Photo Credit: Saul Jay Singer

In Megillas Esther (5:14) we find that Zeresh (Haman’s wife) suggested that Haman hang Mordechai on gallows 50 amos (cubits) high. Haman got such a pole of wood and intended on hanging Mordechai on it, but eventually, Haman himself was hanged on that piece of lumber which was 50 amos high (Megillas Esther, 7:10). This emphasis on a 50 amos tall pillar might make us wonder why they would want to execute Mordechai on a pole that was specifically 50 amos tall? Let us share a fascinating Midrash which tells us where Haman found such a tall piece of timber.

In Yalkut Shimoni (Esther, Remez 1056, Divrei Hamaschil “Ya’asu Eitz” expounding on the psuk in Megillas Esther, 5:14) it says that Haman went around looking for a wooden pillar that was 50 amos tall. At first, Haman could not find such a column. Eventually, Haman realized that such a post was used in the construction of his house. Where did Haman get such a pillar from to begin with?


Well, Haman’s son Parshandasa (who is the first executed son of Haman to be listed in Megillas Esther, 9:7) was a governor of Kardunia. Kardunia is the name of a country which is the home of Mount Ararat. Mount Ararat was the mountain upon which Teivas Noach (Noah’s Ark) landed after the great flood (Parshas Noach, 8:4). Onkolos (Parshas Noach, 8:4) calls Mount Ararat “Mount Kardu,” and Yonasan ben Uziel (Parshas Noach, 8:4) calls Mount Ararat “Mount Kardenaya.” The words Kardunia, Kardu, and Kardenaya are linguistically similar to each other telling us that they all refer to the same place. That place today is the country called Turkey.

As governor of Kardunia, Parshandasa took a wooden beam from Teivas Noach which was 50 amos wide (Parshas Noach, 6:15). He gave it to his father, Haman, who used it to build his house with. Now, Haman took his house apart to get that beam in order to hang Mordechai on it.

The Midrash concludes by saying that Hashem orchestrated that Haman hanged on a beam from Noah’s Ark in order that generations to come would know that there was indeed a flood which destroyed the world. This idea is based on a pasuk (verse) which says, “Zeicher Uhsuh Liniflaosav” (He made a memorial for His wonders; Tehillim, 111:4).

Since Hashem arranged that Haman was hanged on a pillar from Noach’s Ark, there must be a connection between the salvation of Noach through the Ark and the salvation of the Jewish people in the days of Achashveorosh by Haman being hanged on a beam from that very Ark. What is that connection?

The Maharal (Rabbi Yehudah Loew, 1520 Poland-1609 Prague; Ohr Chadash on Megillas Esther, 5:4) answers our first question which was, “Why did Zeresh and Haman want to execute Mordechai on a pillar that was specifically 50 amos high?” He says that it is because of a Gemara in Rosh Hashana (chap.

1, “Arba’a Roshei Shanim”, pg. 21b; Rav or Shmuel) which says that Hashem created 50 Gates of Understanding in this world. We often refer to these 50 gates as 50 Gates or levels of Kedusha (holiness). Moshe Rabbenu only reached 49 of these levels, but the 50th level was beyond him, as it says, “And he is slightly less than Elokim” (Tehillim, 8:6). Meaning, only Elokim has access to the 50th level.

However, Haman made himself into a god (Meseches Megillah, chap. 2, “Hakorei Limafreiah”, pg. 19a). As such, Haman claimed to have possessed Godly powers. Therefore, Haman claimed to be connected with the 50th gate which is Godly.

Incidentally, this explains why Haman was infuriated when Mordechai refused to bow down to him (Megillas Esther, 3:2). It is because Haman thought of himself as a god, and Mordechai challenged that claim.

In any case, this is why Haman chose to hang Mordechai on a pole that was specifically 50 amos high. It was to show that Mordechai’s death came from the forces of Sha’ar Hanun (the fiftieth gate), because the Sha’ar Hanun punished Mordechai for going up against Haman who was connected to the 50th gate, or so he claimed.

