Posts Tagged ‘Esther’

28
Feb

Midrash Esther Chapter Two: XIII: Drinking Customs

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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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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28
Feb

Midrash Esther Chapter Two: XII: Champion Drinker

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

“And the Royal wine in abundance.” Elsewhere it says of Belshazzar, “And it drank wine before the thousand (Daniel 5:1).” Here, however, it is written, “And Royal wine in abundance, according to the bounty of the King.” This means according to the cups in the hand of the king.

Belshazzar did his best to out drink everyone else at his party put together. Achashveirosh on the other hand, shared whatever he drank with his guests.

Achashveirosh proved that he could drink more than anyone else. Achashveirosh wanted people to match him drink for drink. If he drank a glass of wine, every one of his guests had to drink one as well. He wanted them to see whether they could keep up with him. While they do were getting drunk and becoming sick, Achashveirosh maintained his steady spirit.

However, as we explained in the introduction to this chapter of the midrash, Achashveirosh was, “spending his spirit.” He lost his calm demeanor on the final day of the party when he summoned his queen Vashti. His world fell apart. He had lost control. He forfeit all of the great accomplishments he had attempted to prove to his subjects. The king who begins the story as one of immense wealth and great strength, finishes his party a humiliated man and a weakened King.

This would indicate that the great contest of all the women in Shushan was a way for Achashveirosh to reassert himself both as a man and as a king. His intention was to be with as many women as possible to prove his the virility.

This would mean that Esther’s winning the spot as Queen would indicate that she was the King’s match. We can now understand why the King allowed her to drag out her request for two parties and was desperate to find out what it was she wanted from him. Esther was truly his equal.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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28
Feb

Midrash Esther Chapter II-X: Serving Drinks

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

“And they gave them drink in vessels of gold.” The midrash wonders about the phrase “and they gave them drink,” as this is the only time this word appears in the entire Bible.

The midrash goes on to explain, that bad man gave to drink only in vessels of gold. An objection was raised from the verse, “And all King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold (I Kings 10:21).” This implies that only the King himself drank from golden vessels, and yet you are saying that Achashveirosh served all his guests in golden cups; was Achashveirosh wealthier than Solomon?

Rabbi Pinchas explained: Is it not naturally repulsive to a person to drink wine out of gold?  Achashveirosh served the wine in vessels of finely cut crystal in which a person’s face is beautifully mirrored by the wine as in gold.

I believe that this is a continuation of the previous midrash (Midrash Esther Chapter II-IX: Love of Money) in which we described Achashveirosh and his guests walked on a floor with such valuable stones that everyone, including Achashveirosh, could have used to pay all their debts and achieve financial freedom.

Achashveirosh wasn’t simply showing off his great wealth; he was demonstrating that what others may consider a treasure was meaningless to him. He could throw away a treasure without thinking. A million dollars means far less to Bill Gates or Warren Buffet than it does to the rest of us. As we said, Achashveirosh was, “Spending his spirit.”

Achashveirsoh invited his guests to a drinking party. They were drunkenly guzzling the finest wines served in expensive crystal without any sense of the value of the wine or the goblets. He had his guests treating money as if it didn’t matter. He offered them a taste of how he experienced his wealth. Every guest would remember the experience of having so much that nothing mattered. Achashveirosh was tantalizing them with a taste of what would be possible if they cooperated with him.

This was a taste of what was to come when the King wanted to select a new Queen. He didn’t just search for the hundred most beautiful women in his kingdom, “The Miss Achashveirosh Contest,” he gathered all the beautiful women. He went through women the same way he went through precious stones, and had his guests go through priceless wines. He didn’t just celebrate when he chose Esther; he made another huge party, he gave out gifts on her honor, and he lowered taxes to celebrate his new Queen.

Achashveirosh has so much that he offers Esther, “Up to half my kingdom.”

