Midrash Esther XV: Paying Attention

Feb 25th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week
“Which was in Shushan the capital.” Rabbi Pinchas said in the name of Rabbi Chananel: Said the Holy One, Blessed is He, to Achashveirosh: “Cyrus, in mentioning the Temple, mentioned also its city and its country, since he said, “to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah (Ezra 1:2),” I also will mention along with your throne the name of your capital.” So it says, “which was in Shushan the capital.”

Is it really so unusual to describe a city as the capital of the kingdom that the Sages must understand why the verse mentions that Shushan was the capital? Is it really such a great reward for Achashveirosh that the Book of Esther mentions that Shushan was his capital? Did Achashveirosh care?

I believe that this Midrash is a continuation of the previous one (Midrash Esther XIV). As long as the Jews did not have their capital, Jerusalem, they could not understand how God or one of His prophets, could refer to any other place as a capital city. God’s capital city lay in ruins. How can we honor any other city by describing it as a capital?

The sages insist that Shushan was not being honored as a capital but that the authors of the Book of Esther did not forget how a Persian King went out of his way to describe Jerusalem in detail. They wanted to send a message to Achashveirosh that they would honor his city as Cyrus had honored God’s. They sent a message to Achashveirosh that they were paying very close attention to everything he did and every word he spoke.

I suspect that as soon as Achashveirosh realized how carefully the Sages were paying attention to his every action and word, he took advantage of that attention to send them whatever message was on his mind at any given time.

We must therefore understand that when Achashveirosh allowed Haman to issue his letter of decree condemning the Jews to death, the king was sending a message, a warning to the people who did not fully appreciate his ideas or his way of thinking.

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