By Mordechai hanging on a piece of wood 50 amos tall, everybody would be able to see that Haman’s greatness was Godly because it stemmed from Sha’ar Hanun, which is reserved for God.

By the way, the reason why the number 50 equals Godliness is because the number 49 represents Olam Hazeh (this world), which means that the number 50 represents Olam Haba (the next world) which is Godly. The reason why the number 49 represents Olam Hazeh is because this world is made up of sevens. For example, there are seven days in a week, seven years in a Shmittah (Sabbatical) cycle, seven Shmittah cycles in a Yovel (jubilee), and seven thousand years of this world the way we know it prior to the advent of Moshiach’s (Messiah’s) arrival.

Therefore, when you take the number seven and square it (7 x 7), you get 49. This is how the number 49 represents Olam Hazeh. It is because it is a multiple of seven which represents Olam Hazeh. Therefore, the number 50, which is one notch above 49, represents Olam Haba which is above this world. This is how Olam Haba is connected to 50.

So again, Haman claimed that he was a god who was connected to the number 50 and Olam Haba. Therefore, Haman wanted to hang Mordechai on a fifty-cubit pole because Mordechai had defied Haman’s claim to divinity. By hanging Mordechai on a fifty-cubit pillar, Haman wanted to show that he (Haman) came from the power of Sha’ar Hanun, and to show that he (Haman) was a god, and to show that he (Haman) was greater than Moshe Rabbenu himself who only reached the 49th level.

However, Haman’s attempt to connect with the fiftieth gate of holiness backfired on him because the kedusha from that level is so intense that no person in this world has the ability to tolerate it. As soon as Haman touched the Sha’ar Hanun, he was electrified by it. This electrocution was manifest by him hanging on that fifty-cubit pole himself.

At this point, we will move on to see a connection between the salvation of the Jews through a beam 50 amos high, and the salvation of Noach and his family through the Ark which contained a 50-amos wide beam.

The Maharal says that one reason why Hashem saved Noach through an Ark that was specifically 50 amos wide (Parshas Noach, 6:15) was because the existence of Olam Hazeh (this world) is dependent upon the 49 levels of holiness. However, the people who were alive during Noach’s generation were so bad that they sunk down to the 49th level of impurity. Therefore, Hashem destroyed this world together with its 49 levels.

Since there was no Olam Hazeh left for Noach to be saved in, Hashem had to bring Noach into the world of Olam Haba (the coming world) which is the Sha’ar Hanun (the 50th gate) in order to rescue him. This is why Hashem had commanded Noach to build a Teiva which was 50 amos wide (Parshas Noach, 6:15). It was because Hashem wanted to prepare the Ark and Noach for the revelation of holy light which stems from the Sha’ar Hanun.

It turns out that when Noach entered into the Teiva, he walked through a portal leaving behind Olam Hazeh, entering into an entirely different dimension of Olam Haba.

After the Mabul (flood), Hashem had to build Olam Hazeh all over again from scratch. Hashem reconstructed the 49 levels to enable Olam Hazeh to survive. When Noach exited the Teiva, he essentially left the dimension of Olam Haba and reentered into Olam Hazeh.

However, Hashem left over a small remnant of Sha’ar Hanun in this world so that generations would know that there was indeed a great flood, and in order that they come to realize that mankind was saved by the Sha’ar Hanun. The item which Hashem left over in this world as a remnant of the Sha’ar Hanun was that beam 50 amos wide from Teivas Noach.

Haman wanted to receive the energy of Sha’ar Hanun so that he could draw power from it and truly become a god. This is what motivated him to search for that beam from Teivas Noach which was 50 amos wide.

