves."

The court officials spake and said: "Yet we know well that thy
ancestor Jacob prostrated himself before Haman's ancestor Esau!"

Whereunto Mordecai made reply: "I am a descendant of Benjamin,
who was not yet born when his father Jacob and his brothers cast
themselves upon the earth before Esau. My ancestor never showed
such honor to a mortal. Therefore was Benjamin's allotment of
land in Palestine privileged to contain the Temple. The spot
whereon Israel and all the peoples of the earth prostrated
themselves before God belonged to him who had never prostrated
himself before mortal man. Therefore I will not bend my knee
before this sinner Haman, nor cast myself to earth before him."

Haman at first tried to propitiate Mordecai by a show of modesty.
As though he had not noticed the behavior of Mordecai, he
approached him, and saluted him with the words: "Peace be with
thee, my lord!" But Mordecai bluntly replied: "There is no peace,
saith my God, to the wicked." (103)

The hatred of Mordecai cherished by Haman was due to more than
the hereditary enmity between the descendants of Saul and Agag.
(104) Not even Mordecai's public refusal to pay the homage due to
Haman suffices to explain its virulence. Mordecai was aware of a
certain incident in the past of Haman. If he had divulged it, the
betrayal would have been most painful to the latter. This accounts
for the intensity of his feeling.

It once happened that a city in India rebelled against Ahasuerus. In
great haste troops were dispatched thither under the command of
Mordecai and Haman. It was estimated that the campaign would
require three years, and all preparations were made accordingly.
By the end of the first year Haman had squandered the provisions
laid in to supply the part of the army commanded by him, for the
whole term of the campaign. Greatly embarrassed, he requested
Mordecai to give him aid. Mordecai, however, refused him succor;
they both had been granted the same amount of provisions for an
equal number of men. Haman then offered to borrow from
Mordecai and pay him interest. This, too, Mordecai refused to do,
and for two reasons. If Mordecai had supplied Haman's men with
provisions, his own would have to suffer, and as for interest, the
law prohibits it, saying "Unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon
usury," and Jacob and Esau, the respective ancestors of Mordecai
and Haman, had been brothers.

When starvation stared them in the face, the troops commanded by
Haman threatened him with death unless he gave them their
rations. Haman again resorted to Mordecai, and promised to pay
him as much as ten per cent interest. The Jewish general continued
to refuse the offer. But he professed himself willing to help him
out of his embarrassment on one condition, that Haman sell
himself to Mordecai as his slave. Driven into a corner, he
acquiesced, and the contract was written upon Mordecai's
knee-cap, because there was no paper to be found in the camp.

The bill of sale ran thus: "I, Haman, the son of Hammedatha of the
family of Agag, was sent out by King Ahasuerus to make war upon
an Indian city, with an army of sixty thousand soldiers, furnished
with the necessary provisions. Precisely the same commission was
given by the king to Mordecai, the son of Shimei of the tribe of
Benjamin. But I squandered the provisions entrusted to me by the
king, so that I had no rations to give to my troops. I desired to
borrow from Mordecai on interest, but, having regard to the fact
that Jacob and Esau were brothers, he refused to lend me upon
usury, and I was forced to sell myself as slave to him. If, now, I
should at any time decline to serve him as a slave, or deny that I
am his slave, or if my children and children's children unto the end
of all time should refuse to do him service, if only a single day of
the week; or if I should act inimically toward him on account of
this contract, as Esau did toward Jacob after selling him his
birthright; in all these cases, a beam of wood is to be plucked out
of the house of the recalcitrant, and he is to be hanged upon it. I,
Haman, the son of Hammedatha of the family of Agag, being
under no restraint, do hereby consent with my own will, and bind
myself to be slave in perpetuity to Mordecai, in accordance with
the contents of this document."

Later, when Haman attained to high rank in the state, Mordecai,
whenever he met him, was in the habit of stretching out his knee
toward him, so that he might see the bill of sale. This so enraged
him against Mordecai and against the Jews that he resolved to
extirpate the Jewish people. (105)


Haman's hatred, first directed against Mordecai alone, grew apace
until it included Mordecai's colleagues, all the scholars, whom he
sought to destroy, and not satisfied with even this, he plotted the
annihilation of the whole of Mordecai's people, the Jews. (106)

Before beginning to lay out his plans, he desired to determine the
most favorable moment for his undertaking, which he did by
casting lots.

First of all he wanted to decide on the day of the week. The scribe
Shimshai began to cast lots. Sunday appeared inappropriate, being
the day on which God created heaven and earth, whose
continuance depends on Israel's existence. Were it not for God's
covenant with Israel, there would be neither day nor night, neither
heaven nor earth. Monday showed itself equally unpropitious for
Haman's devices, for it was the day on which God effected the
separation between the celestial and the terrestrial waters,
symbolic of the separation between Israel and the heathen.
Tuesday, the day on which the vegetable world was created,
refused to give its aid in bringing about the ruin of Israel, who
worships God with branches of palm trees. Wednesday, too,
protested against the annihilation of Israel, saying: "On me the
celestial luminaries were created, and like unto them Israel is
appointed to illumine the whole world. First destroy me, and then
Thou mayest destroy Israel." Thursday said: "O Lord, on me the
birds were created, which are used for sin offerings. When Israel
shall be no more, who will bring offerings? First destroy me, and
then Thou mayest destroy Israel." Friday was unfavorable to
Haman's lots, because it was the day of the creation of man, and
the Lord God said to Israel, "Ye are men." Least of all was the
Sabbath day inclined to make itself subservient to Haman's wicked
plans. It said: "The Sabbath is a sign between Israel and God. First
destroy me, and then Thou mayest destroy Israel!" (107)

Baffled, Haman gave up all idea of settling upon a favorable day of
the week. He applied himself to the task of searching out the
suitable month for his sinister undertaking. As it appeared to him,
Adar was the only one of the twelve owning naught that might be
interpreted in favor of the Jews. The rest of them seemed to be
enlisted on their side. In Nisan Israel was redeemed from Egypt; in
Iyar Amlek was overcome; In Siwan the Ethiopian Zerah was
smitten in the war with Asa; in Tammuz the Amorite kings were
subjugated; in Ab the Jews won a victory over Arad, the
Canaanite; in Tishri the Jewish kingdom was firmly established by
the dedication of Solomon's Temple, while in Heshwan the
building of the Temple at Jerusalem was completed; Kislew and
Tebet were the months during which Sihon and Og were
conquered by the Israelites, and in Shebat occurred the sanguinary
campaign of the eleven tribes against the godless children of
Benjamin. Not alone was Adar a month without favorable
significance in Jewish history, but actually a month of misfortune,
the month in which Moses died. What Haman did not know was,
that Adar was the month in which occurred also the birth of
Moses. (108)

Then Haman investigated the twelve signs of the zodiac in relation
to Israel, and again it appeared that Adar was the most unfavorable
month for the Jews. The first constellation, the Ram, said to
Haman, "'Israel is a scattered sheep,' and how canst thou expect a
father to offer his son for slaughter?"

The Bull said: "Israel's ancestor was 'the firstling bullock.'"

The Twins: "As we are twins, so Tamar bore twins to Judah."

The Crab: "As I am called Saratan, the scratcher, so it is said of
Israel, 'All that oppress him, he shall scratch sorely.'"

The Lion: "God is called the lion, and is it likely the lion will
permit the fox to bite his children?"

The Virgin: "As I am a virgin, so Israel is compared unto a virgin."

The Balance: "Israel obeys the law against unjust balances in the
Torah, and must therefore be protected by the Balance."

The Scorpion: "Israel is like unto me, for he, too, is called

The Archer: "The sons of Judah are masters of the bow, and the
bows of mighty men directed against them will be broken."

The Goat: "It was a goat that brought blessing unto Jacob, the
ancestor of Israel, and it stands to reason that the blessing of the
ancestor cannot cause misfortune to the descendant."

