Esther – Chapter 7

Things Fall Apart

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Haman arrived at Esther’s second banquet. Again, Ahasuerus asked what he could do for Esther. This time, however, she asked for more than his attendance at a party.

“I have come to beg for my life and that of my people,” she said. “If we had been sold as slaves, I wouldn’t have bothered you, but we are all going to be killed!”

“Who would dare to do such a thing?” the king roared. (Keep in mind that Ahasuerus didn’t know Esther was Jewish, so he had not yet put two and two together.)

“An opponent and an enemy – this evil Haman!” she accused. (According to the Talmud in Megilla 16a, Esther made a Freudian slip – though the Talmud doesn’t use that term. She started to point to Ahasuerus, whose ignorance and apathy she blamed for the whole debacle. That certainly would have messed things up, so an angel redirected her arm to point at Haman.)

Things collapsed for Haman at this point. Ahasuerus stormed out to compose himself and Haman started to beg the queen for his life. The king returned and found Haman falling all over Esther, which caused him to think that Haman was trying to force himself on the queen. Whatever Ahasuerus had been planning to say, it became moot, as that was the final straw. He ordered Haman’s face covered.

Charbonah, one of the king’s servants, seized the opportunity to curry favor. “You know what else Haman did?” Charbonah said. “He built gallows to hang Mordechai, who saved the king’s life!” The king’s reply was concise: “Hang him on it.”

Haman was hanged and the king cooled off.

On Purim night, after we read the Book of Esther, we sing the song “Shoshanas Yaakov,” whose closing line says that Charbonah should be fondly remembered. Charbonah was no altruistic ally; he was an opportunist. He knew about Haman’s machinations but he didn’t speak up until it benefited him personally to do so. Nevertheless, he did the Jews a good turn and we should appreciate our supporters, whatever their personal motivations may be.

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