Haman’s Mistake

L’ kayem es yemei HaPurim ha’eileh b’zmaneihem (Megillas Esther 9:31)

The Megillah records that Mordechai and Esther sent letters to all the Jews to establish the observance of the days of Purim “on their proper dates.” This expression is difficult to understand; when else should Purim be celebrated if not at the time that the miracle occurred? The Meshech Chochmah explains that non-Jews begin their day in the morning and end it at night, while the Jewish day is the opposite, beginning and ending at sundown. Since the story of the Megillah was based on Haman’ s decree, it is reasonable to assume that he, being a non-Jew, issued an order that the Jews should be killed on the day of 13 Adar and the following night, what Jews would call the night of 14 Adar.

If so, Harav Meir Simchah, zt”l, suggests that the miracle of Purim occurred during the day of 14 Adar and the following night, what we call the night of 15 Adar, while in Shushan it was on 15 Adar and the following night, what we call the night of 16 Adar. Nevertheless, Mordechai and Esther emphasized that the Jews should observe Purim “on their proper dates,” based on the Jewish calendar which begins and ends at sundown.

In light of this, he brilliantly explains the mistake of Haman. The Gemara teaches (Megillah 13b) that when Haman cast his lots, he was excited that they fell out in the month of Adar which was the month when Moshe died. The Gemara adds that Haman’s mistake was that although Moshe died on 7 Adar, he was also born on 7 Adar because Hashem completes the years of the righteous, in which case it doesn’t reflect negatively on the mazal of the Jews in the month of Adar.

But if Haman knew when Moshe died, why didn’t he also know when he was born? The Meshech Chochmah explains that Moshe was born on 7 Adar, but on which part of 7 Adar was he born? Rashi writes (Shemos 2:2) that when Moshe was born he filled up the house with light, so he must have been born at night when it would be noticed that he was filling up a dark house with light. When did he die? The Torah (Devarim 32:48) says that he died b’etzem hayom ha’zeh, in the middle of the day on 7 Adar.

Haman mistakenly thought like a non-Jew that the day starts in the morning and ends at night, in which case Moshe didn’t die on the same day that he was born. Haman thought that Moshe was born on 6 Adar and died on 7 Adar, in which case the month of Adar had a bad mazal for the Jews. In reality, the Jewish day begins and ends at sunset, in which case Moshe was born and died on 7 Adar, and the mazal of Adar was in fact good for the Jews.

Parashah Q & A

Q:Rashi writes (Devarim 25:19) that in order to completely blot out the memory of Amalek, we must also destroy the possessions of the Amalekites so that their name shouldn’t be mentioned in conjunction with them. How was Esther permitted to accept the house of Haman (Esther 8:1), who was descended from Amalek?

Q:If Purim falls on Motzoei Shabbos, may one practice reading the Megillah on Shabbos, or is this forbidden as an act of preparation for after Shabbos?

Q:If a father commands his post-bar mitzvah son not to get drunk on Purim, does the mitzvah of honoring his father obligate the son to obey his father’s request, or is this considered a command to violate a mitzvah which a child is required to disregard?

A:The Shem MiShmuel and Brisker Rav, zt”l, answer that that if somebody is killed for sinning against the king, his possessions aren’t inherited by his family but belong to the king (Sanhedrin 48b). Therefore, when Achashverosh had Haman killed, he automatically inherited possession of Haman’s estate. When Esther and Mordechai accepted it, they weren’t receiving the possessions of an Amalekite, but they were instead taking the possessions of Achashverosh. The Imrei Emes and Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, explain that since Haman was Mordechai’s slave (Megillah 15a–b), whatever he acquired legally belonged to Mordechai, so when Esther and Mordechai received Haman’s estate, they weren’t receiving the possessions of an Amalekite but were simply claiming what had always rightfully been theirs. The Oneg Yom Tov suggests that the obligation to eliminate the possessions of the Amalekites only takes effect after all of the people of Amalek have been destroyed. In the time of Mordechai and Esther this had not yet occurred, so it was permissible for them to accept Haman’s possessions.

A:Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, rules that it is permissible to practice reading the Megillah on Shabbos, as even though his actions indicate that he is preparing for after Shabbos, the benefit from his actions is immediate as his familiarity with the Megillah increases as he reviews it.

A:Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules that in such a case, the son is obligated to obey his father’s request not to get drunk. Instead, he should fulfill the mitzvah by drinking more than he is accustomed to drink and going to sleep, in accordance with the opinion of the Rema (Orach Chaim 695:2).


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.