Esther – Chapter 3

Yeah, That's a Lot of Silver.

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Five years after Esther’s elevation to the throne, Ahasuerus promoted Haman to be his “first officer.” (Haman was a descendant of Agag, king of Amalek, whose life was spared by King Saul in I Samuel 15, counter to G-d’s instruction.) The king commanded all of his other officers to bow before Haman, but Mordechai refused to do so. The other officers asked him why this was, since Mordechai was the same rank as they were. Eventually the matter was brought to Haman’s attention, in an effort to compel Mordechai to comply. Haman was livid and, since Mordechai’s insubordination was religiously motivated, he decided to eradicate not only Mordechai, but all his coreligionists.

Haman had lots cast in order to choose a fortuitous time to carry out his evil plan. The lot fell on Adar, the last month of the lunar year. (This pleased Haman, as Moses, who led the Jews from Egypt, died in Adar. Haman thought this meant that the Jews were vulnerable at that time, but he was unaware that Moses was also born in Adar!) Haman told Ahasuerus that one of the many nationalities scattered throughout his empire were disloyal and could not be trusted. Since they served no purpose for the king, they should be eliminated. Haman was so keen to have this done that he offered to subsidize the project with 10,000 talents of silver from his own pocket. (Even according to the most conservative estimate, a talent was more than 75 pounds, though it could have been well over 100 pounds. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of silver!) The king told Haman to keep the money; he would pay for the project. Ahasuerus gave Haman his signet ring, with which he would seal orders, and empowered him to do as he saw fit.

The royal scribes were summoned and Haman dictated to them how the Jews were to be exterminated on 13th day of Adar. This order included Jews of all ages, including women and infants, who are normally considered “non-combatants.” All of the Jews’ property was to be confiscated as the spoils of war. The document was written in the king’s name, translated into every language spoken in the empire, and sealed with the signet ring to make it official. The letter was distributed throughout the empire, so that the people would have ample opportunity to prepare themselves. (The document was drafted 11 months ahead of the scheduled event.) The order was publicized throughout the capital city of Shushan, much to the confusion of its citizenry, particularly the Jews. Haman and Ahasuerus, however, sat down to drink.

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