Midrash Esther Chapter Two: XIII: Drinking Customs

Feb 28th, 2012 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays
“And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel.” It varied according to the custom of different places. There are some places where they eat first and then drink, and somewhere they drink and then eat. It was all according to the custom of each people. For instance, for the Cutheans who do not drink wine kept in leather bottles he brought wine kept in jars.

“None did compel,” to drink wine neat (not diluted).

Rab said: none compelled to drink wine of libation (The Jews were not compelled to drink wine used for idol worship).

Rabbi Benjamin ben Levi said: they were not forced to drink from a kind of large cup used by the Persians. For in Persia they drink heavy wine, therefore none was compelled to drink too much.

“For so the king had appointed.” Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman said: from this ‘yisad,’ you may judge the prosperity of that bad man, for his house was founded ‘meyusad,’ on precious stones and pearls.

“To all the officers of his house that they should do.” For the notables of the kingdom, that each one should be at liberty to amuse himself with his children and his household.

No one was compelled to drink against their custom, or to drink wine in an unfamiliar way. However, as we said earlier, they did feel compelled to match the King drink for drink. There was no blatant compulsion, just intense pressure.

There was social pressure, but there was also the pressure of the King’s great wealth; no one wanted to risk losing an opportunity to share the Kings money.

There was an additional form of pressure. The important guests were encouraged to bring their families with them. Not only would they have to match the King drink for drink because of the other guests. But they could not lose face in front of their families.

As we have said many times before, Achashveirosh was a master manipulator. Therefore even when he openly declares that there is no force, we know that there was.

We have to keep this in mind throughout the rest of the story of the Book of Esther; whenever the King presents something as “up to someone else,” he, in fact, will find one way or another to assert his will.

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