However, Haman was mistaken, because he was no god, he was just a man. There is a hint in his name which demonstrates that he was merely a man who tried to take advantage of the fiftieth gate. The name “Haman” is spelled with three Hebrew letters which are: hey, mem, and nun. The first two letters (hey and mem) have the gematria (numerical value) of 45 which is the same exact gematria as the Hebrew word “Adam” (man). This teaches us that Haman was just a man. The last letter of his name is a nun which is numerically 50. This teaches us that this mere mortal man tried to tap into the 50th gate of holiness. Since Haman could not tolerate its kedusha, he was singed by it. That singe was manifest in Haman hanging from that very beam which was 50 amos high.

Yet, one of the motivating factors for Haman to reach the Sha’ar Hanun was so that he would be able to defeat Mordechai. This will become clear when we analyze the next pasuk and Midrash.

The verse says, “Ish Yehudi (there was a Jewish man) in Shushan the capital” (Megillas Esther, 2:5), referring to Mordechai. The Midrash in Esther Rabba (6:2) explains that the word “Ish” teaches us that Mordechai was likened to Moshe Rabbenu. Just as Moshe was equal to all of the Jewish people in his generation, so was Mordechai equal to all of the Jewish people in his generation. This comparison is derived from the word “Ish” which the pasuk used to describe Mordechai because that same word is used to describe Moshe as it says, “VihaIsh Moshe (and Moshe the man) was exceedingly humble” (Parshas Beha’alosecha, 12:3).

The Megaleh Amukos (Rabbi Nasan Nata Shapira, 1585-1633, Poland; Vaeschanan 44) adds that this Midrash is not only making a comparison between Moshe and Mordechai, but it is actually implying that Mordechai was a gilgul (reincarnation) of Moshe. In his Chomas Anach on Megillas Esther, Rabbi Chaim Yoseph Dovid Azulai (1724 Jerusalem-1806 Italy) adds a numerical support to this notion. He says that the words “Ish Yehudi” (which refers to Mordechai) have the same gematria as “Moshe” (each one equals 345), further supporting this idea that Mordechai was indeed a gilgul of Moshe.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that based on this revelation, we can posit that just as Moshe only reached the 49th level of understanding, so did Mordechai only reach the 49th level. Therefore, Haman was motivated to reach the 50th level because that would enable him to be victorious over Mordechai.

Now we are going to explore another point which is that Haman wanted to hang Mordechai on a pole that was specifically 50 amos high in order to prevent Mordechai from spreading Torah Sheba’al Peh (the Oral Law) which is the aspect of Torah which contains the 50 levels of understanding.

A pasuk in Parshas Yisro (19:17) says, “And they stood underneath the mountain.” In Meseches Shabbos (chap. 9, “Amar Rebbi Akiva”, pg. 88a), Rebbi Avdimi bar Chama bar Chasa says that this wording teaches us that Hashem held the mountain suspended over the Jewish people’s heads and threatened them by saying that if they were to accept the Torah, all would be fine. But if they were to reject the Torah, Hashem would bury them underneath the mountain.

Rebbi Acha bar Ya’akov exclaimed that this provides a strong protest against the Torah. In other words, this provides an excuse for non-observance since the Torah was forcibly imposed upon the people in the first place. Rashi (ibid) adds that if the Jews would be taken to court with the accusation, “Why didn’t you observe that which you accepted upon yourselves,” they would be able to defend themselves by responding, “We only accepted the Torah under duress.”

Rava said that, nevertheless, the Jewish people reaccepted the Torah upon themselves willingly in the days of Achashveirosh. This acceptance came from a place of love after they witnessed the miracles which Hashem had performed for them. This is supported by the pasuk which says, “Kiyimu Vikiblu Hayehudim” (the Jews confirmed and undertook upon themselves; Megillas Esther, 9:27). This means that they reaccepted the Torah that they had already accepted upon themselves at Sinai, with one difference. At Sinai they were forced into it, but during the Purim story they willingly accepted it.

