And another Rabbi’s introduction to the explication of the Book of Esther.
10b Rav Dimi bar Yitzchak would open the beginning of this pericope from here 11a from Ezra 1: “For we are slaves, and in our slavery God has not abandoned us, and He has caused mercy to be ours before the kings of Persia.” What time was this describing? In the time of Haman.
Rabbi Chaninah bar Papa would open the beginning of this pericope from here Psalm 66: “You caused mankind to ride upon our heads; we have gone through fire and through water.” “Through fire” in the days of Nebuchadnezzar the wicked; “and through water” in the days of Pharaoh. “And brought us out into wealth” in the days of Haman.
Rabbi Yochanan would open the beginning of this pericope from here Psalm 38: “He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness unto the House of Israel; the very ends of the earth witness the salvation that comes from our God.” When did the very ends of the earth witness the salvation that comes from our God? In the days of Mordechai and Esther.
Resh Lakish would open the beginning of this pericope from here Prov. 28: “A lion that roars and a hungry bear — like them is a wicked person ruling over a poor nation.” “A lion that roars” — this is Nebuchadnezzar the wicked, about whom it is written Jer. 4 “A lion has gone up from his thicket.” “A hungry bear” — this is Achashverosh, about whom it is written Dan. 7 “And behold, another beast, a second one, so like a bear.” And Rav Yosef taught: “These are the Persians, who eat and drink like a bear, and are covered with flesh like a bear, and grow much hair like bears, and for whom there is no rest, like bears.” “A wicked person ruling” — this is Haman. “Over a poor nation” — these are Israel, for they are poor in mitzvot. I.e., Israel, being deficient in adherence to the mitzvot, are poor in the heavenly accounting of their deeds.
Rabbi Elazar would open the beginning of this pericope from here Eccl. 10: “Through his laziness the beam-layer grows mach poor, and through the idleness of hands the house grows leaky.” Through the indulgence in laziness which was Israel’s, that they did not busy themselves with Torah, the “enemy” of the Holy One, Who is Blessed, grew mach poor. As usual, when the Talmud says a negative thing about Israel, the euphemism “the enemy of God” is used to avoid saying what might be interpreted as a curse upon Israel. And “mach“ means nothing except “poor”, as it is said in Lev. 27: “If he is too mach for you to value….” And the “beam-layer” is none but the Holy One, who is Blessed, as it is said in Ps. 104: “God is the One who lays the beams in the upper waters.”
Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak would open the beginning of this pericope from here Ps. 124: “A song of the steps: If it were not for God, who was unto us, let Israel say….” “If it were not for God, who was unto us” when a man rose against us — a man, not a king. This refers to Haman.
Rava would open the beginning of this pericope from here Prov. 27: “At the increase in the population of righteous people, the nation rejoices. But at the rule of the wicked, the nation groans.” He interpreted: “At the increase in the population of righteous people, the nation rejoices” — this is Mordechai and Esther, as it is written Esth. 7??? “And the city of Shushan shouted and rejoiced.” “But at the rule of the wicked, the nation groans” — this is Haman, as it is written Esth. ?? “and the city of Shushan was thrown into confusion.”
Rav Matanah said it from here Deut. 4: “For who is the great nation of which it is the case that God is near to it?”
Rav Ashi said it from here Deut. 4: “Or that God raised His banner….”
Rav started with the following pun, drawn from the first words of the text:
“And it was in the days of Achashverosh.” Rav said “Voy and Oy!” Punning on “and it was”, which is vayehi; “voy” and “oy” have come down to us through Yiddish as words of woe. About this it is written in the tochacha, Deut. 28 “You shall market yourselves to your enemies as slaves and bondwomen, yet no one shall buy you.”
And Samuel said quoting Lev. 26: “I did not reject them, nor did I abhor them to destroy them.” He interpreted: “I did not reject them” in the days of the Greeks, “nor did I abhor them” in the days of Aspasinos which Soncino identifies with Nebuchadnezzar, “… to destroy them” in the days of Haman. the verse continues “… to break my covenant with them” in the days of the Romans Soncino here translates “Persians”. The verse concludes “… for I am Hashem their God” in the days of Gog and Magog i.e., the days of the final battle before the coming of the Messiah.
In a Mishna, it was taught: “I did not reject them” in the days of the Kasdim, when I raised up for them Daniel, Chananyah, Mishael, and Azariah. “Nor did I abhor them” in the days of the Greeks, when I raised up for them Shimon the Righteous, and Chashmonai and his sons, and Matityah the Kohen Gadol. “… to destroy them” in the days of Haman, when I raised for them Mordechai and Esther. “… to break my covenant with them” in the days of the Persians, when I raised for them the House of Rebbi and the sages of the generations. “… for I am Hashem their God” in the days that are to come, when there will not be, for any of the nations and tongues, the possibility of subjugating Israel.
Rabbi Levi said from here Num. 33: “And if you do not expel the inhabitants of the land…”
Rabbi Chiyya said from here the second half of that same verse: “… and it shall be that, as I inteded to do to them, I shall do to you.”
