"And Mordechai knew...." (4:1)
The Midrash Rabbah (7:16) relates that after Haman had the evil decrees written and signed, Mordechai met three children returning home from yeshivah and asked them, "What did you learn today?" The first child quoted the pasuk, "Do not fear sudden terror." The second one mentioned the pasuk "They will make plans, but it will be foiled, they will discuss thoughts, but it will not materialize, for G-d is with us." The third child quoted the pasuk "Until old age I am with you, to your aged years I will sustain you ... and deliver you." Upon hearing this Mordechai was very happy. What good tidings did Mordechai see in the words of the children?
The Jewish people were confronted by Amalek three times:
- Upon leaving Egypt, they were suddenly attacked by Amalek (Devarim 25:18, Rashi).
- Years later Amalek appeared, talking like a Canaanite, and attempted to wage war against the Jewish people (Bamidbar 21:1, Rashi).
- Haman was a descendant of Amalek, and viciously planned the annihilation of the Jewish people.
Mordechai understood the words of the first child, "Do not fear sudden terror..." as an allusion to Amalek's first attack. The second child's message, "dabru davar velo yakum" -- "they will speak, but it will not materialize" -- was that regardless of Amalek's attempts to disguise himself and change his dialect, it would be to no avail because Hashem was with the Jewish people.
When Haman discussed his evil plans for the Jews with his advisors, they told him, "Don't be a fool, whenever someone sought to harm these people, their G-d came to their salvation and destroyed the enemy. Stay away from them or you will suffer the consequences." Haman presumptuously told them, "There is nothing to fear, now their G-d is old and weak and unable to help them." Mordechai understood the words of the third child as Hashem saying, "Regardless of Haman thinking I am old, I have not changed; I will carry, sustain, and save the Jewish people now and at all times."
"And she ordered him to go to Mordechai, to know what it was... And he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree... to show Esther... that she should go in to the king... and to make request before him for her people." (4:5,8)
How was it possible that Esther should not know anything about the decree against the Jewish people?
Haman and Achashveirosh were both great anti-semites. They hated the Jews with a passion and would have been happy to see them annihilated. Since the Jews resided in the country and paid taxes, it would have been undiplomatic to publicize their feelings about the Jewish people. Therefore, they spoke of them as "a people" and did not specify which nation.
Haman said, "There is a people...." Achashveirosh told him, "You may keep the money, and regarding 'the people,' do as you please."
Haman sent a confidential letter to the head of each province, informing them of the planned extermination of the Jewish people. The letter was sealed (3:12) and was not to be opened before the 13th of Adar. Another letter was sent to the residents of each province, which only notified them be ready for that day (3:14) without any particulars. This way, until the last moment no one would detect their vicious plans, and the Jews would lack an opportunity to plead before the King.
Fortunately, Mordechai "learned of all that had been done" (4:1) and thus he knew of Haman's vicious plan to destroy the Jewish people. He therefore sent Esther a copy of the text which was distributed to the public, telling them to be "ready for that day," and told her what the intention was. He instructed her to tell the King her nationality and beseech him to save her people.
"If you persist in keeping silent at a time like this...you and your father's house will perish." (4:14)
Why would Esther's "silence" and non-intervention on behalf of the Jewish people cause her father's house to perish?
King Shaul was instructed to destroy the entire people of Amalek. Out of compassion for their leader Agog, he spared his life. The next morning the prophet Shmuel killed Agog and admonished Shaul for not following instructions. The preceding night, Agog had married a maid who later gave birth to the ancestor of Haman.
Mordechai reminded Esther that she was a descendant of King Shaul and that her rise to glory was by Divine Providence. By bringing about the downfall of Haman she would remove the blemish on King Shaul, which was caused by his oversight.
Should the salvation of the Jewish people come about through other means, her father's house would perish due to King Shaul's unforgiven iniquity.
"And fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days." (4:16)
Why did Esther tell Mordechai that the Jews should fast three days and nights?
To celebrate the success of his kingdom, Achashveirosh made a seven-day feast for the residents of Shushan HaBirah.
Unfortunately, the Jews attended and partook in the non-kosher festivities. The seventh and final day was Shabbat. In view of the fact that the celebrations were held in a garden, the Jews refrained from coming, out of fear that they might violate the Shabbat by pouring liquids on the ground (Gemara, Megillah 12a).
The Jew's eating of non-kosher food for six days caused the rise of Haman. To counteract this, Esther told Mordechai to have the Jews fast for three days and three nights, which would atone for the six days of eating non-kosher.