The Pile of Achashveirosh and the Pit of Haman

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The first stanza of the Selichos of Ta’anis Esther begins: “When an Adam – Haman- rose against us, and partnered with the devious kingdom, they decided to sell us like a mound of dirt and an empty pit with no one to lean on, and said, “Let us go and destroy them and their name will never again be mentioned.”
The reference to a mound and a pit is a Mashal that the Gemarra in Megilah uses to explain the conversation between Haman and Achashveirosh . When Haman casts lots and decides to destroy the Jewish people, he needs the agreement of Achashveirosh. He goes to Achashveirosh and offers ten thousand silver measures for the right to eradicate the Jews. Achashveirosh responds, “The money is yours; and the nation, do as you desire!” The Gemarra explains that this conversation is as if two people met coincidentally. One has an undesired pile of dirt is his courtyard, and the other an empty yawning pit. Each one is bemoaning the expense to deal with their problem; till they realize that each one’s problem is the other one’s solution. So too Achashveirosh has a Jewish problem, and Haman has a desire to destroy them, and the problems resolve each other.
The plain meaning of this Mashal is clear enough, but I think there is more to be said here. The Maharsha explains that this Mashal is another example of HaShem’s Midah K’Neged Midah in the Megilah. Haman prepares a pit for the Jews, but he himself falls into it. This is further elucidated since one of the Pesukim which is a reference to Haman is “One who digs a pit will fall into it ”; and this is the pit he falls into .
The Maharal explains , that there is a difference between the two antagonists of the Jews. For Achashveirosh the Jews are one type of problem since they are a nation that stands apart from all the other nations of his kingdom. Therefore his plan is to dissolve them into his kingdom, but not destroy them. As the emperor he does not wish to destroy part of his kingdom, but to eliminate the problem in a different way. That is the meaning of the Gemarra that to Achashveirosh, they are a mound of dirt, over and above but not part of his kingdom and as a result a nuisance. But Haman, who is not a king, as it says in the Selicha, he can eradicate them completely as befits a scion of Amalek. That is the meaning of the pit Haman has, to make the Jews disappear into. When Achashveirosh’s plan to assimilate them through the feast does not work, he agrees to Haman’s plan.
In the writings of Rav Meir Shapiro , he describes these two approaches as the two ways the nations desire to eliminate the Jews. Achashveirosh is the secret enemy who uses his silver tongue and false love to destroy our spiritual uniqueness. Haman is the one who views them as a destructive entity to be destroyed.
As found in a different Sefer – Avnei HaMakom , Achashveirosh tries to encourage the Jewish people to assimilate at the feast, that is the uplifted pile but ultimately of dirt. Haman tries to wipe us out and that is the pit into which we fall and he hopes that we will disappear.
But I think that beyond these true explanations we can find a very deep meaning in the pit and the mound of dirt. The word for the pile of dirt in the Gemarra is תל – Tel. And that word has a very specific meaning. In a different essay I wrote at length about it, but the short version is that the word Kotel, is כ”ו KO the Hebrew letters which add up to 26 which is the Gematraya of the name of HaShem, and Tel which is a reference to the place where all Tefilah is directed. The Zohar writes : The Lower Shechina dwells in the Western Wall (Kotel), because it is the תל towards which all turn. The word כותל is made up of up כ”ו which is equal to twenty six in gematriya, the value of the ineffable name of HaShem, and תל which the Shechina is at the תל. And תל is the number 430 which is five times the name of Din (judgment Elokim- 5*86).
We can connect this to the Gemarra in Berachos, that deduces from a Pasuk in Shir HaShirim in which direction we face when praying : R. Abin — or as some say R. Abina — said: What text confirms this(to daven towards the Kodesh HaKodashim)? — Thy neck is like the tower of David built with turrets [talpioth], the elevation [tel] towards which all mouths (piyyoth) turn. So we see that the תל is the place of Tefilah, and that is the Kotel. It would seem that this aspect of the כותל, is when the Bais HaMikdosh is destroyed. This is clear in the Zohar, but even in the Gemarra the need to daven towards the Kotel is even when there is no Bais HaMikdosh .
The Kotel was built specifically by Dovid . Dovid is characterized by three ideas. Firstly Dovid is the essence of Tefilah. As he says in Tehilim ואני תפילה my essence is Tefilah. Secondly, Dovid is humility; he views himself as a pauper beseeching HaShem. Thirdly, דוד מלך ישראל חי וקים- as the extension of Adam HaRishon he begins the process of bringing Moshiach into the world which will bring the world to an unending life as Adam before the sin.