Let’s talk about Achashverosh.
Rav said, his name can be read as “Achiv shel rosh“: “Brother of the head” — or the simile of the head. He was the brother of the head because he was brother of Nebuchadnezzar the wicked, who was called “head”, as it is said in Dan. 2, in the vision of the clay feet “It is you, Nebuchadnezzar, who is the head of gold.” Achashverosh was the simile of the head by comparison with Nebuchadnezzar: Nebuchadnezzar murdered, and Achashverosh tried to murder. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed with the sword, and Achashverosh tried to destroy with the sword. As it is said in Ez. 4: “And in the reign of Achashverosh, at the beginning of his reign, they wrote an indictment against those who dwell in Judah and Jerusalem.”
And Samuel said, “He was called Achashverosh because the faces of Israel turned black (she-huchashru) in his days, like the sides of a pot.”
And Rabbi Yochanan said: All who thought of him said, “Ach! My head!” Ach l’rosho
And Rabbi Chanina said: All were impoverished in his days, as it is said in Esth. 10: And the King Achashverosh levied a tax.
Continuing with the next words of the first verse of Esther: “Hu Achashverosh“ — “He, Achashverosh,”
He, in his wickedness, from his beginning until his end. That is, his wickedness was an essential trait throughout his life. Compare this with Num. 36, where we read He, Esau, and interpret it as he in his wickedness, from his beginning until his end. And also Num. 26, where we read They same Hebrew word in this case, Datan and Aviram, and we interpret they in their wickedness, from their beginning until their end. And in II Chron. 28 He, King Achaz, he in his wickedness from his beginning until his end.
Conversely, in I Chron 1 Avram, he was Avraham, and the use of the intensifier he comes to teach he in his righteousness from his beginning to his end. Similarly, Ex. 6, They, Aharon and Moshe, comes to teach they in their righteousness from their beginning to their end. And I Sam 17 “And David, he was the small one,” he in his smallness i.e., humble spirit from his beginning to his end — just as when he was a small child he would make himself small before one greater than he in Torah, so, too, when he was king, he made himself small before one greater than he in wisdom.
The next word in the Megillah: “who was king”
Rav said: Who made himself into the king. There are those who say this was his honor, and there are those who say this was his shame.
There are those who say this was his honor: for there was no man as important as he to take the throne.
There are those who say this was his shame: for he was not worthy of the throne, but with an excess of money he purchased thr throne and arose to it.
continuing “… from Hodu to Kush …”
Rav and Shmuel had a difference of opinion. One said: Hodu is at one end of the world, and Kush is at the other end of the world. And the other said: Hodu and Kush are adjacent to one another, but just as he ruled over Hodu and Kush which were easy to rule because they were so close, so too was his rule from one end of the world to the other.
Just as they disagreed here, they said about I Kings 4: “For he King Solomon ruled over all of this side of the river, from Tipsach to Gaza.” Rav and Shmuel disagreed; one said, Tipsach is at one end of the world and Gaza is at the other end of the world. And the other said: Tipsach and Gaza are adjacent to one another, but just as he ruled over Tipsach and Gaza, so too did he rule from one end of the world to the other.
continuing “… seven, and twenty, and one hundred states …”
Rav Chisda said: At first, he was king over seven. And then he was king over twenty more. And finally he was king over one hundred more.
But if so, how are we to interpret from here Ex. 6: And the years of the life of Amram were seven and thirty and one hundred years. How do you expound this? This case is different. We can expound a lesson from the text in Esther because the writing is extra i.e., this phrase is redundant, for it already wrote “from Hodu to Kush”, so why do I need “seven and twenty and one hundred states”? We learn from this that it is for exegesis.
The rabbis taught: Three kings ruled the entire world in their lifetimes, and these are they: Ahab, and Achashverosh, and Nebuchadnezzar.
Prooftexts are offered. Ahab — for it is written in I Kings 18: “By the life of Hashem your God, is there yet a nation or state to which my master did not send a messenger to seek you?” And if he Ahab had not been king over them, could he have made them swear?
Nebuchadnezzar — for it is written Jer. 27: “And it shall be, the nation and state which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and will not put their neck under the yoke of the King of Babylon….”
Achashverosh — it is as we already said.
end of 11a – start of 11b
A mnemonic for the following discussion: שסד’’ך
And are there no others besides Achashverosh who ruled over the entire world?
Because, hey, there was Solomon — but his reign was not complete.
That’s fine according to the one who said Solomon was a king and subsequently a commoner, but according to the one who said he was a king, and then a commoner, and then again a kind, what is there to say? There was an additional distinguishing characteristic about Solomon, for he reigned over the higher ones i.e., the supernatural beings and over the lower ones i.e., people. As it is said in I Chron. 29: “And Solomon sat upon the throne of God.”
And hey, there was Sancheriv, for it is written in Isa. 36: “Who, of all the gods of these lands, has saved their land from my hand?” But hey, there was Jerusalem, which he did not conquer. Since his conquest of all lands was incomplete, as he did not conquer Jerusalem, he never ruled over the entire world.
