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The song we sing after reading the Megilla on Purim, "Shoshanat Yaakov," concludes with "and may Charvona also be remembered favorably." According to the Megilla (Esther 7:9), all Charvona did was, when Achashverosh was angry at Haman, mention that Haman had made a gallows for hanging Achashverosh's friend Mordechai.

I get that we should appreciate people who do good things, but there are other bit players in the Megilla who did good. What about, for example, Hegai, the attendant who was kind to Esther when she was waiting to meet Achashveirosh (Esther 2:8-9)? Why does Charvona get the honor of being the last person mentioned after we read the Megilla?

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7 Answers 7

One of my beloved mentors has given a dvar Torah on just this topic for the better part of two decades (and possibly longer) at his annual Purim seudah. Charvonah was not just a passive character who became active; according to a medrash, he was actually responsible for building the gallows! Charvonah turned on Haman when he saw that the tide was turning to save his own neck.

Far too often, we demand purity of motive from our helpers, be it Jews or non-Jews. When someone, even a former enemy, even for selfish motivations, helps us, it behooves us to acknowledge his contribution and remember him for good. This does not mean that we should just forget the past, but we should be aware and appreciative of the assistance rendered. (Traditionally, this explanation would continue with several demonstrations from the American political scene, including what my mentor would call the "Jesse principle" after Jesse Helms and Jesse Jackson, both of whom had made despicable comments about Jews and Israel, and yet later worked for them. While their later actions do not condone their previous ones, we must not disparage their good works, lest we dissuade future such actions.)

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As I understand it, Charvonah is the linchpin of the Megilah, the meeting of two separate plots.

Without Charvonah, Mordechai's rescue of King Achashverosh ends with his pony ride around Shushan. And without Charvonah, Esther's plea for her nation might have fallen on deaf ears; Achashverosh might well have decided to side with his chief advisor, who had been by his side for a while before Esther's time.

Charvonah comes along and demonstrates that Haman is also an arch-enemy of the man who saved the king's life — and so Mordechai's rescue bolsters Esther's plea, and the two together are sufficient to sway King Achashverosh.

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TRH, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for the insight. –  Isaac Moses Mar 5 '10 at 19:09

Here's something I wrote about to answer this question a couple of years ago:

If one reads only the text of the Megillah without any awareness of the talmudic materials on it or the history surrounding it, Achashveirosh seems like a pretty neutral king. However, having been the one personally responsible for the halting of the building of the Beis HaMikdash, he was certainly part of the problem in many respects. What one can see simply from the text of the Megillah is a glimpse into his personality. He was very impulsive decision maker who always acted on the moment. Once the moment was gone, it was gone. His anger with Vashti spelled her demise almost instantaneously. He didn't hesitate to grant Haman's request on the spot. "Kill the Jews? Sure." When Mordechai saved his life, he was certainly most grateful but nothing was ever done. So he forgot about it completely and had to be reminded. Even with Haman's decree, he does seem to have totally forgotten about it later on.

Although Achashveirosh was not from Amaleik this trait is very much in step with the theme of Amaleik — chance and happenstance. Rashi (Devarim 25:18) explains that Amaleik "happened" upon B'nei Yisroel as they came out of Egypt (despite Midrashim to the contrary). The live-in-the-moment mentality of Amaleik is diametrically opposed to that of the Jews who understand that there is no chance and nothing happens without purpose. Not only was Achashveirosh physically a threat to B'nei Yisroel, his mentality was spiritually in opposition with ours.

Charvonah understood this about Achashveirosh. He knew Haman was evil but he knew that for Achashveirosh to adequately punish him, he needed to seize the moment. Achashveirosh was already quite agitated and might not have appreciated Charvonah's intervention. But he knew that Achashveirosh could easily forget about this if time were to go on. So Charvonah jumped in and gave Achashveirosh a great idea that was too ironic to pass up. Charvonah was responsible for making sure Haman met his just and immediate demise. If not for him — who knows what would have happened?

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Shtickler, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for the sharing your quite compelling analysis! Please consider registering your account by clicking on register, above, and following the prompts. This will give you access to all of mi.yodeya's features and will allow you to get full credit for your contributions. –  Isaac Moses Mar 4 '10 at 16:51
    
This is the explanation I've heard as well. Haman may very well have been able to talk himself out of his predicament. Charvonah came and incited the king to kill Haman on the spot, preventing a possible aversion of Haman's death. –  Menachem Mar 12 '12 at 20:53

Harvona, by the very subtlety of his importance to the story, brings out an important theme in the M'gila. Had he not acted, it seems, not much of consequence would have been different. For example, Haman would still be harshly punished (possibly even killed) for his insubordination, Mordechai would still be elevated politically and influentially (see 7:1), Esther would still be just as positioned to appeal to the king to issue a new decree, etc.

However, the prominence of Harvona lies in the manner in which he exerts himself. He gets Haman dispatched in a way equal, opposite and historically just to his own erstwhile plan. Harvona exemplifies the theme of unforeseen diametric reversals that is important in broadly understanding the message of the M'gila.

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How you got through writing that answer without using the phrase "hoist on his own petard," I don't know. –  Isaac Moses Mar 3 '10 at 15:27

According to the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 10:9), Charvona was really Eliyahu HaNavi, and it is for that reason that we mention him here. [See Maharil (Hilchos Purim), Hagahos Maimonios (Hilchos Megillah 1:6), Chida (Kisei Rachamim to Sofrim 14:3).]

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R' Yonatan Grossman has an interesting piece on this http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/ester/18ester.htm

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That is a power-packed piece with a very compelling argument. Thanks! –  Isaac Moses Mar 3 '10 at 15:43

He was a small person with no particular ax to grind, yet he chose to speak up and said the right thing at the right time to get Haman executed (instead of just arrested). The Malbim says that Charvona was one of the few people who knew about the gallows because he'd gone to Haman's house to escort him to the party. But yes it's funny. (Hegai, for instance, did a good thing, but it was his job to help out the queen candidates, especially the promising-looking ones.) Often it's the neutral people taking action that's more interesting than the heroes just acting heroic because they're heroes.

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