The Water-bearer: "His dominion is likened unto a bucket, and
therefore the Water-bearer cannot but bring him good." (109)

The Fishes were the only constellation which, at least according to
Haman's interpretation, made unfavorable prognostications as to
the fate of the Jews. It said that the Jews would be swallowed like
fishes. God however spake: "O thou villain! Fishes are sometimes
swallowed, but sometimes they swallow, and thou shalt be
swallowed by the swallowers." (110) And when Haman began to
cast lots, God said: "O thou villain, son of a villain! What thy lots
have shown thee is thine own lot, that thou wilt be hanged." (111)


His resolve to ruin the Jews taken, Haman appeared before
Ahasuerus with his accusation against them. "There is a certain
people," he said, "the Jews, scattered abroad and dispersed among
the peoples in all the provinces of the kingdom. They are proud
and presumptuous. In Tebet, in the depth of winter, they bathe in
warm water, and they sit in cold water in summer. Their religion is
diverse from the religion of every other people, and their laws
from the laws of every other land. To our laws they pay no heed,
our religion finds no favor with them, and the decrees of the king
they do not execute. When their eye falls upon us, they spit out
before us, and they consider us as unclean vessels. When we levy
them for the king's service, they either jump upon the wall, and
hide within the chambers, or they break through the walls and
escape. If we hasten to arrest them, they turn upon us, glare at us
with their eyes, grind their teeth, stamp their feet, and so
intimidate us that we cannot hold them fast. They do not give us
their daughters unto wives, nor do they take our daughters unto
wives. If one of them has to do the king's service, he idles all the
day long. If they want to buy aught of us, they say, 'This is a day
for doing business.' But if we want to buy aught of them, they say,
'We may do no business to-day,' and thus we can buy nothing from
them on their market-days.

"Their time they pass in this wise: The first hour of the day, they
say, they need for reciting the Shema; the second for praying; the
third for eating; the fourth for saying grace, to give thanks to God
for the food and drink He has granted them; the fifth hour they
devote to their business affairs; in the sixth they already feel the
need of rest; in the seventh their wives call for them, saying, 'come
home, ye weary ones, who are so exhausted by the king's service!'

"The seventh day they celebrate as their Sabbath; they go to the
synagogues on that day, read out of their books, translate pieces
from their Prophets, curse our king, and execrate our government,
saying: 'This is the day whereon the great God rested; so may He
grant us rest from the heathen.'

"The women pollute the waters with their ritual baths, which they
take after the seven days of their defilement. On the eighth day
after the birth of sons, they circumcise them mercilessly, saying,
'This shall distinguish us from all other nations.' At the end of
thirty days, and sometimes twenty-nine, they celebrate the
beginning of the month. In the month of Nisan they observe eight
days of Passover, beginning the celebration by kindling a fire of
brushwood to burn up the leaven. They put all the leaven in their
homes out of sight before they use the unleavened bread, saying,
'This is the day whereon our fathers were redeemed from Egypt.'
Such is the festival they call Pesah. They go to their synagogues,
read out of their books, and translate from the writings of the
Prophets, saying: 'As the leaven has been removed out of our
houses, so may this wicked dominion be removed from over us.'

"Again, in Siwan, they celebrate two days, on which they go to
their synagogues, recite the Shema, and offer up prayers, read out
of the Torah, and translate from the books of their Prophets, curse
our king, and execrate our government. This is the holiday which
they call Azarta, the closing festival. They ascend to the roofs of
their synagogues, and throw down apples, which are picked up by
those below, with the words, 'As these apples are gathered up, so
may we be gathered together from our dispersion among the
heathen.' They say they observe this festival, because on these days
the Torah was revealed to their ancestors on Mount Sinai.

"On the first of Tishri they celebrate the New Year again they go
to their synagogues, read out of their books, translate pieces from
the writings of their Prophets, curse our king, execrate our
government, and blow the trumpets, saying: 'On this Day of
Memorial may we be remembered unto good, and our enemies
unto evil.'

"On the ninth day of the same month they slaughter cattle, geese,
and poultry, they eat and drink and indulge in dainties, they and
their wives, their sons and their daughters. But the tenth day of the
same month they call the Great Fast, and all of them fast, they
together with their wives, their sons, and their daughters, yea, they
even torture their little children without mercy, forcing them to
abstain from food. They say: 'On this day our sins are pardoned,
and are added to the sum of the sins committed by our enemies.'
They go to their synagogues, read from their books, translate from
the writings of their Prophets, curse our king, and execrate our
government, saying: 'May this empire be wiped off from the face
of the earth like unto our sins.' They supplicate and pray that the
king may die, and his rule be made to cease.

"On the fifteenth of the same month they celebrate the Feast of
Tabernacles. They cover the roofs of their houses with foliage,
they resort to our parks, where they cut down palm branches for
their festal wreaths, pluck the fruit of the Etrog, and cause havoc
among the willows of the brook, by breaking down the hedges in
their quest after Hosha'not, saying: 'As does the king in the
triumphal procession, so do we.' Then they repair to their
synagogues to pray, and read out of their books, and make circuits
with their Hosha'not, all the while jumping and skipping like goats,
so that there is no telling whether they curse us or bless us. This is
Sukkot, as they call it, and while it lasts, they do none of the king's
service, for, they maintain, all work is forbidden them on these

"In this way they waste the whole year with tomfoolery and
fiddle-faddle, only in order to avoid doing the king's service. At the
expiration of every period of fifty years they have a jubilee year,
and every seventh year is a year of release, during which the land
lies fallow, for they neither sow nor reap therein, and sell us
neither fruits nor other products of the field, so that those of us
who live among them die of hunger. At the end of every period of
twelve months, they observe the New Year, at the end of every
thirty days the New Moon, and every seventh day is the Sabbath,
the day on which, as they say, the Lord of the world rested." (112)

After Haman had finished his arraignment of the Jews, God said:
"Thou didst well enumerate the holidays of the Jews, yet thou didst
omit the two Purim and Shushan-Purim which the Jews will
celebrate to commemorate thy fall."

Clever though Haman's charge was, the vindication of the Jews
was no whit less clever. For they found a defender in the archangel
Michael. While Haman was delivering his indictment, he spoke
thus to God: "O Lord of the world! Thou knowest well that the
Jews are not accused of idolatry, nor of immoral conduct, nor of
shedding blood; they are accused only of observing Thy Torah."
God pacified him: "As thou livest, I have not abandoned them, I
will not abandon them."

Haman's denunciations of the Jewish people found a ready echo in
the heart of the king. He replied: "I, too, desire the annihilation of
the Jews, but I fear their God, for He is mighty beyond compare,
and He loves His people with a great love. Whoever rises up
against them, He crushes under their feet. Just think of Pharaoh!
Should his example not be a warning to us? He ruled the whole
world, yet, because he oppressed the Jews, he was visited with
frightful plagues. God delivered them from the Egyptians, and
cleft the sea for them, a miracle never done for any other nation,
and when Pharaoh pursued them with an army of six hundred
thousand warriors, he and his host together were drowned in the
sea. Thy ancestor Amalek, O Haman, attacked them with four
hundred thousand heroes, and all of them God delivered into the
hands of Joshua, who slew them. Sisera had forty thousand
generals under him, each one commander of a hundred thousand
men, yet they all were annihilated. The God of the Jews ordered
the stars to consume the warriors of Sisera, and then He caused the
great general to fall into the power of a woman, to become a
by-word and a reproach forever. Many and valorous rulers have
risen up against them, they all were cast down by their God and
crushed unto their everlasting disgrace. Now, then, can we venture
aught against them?"

Haman, however, persisted. Day after day he urged the king to
consent to his plan. Ahasuerus thereupon called together a council
of the wise men of all nations and tongues. To them he submitted
the question, whether the Jews ought not to be destroyed, seeing
they differed from all other peoples. The sage councillors inquired:
"Who is it that desires to induce thee to take so fatal a step? If the
Jewish nation is destroyed, the world itself will cease to be, for the
world exists only for the sake of the Torah studied by Israel. Yea,
the very sun and moon shed their light only for the sake of Israel,
and were it not for him, there were neither day nor night, and
neither dew nor rain would moisten the earth. More than this, all
other nations beside Israel are designated as 'strangers' by God, but
Israel He called in His love 'a people near to Him,' and His
'children.' If men do not suffer their children and kinsmen to be
attacked with impunity, how much less will God sit by quiet when
Israel is assailed God the Ruler over all things, over the powers in
heaven above and on earth beneath, over the spirits and the souls
God with whom it lies to exalt and to degrade, to slay and to

Haman was ready with a reply to these words of the wise: "The
God who drowned Pharaoh in the sea, and who did all the wonders
and signs ye have recounted, that God is now in His dotage, He can
neither see nor protect. For did not Nebuchadnezzar destroy His
house, burn His palace, and scatter His people to all corners of the
earth, and He was not able to do one thing against it? If He had had
power and strength, would he not have displayed them? This is the
best proof that He was waxed old and feeble."

