Lisa Liel

A lesson from the Megillah

The Sages say that there’s always something new to be learned from the Torah.  The same is true for the Megillah.  In Megillat Esther 9:13, it says:

And Esther said: “If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews that are in Shushan to do tomorrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.”

This was on the 13th day of Adar, the day about which Haman had sent out letters telling the people to rise up and massacre all the Jews, and the day about which Mordechai had sent out letters after that telling all the Jews to stand up and defend themselves by killing their enemies.  All that day, fighting had gone on.  In the city of Shushan, the seat of Ahasuerus’ kingdom, it was brutal.  Haman had already been dead for some months at this point, but his ten sons were still around, and they probably weren’t that fond of the Jews either.  Likewise, as the sons of the Prime Minister who had died for his plot against the Jews, they were probably the leaders of the anti-Jewish forces.  But during the fighting in Shushan, all ten of them were killed.

When Ahasuerus received the body count from Shushan, he passed it on to Esther, and asked if there were any other requests she might have.  And boy, did she.  And here’s where we can really learn from her.

She asked for two things. The first was to allow the Jews in Shushan to use lethal force against their enemies the next day just as they’d been permitted to do that day. But why? The original decree about rising up and killing the Jews was good for one day only: the 13th of Adar.  Why did Esther want the Jews to be able to defend themselves on the 14th, when that decree was no longer in force?

Which brings us to the second thing she asked for.  She wanted the dead bodies of Haman’s 10 sons, the heroes of the anti-Jewish forces, strung up on the gallows that their father had been hanged on.  Not to kill them, because they were already dead. But as a symbolic gesture, letting the anti-Jewish forces know that they weren’t just beaten for the day, but that they were done.

Esther wasn’t stupid, though. She knew what the reaction would be when the Jew-haters woke up the next morning and saw Haman’s sons twisting in the wind. And that is why she asked for special dispensation to fight and kill any enemies who rose up against them.  Because she intended to provoke them into it.

So why do it?  Why provoke them and then ask for permission to protect her people from the results of her provocation?  And here’s where we can learn something from Queen Esther.

Peace with those who want to murder you for who you are is not obtained through treaties or compromise. Nations that have economic differences or other policy differences can end wars with a compromise.  But when one side is dedicated to the destruction of the other, compromise is suicidal. The aggressor must be dealt with decisively. Beaten soundly and made to feel that they have absolutely lost. Otherwise, they’ll just come back and try again.

I can only hope that our leaders here in Israel learn this lesson and stop trying to find compromises with those who want nothing but our destruction.

About the Author
Lisa Liel lives in Karmiel with her family. She works as a programmer/developer, reads a lot, watches too much TV, does research in Bronze/Iron Age archaeology of the Middle East, and argues a lot on Facebook.