The same man who can toss away priceless stones, the finest wines, and thousands of women, has no hesitation in tossing away Mordechai for Haman and then Haman for Mordechai. He doesn’t even think before tossing away an entire nation, the Jews, when they reject his ideas. He had so much of everything that nothing mattered. That is, except for Vashti and his honor…

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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28
Feb

Midrash Esther Chapter II: VIII: Introducing Jealousy

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

“The couches were of gold and silver.” Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Nehemiah joined issue here. Rabbi Judah said: according to their stations they were assigned to either gold or silver. Rabbi Nehemiah said to him: if you explain it this way, you are introducing jealousy into the banquet of that wicked man. No; they were all of silver, and overlaid with gold.

Rabbi Tachalifa bar Bar Channa, however, said that they were of gold with silver fastenings.

Shmuel said that the outer legs were of gold and the inner of silver.

Rabbi Nehemiah seems to have a great point: If different people had more valuable beds than others, Achashveirosh was certainly introducing jealousy into the banquet. Rabbi Judah says, “Of course!” Achashveirosh wanted to introduce jealousy into the party. Jealousy would keep people focused on each other, not on him. Jealousy would make people feel insecure and therefore, more dependent on the King.

Rabbi Nehemiah’s description of the beds seems a little ridiculous; why make a bed of silver only to overlay it with gold? We could, of course, explain as we have earlier, that Achashveirosh simply wanted people to know, to hear rumors about the expensive materials he used to make the beds. However, I suspect that Achashveirosh was introducing an element of fantasy into the party. People would leave expecting to become very wealthy through their support of the King. There was always the promise of something more.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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28
Feb

Midrash Esther Chapter II: VI: Court & Garden

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

“In the court of the garden of the king’s palace.” Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Nehemiah joined issue here. Rabbi Judah said that the garden was without and the court within, closer to the palace. Rabbi Nehemiah said that the garden was closer to the palace, and the court a little bit away.

Rabbi Pinchus said: I will make you both right. When Achashveirosh desired he could make it a court, and when he wanted he could turn it into a burden. How so? He would hang a curtain so as to conceal the garden and turn it into a court. He could also roll up the curtain and transform it back into a garden.

Another explanation: the combination of the words palace, court, and garden, teach us that all this cost him a great deal.

Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Nehemiah understand that a party in the King’s court is quite different than one in the King’s garden: the former is more formal. The latter is more relaxed.

Rabbi Judah said that the center of the party was the court; the formal gathering of the king with his guests. The more important people attended the more formal celebration.

Rabbi Nehemiah disagrees and says that the King had a court before his garden, his personal space. He imagines that the people closer to the King, or those of more important positions, were invited to the king’s personal space, a more relaxed and intimate celebration.

Rabbi Pinchus believes that Achashveirosh actually kept everyone off balance. His guests were moved back and forth between the formal court and the more relaxed garden. People didn’t know whether to relate to the King in a very formal way, or if they could let down their guard. Basically, Achashveirosh, I believe intentionally, wanted every member of the Shushan bureaucracy to feel just a little bit unsure of how to relate to the King. He wanted them to know that they would constantly have to be on their toes when dealing with the King.

All this makes Mordecai’s interactions with the King far more amazing: Mordecai is perfectly consistent with himself. He is always described as sitting in the King’s gate. Not the court. Not the garden. Not the palace. Mordecai chose his own place. He does not adjust to Achashveirosh. Another reason for Achashveirosh to feel so threatened by Mordechai.

We can also understand the final point of the midrash that describes how much this party cost Achashveirosh: he was willing to spend a fortune sending this message to people that they could never rely on the previous day’s interaction with the King to give them a hint how to relate to him today.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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28
Feb

Midrash Esther Chapter II: V: The Original Federalist

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

“And when these days were completed the king made a feast for all the people who were present in Shushan for seven days.” Rav and Shmuel joined issue here. One said: it means seven days besides the hundred and eighty, whereas Shmuel said: it means seven included in the hundred and eighty.