When the heathen sages heard these arguments advance by
Haman, they agreed to his plan, and put their signature to an edict
decreeing the persecution of the Jews. (113)


This is the text of the decree which Haman issued to the heads of
all the nations regarding the annihilation of the Jews: "This herein
is written by me, the great officer of the king, his second in rank,
the first among the grandees, and one of the seven princes, and the
most distinguished among the nobles of the realm. I, in agreement
with the rulers of the provinces, the princes of the king, the chiefs
and the lords, the Eastern kings and the satraps, all being of the
same language, write you at the order of King Ahasuerus this
writing sealed with his signet, so that it may not be sent back,
concerning the great eagle Israel. The great eagle had stretched out
his pinions over the whole world; neither bird nor beast could
withstand him. But there came the great lion Nebuchadnezzar, and
dealt the great eagle a stinging blow. His pinions snapped, his
feathers were plucked out, and his feet were hacked off. The whole
world has enjoyed rest, cheer, and tranquillity since the moment
the eagle was chased from his eyrie until this day. Now we notice
that he is using all efforts to secure wings. He is permitting his
feathers to grow, with the intention of covering us and the whole
world, as he did unto our forefathers. At the instance of King
Ahasuerus, all the magnates of the king of Media and Persia are
assembled, and we are writing you our joint advice, as follows: 'Set
snares for the eagle, and capture him before he renews his
strength, and soars back to his eyrie.' We advise you to tear out his
plumage, break his wings, give his flesh to the fowl of heaven,
split the eggs lying in his nest, and crush his young, so that his
memorial may vanish from the world. Our counsel is not like unto
Pharaoh's; he sought to destroy only the men of Israel; to the
women he did no harm. It is not like unto the plan of Esau, who
wanted to slay his brother Jacob and keep his children as slaves. It
is not like unto the tactics of Amalek, who pursued Israel and
smote the hindmost and feeble, but left the strong unscathed. It is
not like unto the policy of Nebuchadnezzar, who carried them
away into exile, and settled them near his own throne. And it is not
like unto the way of Sennacherib, who assigned a land unto the
Jews as fair as their own had been. We, recognizing clearly what
the situation is, have resolved to slay the Jews, annihilate them,
young and old, so that their name and their memorial may be no
more, and their posterity may be cut off forever." (114)

The edict issued by Ahasuerus against the Jews ran thus: "To all
the peoples, nations, and races: Peace be with you! This is to
acquaint you that one came to us who is not of our nation and of
our land, an Amalekite, the son of great ancestors, and his name is
Haman. He made a trifling request of me, saying: 'Among us there
dwells a people, the most despicable of all, who are a
stumbling-block in every time. They are exceeding presumptuous,
and they know our weakness and our shortcomings. They curse the
king in these words, which are constantly in their mouths: "God is
the King of the world forever and ever: He will make the heathen
to perish out of His land: He will execute vengeance and
punishments upon the peoples." From the beginning of all time
they have been ungrateful, as witness their behavior toward
Pharaoh. With kindness he received them, their wives, and their
children, at the time of a famine. He gave up to them the best of
his land. He provided them with food and all they needed. Then
Pharaoh desired to build a palace, and he requested the Jews to do
it for him. They began the work grudgingly, amid murmurings, and
it is not completed unto this day. In the midst of it, they
approached Pharaoh with these words: "We wish to offer sacrifices
to our God in a place that is a three days' journey from here, and
we petition thee to lend us silver and gold vessels, and clothes, and
apparel." So much did they borrow, that each one bore ninety
ass-loads off with him, and Egypt was emptied out. When, the
three days having elapsed, they did not return, Pharaoh pursued
them in order to recover the stolen treasures. What did the Jews?
They had among them a man by the name of Moses, the son of
Amram, an arch-wizard, who had been bred in the house of
Pharaoh. When they reached the sea, this man raised his staff, and
cleft the waters, and led the Jews through them dryshod, while
Pharaoh and his host were drowned.

"'Their God helps them as long as they observe His law, so that
none can prevail against them. Balaam, the only prophet we
heathens ever had, they slew with the sword, as they did unto
Sihon and Og, the powerful kings of Canaan, whose land they took
after killing them. Likewise they brought ruin upon Amalek, the
great and glorious ruler they, and Saul their king, and Samuel
their prophet. Later they had an unmerciful king, David by name,
who smote the Philistines, the Ammonites, and the Moabites, and
not one of them could discomfit him. Solomon, the son of this
king, being wise and sagacious, built them a house of worship in
Jerusalem, that they might not scatter to all parts of the world. But
after they had been guilty of many crimes against their God, He
delivered them into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar, who
deported them to Babylonia.

"'To this day they are among us, and though they are under our
hand, we are of none account in their eyes. Their religion and their
laws are different from the religion and he laws of all the other
nations. Their sons do not marry with our daughters, our gods they
do not worship, they have no regard for our honor, and they refuse
to bend the knee before us. Calling themselves freemen, they will
not do our service, and our commands they heed not.'

"Therefore the grandees, the princes, and the satraps have been
assembled before us, we have taken counsel together, and we have
resolved an irrevocable resolution, according to the laws of the
Medes and Persians, to extirpate the Jews from among the
inhabitants of the earth. We have sent the edict to the hundred and
twenty-seven provinces of my empire, to slay them, their sons,
their wives, and their little children, on the thirteenth day of the
month of Adar none is to escape. As they did to our forefathers,
and desired to do unto us, so shall be done unto them, and their
possessions are to be given over to the spoilers. Thus shall ye do,
that ye may find grace before me. This is the writing of the letter
which I send to you, Ahasuerus king of Media and Persia." (115)

The price Haman offered the king for the Jews was ten thousand
hundredweights of silver. He took the number of the Jews at their
exodus from Egypt, six hundred thousand, as the basis of his
calculation, and offered a half-shekel for every soul of them, the
sum each Israelite had to pay yearly for the maintenance of the
sanctuary. Though the sum was so vast that Haman could not find
coin enough to pay it, but promised to deliver it in the form of
silver bars, Ahasuerus refused the ransom. When Haman made the
offer, he said: "Let us cast lots. If thou drawest Israel and I draw
money, then the sale stands as a valid transaction. If the reverse, it
is not valid." Because of the sins of the Jews, the sale was
confirmed by the lots. But Haman was not too greatly pleased with
his own success. He disliked to give up so large a sum of money.
Observing his ill humor, Ahasuerus said: "Keep the money; I do
not care either to make or to lose money on account of the Jews."

For the Jews it was fortunate that the king did not accept money
for them, else his subjects would not have obeyed his second edict,
the one favorable to the Jews. They would have been able to
advance the argument, that the king, by accepting a sum of money
for them, had resigned his rights over the Jews in favor of Haman,
who, therefore, could deal with them as he pleased. (117)

The agreement between Ahasuerus and Haman was concluded at a
carouse, by way of punishment for the crime of the sons of Jacob,
who had unmercifully sold their brother Joseph into slavery to the
Ishmaelites while eating and drinking. (118)

The joy of this Jew-hating couple for Ahasuerus hated the Jews
with no less fierce a hatred than Haman did (119) was shared by
none. The capital city of Shushan was in mourning and sorely
perplexed. Scarcely had the edict of annihilation been promulgated
against the Jews, when all sorts of misfortunes began to happen in
the city. Women who were hanging up their wash to dry on the
roofs of the houses dropped dead; men who went to draw water
fell into the wells, and lost their lives. While Ahasuerus and
Haman were making merry in the palace, the city was thrown into
consternation and mourning. (120)


The position of the Jews after the royal edict became known
beggars description. If a Jew ventured abroad on the street to make
a purchase, he was almost throttled by the Persians, who taunted
him with these words: "Never mind, to-morrow will soon be here,
and then I shall kill thee, and take thy money away from thee." If a
Jew offered to sell himself as a slave, he was rejected; not even the
sacrifice of his liberty could protect him against the loss of his life.

Mordecai, however, did not despair; he trusted in the Divine help.
On his way from the court, after Haman and his ilk had informed
him with malicious joy of the king's pleasure concerning the Jews,
he met Jewish children coming from school. He asked the first
child what verse from the Scriptures he had studied in school that
day, and the reply was: "Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the
desolation of the wicked when it cometh." The verse committed to
memory by the second was: "Let them take counsel together, but it
shall be brought to naught; let them speak the word, but it shall not
stand; for God is with us." And the verse which the third had learnt
was: "And even to old age I am He, and even to hoar hairs I will
carry you: I have made and will bear; yea, I will carry and will

When Mordecai heard these verses, he broke out into jubilation,
astonishing Haman not a little. Mordecai told him, "I rejoice at the
good tidings announced to me by the school children." Haman
thereupon fell into such a rage that he exclaimed: "In sooth, they
shall be the first to feel the weight of my hand."