Tosafos (ibid, Divrei Hamaschil “Kuhfuh”) asks why it was necessary for Hashem to threaten the Jews into acceptance if they had already accepted the Torah willingly when they said, “Na’aseh Vinishma” (we will do and we will obey; Parshas Mishpatim, 24:7)? The Midrasdh Tanchuma (Parshas Noach, 3) answers this question by saying that the Jews had only accepted Torah Shebichtav (the Written Law) upon themselves willingly because it is relatively easy to obey. However, the Jews never said Na’aseh Vinishma with respect to Torah Sheba’al Peh (the Oral Law) because it is extremely intricate and difficult to fulfil. As such, the Jews basically rejected Torah Sheba’al Peh. Therefore, the hovering mountain above their heads was meant to force them to accept Torah Sheba’al Peh anyway.

Rav Tzadok Hakohein (Rabinowitz from Lublin, 1823-1900, Poland; Pri Tzaddik, Purim, #2) adds that according to all of this, when the Gemara (ibid) said that the Jews had reaccepted the Torah upon themselves willingly in the days of Achashveirosh, it must be talking about Torah Sheba’al Peh, because the Jews had already accepted Torah Shebichtav willingly back in the days of Moshe Rabbenu.

Rav Tzadok goes on to say that the 50 levels of Torah understanding which Hashem had created (Meseches Rosh Hashana, pg. 21b) are contained within Torah Sheba’al Peh because it is within the Oral Tradition that one finds all of the explanations and clarifications.

Therefore, says Rav Tzadok, Haman wanted to execute Mordechai on a beam that was specifically 50 amos tall because, through his sorcery, Haman had seen that under the leadership of Mordechai, the Jews were going to willingly accept Torah Sheba’al Peh upon themselves. That would mean that all of the Jews would have access to the 50 levels, which would threaten Haman’s power. By hanging Mordechai on a 50 amos pole, Haman attempted to prevent Mordechai from impacting the Jewish people with the 50 levels of Torah understanding contained within Torah Sheba’al Peh.

At this point, we are going to begin understanding the connection between Noach being saved on a Teiva and the Jews being saved by a beam from that very Teiva upon which Haman was executed.

In Parshas Noach (8:6-7) it says that Noach sent the raven out of the Ark to see if the waters had abated. However, the raven refused to do its agency. The raven had a very good reason for refusing Noach’s instructions. In Meseches Sanhedrin, (chap. 11, “Cheilek”, pg. 108a) it says that the raven’s argument was that if he were to venture out of the Teiva, there would be a concern that he might die by overheating of by frost. The raven’s death would result in the extinction of its species. Hashem would certainly not want that. Therefore, the raven refused to budge.

This claim sounds reasonable. If so, why wasn’t Noach or the dove (who did venture out of the Ark) concerned about the raven’s consideration? One answer to this is as follows.

The Chasam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer1762-1839, Frankfurt, Pressburg; Parshas Bereishis) says that Hashem had commanded the animals to board the Ark. As such, it was forbidden for them to depart from the Ark unless they would be instructed to do so by God Himself. This would serve as yet another argument that the raven could have used to refuse Noach’s orders. The raven could have said that it only takes its orders from Hashem directly. The raven could have said to Noach, “Who do you think you are to instruct me to do something which would go against Hashem’s direct orders?”

The Chasam Sofer continues. The reason why Noach was not concerned about all of these arguments is because Noach understood that the Sages in each generation have the power to uproot a Torah law if the circumstances call for it, like it says, “There comes a time to do for Hashem which requires nullifying the Torah” (Tehillim, 119:126).

Noach knew that when the Chachamim (Sages; Torah scholars) issue decrees, there would be no damaging side effects from them (Iyov, 22:28). Therefore, Noach knew that the raven would not die of heat or frost, because it says, “One who safeguards a mitzva will come to know no evil” (Koheles, 8:5).

But the raven did not believe in Emunas Chachamim (trust in the Sages). The raven only believed in Torah Shebichtav which comes directly from God. That was why the raven did not trust Noach, who was the Sage of that generation.

