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Midrash Esther V: The King’s Influence Print E-mail

Purim“Who reigned”: but up to now he had not reigned. (This suggests either, that he was not the natural heir of the previous king, or that at the beginning of his reign his dominions were not yet so extensive.) “From Hodu to even up to Cush.” Is it not merely a short distance from Hodu to Cush? What it means is that just as Achashveirosh reigned from Hodu to Cush, that were so close to each other, so he reigned over 127 provinces.

Similarly we find: “For he (Solomon) had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah onto Gaza (I Kings 5:4).” Now is it not only a short distance from Tiphsah to Gaza? What it means, however, is that just as Solomon ruled from Tiphsah to Gaza, so he ruled over the whole world.

Similarly we find, “From the Temple up to Jerusalem, Kings shall bring presents on to You (Psalms 48:30).” Is it not only a short distance from the Temple to Jerusalem? What it means, however, is that just as the offerings extend from the Temple to Jerusalem, so there will be a procession of messengers with gifts for the Messiah, as it is written, “Yes, all kings shall prostrate themselves before him (72:2).”

Rabbi Cohen, the brother of Rabbi Hiyya son of Abba said: As the Divine Presence stretches from the Temple to Jerusalem, so will the Divine Presence one day fill the world from end to end, as it is written, “And let the whole earth be filled with His glory, Amen, and Amen (Verse 19).”

This Midrash is describing how Achashveirosh’s influence spread throughout an entire area. It is inevitable that such a powerful King will, economically and politically influence everyone around his kingdom.

We are less concerned with the exact details of Achashveirosh’s kingdom than we are with how he affected the entire area. His “Letter Regarding Women” created a new social reality even beyond his kingdom, as did his decree against the Jews, and the decree allowing the Jews to fight back.

We are being reminded to read not only the specific story, but to consider how Achashveirosh’s actions affected the world.

A King battling the “threat” of Jewish influence, became a reality.
An order to massacre all the Jews in his kingdom became acceptable.
His desire to officially declare women as second class citizens became a reality beyond his kingdom.
The Jews being treated as the scapegoats during political instability became a reality.

It was not the boundaries of his kingdom that mattered; but his influence on his world and the future.

The opening words of the Midrash make this even more outstanding: He did not inherit his position as King. He did not begin with such a huge kingdom. The same drive that allowed his to become king and so vastly enlarge his kingdom, allowed him to have such broad and long lasting influence on the world.

We are studying the story of an unstable King who possessed tremendous drive. The Midrash is pointing out that it was Achashveirosh’s drive that allowed him to cause such extensive damage.

We must also study Mordechai and Esther’s dealings with the King as people who were fully aware of his drive and sought ways to use Achashveirosh’s drive to achieve all they did.

This also brings us back to, “He was evil from beginning to end,” as a choice of evil: That choice was empowered by tremendous drive and dedication. What are the implications for us and our choices?

Shall we read Esther’s declaration that the Purim story would last forever as an expression of her drive? Was it her drive that caused the Sages to add this Book of Esther to the Bible? How did someone with such drive end up, albeit temporarily, as the submissive Queen?

Shall we read Mordechai’s part in the story as a story of a driven human being? Haman? Is this a tale of conflict between driven human beings? Do we display such drive in our choices? Do we thrive on such drive to thrive as Jews no matter how difficult the times?
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