And hey, there was Darius, as it is written in Dan. 6: “Darius the King wrote to all nations, countries, and tongues that dwell in all the lands: ‘Your peace should increase.’” But hey, there were seven provinces that he did not rule over, as it is written in Dan. 6, “It was pleasing to Darius and he appointed over the kingdom satraps numbering one hundred and twenty.” From our verse in Esther we know that the world contained 127 provinces, and so Darius’s reign did not extend to seven.
And hey, there was Cyrus, as it is written in Ezra 1: “Thus says Cyrus, King of Persia: ‘All the kingdoms of the Earth have been given to me by God.’” But there, the praise of him was praise from his own soul i.e., he was puffing himself.
We return to the text of the Megillah.
“…in those days, as the king sat…” The plain meaning is when King Achashverosh was first seated on the throne. But it is written next, “in the third year of his reign.” Rava said: What does it mean by “as he sat”? After his thoughts were settled because he thought that the seventy years prophesized by Jeremiah as the duration of the Exile from Jerusalem had elapsed, and as his Jewish subjects had not be repatriated by God, Achashverosh’s thoughts felt settled that he would not face a rebellion. He said, Belshatzar computed the end of the Exile but erred, I computed the end and I did not err.
What was it that Achashverosh was talking about? For it is written in Jer. 29: “For once Bavel has completed seventy years, I will recall you.” And it is written in Dan. 9 “to complete the ruins of Jerusalem, seventy years.” Belshatzar computed: forty-five years of Nebuchadnezzar, and twenty-three of Eveel Merodach, and two of himself — that’s seventy. And after the conclusion of the second year of his reign, Belshatzar brought forth the vessels from the Beit ha-Miqdash and made use of them at his infamous feast.
And Nebuchadnezzar — from where do we know that forty-five years was his reign? For Mar said: We have conflicting numbers in Tanach regarding the date of the exile of Yehoyachin. According to Jer. 52, they were exiled in the seventh year; according to II Kings 24, they were exiled in the eighth. Similarly, regarding the exile of Tzidkiyahu: according to Jer. 32 they were exiled in the eighteenth year, while according to Jer. 52 they were exiled in the nineteenth.
The exiles of Yehoyakim were exiled in the seventh year after the conquest of Yehoyakim — which was the eighth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.
The exiles of Tzidkiyahu were exiled in the eighteenth year after the conquest of Yehoyakim — which was the nineteenth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.
For Mar said: The first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign was the conquest of Nineveh; the second was the conquest of Yehoyakim.
And it is written in Jer. 52: “And it was in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Yehoyakim, the king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-and-fifth of the month, that Eveel M’rodach, the king of Bavel, in the year of his ascenscion to king, elevated the head of Yehoyakim, the king of Judah, and brought him out from the prison-house.”
Eight years before the exile, plus thirty-seven years after the exile — these are the forty-five years of Nebuchadnezzar.
And twenty-three years of Eveel M’rodach is a traditional count, and two years of Belshatzar’s own rule — these are seventy. So Belshatzar said: Absolutely, they the Jews will never be redeemed. He brought forth the vessels from the Beit ha-Miqdash and made use of them. About this, Daniel said in Dan. 5, “And above the Master of Heaven you have raised yourself, and the vessels from His House they brought before you.” And it is written there, “On that selfsame night, Belshatzar the King of Casdah was killed.” And it is written there, “And Darius the Mede received the kingship at the years of sixty-and-two.”
Achashverosh said: Belshatzar erred with an error; I will compute and not err. Did Jeremiah write, “once the king of Bavel has completed seventy years?” No, he wrote “once Bavel.” What is “Bavel” but the Exile to Bavel! How many years fewer is this? Eight. Counting from the start of the Exile instead of from Nebuchadnezzar’s ascension means that the seventy years start eight years later. He computer and added eight years at the end in lieu of eight years at the beginning: one of Belshatzar, and five of Darius and Cyrus, and two of his own — these are seventy.
Because his saw a completion of seventy years and the Jews were not redeemed, he said: Now, absolutely, they will never be redeemed. He brought forth the vessels from the Beit ha-Miqdash and made use of them. And the Satan came and danced in their midst and slew Vashti.
But hey, wasn’t his computation correct?
This one also erred with an error. He should have commenced his count from the destruction of Jerusalem; so, in the final accounting, how many years fewer? Eleven. There were eleven years between the exile and the destruction.
This one reigned for how many? Fourteen. Then in the fourteenth, this one ought to have built the Beit ha-Miqdash. Why is it written in Ezra 4: “They they were idled from the work on the House of God, that is in Jerusalem”? Rava said: There were years that were incomplete. When a king dies partway through the year, the single calendar year is accounted for both as the last year of the dead king’s reign and as the first year of the new king’s reign. So adding up the number of “years” all the kings reigned results in rounding error, and certain years are double-counted. The construction of the Second Temple was completed two years after Achashverosh’s death, in the second year of Darius’s reign.