What gave Mordecai the greatest concern, was the certainty that
the danger had been invited by the Jews themselves, through their
sinful conduct in connection with the banquets given by
Ahasuerus. Eighteen thousand five hundred Jews had taken part in
them; they had eaten and drunk, intoxicated themselves and
committed immoralities, as Haman had foreseen, the very reason,
indeed, he had advised the king to hold the banquets.

Thereupon Satan had indicted the Jews. The accusations which he
produced against them were of such a nature that God at once
ordered writing materials to be brought to Him for the decree of
annihilation, and it was written and sealed.

When the Torah heard that Satan's designs against the Jews had
succeeded, she broke out into bitter weeping before God, and her
lamentations awakened the angels, who likewise began to wail,
saying: "If Israel is to be destroyed, of what avail is the whole

The sun and the moon heard the lamentations of the angels, and
they donned their mourning garb and also wept bitterly and wailed,
saying: "Is Israel to be destroyed, Israel who wanders from town to
town, and from land to land, only for the sake of the study of the
Torah; who suffers grievously under the hand of the heathen, only
because he observes the Torah and the sign of the covenant?"

In great haste the prophet Elijah ran to the Patriarchs and to the
other prophets, and to the saints in Israel, and addressed these
words to them: "O ye fathers of the world! Angels, and the sun and
the moon, and heaven and earth, and all the celestial hosts are
weeping bitterly. The whole world is seized with throes as of a
woman in travail, by reason of your children, who have forfeited
their life on account of their sins, and ye sit quiet and tranquil."
Thereupon Moses said to Elijah: "Knowest thou any saints in the
present generation of Israel?" Elijah named Mordecai, and Moses
sent the prophet to him, with the charge that he, the "saint of the
living generation," should unite his prayers with the prayers of the
saints among the dead, and perhaps the doom might be averted
from Israel. But Elijah hesitated. "O faithful shepherd," he said,
"the edict of annihilation issued by God is written and sealed."
Moses, however, did not desist; he urged the Patriarchs: "If the
edict is sealed with wax, your prayers will be heard; if with blood,
then all is vain."

Elijah hastened to Mordecai, who, when first he heard what God
had resolved upon, tore his garments and was possessed by a great
fear, though before he had confidently hoped that help would
come form God. He gathered together all the school children, and
had them fast, so that their hunger should drive them to moan and
groan. Then it was that Israel spoke to God: "O Lord of the world!
When the heathen rage against me, they do not desire my silver
and gold, they desire only that I should be exterminated from off
the face of the earth. Such was the design of Nebuchadnezzar
when he wanted to compel Israel to worship the idol. Had it not
been for Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, I had disappeared from
the world. Now it is Haman who desires to uproot the whole vine."

Then Mordecai addressed all the people thus: "O people of Israel,
that art so dear and precious in the sight of thy Heavenly Father!
Knowest thou not what has happened? Hast thou not heard that the
king and Haman have resolved to remove us off the face of the
earth, to destroy us from beneath the sun? We have no king on
whom we can depend, and no prophet to intercede for us with
prayers. There is no place whither we can flee, no land wherein we
can find safety. We are like sheep without a shepherd, like a ship
upon the sea without a pilot. We are like an orphan born after the
death of his father, and death robs him of his mother, too, when he
has scarce begun to draw nourishment from her breast."

After this address a great prayer-meeting was called outside of
Shushan. The Ark containing the scroll of the law, covered with
sackcloth and strewn with ashes, was brought thither. The scroll
was unrolled, and the following verses read from it: "When thou
art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, in the
latter days thou shalt return to the Lord thy God, and hearken unto
His voice, for the Lord thy God is a merciful God: He will not fail
thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of they fathers
which He swore unto them."

Thereunto Mordecai added words of admonition: "O people of
Israel, thou art dear and precious to thy Father in heaven, let us
follow the example of the inhabitants of Nineveh, doing as they
did when the prophet Jonah came to them to announce the
destruction of the city. The king arose from his throne, laid his
crown from him, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes,
and he made proclamation, and published through Nineveh by the
decree of the king and his nobles, saying, 'Let neither man nor
beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink
water, but let them be covered with sackcloth, both man and beast,
and let them cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every one
from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.'
Then God repented Him of the evil He had designed to bring upon
them, and He did it not. Now, then, let us follow their example, let
us hold a fast, mayhap God will have mercy upon us." (123)

Furthermore spake Mordecai: "O Lord of the world! Didst Thou
not swear unto our fathers to make us as many as the stars in the
heavens? And now we are as sheep in the shambles. What has
become of Thine oath?" (124) He cried aloud, though he knew
God hears the softest whisper, for he said: "O Father of Israel, what
hast Thou done unto me? One single cry of anguish uttered by
Esau Thou didst repay with the blessing of his father Isaac, 'By thy
sword shall thou live,' and now we ourselves are abandoned to the
mercy of the sword." (125) What Mordecai was not aware of, was
that he, the descendant of Jacob, was brought unto weeping and
wailing by Haman, the descendant of Esau, as a punishment,
because Jacob himself had brought Esau unto weeping and
wailing. (126)


Esther, who knew naught of what was happening at court, was
greatly alarmed when her attendants told her that Mordecai had
appeared in the precincts of the palace clothed in sackcloth and
ashes. She was so overcome by fright that she was deprived of the
joys of motherhood to which she had been looking forward with
happy expectancy. (127) She sent clothes to Mordecai, who,
however, refused to lay aside his garb of mourning until God
permitted miracles to come to pass for Israel, wherein he followed
the example of such great men in Israel as Jacob, David, and Ahab,
and of the Gentile inhabitants of Nineveh at the time of Jonah. By
no means would he array himself in court attire so long as his
people was exposed to sure suffering. (128) The queen sent for
Daniel, called also Hathach in the Scriptures, and charged him to
learn from Mordecai wherefore he was mourning. (129)

To escape all danger from spying ears, Hathach and Mordecai had
their conversation in the open, like Jacob when he consulted with
his wives Leah and Rachel about leaving their father Laban. (130)
By Hathach Mordecai sent word to the queen, that Haman was an
Amalekite, who like his ancestor sought to destroy Israel. (131) He
requested her to appear before the king and plead for the Jews,
reminding her at the same time of a dream he had once had and
told her about.

Once, when Mordecai had spent a long time weeping and
lamenting over the misery of the Jews in the Dispersion, and
prayed fervently to God to redeem Israel and rebuild the Temple,
he fell asleep, and in his sleep a dream visited him. He dreamed he
was transported to a desert place he had never seen before. Many
nations lived there jumbled together, only one small and despised
nation kept apart at a short distance. Suddenly a snake shot up
from the midst of the nations, rising higher and higher, and
growing stronger and larger in proportion as it rose. It darted in the
direction of the spot in which they tiny nation stood, and tried to
project itself upon it. Impenetrable clouds and darkness enveloped
the little nation, and when the snake was on the point of seizing it,
a hurricane arose from the four corners of the world, covering the
snake as clothes cover a man, and blew it to bits. The fragments
scattered hither and thither like chaff before the wind, until not a
speck of the monster was to be found anywhere. Then the cloud
and the darkness vanished from above the little nation, the
splendor of the sun again enveloped it. (132)

This dream Mordecai recorded in a book, and when the storm
began to rage against the Jews, he thought of it, and demanded that
Esther go to the king as the advocate of her people. At first she did
not feel inclined to accede to the wishes of Mordecai. By her
messenger she recalled to his mind, that he himself had insisted
upon her keeping her Jewish descent a secret. (133) Besides, she
had always tried to refrain from appearing before the king at her
own initiative, in order that she might not be instrumental in
bringing down sin upon her soul, for she well remembered
Mordecai's teaching, that "a Jewish woman, captive among the
heathen, who of her own accord goes to them, loses her portion in
the Jewish nation." She had been rejoicing that her petitions had
been granted, and the king had not come nigh unto her this last
month. Was she now voluntarily to present herself before him?
(134) Furthermore, she had her messenger inform Mordecai, that
Haman had introduced a new palace regulation. Any one who
appeared before the king without having been summoned by
Haman, would suffer the death penalty. Therefore, she could not,
if she would, go to the king to advocate the cause of the Jews.