Like Noach, the dove was not concerned about the raven’s considerations. This is because the dove is likened to the Jewish people (Meseches Berachos, chap. 8, “Eilu Devarim”, pg. 53b). Therefore, just as the Jews embrace Emunas Chachamim, so did the dove. Just as the Jews understand that no damage will come about by adhering to the advice or instruction of the Chachamim, so did the dove.

The raven, however, was an apikores (heretic) because it only believed in the direct word of God which is tantamount to Torah Shebichtav, but it did not trust in the Chachamim of Torah Sheba’al Peh.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that when the dove did go out to do its agency, it was still nervous on account of the raven’s claim that perhaps a bird could die outside of the Teiva. Still, the dove did its mission anyway, and by doing so, it was moser nefesh (self-sacrificed) to obey Torah Sheba’al Peh by listening to the Chacham of that generation; Noach. So, it turns out that the Teiva, with its beams 50 amos wide, under the guidance of Noach, the Gadol Hador, represented Torah Sheba’l Peh.

The Shvilei Pinchas adds that this explains why Hashem orchestrated that the only beam 50 amos high that Haman could find came from Noah’s Ark. It is because Hashem wanted to awaken the merit of the dove who listened to Noach who represented Torah Sheba’al Peh. This would also awaken the merits of the Jewish people who are likened to the dove (Berachos, 53b) because they also hold on tenaciously with Mesirus Nefesh to the instructions of the Chachamim who represent Torah Sheba’al Peh.

Just to be clear, this beam represented Torah Sheba’al Peh in three ways:

1) It was a beam from the Ark in which the dove demonstrated adherence to Torah Sheba’al Peh.

2) It was 50 amos tall which represented the 50 levels of Torah understanding which is contained within Torah Sheba’al Peh.

3) The beam was from the Ark which is called a “Teiva.” The word “Teiva” has another translation which is a “word,” which refers to the oral words of Torah Sheba’al Peh.

Therefore, this beam which represented Torah Sheba’al Peh that the Jews are Moser Nefesh for, served as a zechus (merit) for them. So, not only did Haman not succeed in hanging Mordechai on it, and not only did Haman not succeed in stopping Mordechai from getting the Jews to accept the Oral Law willingly, but Haman was even hanged on that piece of wood. This was all in the zechus of the Torah Sheba’al Peh which the Jews willingly accepted on Purim.

Now we can appreciate the connection between Noach being saved by a Teiva and the Jews being saved by a beam from that Teiva. Both the Ark and the beam from the Ark symbolically represented Torah Sheba’al Peh. Both Noach and the Jews in the days of Achashveirosh were saved because of their commitment to Torah Sheba’al Peh.

One practical application of this teaching would be to ask everybody at our Purim seudos (meals) to declare out loud, “Na’aseh Vinishma” and have in mind that we are happily reaccepting both Torah Shebichtav and Torah Sheba’al Peh upon ourselves. Then, let us make a resolution right then and there to improve our commitment to learning more, deeper, and happier.

So, may we “Dove People” all be blessed to fly away into our modern-day Teivas Noach which are our Batei Midrashos (study halls) and which could be our Jewish homes if we permeate them with kedusha, in which we can escape into “Teivas” Noach – meaning – into the “words” of Noach, which means to delve into the Oral Law which contains 50 levels of understanding, and may we be blessed to adhere to the Chachmei Torah Sheba’al Peh of our generation in whose zechus the enemies of the Jewish people will hang.

Purim Sameach!


“From Foe to Friend”

“Out of Luck”

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Rabbi Aba Wagensberg, a close Talmid of Harav HaGaon Rav Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg, ZT”L, is a sought-after lecturer in institutions in Israel and abroad. Rabbi Wagensberg is the author of "Inspiring Change" (about self growth) and "A Shot of Torah" (a collection of shorter divrei Torah on the Parsha and holidays), as well as weekly Torah articles. He has created a Torah audio and video library and can also be heard weekly on the Lakewood radio station, Kol Berama 107.9 FM.