Approximately 2450 years ago, the Persian Empire was ruled by King Achashverosh. It extended from India to Ethiopia, one of the largest empires in ancient history. Roughly one million Jews lived in the empire, including 40,000 in the land of Israel, trying to rebuild the Bet haMiqdash, under the leadership of Ezra and Nechemia.
In the capital of the empire, Shushan haBira, King Achashverosh appointed a very tough prime minister: Haman, and gave him full authority to do as he pleased over the entire empire. Haman not only demanded respect but he also expected people to revere him as a god: everyone had to bow-down (down to the floor!) upon seeing Haman.
Mordekhai was a leader among the Jews in Shushan. His niece, Esther, was taken to the palace and recently designated as the new Queen. Mordekhai respected the King and even thwarted a plot against the King's life, but he refused to bow-down to Haman because he considered it an act of idol-worshiping. Haman, the ultimate example of megalomania, was furious and decided to take revenge from Mordekhai. He thought that just killing Mordekhai will not do justice to such 'great' personal offense.
He decided then to exterminate all of Mordekhai's people. All the Jews living in the Persian Empire, who were indeed all the Jews in the world.
But how did Haman intend to kill a million people, spread all over a huge empire? Haman had a perfect genius evil plan. He tricked the King and made him to sign an edict, which was immediately sent all over the empire, announcing that at the 13th of the month of Adar (few months from the issuing of the edict) every citizen of the Empire will have the lawful right to kill a Jewand take possession of his properties and assets.... By the laws of the empire, the Jews will not be allowed to defend themselves! That was Haman's master plan: motivating every person in the Empire to kill his Jewish neighbors by taking all their assets, legally!!! . A perfect evil plan.
Had Haman succeeded, it would have been the end of the Jewish people....
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Very recommended for Hebrew speakers. A class on Megilat Esther by Rabbi Chayim Sabato,
from Yeshibat Bircat Moshe (Ma'ale Adumim, Israel). Click here (if the link does not work in your computer, please visit www.ybm.org.il ).