Esther urged her uncle to refrain from incensing Haman and
furnishing him with a pretext for wreaking the hatred of Esau to
Jacob upon Mordecai and his nation. Mordecai, however, was
firmly convinced that Esther was destined by God to save Israel.
How could her miraculous history be explained otherwise? At the
very moment Esther was taken to court, he had thought: "Is it
conceivable that God would force so pious a woman to wed with a
heathen, were it not that she is appointed to save Israel from
menacing dangers?" (136)

Firm as Mordecai was in his determination to make Esther take a
hand in affairs, he yet did not find it a simple matter to
communicate with her. For Hathach was killed by Haman as soon
as it was discovered that he was acting as mediator between
Mordecai and Esther. (137) There was none to replace him, unto
God dispatched the archangels Michael and Gabriel to carry
messages from one to the other and back again. (138)

Mordecai sent word to her, if she let the opportunity to help Israel
slip by, she would have to give account for the omission before the
heavenly court. (139) To Israel in distress, however, help would
come from other quarters. Never had God forsaken His people in
time of need. Moreover, he admonished her, that, as the
descendant of Saul, it was her duty to make reparation for her
ancestor's sin in not having put Agag to death. Had he done as he
was bidden, the Jews would not now have to fear the machinations
of Haman, the offspring of Agag. He bade her supplicate her
Heavenly Father to deal with the present enemies of Israel as He
had dealt with his enemies in former ages. To give her
encouragement, Mordecai continued: "Is Haman so surpassing
great that his plan against the Jews must succeed? Dost though
mean to say that he is superior to his own ancestor Amalek, whom
God crushed when he precipitated himself upon Israel? Is he
mightier than the thirty-one kings who fought against Israel and
whom Joshua slew 'with the word of God'? Is he stronger than
Sisera, who went out against Israel with nine hundred iron
chariots, and yet met his death at the hands of a mere woman, the
punishment for having withdrawn the use of the water-springs
from the Israelites and prevented their wives from taking the
prescribed ritual baths and thus from fulfilling their conjugal duty?
Is he more powerful than Goliath, who reviled the warriors of
Israel, and was slain by David? Or is he more invincible than the
sons of Orpah, who waged wars with Israel, and were killed by
David and his men? Therefore, do not refrain thy mouth from
prayer, and thy lips from supplication, for on account of the merits
of our fathers, Israel has ever and ever been snatched out of the
jaws of death. He who has at all times done wonders for Israel,
will deliver the enemy into our hands now, for us to do with him as
seemeth best to us."

What he endeavored to impress upon Esther particularly, was that
God would bring help to Israel without her intermediation, but it
was to her interest to use the opportunity, for which alone she had
reached her exalted place, to make up for the transgressions
committed by her house, Saul and his descendants. (140)

Yielding at last to the arguments of Mordecai, Esther was prepared
to risk life in this world, in order to secure life in the world to
come. She made only one request of her uncle. He was to have the
Jews spend three days in prayer and fasting in her behalf, that she
might find favor in the eyes of the king. At first Mordecai was
opposed to the proclamation of a fast, because it was Passover
time, and the law prohibits fasting on the holidays. But he finally
assented to Esther's reasoning: "Of what avail are the holidays, if
there is no Israel to celebrate them, and without Israel, there would
not be even a Torah. Therefore it is advisable to transgress on law,
that God may have mercy upon us." (141)


Accordingly Mordecai made arrangements for a fast and a
prayer-meeting. On the very day of the festival, he had himself
ferried across the water to the other side of Shushan, where all the
Jews of the city could observe the fast together. (142) It was
important that the Jewish residents of Shushan beyond all other
Jews should do penance and seek pardon from God, because they
had committed the sin of partaking of Ahasuerus's banquet.
Twelve thousand priests marched in the procession, trumpets in
their right hands, and the holy scrolls of the law in their left,
weeping and mourning, and exclaiming against God: "Here is the
Torah Thou gavest us. Thy beloved people is about to be
destroyed. When that comes to pass, who will be left to read the
Torah and make mention of Thy name? The sun and the moon will
refuse to shed their light abroad, for they were created only for the
sake of Israel." Then they fell upon their faces, and said: "Answer
us, our Father, answer us, our King." The whole people joined in
their cry, and the celestials wept with them, and the Fathers came
forth from their graves.

After a three days' fast, Esther arose from the earth and dust, and
made preparations to betake herself to the king. She arrayed
herself in a silken garment, embroidered with gold from Ophir and
spangled with diamonds and pearls sent her from Africa; a golden
crown was on her head, and on her feet shoes of gold.

After she had completed her attire, she pronounced the following
prayer: "Thou art the great God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, and the God of my father Benjamin. Not because I consider
myself without blemish, do I dare appear before the foolish king,
but that the people of Israel may not be cut off from the world. Is it
not for the sake of Israel alone that the whole world was created,
and if Israel should cease to exist, who will come and exclaim
'Holy, holy, holy' thrice daily before Thee? As Thou didst save
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah out of the burning furnace, and
Daniel out of the den of lions, so save me out of the hand of this
foolish king, and make me to appear charming and graceful in his
eyes. I entreat Thee to give ear to my prayer in this time of exile
and banishment from our land. By reason of our sins the
threatening words of the Holy Scriptures are accomplished upon
us: 'Ye shall sell yourselves unto your enemies for bondmen and
for bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.' The decree to kill us
has been issued. We are delivered up unto the sword for
destruction, root and branch. The children of Abraham covered
themselves with sackcloth and ashes, but though the elders sinned,
what wrongs have the children committed, and though the children
committed wrongs, what have the sucklings done? The nobles of
Jerusalem came forth from their graves, for their children were
given up to the sword.

"How quickly have the days of our joy flown by! The wicked
Haman has surrendered us to our enemies for slaughter.

"I will recount before Thee the deeds of Thy friends, and with
Abraham will I begin. Thou didst try him with all temptations, yet
didst Thou find him faithful. O that Thou wouldst support his
beloved children for his sake, and aid them, so that Thou wouldst
bear them as an unbreakable seal upon Thy right hand. Call
Haman to account for the wrong he would do us, and be revenged
upon the son of Hammedatha. Demand requital of Haman and not
of Thy people, for he sought to annihilate us all at one stroke, he,
the enemy and afflicter of Thy people, whom he endeavors to hem
in on all sides.

"With an eternal bond Thou didst bind us unto Thee. O that Thou
wouldst uphold us for the sake of Isaac, who was bound. Haman
offered the king ten thousand talents of silver for us. Raise Thou
our voice, and answer us, and bring us forth out of the narrow
place into enlargement. Thou who breakest the mightiest, crush
Haman, so that he may never again rise from his fall. I am ready to
appear before the king, to entreat grace for my inheritance. Send
Thou an angel of compassion with me on mine errand, and let
grace and favor be my companions. May the righteousness of
Abraham go before me, the binding of Isaac raise me, the charm of
Jacob be put into my mouth, and the grace of Joseph upon my
tongue. Happy the man who putteth his trust in God; he is not
confounded. He will lend me His right hand and His left hand,
with which He created the whole world. Ye, all ye of Israel, pray
for me as I pray in your behalf. For whatsoever a man may ask of
God in the time of his distress, is granted unto him. Let us look
upon the deeds of our fathers and do like unto them, and He will
answer our supplications. The left hand of Abraham held Isaac by
the throat, and his right hand grasped the knife. He willingly did
Thy bidding, nor did he delay to execute Thy command. Heaven
opened its windows to give space to the angels, who cried bitterly,
and said: 'Woe to the world, if this thing should come to pass!' I
also call upon Thee! O answer me, for Thou givest ear unto all
who are afflicted and oppressed. Thou art called the Merciful and
the Gracious; Thou art slow to anger and great in lovingkindness
and truth. Hear our voice and answer us, and lead us out of distress
into enlargement. For three days have I fasted in accordance with
the number of days Abraham journey to bind his son upon the altar
before Thee. Thou didst make a covenant with him, and didst
promise him: 'Whenever thy children shall be in distress, I will
remember the binding of Isaac favorably unto them, and deliver
them out of their troubles.' Again, I fasted three days
corresponding to the three classes Israel, priests, Levites, and
Israelites, who stood at the foot of Sinai, and said: 'All the Lord
hath spoken will we do, and be obedient.'"

