The night during which Haman erected the cross for Mordecai was the first night of Passover, the very night in which miracles without number had ever been done for the Fathers and for Israel. But this time the night of joy was changed into a night of mourning and a night of fears. Wherever there were Jews, they passed the night in weeping and lamenting. The greatest terrors it held for Mordecai, because his own people accused him of having provoked their misfortunes by his haughty behavior toward Haman. (160)
Excitement and consternation reigned in heaven as well as on earth. (161) When Haman had satisfied himself that the cross intended for his enemy was properly constructed, he repaired to the Bet ha-Midrash, where he found Mordecai and all the Jewish school children, twenty-two thousand in number, in tears and sorrow. He ordered them to be put in chains, saying: "First I shall kill off these, and then I shall hang Mordecai." The mothers hastened thither with bread and water, and coaxed their children to take something before they had to encounter death. The children, however, laid their hands upon their books, and said: "As our teacher Mordecai liveth, we will neither eat nor drink, but we will perish exhausted with fasting." They rolled up their sacred scrolls, and handed them to their teachers with the words: "For our devotion to the study of the Torah, we had hoped to be rewarded with long life, according to the promised held out in the Holy Scriptures. As we are not worthy thereof, remove the books!" The out-cries of the children and of the teachers in the Bet ha-Midrash, and the weeping of the mothers without, united with the supplications of the Fathers, reached unto heaven in the third hour of the night, and God said: "I hear the voice of tender lambs and sheep!" Moses arose and addressed God thus: "Thou knowest well that the voices are not of lambs and sheep, but of the young of Israel, who for three days have been fasting and languishing in fetters, only to be slaughtered on the morrow to the delight of the arch-enemy."
Then God felt compassion with Israel, for the sake of his innocent little ones. He broke the seal with which the heavenly decree of annihilation had been fastened, and the decree itself he tore in pieces. (162) From this moment on Ahasuerus became restless, and sleep was made to flee his eyes, for the purpose that the redemption of Israel might be brought to pass. God sent down Michael, the leader of the hosts of Israel, who was to keep sleep from the king, (163) and the archangel Gabriel descended, and threw the king out of his bed on the floor, no less than three hundred and sixty-five times, continually whispering in his ear: "O thou ingrate, reward him who deserves to be rewarded."
To account for his sleeplessness, Ahasuerus thought he might have been poisoned, and he was about to order the execution of those charged with the preparation of his food. But they succeeded in convincing him of their innocence, by calling to his attention that Esther and Haman had shared his evening meal with him, yet they felt no unpleasant effects. (164) Then suspicions against his wife and his friend began to arise in his mind. He accused them inwardly of having conspired together to put him out of the way. He sought to banish this thought with the reflection, that if a conspiracy had existed against him, his friends would have warned him of it. But the reflection brought others in its train: Did he have any friends? Was it not possible that by leaving valuable services unrewarded, he had forfeited the friendly feelings toward him? (165) He therefore commanded that the chronicles of the kings of Persia be read to him. He would compare his own acts with what his predecessors had done, and try to find out whether he might count upon friends. (166)
What was read to him, did not restore his tranquility of mind, for he saw a poor man before him none other than the angel Michael who called to him continually: "Haman wants to kill thee, and become king in thy stead. Let this serve thee as proof that I am telling thee the truth: Early in the morning he will appear before thee and request permission of thee to kill him who saved thy life. And when thou inquirest of him what honor should be done to him whom the king delighteth to honor, he will ask to be given the apparel, the crown, and the horse of the king as signs of distinction." (167)
Ahasuerus's excitement was soothed only when the passage in the chronicles was reached describing the loyalty of Mordecai. Had the wishes of the reader been consulted, Ahasuerus had never heard this entry, for it was a son of Haman who was filling the office of reader, and he was desirous of passing the incident over in silence. But a miracle occurred the words were heard though they were not uttered!
The names of Mordecai and Israel had a quieting influence upon the king, and he dropped asleep. He dreamed that Haman, sword in hand, was approaching him with evil intent, and when, early in the morning, Haman suddenly, without being announced, entered the antechamber and awakened the king, Ahasuerus was persuaded of the truth of his dream. The king was still further set against Haman by the reply he gave to the question, how honor was to be shown to the man whom the king delighteth to honor. Believing himself to be the object of the king's good-will, he advised Ahasuerus to have his favorite arrayed in the king's coronation garments, and the crown royal put upon his head. Before him one of the grandees of the kingdom was to run, doing herald's service, proclaiming that whosoever did not prostrate himself and bow down before him whom the king delighteth to honor, would have his head cut off, and his house given over to pillage.
Haman was quick to notice that he had made a mistake, for he saw the king's countenance change color at the mention of the word crown. He therefore took good care not to refer to it again. In spite of this precaution, Ahasuerus saw in the words of Haman a striking verification of his vision, and he was confident that Haman cherished designs against his life and his throne. (168)