Why is the whole episode of Mordechai being led on the horse even mentioned in Megillas Esther? It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story.” This question and other fascinating ideas were explored on Tuesday evening, March 7, when Rabbi Shmuel Marcus, rav of the Young Israel of Queens Valley, presented an enlightening Purim shiur at the Young Israel.
Rabbi Marcus began by pointing out that the letter sent out in the beginning of Megillas Esther caused the people of Shushan to think that Achashveirosh was a fool. It said that every man, even the lowly tanner, is a ruler in his home. This made them not so trusting of the king’s edict, and so they didn’t rush to kill the Jews right away.
Rabbi Marcus taught that after Haman had to parade Mordechai on the king’s horse, he went home humiliated, and related to his wife and family what had happened. His wife said that if this is what happened with Mordechai the Jew, then you will never overcome him. The Vilna Gaon pointed out that Haman uses the word “mikreh” which means a coincidence. Haman insists that what happened with Mordechai being paraded is a coincidence. His relatives say, no. The fact that he is a Jew means it is not a coincidence.
Megillas Esther uses double language of falling in chapter 6, which alludes to the idea that the Jews are like dust and stars. When they are down, they are at the lowest point; but when they ascend, they ascend heavenward. They are above mazal. They are not subject to the normal way the world operates. Rabbi Marcus taught that Zeresh and Haman were arguing at this point. She was telling him to take down the tree and he said, “No, I’m going to hang Mordechai on it.” While they were still debating, the king’s guards came and rushed Haman to the party. The fact that the tree was still there enrages Achashveirosh. It was a miracle that while Haman and Zeresh were debating there was no time to take down the tree. Rabbi Marcus pointed out that ironically, since the letter of Haman stated that men should be the rulers in their household, Haman’s word stood over his wife and that meant he was doomed when Charvonah pointed out the tree.
Also, the first letter of Achashveirosh stated that every man should speak in his own language. This meant that Bigsan vaSeresh felt free to speak their language in public, since they assumed no one would understand them. This enabled Mordechai to overhear their evil plot.
Rabbi Marcus explored an idea taught by Rabbi Mordechai Sabato. Why was the incident with Mordechai on the horse so critical to the y’shuah of Hashem. Why was it significant to Megillas Esther?
He noted that the beginning of Megillas Esther and the end contain parallels. The third perek describes the initial edict for the Jews to be killed. The eighth perek describes the letter for the Jews’ permission to defend themselves. The language is almost identical. The tree meant for Mordechai was used for Haman. In the beginning of Megillas Esther, it describes the king giving Haman the signet ring. In the end, it describes the king giving the signet ring to Mordechai.
Rabbi Marcus pointed out that the incident where Haman leads Mordechai through the town on the king’s horse doesn’t seem to have a parallel. It was the turning point of the story. Before that point there was a continual ascent of Haman. Haman saw himself as king. The story of the horse marked the turning point and the beginning of Haman’s descent.
Throughout Megillas Esther there is constant tension between Mordechai and Haman. They actually see each other twice: once at the king’s gate and then during the horse incident.
The Yalkut Shim’oni points out that the Jews were upset with Mordechai. They felt that because he didn’t bow down to Haman, that this endangered them. Rabbi Marcus explained later that it was because Mordechai didn’t bow down that the Jews were saved.
According to the Vilna Gaon, there were two reasons in the Gemara why the Jews were subject to the decree. They enjoyed the feast of Achashveirosh and they bowed to avodah zarah. The tikun for the feast of Achashveirosh was that Esther and the Jews fasted for three days, and the tikun for the avodah zarah was Mordechai refusing to bow down to Haman who wore an idol.
The lesson of the horse story is that it shows the tremendous m’siras nefesh of Mordechai who remained steadfast in his decision not to bow down to Haman. The story of the horse demonstrated why the miracle of Purim occurred.
By Susie Garber