Esther concluded her prayer and said: "O God, Lord of hosts! Thou
that searchest the heart and the reins, in this hour do Thou
remember the merits of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that my
petition to Thee may not be turned aside, nor my request be left
unfulfilled.' (143)


After finishing her prayer, Esther betook herself to the king,
accompanied by three attendants, one walking to the right of her,
the second on the other side, and the third bearing her train, heavy
with the precious stones with which it was studded. (144) Her
chief adornment was the holy spirit that was poured out over her.
But scarcely did she enter the chamber containing the idols, when
the holy spirit departed from her, and she cried out in great
distress: "Eli, Eli, lamah azabtani! Shall I be chastised for acts that
I do against my will, and only in obedience to the promptings of
sore need? (145) Why should my fate be different from that of the
Mother? When Pharaoh only attempted to approach Sarah, plagues
came upon him and his house, but I have been compelled for years
to live with this heathen, and Thou dost not deliver me out of his
hand. O Lord of the world! Have I not paid scrupulous heed to the
three commands Thou didst specially ordain for women?"

To reach the king, Esther had to pass through seven apartments,
each measuring ten ells in length. The first three she traversed
unhindered; they were too far off for the king to observe her
progress through them. But barely had she crossed the threshold of
the fourth chamber, when Ahasuerus caught sight of her, and,
overcome by rage, he exclaimed: "O for the departed, their like is
not found again on earth! How I urged and entreated Vashti to
appear before me, but she refused, and I had her killed therefor.
This Esther come hither without invitation, like unto a public

In consternation and despair Esther stood rooted to the centre of
the fourth chamber. Having once allowed her to pass through the
doors under their charge, the guards of the first four rooms had
forfeited their authority over her; and to the guards in the other
three rooms, she had not yet given cause for interfering with her.
Yet the courtiers were so confident that Esther was about to suffer
the death penalty, that the sons of Haman were already busy
dividing her jewels among themselves, and casting lots for her
royal purple. Esther herself was keenly aware of her dangerous
position. In her need, she besought God: "Eli, Eli, lamah azabtani,"
and prayed to Him the words which have found their place in the
Psalter composed by King David. (146) Because she put her
confidence in God, He answered her petition, and sent her three
angels to help her: the one enveloped her countenance with "the
threads of grace," the second raised her head, and the third drew
out the sceptre of Ahasuerus until it touched her. (147) The king
turned his head round, to avoid seeing Esther, but the angels forced
him to look her way, and be conquered by her seductive charm.

By reason of her long fast, Esther was so weak that she was unable
to extend her hand toward the sceptre of the king. The archangel
Michael had to draw her near it. Ahasuerus then said: "I see, thou
must have a most important request to prefer, else thou hadst not
risked thy life deliberately. (149) I am ready to give it thee, even to
the half of the kingdom. There is but one petition I cannot grant,
and that is the restoration of the Temple. I gave my oath to
Geshem the Arabian, Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the
Ammonite, not to allow it to be rebuilt, from fear of the Jews, lest
they rise up against me." (150)

For the moment, Esther refrained from uttering her petition. All
she asked was, that the king and Haman would come to a banquet
she proposed to give. She had good reasons for this peculiar course
of conduct. She desired to disarm Haman's suspicions regarding
her Jewish descent, and to lead her fellow-Jews to fix their hope
upon God and not upon her. At the same time, it was her plan to
arouse jealousy of Haman in both the king and the princes. She
was quite ready to sacrifice her own life, if her stratagems would
but involve the life of Haman, too. (151) At the banquet she
therefore favored Haman in such manner that Ahasuerus could not
but be jealous. She moved her chair close to Haman's, and when
Ahasuerus handed her his wine-cup, to let her drink of it first, she
passed it on to his minister.

After the banquet, the king repeated his question, and again made
the asseveration, that he would fulfill all her wishes at whatever
cost, barring only the restoration of the Temple. Esther, however,
was not yet ready; she preferred to wait another day before taking
up the conflict with Haman. She had before her eyes the example
of Moses, who also craved a day's preparation before going out
against Amalek, the ancestor of Haman. (152)

Deceived by the attention and distinction accorded him by Esther,
Haman felt secure in his position, priding himself not only on the
love of the king, but also on the respect of the queen. He felt
himself to be the most privileged being in all the wide realm
governed by Ahasuerus. (153)

Filled with arrogant self-sufficiency, he passed by Mordecai, who
not only refused to give him the honors decreed in his behalf, but,
besides, pointed to his knee, inscribed with the bill of sale whereby
Haman had become the slave of Mordecai. (154) Doubly and triply
enraged, he resolved to make an example of the Jew. But he was
not satisfied with inflicting death by a simple kick.

On reaching his home he was disappointed not to find his wife
Zeresh, the daughter of the Persian satrap Tattenai. As always
when Haman was at court, she had gone to her paramours. He sent
for her and his three hundred and sixty-five advisers, and with
them he took counsel as to what was to be done to Mordecai. (155)
Pointing to a representation of his treasure chamber, which he
wore on his bosom, (156) he said: "And all this is worthless in my
sight when I look upon Mordecai, the Jew. What I eat and drink
loses its savor, if I but think of him." (157)

Among his advisers and sons, of whom there were two hundred
and eight, none was so clever as Zeresh his wife. She spoke thus:
"If the man thou tellest of is a Jew, thou wilt not be able to do
aught to him except by sagacity. If thou castest him into the fire, it
will have no effect upon him, for Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah
escaped from the burning furnace unhurt; Joseph went free from
prison; Manasseh prayed to God, and He heard him, and saved him
from the iron furnace; to drive him out in the wilderness is useless,
thou knowest the desert did no evil to the Israelites that passed
through it; putting out his eyes avails naught, for Samson blind did
more mischief than ever Samson seeing. Therefore hang him, for
no Jew has ever escaped death by hanging." (158)

Haman was well pleased with the words of his wife. She fetched
artificers in wood and iron, the former to erect the cross, the latter
to make the nails. Their children danced around in high glee while
Zeresh played upon the cithern, and Haman in his pleasurable
excitement said: "To the wood workers I shall give abundant pay,
and the iron workers I shall invite to a banquet."

When the cross was finished, Haman himself tested it, to see that
all was in working order. A heavenly voice was heard: "It is good
for Haman the villain, and for the son of Hammedatha it is fitting."


The night during which Haman erected the cross for Mordecai was
the first night of Passover, the very night in which miracles
without number had ever been done for the Fathers and for Israel.
But this time the night of joy was changed into a night of
mourning and a night of fears. Wherever there were Jews, they
passed the night in weeping and lamenting. The greatest terrors it
held for Mordecai, because his own people accused him of having
provoked their misfortunes by his haughty behavior toward
Haman. (160)

Excitement and consternation reigned in heaven as well as on
earth. (161) When Haman had satisfied himself that the cross
intended for his enemy was properly constructed, he repaired to
the Bet ha-Midrash, where he found Mordecai and all the Jewish
school children, twenty-two thousand in number, in tears and
sorrow. He ordered them to be put in chains, saying: "First I shall
kill off these, and then I shall hang Mordecai." The mothers
hastened thither with bread and water, and coaxed their children to
take something before they had to encounter death. The children,
however, laid their hands upon their books, and said: "As our
teacher Mordecai liveth, we will neither eat nor drink, but we will
perish exhausted with fasting." They rolled up their sacred scrolls,
and handed them to their teachers with the words: "For our
devotion to the study of the Torah, we had hoped to be rewarded
with long life, according to the promised held out in the Holy
Scriptures. As we are not worthy thereof, remove the books!" The
out-cries of the children and of the teachers in the Bet ha-Midrash,
and the weeping of the mothers without, united with the
supplications of the Fathers, reached unto heaven in the third hour
of the night, and God said: "I hear the voice of tender lambs and
sheep!" Moses arose and addressed God thus: "Thou knowest well
that the voices are not of lambs and sheep, but of the young of
Israel, who for three days have been fasting and languishing in
fetters, only to be slaughtered on the morrow to the delight of the

Then God felt compassion with Israel, for the sake of his innocent
little ones. He broke the seal with which the heavenly decree of
annihilation had been fastened, and the decree itself he tore in
pieces. (162) From this moment on Ahasuerus became restless,
and sleep was made to flee his eyes, for the purpose that the
redemption of Israel might be brought to pass. God sent down
Michael, the leader of the hosts of Israel, who was to keep sleep
from the king, (163) and the archangel Gabriel descended, and
threw the king out of his bed on the floor, no less than three
hundred and sixty-five times, continually whispering in his ear: "O
thou ingrate, reward him who deserves to be rewarded."