Rabbi Shimon said: Shushan the castle on that occasion was like a great feasting place with food and drink were in abundance.

Rabbi Chanina bar Papa said: The notables of the time had been there but they fled.

Rabbi Chanina bar Atel said: Jews participated in that feast. That wicked man, Achashveirosh, said to them: “Can your God do more for you than this?” They answered: “An eye has not seen, O God, beside You, what He shall do for him who waits for Him (Isaiah 64:3).” If He provides for us nothing better than this feast in the World to Come, we could say to him, “we have already enjoyed the like of this at the table of Achashveirosh.”

The verse presents the seven day party as connected to the great feast that preceded it. The two rabbis are debating whether the seven day party was simply the climax of the first party, meaning the final seven days of the hundred and eighty, or if the purpose of the first feast was to prepare for the seven day feast.

When Rabbi Shimon describes how the entire Shushan became a great party place, he is describing the capital city, this seat of the kingdom. The federal bureaucracy was centered in Shushan. The purpose of gathering all the notables and military leaders for the hundred and eighty day party, paying attention to the individual needs of each guest, was to convince these people that the bureaucracy of Shushan would represent them before the king. They may live in faraway provinces but they would always have someone in the Shushan bureaucracy who would focus on their individual needs and concerns. All of the guests spend their time forming and nurturing powerful relationships with representatives of the federal government so that they would have their personal representatives advocating for them before the king. The purpose of this six-month conference was to nurture these relationships.

Therefore, Rava pictures the scene of this seven-day party as the climax of the six-month conference, when the new personal representatives of each of the notables and military leaders celebrated together with the people they represent. This was the King’s way of having everyone feel comfortable and vested in the Shushan bureaucracy.

Shmuel however, agrees with Rava regarding the purpose of the six-month conference, however he believes that after all these powerful and wealthy guests spent six months forming relationships with the Shushan bureaucrats, Achashveirosh made a special party for everyone in Shushan to remind them that ultimately they relied on him. All the power was in his hands. They may represent all the provinces, but they worked for Achashveirosh.

Achashveirosh had one serious challenge in Shushan: the Jews. They were still connected to God. They were not people who would be easily convinced that the world centered around Achashveirosh. Therefore, he showered them with so much abundance that he felt comfortable saying to them, “Can your God do more for you than this?” In other words, I can take care of you here and now. Your exiles, who have lost Jerusalem and any sense of power, need me, not God.

The Jews could not deny the advantages of working for Achashveirosh. They could not ignore the fabulous party. However, they sent a very clear message to the King; no matter how much they could theoretically benefit from his largesse, which was substantial, they were focused on the World to Come.

No wonder when Haman made his pitch to the King about “a certain people,” he does not need to mention their identity, he need only mention that they do not think the same way as does the King. He does not say, as usually translated, that these people do not obey the king’s laws; if they truly did not obey the king’s laws the Kings could simply have them executed immediately without any political repercussions. People who violate the king’s laws are immediately punished. He speaks of their rejection of the King’s ideas. Achashveirosh immediately knows that Haman is referring to the people at the party, the very ones who rejected his pitch of being the only source of wealth, honor, and power.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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28
Feb

Midrash Esther Chapter II: II: Days of Tribulation

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

“Many days.” They were days of tribulation; and similarly we find, “And it came to pass in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died (Exodus 2:23).” Now were they really many days? No, only because they were days of tribulation, Scripture reckoned them as many days.

Similarly we find: “And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah (I Kings 18:1).” Now were they really many days? No, only because they were days of tribulation, Scripture calls the many days.

How many were they (The days of famine)? Rabbi Berechiah has said in the name of Rabbi Chelbo in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: One month in one year, and one month in another, and 12 months in the middle, making altogether 14 months.

Similarly, “And if a woman has an issue of her blood many days (Vayikra 15:25),” on which Rabbi Chiya taught: “Days,” signifies two, “many,” signifies three. Are these then many? No, only because they are days of pain they are called “many.”