If we put these ideas together we get the following. The Kotel is a magnet-תל for Tefilah, constructed by the person whose essence is Tefilah. Dovid is also the person who brings the world back to a time when there is no death. Therefore the part of the Bais HaMikdosh that he builds is like the Luz, which is the seed from which rebirth takes place. This characteristic remains even after the actual Bais HaMikdosh is destroyed, and therefore the Shechina never leaves the Kotel, and awaits and brings about its reconstruction.
But if we take this idea further, the word תל means both destruction and strength. What allows the Bais HaMikdosh to be rebuilt is the feeling of Tefilah that arises from a sense of impoverishment. When the Bais HaMikdosh is standing we do not need Tefilah to the degree we do when it is not built. Dovid had that feeling of ‘lack’ since he desired to build the Bais HaMikdosh. His Tefilah reflects that and is imbued into the one part of the Bais HaMikdosh that he did build. We approach from the other side, of loss and destruction. But that only makes our Tefilah and desire that much deeper and heartfelt. The reason why the Kotel is a Luz is because of the feeling of lacking a Bais HaMikdosh. From the תל of destruction comes the תל of strength and that is where the Bais HaMikdsoh is rebuilt from. And that is what we say in Lecha Dodi- in You the paupers of our nation trust- meaning not financial paupers, but those who feel the lack of the Bais HaMikdosh, and from that the Bais HaMikdosh will be rebuilt from the destruction to the strength- on its תל. And the word תפלה is made up of תל and פה .
This idea of Bitachon and trust that the pauper has in the rebuilding is also a part of the Kotel as the Zohar writes : The Kotel is the place of the Shechina and that is the beginning of Emunah. And that Emunah brings the final Geulah as the Gemarra says: Chabakuk came and established the Torah on one principal – A tzadik dwells by his Emunah.
So we see that every tear and Tefilah of yearning for the Bais HaMikdosh adds another stone to the Tel, which will turn the destruction into the Bais HaMikdosh.
So we have seen that the Tel represents that aspect of the Bais HaMikdosh which cannot be destroyed. Achashveirosh recognized that the seventy years of Yirmiyahu’s Nevuah are coming to an end, and the Bais HaMikdosh is going to be rebuilt. Therefore, he has a Tel that he wants to destroy. He wants to do that with the Seudah to destroy the Jews by drawing them close but that does not work.
Haman though comes from Amalek. As Rashi says about the eternal battle between Yakov and Eisav- Klal Yisroel and Edom, Tzor is only filled from the destruction of Yerushalayim . Tzor is the empty pit that Amalek fills with the destruction of the Bais HaMikdosh. Says Haman to Achashveirosh, you already tried to destroy them your way; now let us try my way. I am an empty pit till it is filled with the booty of Yerushalayim. Give me your Tel and put it in my pit.
The only way to overcome Amalek is through the Shekalim which we give first, as the Gemarra says. Even though we do not have a Bais HaMikdosh, still the reading of Shekalim shows our desire for it to be rebuilt, and with that we can overcome Haman and Achashveirsoh.
Says the Shem Mishmuel : And the person to do this is Mordechai. He is described as an Ish Yehudi from Yehudah, and Ish Yemini from Binyomin. These are the two sides Klal Yisroel, of Rochel and Leah. Yehudah is the king which is the Tel; that is Mordechai who goes out into the streets and calls out to HaShem. Rochel is the silent one, who goes into the King’s innermost chamber and is the opposition to the pit of Amalek. And between Esther and Mordechai we can overcome these two approaches and rebuild the Bais HaMikdosh.
This duality can also be the meaning of the emphasis of reading the Megilah both during the day and at night . The day is the Midah of revelation which is Leah and Yehudah. The night is silence, Rochel and Binyomin. In the Megilah, Mordechai going out to the public square and crying out in Tefila is Yehudah the Ish Yehudi. Esther who does not even reveal whom she is represents Rochel, the Midah of silence. We need both types of reading to overcome the Galus we are in.
The Maharal explains that the need to give praise day and night stems from the depth of the darkness we were in. The second explanation of the Maharal seems to be referring to the dual sides of the depth of darkness, and possibly it is referring to the duality of Achashveirsoh and Haman, and therefore we need to praise HaShem both ways.


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