To account for his sleeplessness, Ahasuerus thought he might have
been poisoned, and he was about to order the execution of those
charged with the preparation of his food. But they succeeded in
convincing him of their innocence, by calling to his attention that
Esther and Haman had shared his evening meal with him, yet they
felt no unpleasant effects. (164) Then suspicions against his wife
and his friend began to arise in his mind. He accused them
inwardly of having conspired together to put him out of the way.
He sought to banish this thought with the reflection, that if a
conspiracy had existed against him, his friends would have warned
him of it. But the reflection brought others in its train: Did he have
any friends? Was it not possible that by leaving valuable services
unrewarded, he had forfeited the friendly feelings toward him?
(165) He therefore commanded that the chronicles of the kings of
Persia be read to him. He would compare his own acts with what
his predecessors had done, and try to find out whether he might
count upon friends. (166)

What was read to him, did not restore his tranquility of mind, for
he saw a poor man before him none other than the angel Michael
who called to him continually: "Haman wants to kill thee, and
become king in thy stead. Let this serve thee as proof that I am
telling thee the truth: Early in the morning he will appear before
thee and request permission of thee to kill him who saved thy life.
And when thou inquirest of him what honor should be done to him
whom the king delighteth to honor, he will ask to be given the
apparel, the crown, and the horse of the king as signs of
distinction." (167)

Ahasuerus's excitement was soothed only when the passage in the
chronicles was reached describing the loyalty of Mordecai. Had
the wishes of the reader been consulted, Ahasuerus had never
heard this entry, for it was a son of Haman who was filling the
office of reader, and he was desirous of passing the incident over
in silence. But a miracle occurred the words were heard though
they were not uttered!

The names of Mordecai and Israel had a quieting influence upon
the king, and he dropped asleep. He dreamed that Haman, sword in
hand, was approaching him with evil intent, and when, early in the
morning, Haman suddenly, without being announced, entered the
antechamber and awakened the king, Ahasuerus was persuaded of
the truth of his dream. The king was still further set against Haman
by the reply he gave to the question, how honor was to be shown to
the man whom the king delighteth to honor. Believing himself to
be the object of the king's good-will, he advised Ahasuerus to have
his favorite arrayed in the king's coronation garments, and the
crown royal put upon his head. Before him one of the grandees of
the kingdom was to run, doing herald's service, proclaiming that
whosoever did not prostrate himself and bow down before him
whom the king delighteth to honor, would have his head cut off,
and his house given over to pillage.

Haman was quick to notice that he had made a mistake, for he saw
the king's countenance change color at the mention of the word
crown. He therefore took good care not to refer to it again. In spite
of this precaution, Ahasuerus saw in the words of Haman a striking
verification of his vision, and he was confident that Haman
cherished designs against his life and his throne. (168)


Haman was soon to find out that he had gone far afield in
supposing himself to be the man whom the king delighted to
honor. The king's command ran: "Hasten to the royal treasure
chambers; fetch thence a cover of find purple, a raiment of
delicate silk, furnished forth with golden bells and pomegranates
and bestrewn with diamonds and pearls, and the large golden
crown which was brought me from Macedonia upon the day I
ascended the throne. Furthermore, fetch thence the sword and the
coat of mail sent me from Ethiopia, and the two veils embroidered
with pearls which were Africa's gift. Then repair to the royal
stables, and lead forth the black horse whereon I sat at my
coronation. With all these insignia of honor, seek out Mordecai!"

Haman: "Which Mordecai?"

Ahasuerus: "Mordecai the Jew."

Haman: "There be many Jews named Mordecai."

Ahasuerus: "The Jew Mordecai who sits at the king's gate."

Haman: "There be many royal gates; I know not which thou

Ahasuerus: "The gate that leads from the harem to the palace."

Haman: "This man is my enemy and the enemy of my house.
Rather would I give him ten thousand talents of silver than do him
this honor."

Ahasuerus: "Ten thousand talents of silver shall be given him, and
he shall be made lord over thy house, but these honors must thou
show unto him."

Haman: "I have ten sons. I would rather have them run before his
horse than do him this honor."

Ahasuerus: "Thou, thy sons, and thy wife shall be slaves to
Mordecai, but these honors must thou show unto him."

Haman: "O my lord and king, Mordecai is a common man.
Appoint him to be ruler over a city, or, if thou wilt, even over a
district, rather than I should do him this honor."

Ahasuerus: "I will appoint him ruler over cities and districts. All
the kings on land and on water shall pay him obedience, but these
honors must thou show unto him."

Haman: "Rather have coins struck bearing thy name together with
his, instead of mine as hitherto, than I should do him this honor."

Ahasuerus: "The man who saved the life of the king deserves to
have his name put on the coin of the realm. Nevertheless, these
honors must thou show unto him."

Haman: "Edicts and writings have been issued to all parts of the
kingdom, commanding that the nation to which Mordecai belongs
shall be destroyed. Recall them rather than I should do him this

Ahasuerus: "The edicts and writings shall be recalled, yet these
honors must thou show unto Mordecai."

Seeing that all petitions and entreaties were ineffectual, and
Ahasuerus insisted upon the execution of his order, Haman went to
the royal treasure chambers, walking with his head bowed like a
mourner's, his ears hanging down, his eyes dim, his mouth screwed
up, his heart hardened, his bowels cut in pieces, his loins
weakened, and his knees knocking against each other. (169) He
gathered together the royal insignia, and took them to Mordecai,
accompanied on his way by Harbonah and Abzur, who, at the order
of the king, were to take heed whether Haman carried out his
wishes to the letter.

When Mordecai saw his enemy approach, he thought his last
moment had come. He urged his pupils to flee, that they might not
"burn themselves with his coals." But they refused, saying: "In life
as in death we desire to be with thee." The few moments left him,
as he thought, Mordecai spent in devotion. With words of prayer
on his lips he desired to pass away. Haman, therefore, had to
address himself to the pupils of Mordecai: "What was the last
subject taught you by your teacher Mordecai?" They told him they
had been discussing the law of the `Omer, the sacrifice brought on
that very day so long as the Temple had stood. At his request, they
described some of the details of the ceremony in the Temple
connected with the offering. He exclaimed: "Happy are you that
your ten farthings, with which you bought the wheat for the `Omer,
produced a better effect than my ten thousand talents of silver,
which I offered unto the king for the destruction of the Jews."

Meantime Mordecai had finished his prayer. Haman stepped up to
him, and said: "Arise, thou pious son of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob. Thy sackcloth and ashes availed more than my ten thousand
talents of silver, which I promised unto the king. They were not
accepted, but thy prayers were accepted by thy Father in heaven."

Mordecai, not yet disabused of the notion that Haman had come to
take him to the cross, requested the grace of a few minutes for his
last meal. Only Haman's repeated protests assured him. When
Haman set about arraying him with the royal apparel, Mordecai
refused to put it on until he had bathed, and had dressed his hair.
Royal apparel agreed but ill with his condition after three days of
sackcloth and ashes. As luck would have it, Esther had issued the
command that the bathkeepers and barbers were not to ply their
trades on that day, and there was nothing for Haman to do but
perform the menial services Mordecai required. Haman tried to
play upon the feelings of Mordecai. Fetching a deep sigh, he said:
"The greatest in the king's realm is now acting as bathkeeper and
barber!" Mordecai, however, did not permit himself to be imposed
upon. He knew Haman's origin too well to be deceived; he
remembered his father, who had been bathkeeper and barber in a

Haman's humiliation was not yet complete. Mordecai, exhausted
by his three days' fast, was too weak to mount his horse unaided.
Haman had to serve him as footstool, and Mordecai took the
opportunity to give him a kick. Haman reminded him of the
Scriptural verse: "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let
not thine heart be glad when he is overthrown." Mordecai,
however, refused to apply it to himself, for he was chastising, not a
personal enemy, but the enemy of his people, and of such it is said
in the Scriptures: "And thou shalt tread upon the high places of
thine enemies." (170)

Finally, Haman caused Mordecai to ride through the streets of the
city, and proclaimed before him: "Thus shall it be done unto the
man whom the king delighteth to honor." In front of them marched
twenty-seven thousand youths detailed for this service from the
court. In their right hands they bore golden cups, and golden
beakers in their left hands, and they, too, proclaimed: "Thus shall
be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor." The
procession furthermore was swelled by the presence of Jews.
They, however, made a proclamation of different tenor. "Thus
shall be done," they cried out, "unto the man whose honor is
desired by the King that hath created heaven and earth." (171)

