Ahashverosh’s ministers answered that nothing had been done for Mordecai not because they loved him or the Jews so much. Rather, they hated Haman. Since it was Haman’s job to reward those who had helped Ahashverosh, by saying that nothing had been done for Mordecai, they were making Haman look bad.
Haman walks in on Ahashverosh, after having just prepared the tree on which to hang Mordecai. But a tanna reads this as foreshadowing—Haman had prepared the tree for himself, for in the end, Haman, not Mordecai is hanged on that tree.
The full verse states, “And do even so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits in the gate. Omit nothing of all you have proposed.” The midrash adds in some dialogue to break up and better explain Ahashverosh’s rather long directive.
Today’s section is an extended telling of the episode where Haman is forced to lead Mordecai around garbed in royal clothing riding on a horse.
Haman finds Mordecai, portrayed as a rabbinic sage, teaching the laws of the handful of fine flour taken from a meal-offering and put on the altar. The rabbis tell Haman that they have been studying these laws, for which he mocks them. How could your little handful of flour supersede my 10,000 talents of silver!
But Haman according to legend had already sold himself to Mordecai as a slave (we learned this on page 15b). So any money that Haman owned really belongs to Mordecai himself.
The tale continues. Haman was once a barber. This seems to have been considered a rather lowly profession, thereby adding to the tale of Haman’s humiliation.
Adding more layers of humiliation to Haman, Mordecai makes him bend over so he can get up on the horse and then kicks him while he mounts. I’d say I feel bad for Haman, but remember, this is a man who has plotted to kill thousands of innocent people. I can imagine that the rabbis who composed this midrash enjoyed taking out all of their misery on this wicked man.
Again, this account adds to Haman’s humiliation. Haman’s daughter unwittingly dumps the chamber pot onto his head, thinking it was Mordecai. When she realizes what she has done, she commits suicide. This is why Haman goes back to his house mourning.
The longer account in interrupted with R. Sheshet’s midrash—that Mordecai returned to his sackcloth and fasting. He didn’t let this temporary victory deter him from his larger task.
Haman goes home and tells Zeresh and all of his friends how he was humiliated by Mordecai. R. Yohanan notes that no matter a person’s ethnicity, nationality or religion, if he says something wise, he is called wise. Haman’s friends indeed do give him some sage advice—stay away from Mordecai. You can’t beat him.
Haman’s friends say that if Mordecai is a Jew then Haman will not be able to prevail. The word “Jew” could also mean “from the tribe of Judah.” The midrash then notes that there are three tribes that have special military powers over the nations of the world—Judah, Ephraim, Benjamin and Manesseh. If Mordecai is from one of these, then Haman will not be able to defeat him.
Judah b. Ilai picks up on the repetition of the word “fall” (this is normal biblical syntax but susceptible to midrash). The people of Israel are likened to dust and stars (see Genesis 13:16 and 15:5). When they fall, they fall hard, all the way to the dust of the earth. But when they rise, they soar to the stars. Since Israel had already begun rising when Haman was humiliated by Mordecai, Haman should be able to count on them continuing to rise.
In Esther the word “va-yavhilu” means hastened. But in rabbinic Hebrew it can mean with great confusion. Commentators explain that the haste led to him still being dirty from the chamber pot dumped on his head.
Esther warns Ahashverosh that Haman doesn’t care how much damage he does to Ahashverosh. This is evidenced by the fact that he already got Vashti killed due to his jealousy.
Abahu picks up on the strange repetition of the word “said.” He interprets that at first, Ahashverosh refused to speak directly to Esther, for he did not know her lineage. When she told him that she was of royal lineage, from the house of Saul, he spoke to her, addressing her as Queen Esther.
Elazar picks up on how strange it is that she first says, “adversary, and an enemy.” Why shouldn’t she just say “this wicked Haman”?
The answer is that at first she wanted to accuse Ahashverosh of being the wicked one. Perhaps she just had so much pent up anger at him that she could not hold back. After all, it was his fault for agreeing to Haman’s wicked plot. Of course, had she accused Ahashverosh he would have killed her and she would not have been able to save the Jews.
This expansion of the story seems to be primarily based on the word “also” that Ahashverosh utters when he sees that Haman had fallen on the couch with Esther. What else made Ahashverosh angry before he seen on the couch with the queen? The midrash is also based on a parallel in the verse—the king leaves the palace in anger, and his return is also in anger. These two textual hints lead to the conclusion that Ahashverosh saw something in the garden that angered him as well. What he saw was angels uprooting trees. I suppose that Haman wanted to use the trees to hang the Jews (or impale them, the word for impale and hang is the same in Hebrew). But there may be other interpretations to the need to uproot these trees.Harbonah seems to be a good guy in Esther—he suggests to the king that Haman be hanged on the very tree that was prepared for Mordecai. The interpretive problem that seems to lie at the basis of R. Elazar’s accusation that Harbonah was part of Haman’s plot, is how Harbonah could have known that Haman had planned to hang Mordecai on that tree? He must have been part of the plot to kill Mordecai. But when Haman failed, Harbonah jumped ship and abandoned the plot. This is alluded to in the verse, where God does not pity the wicked, and his comrades flee from him when he fails.
Harbonah seems to be a good guy in Esther—he suggests to the king that Haman be hanged on the very tree that was prepared for Mordecai. The interpretive problem that seems to lie at the basis of R. Elazar’s accusation that Harbonah was part of Haman’s plot, is how Harbonah could have known that Haman had planned to hang Mordecai on that tree? He must have been part of the plot to kill Mordecai. But when Haman failed, Harbonah jumped ship and abandoned the plot. This is alluded to in the verse, where God does not pity the wicked, and his comrades flee from him when he fails.
The word for “assuaged” is שככה with a double kaf. The Talmud reads the double kaf as alluding to two “assuagings.” In the spirit of a double reading, there are two interpretations of what these assuagings were. The first is that God was assuaged, as well as Ahashverosh. The second is that Ahashverosh was assuaged over what Haman had tried to do to Esther and over the fact that Haman had advised Ahashverosh to kill Vashti.