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RABBI SHAIFER, THE SHMUZ

Achashverosh and the Pillsbury Doughboy
By: Rabbi Shafier, TheShmuz.com       

 

Ask a school age child to describe Achashverosh, and you will get an image of a short, roly-poly, fun loving guy who liked to drink - the Pillsbury doughboy.  That isn't quite an accurate description. In fact, it couldn't be more off-base.

 

He was an ego-driven lout who kicked, clubbed, and clawed his way into power. In the first posuk of the Megillah, Rashi explains that Achashverosh was consistent - consistently wicked from the first verse until the very end.  His ambition was nothing short of world dominion, and when the Meggilah opens he had recently achieved his dream - Emperor of the Earth.

 

The Megillah describes that, "He ruled over one hundred and twenty seven nations." The common assumption is that he was in the height of his glory. However, Chazal tell us that shortly before this, he had ruled over an additional one hundred and nineteen nations. At this point in time, he was a powerful ruler, but almost half of his kingdom had been taken from him.

He should  have been in mourning

The Nesivos (Megilas Sisarim) explains that Achashverosh should have been in mourning. He had just suffered a striking loss. He had been the ruler of the earth, and now his power and glory were stolen from him. Yet he was joyful and made a party because he understood the ways of HASHEM, and he had a sign from the heaven.

 

 

Throughout our long exile, HASHEM has kept the Jewish people scattered across the globe so that if an evil king would come to power and attempt to kill us, a portion of the nation would be in other parts of the world.  Never are all the Jews under one ruler.

 

Yet that rule was broken. When Achashverosh reigned over the entire world, every Jew alive had been under his sovereignty. Now that he ruled over only half of the world, still every Jew was under his dominion. Whether he would keep or lose a province seemed to have been based on whether Jews were living there. It was almost as if a laser beam were carving out his monarchy. If there were Jews in a region, it remained under his control. If not, it was taken from him. When the rebellion was finished, every Jew was still under his control. Achashverosh took this as a sign that HASHEM was delivering His people into his hands, and therefore he was joyful and made a party.

 

Keep the money

This helps us understand a difficult concept in the Meggilah.

 

When Haman approaches Achasverosh with the idea of killing the Jews, he offers him 10,000 talents of silver - a fantastic sum. Achasverosh agrees to the plan, but refuses the money.  "Keep the money, and do with the nation as you like". Why in the world wouldn't Achasverosh accept this huge bribe?

 

The Gemerah in Megillah answers this by saying that Haman and Achasverosh are comparable to two neighbors with adjoining fields. In one field, there is a large mound of dirt, that doesn't allow the owner to plow his field. In the neighboring field, there is a huge ditch, that doesn't allow its owner to plow his field - Both fields lay dormant. One day, the man with the ditch approaches the man with the mound and says, "I will gladly pay you to allow me to take the mound of dirt out of your field to fill my ditch." "Pay me?" says the man with the mound. "Take it for free."

 

The Gemara says, "That was the exchange between Haman and Achasverosh". This wasn't the first time that Haman had appealed to the king to kill the Jews. He had been there before. In fact, over and over again, day after day, week after week, Haman had been begging, imploring, entreating the king to allow him to kill the Jews. Achasverosh reaction was quite simple - I hate Jews as much as you do, I would be only too glad to get rid of them - But, "I saw what happened to those who came before me. They attacked the Jews and G-d paid them back. Nebuchadnezzar oppressed the Jews and he died a painful death, Belshazzar enslaved the Jews, and he died a gruesome death. I am no fool", he said, and flatly refused.

They are sleeping

This continued until Haman said that one line that changed the king's mind. "Yeshno am Eched"- simply read there is one nation. Says the Gemara what Haman was actually saying was "Yishanu Min Hamitzvohs" - they are sleeping from the Mitzvahs - They aren't who they used to be. "You are afraid to attack them because G-d protects them. That may be true, but only when they are loyal to G-d - they aren't loyal to G-d's ways - you can attack them now and win."

 

Once Achasverosh heard this, he was a changed man. "In that case you have my blessings. You don't have to pay me, much like the man with the mound of dirt in his field, I wish for their destruction more than you do." 

 

This is a short synopsis taken  from: Megillas Esther: The story behind the story , a verse by verse analysis of the Megillah, with Explanations drawn from:  Rashi, The Gra,  Nisivos, Gemorah Megilah (Rashi and Maharsha) Targum, Targum Sheini.  

 

I hope you find it meaningful,
 

Rabbi Shafier

--

Please visit R' Shafier's homepage:  www.TheShmuz.com.


 
   
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