Purim 5774: The Poison Plot and Esther’s Humility — Keys to Jewish Redemption from Haman’s Eradication Plot

Purim 5774: The Poison Plot and Esther’s Humility — Keys to Jewish Redemption from Haman’s Eradication Plot

by Moshe Burt

This vort endeavors to explore and reconcile two insights, from amongst the “127 Insights into Megillat Esther” (compiled from the words of Chazal by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach of Jerusalem) which are, in many instances, expanded upon in the sefer, “Let My People Live”, by Yosef Deutsch. These two insights seem central to the saving of the Jews and their re-acceptance of Torah.

Mordekhai gets word of Haman’s plot to eradicate the Jews. Esther is already positioned as Queen for nine years, after King Akhashveirosh of Persia, in a drunken stupor, accepted and carried out the advice of the most crude and nobility-lacking of his counselors, Memukhan — later known as Haman — who called for queen Vashti’s execution. Mordekhai summons Esther to entreat the king, in his court, regarding the threat to the Jews.

It’s not the first time that Mordekhai summoned Esther to use the power of her throne in defense of her people. There was the assassination plot of two of the king’s servants, Bigsan and Seresh, both of whom hailed from Tarshish (“Let My People Live”, by Yosef Deutsch, page 142 citing R’ Shmuel di Uzidah, sefer Melo HaOmer). The two spoke openly about their plot in their native tongue Tarsi (The Artscroll Tanach Series: The Megillah, The Book of Esther, Chapter 2, notes to posuk 22, page 63 citing gemura Megillat 13b), a seemingly obscure foreign tongue. Seated about 20 paces away from where Bigsan and Seresh hatched their plot and unbeknownst to them, Mordekhai overheard their assassination plot. Mordekhai, a former member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish High Court) had to be fluent in all 70 of the world’s languages, which included Tarsi, to sit in as a member of that body. The story goes that Mordekhai got word to Esther who informed the King, giving full credit for disclosure of the plot to Mordekhai (despite Mordechai’s wish that his name not be mentioned), taking no credit for herself. (“Let My People Live”, by Yosef Deutsch, page 147)

But, in the case of Haman’s plot and decree against the Jews, Esther is nervous. A bit of background here: according to laws enacted during the reign of Dar’yovesh (Darius) in the aftermath of Balshazzar’s assasination, and updated, with additional provisions and strictly enforced by Haman, she can’t just enter the king’s court without first having been summoned. Such a violation would be seen as “a major breach in security” (“Let My People Live”, by Yosef Deutsch, page 222 citing Aggadas Esther; Menos HaLevi; Akeidah). In fact, Deutsch indicates (page 222 of “Let My People Live”) that Haman would screen all visitors to the king lest anyone reveal that he (Haman) “once sold himself to Mordechai” or lest anyone speak up for the Jews or advocate for rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash. Deutsch also indicates that Esther queried:

“Do you think that he will let me set up an appointment? He hates me! Whenever he sees me, he remembers that if it hadn’t been for me, he might have had his daughter sitting on the throne.” (“Let My People Live”, by Yosef Deutsch, page 222 citing Targum; Rokeach; Targum Rishon; Menos HaLevi)

Esther fears being put to death, not out of fear for her own life, but out of fear of being put to death, and thus being unable to act to save her people.

Megillat Esther (Perek 4, posukim 5 – 16) tell of the dialogue of messages transmitted between Mordechai and Esther and of Esther’s hesitation to approach King Achashveirosh, unsummoned (a crime of protocal punishable by death) on behalf of her people.

In the climactic 13th and 14th posukim, Mordechai responds to Esther’s message:

“Do not imagine that you will be able to escape in the King’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place… And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position.”

Esther’s nervousness and hesitation regarding Haman’s decree against the Jews seemed to this author to be puzzling in light of her apparent ease of access in informing Akhashveirosh of the assassination plot (the “poison plot”)? Wouldn’t the Queen, as royalty, be exempted from laws denying access to the King?

The key seems to be that the “poison plot” occurred early in Esther’s reign as Queen, just prior to Haman’s rise to power as Viceroy and his resultant strict enforcement of laws regarding access to the King. Either the Queen may have previously been exempted from laws regarding access to the King, or the enforcement of the law initiated under Dar’yovesh may have been lax or non-existent or the King and his new Queen regularly spent evenings together providing Esther with the timely access necessary to expose the plot. Consider this part of dialogue spoken between Bigsan and Seresh (“Let My People Live”, by Yosef Deutsch, page 143, citing Megillah 13b with Rashi; Ben Yehoyada; R’ Yosef ibn Yachia; Alshich):

“You think you have problems, Bigsan? Be happy that you are not in my shoes. Ever since that Gorilla, as you call him — perhaps a bear would be be more appropriate? ever since he married that Esther he spends all his evenings in her company, and I have to be available at all times to bring him drinks. And after he’s full of drinks, what do you think he has to do?”

“Relieve himself?”

“Exactly. And I am the one who has the high honor of attending him while he relieves himself….”

But it would seem that after the “poison plot”, with Haman’s almost immediate rise to power, things changed radically in the palace, including in access to the monarch. And on top of that, it seemed that Esther’s access to the King became more and more infrequent in the timeframe of Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews. The Artscroll Tanach Series: The Megillah, The Book of Esther explains (notes to Perek 4, posuk 11, page 78) that, in expressing her concerns and hesitation, Esther tells Mordekhai:

“It’s already been thirty days, that I was not summoned by the King….”

Despite Esther’s hesitation in entreating the King, in his court, regarding the threat to the Jews, the dye resulting from Esther’s humbly informing the King, in Mordechai’s name, of the “poison plot” had been cast. Rabbi Weinbach (“127 Insights into Megillat Esther”, page 88) writes:

Mordechai’s decision to report his discovery to Esther rather than directly to the king can… be understood as a means of laying the groundwork for Esther’s redemptive action. But what is the connection between crediting the source and redemption?

To be worthy of the role of redeemer, one must possess absolute humility. The final redeemer of Israel is portrayed by the navi as the personification of humility, “a poor man riding on a donkey” (Zechariyah 9:9). By resisting temptation to take credit for saving the king’s life, thereby endearing herself to him even more, Esther demonstrated this humility.

Thus, Esther HaMalka fits the Moshe Rabbeinu model of selflessness and humility. May we soon see the redemptive emulation of these traits, speedily, in our days.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Purim Some’akh!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.