The verse is describing a grand party and yet, the midrash describes the “many days” of the party as days of suffering. They compare the party of Achashveirosh to the slavery in Egypt, and defendant during the time of Elijah. They then compare the pain experienced by the citizens of the kingdom to the pain a woman suffers During her period.

At first glance the midrash determines that these were days of suffering by comparing the phrase “many days” to other places where it appears in the Bible. They believe that the author of the Book of Esther is providing a hint to what people felt during Achashveirosh’s party.

I believe that the three comparisons; Egypt, Elijah’s famine, and a menstruating woman, are actually indications of how the rabbis knew that these were days of tribulation, and what type of tribulation it was:

When the midrash compares this party to the servitude in Egypt, it’s pointing out to us that it is impossible for a king to run a six month conference of all the important political and military leaders of his entire kingdom with out the guests feeling compelled by the King to be there. Achashveirosh was informing then that they will act at his beck and call. No president, prime minister, Duke or King, will leave his country for six months. No province or state will allow its military leaders to be absent for so long. Unless, that is, they have no choice. These people did not. They were there at the king’s invitation and they could not refuse. They would remain in Shushan as long as Achashveirosh desired. Every moment they were there dragged on as they waited for permission to return home.

When the midrash compares these days of tribulation to those that the Children of Israel suffered during the family in the days of Elijah, it is pointing out that when all the political and military leaders watched as a Achashveirosh wasted all his money, or, as we said, “spent his spirit,” they were concerned for the future. Would the kingdom be able to pay for this grant party? They began to wonder whether they would have the ability to sustain their people. They felt as if they were watching a famine in the making.

When the midrash compares these days of tribulation to those of a woman suffering her. It is telling us that, just as a woman knows that the discomfort is temporary, so to, all of Achashveirosh’s guests pretty much knew that this king and the tribulations he imposed would be temporary. He could not last. He was truly, “spending his spirit.”

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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28
Feb

Midrash Esther Chapter II: I: Spending His Spirit Part Two

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

The Midrash continues: From where did this wicked man obtain his wealth?

Rabbi Tanchumah said: Nebuchadnezar, may he be crushed and exterminated, amassed all the money in the world, and he was very stingy with it. So when he felt his end approaching, he said to himself: why should I leave all this money to Evil-Merodach? So he ordered big ships of brass to be made, and filled them with money and dug trenches and hid them by the Euphrates and turned the waters of the Euphrates over them. On the day that Cyrus decreed that the Temple should be built, God revealed them to him, as it says, “thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held, to subdue nations before him, that the gates may not be shut (Isaiah 45:1)” and further on it says, “and I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places.”

Rabbi Tanchumah is pointing out the irony of Achashveirosh celebrating his party with vessels from the destroyed Beit Hamikdash together with the wealth he inherited from Cyrus, that the latter discovered in merit of his allowing the Jews to rebuild the Temple.

Rabbi Tanchumah has a different understanding of Achashveirosh, “Spending his spirit.” He believes that Achashveirosh is spending his spiritual spirit by using wealth collected because of a commitment to rebuild God’s House, by celebrating its destruction. He was placing all his wealth at risk; indicated by his party celebrating his possessions with the loss of his Queen, Vashti.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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27
Feb

Midrash Esther Chapter II: Introduction

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

“A fool spends all his spirit (Proverbs 29:11).” This applies to Achashveirosh. “But a wise man stills it with in him,” this applies to God, Who calmed Achashveirosh In the same way as it says, “who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples (Psalms 65:8).”

The midrash introduces the actual parties of Achashveirsoh as a description of a foolish king spending his spirit, but the ensuing events being God calming the foolish king.

The midrash is telling us that Vashti’s refusal to obey Achashveirosh and his decision that followed were God’s way of calming and otherwise foolish King.

We will keep this in mind as we study the midrash on the party and what followed.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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27
Feb

Midrash Esther XVI: Don’t Spoil the Party

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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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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