Midrash Esther XVI: Don’t Spoil the Party

Feb 27th, 2012 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays
“He made a feast for all his princes and his servants.” Antoninus gave a feast for Rabbi Judah the Prince. Said Rabbi Judah to him: Cannot you afford a really bright lamp? Antoninus replied: why should I trouble about these?

Rabbi Judah the Prince answered: perhaps they (your servants) will put thick oil into the lamps and spoil the party (when the oil will drip on the food).

Antoninus asked: what makes you think so (That the servants would dare not be careful)?

Rabbi Judah the Prince said: I learned it from Achashveirosh, of whom we read, “He made a feast for all his princes and his servants.”

There are commentaries who read this Midrash in a slightly different way: Rabbi Judah the Prince asked Antoninus whether he had personally supervised the preparation of the candles? Antoninus was shocked. Why would he, the King, need to supervise this party in such detail? To which Rabbi Judah the Prince replied, I learned it from Achashveirosh; who “made a feast,” meaning, he personally supervised the preparations for the party.

The first version of this Midrash describes 18 who understands that unless he allows his staff to participate in his great party, they will not be as attentive as Achashveirosh would wish, to detail. Why would the King invite servants to a feast he was making for the princes? So that they wouldn’t ruin his party by being careless.

The second version of the midrash describes a king who personally supervises each and every detail of the party. Achashveirosh invited his servants to participate as a detail of his party. The invitation to the servants was one of the details of the party. It was part of the purpose of the party. He was sending a message to the princes that to him, Achashveirosh, they were only servants.

This is a story of a king who knows how to assert his power over anyone else in his kingdom who believes that he has power. This is a King who pays attention to every detail of what he does. Therefore, when he seems to take a laissez-faire approach to Haman’s decree, do not believe for a second that Achashveirosh was disinterested. This was a very detail oriented King. If he gave the impression of not being involved in every detail, that itself was a detail in his plan for the Jews.

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