As he rode along, Mordecai gave praise to God: "I will extol Thee,
O Lord; for Thou hast raised me up, and hast not made my foes to
rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast
healed me. O Lord, Thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol;
Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit."
Whereupon his pupils joined in with: "Sing praise unto the Lord, O
ye saints of His, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is
but for a moment; in His favor is life; weeping may tarry for the
night, but joy cometh in the morning." Haman added the verse
thereto: "As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be
moved. Thou, Lord, of Thy favor hadst made my mountain to
stand strong. Thou didst hide Thy face; I was troubled." Queen
Esther continued: "I cried to Thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord I
made supplication. What profit is there in my blood, when I go
down to the pit? Shall the dust praise Thee? Shall it declare Thy
truth?" and the whole concourse of Jews present cried out: "Thou
hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; Thou hast loosed
my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness, to the end that my
glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I
will give thanks unto Thee forever." (172)

When this procession passed the house of Haman, his daughter
was looking out of the window. She took the man on the horse to
be her father, and the leader of it, Mordecai. Raising a vessel filled
with offal, she emptied it out over the leader her own father.
Scarce had the vessel left her hand, when she realized the truth,
and she threw herself from the window, and lay crushed to death
on the street below. (173)

In spite of the sudden change in his fortunes, Mordecai ended the
eventful day as he had begun it, in prayer and fasting. No sooner
was the procession over than he put off the royal robes, and, again
covering himself with sackcloth, he prayed until night fell.

Haman was plunged in mourning, partly on account of the deep
disgrace to which he had been subjected, partly on account of the
death of his daughter. (174) Neither his wife nor his friends could
advise him how to mend his sad fortunes. They could hold out only
sorry consolation to him: "If this Mordecai is of the seed of the
saints, thou wilt not be able to prevail against him. Thou wilt
surely encounter the same fate as the kings in their battle with
Abraham, and Abimelech in his quarrel with Isaac. As Jacob was
victorious over the angel with whom he wrestled, and Moses and
Aaron caused the drowning of Pharaoh and his host, so Mordecai
will overcome thee in the end." (175)

While they were yet talking, the king's chamberlains came, and
hastily carried Haman off to the banquet Esther had prepared, to
prevent him and his influential sons from plotting against the king.
(176) Ahasuerus repeated his promise, to give Esther whatever she
desired, always expecting the restoration of the Temple. This time,
casting her eyes heavenward, Esther replied: "If I have found favor
in thy sight, O Supreme King, and if it please Thee, O King of the
world, let my life be given me, and let my people be rescued out of
the hands of its enemy." (177) Ahasuerus, thinking these words
were addressed to him, asked in irritation: "Who is he, and where
is he, this presumptuous conspirator, who thought to do thus?"
These were the first words the king had ever spoken to Esther
herself. Hitherto he had always communicated with her through an
interpreter. He had not been quite satisfied she was worthy enough
to be addressed by the king. Now made cognizant of the fact that
she was a Jewess, and of royal descent besides, he spoke to her
directly, without the intervention of others. (178)

Esther stretched forth her hand to indicate the man who had sought
to take her life, as he had actually taken Vashti's, but in the
excitement of the moment, she pointed to the king. Fortunately the
king did not observe her error, because an angel guided her hand
instantaneously in the direction of Haman, (179) whom her words
described: "This is the adversary and the enemy, he who desired to
murder thee in thy sleeping-chamber during the night just passed;
he who this very day desired to array himself in the royal apparel,
ride upon thy horse, and wear they golden crown upon his head, to
rise up against thee and deprive thee of thy sovereignty. But God
set his undertaking at naught, and the honors he sought for himself,
fell to the share of my uncle Mordecai, who this oppressor and
enemy thought to hang." (180)

The anger of the king already burnt so fiercely that he hinted to
Esther, that whether Haman was the adversary she had in mind or
not, she was to designate him as such. To infuriate him still more,
God sent ten angels in the guise of Haman's ten sons, to fell down
the trees in the royal park. When Ahasuerus turned his eyes toward
the interior of the park, he saw the ruthless destruction of which
they were guilty. In his rage he went out into the garden. This was
the instant utilized by Haman to implore grace for himself from
Esther. Gabriel intervened, and threw Haman upon the couch in a
posture as though he were about to do violence to the queen. At
that moment Ahasuerus reappeared. Enraged beyond description
by what he saw, he cried out: "Haman attempts the honor of the
queen in my very presence! Come, then, ye peoples, nations, and
races, and pronounce judgment over him!" (181)

When Harbonah, originally a friend of Haman and an adversary of
Mordecai, heard the king's angry exclamation, he said to him: "Nor
is this the only crime committed by Haman against thee, for he
was an accomplice of the conspirators Bigthan and Teresh, and his
enmity to Mordecai dates back to the time when Mordecai
uncovered their foul plots. Out of revenge therefor, he has erected
a cross for him." Harbonah's words illustrate the saying: "Once the
ox has been cast to the ground, slaughtering knives can readily be
found." Knowing that Haman had fallen from his high estate,
Harbonah was intent upon winning the friendship of Mordecai.
(182) Harbonah was altogether right, for Ahasuerus at once
ordered Haman to be hanged. Mordecai was charged with the
execution of the king's order, and Haman's tears and entreaties did
not in the least move him. He insisted upon hanging him like the
commonest of criminals, instead of executing him with the sword,
the mode of punishment applied to men of rank guilty of serious
misdemeanors. (183)

The cross which Haman, at the advice of his wife Zeresh and of
his friends, had erected for Mordecai, was now used for himself. It
was made of wood from a thorn-bush. God called all the trees
together and inquired which one would permit the cross for Haman
to be made of it. The fig-tree said: "I am ready to serve, for I am
symbolic of Israel, and, also, my fruits were brought to the Temple
as firstfruits." The vine said: "I am ready to serve, for I am
symbolic of Israel and, also, my wine is brought to the altar." The
apple-tree said: "I am ready to serve, for I am symbolic of Israel."
The nut-tree said: "I am ready to serve, for I am symbolic of
Israel." The Etrog tree said: "I should have the privilege, for with
my fruit Israel praises God on Sukkot." The willow of the brook
said: "I desire to serve, for I am symbolic of Israel." The cedar-tree
said: "I desire to serve, for I am symbolic of Israel." The palm-tree
said: "I desire to serve, for I am symbolic of Israel." Finally the
thorn-bush came and said: "I am fitted to do this service, for the
ungodly are like pricking thorns." The offer of the thorn-bush was
accepted, after God gave a blessing to each of the other trees for its
willingness to serve.

A sufficiently long beam cut from a thorn-bush could be found
only in the house of Haman, which had to be demolished in order
to obtain it. (184) The cross was tall enough for Haman and his ten
sons to be hanged upon it. It was planted three cubits deep in the
ground, each of the victims required three cubits space in length,
one cubit space was left vacant between the feet of the one above
and the head of the one below, and the youngest son, Vaizatha, had
his feet four cubits from the ground as he hung. (185)

Haman and his ten sons remained suspended a long time, to the
vexation of those who considered it a violation of the Biblical
prohibition in Deuteronomy, not to leave a human body hanging
upon a tree overnight. Esther pointed to a precedent, the
descendants of Saul, whom the Gibeonites left hanging half a year,
whereby the name of God was sanctified, for whenever the
pilgrims beheld them, they told the heathen, that the men had been
hanged because their father Saul had laid hand on the Gibeonites.
"How much more, then," continued Esther, "are we justified in
permitting Haman and his family to hang, they who desired to
destroy the house of Israel?" (186)

Beside these ten sons, who had been governors in various
provinces, Haman had twenty others, ten of whom died, and the
other ten of whom were reduced to beggary. (187) The vast fortune
of which Haman died possessed was divided in three parts. The
first part was given to Mordecai and Esther, the second to the
students of the Torah, and the third was applied to the restoration
of the Temple. (188) Mordecai thus became a wealthy man. He
was also set up as king of the Jews. As such he had coins struck,
which bore the figure of Esther on the obverse, and his own figure
on the reverse. (189) However, in the measure in which Mordecai
gained in worldly power and consideration, he lost spiritually,
because the business connected with his high political station left
him no time for the study of the Torah. Previously he had ranked
sixth among the eminent scholars of Israel, he now dropped to the
seventh place among them. (190) Ahasuerus, on the other hand,
was the gainer by the change. As soon as Mordecai entered upon
the office of grand chancellor, he succeeded in subjecting to his
sway the provinces that had revolted on account of Vashti's
execution. (191)

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