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Midrash Esther VII: Finding Merit Print E-mail

PurimRabbi Levi said in the name of Rabbi Samuel the son Nachman: it is written, “And the hair of his head like pure wool (Daniel 7:9),” indicating that no creature has the least claim upon Him (for lack of justice).

Rabbi Yudan said in the name of Rabbi Aibu: it is written, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the peoples there was no man with Me (Isaiah 63:3).” Does God require the assistance of the nations that He says, “and of the peoples there was no man with Me?” What the Holy One, Blessed is He, really said was this: “When I shall examine the records of the nations and they shall be found to to have no merit before Me, then “I shall tread them in My anger, and trample them in My fury.”

Rabbi Pinchas and Rabbi Chilkiah in the name of Rabbi Simon said: it is written, “and it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations (Zachariah 12:9).” “I will seek!” Who can prevent him? (Does God 'seek' without doing?) In fact what God meant was this: when I shall examine the records of the nations and they will not be found to have any merit before Me, then “I will seek (examine their records) to destroy all the nations.”

Rabbi Simon said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: It is written, “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense, against the time when their foot shall slip (Deuteronomy 32:35).” Is it any sign of might to say, “When the enemies of Israel become feeble I shall punish them?” What God really said was this: “When they shall cease performing their usual good deeds and shall not be able to point to any merit before Me, then “vengeance is Mine, and recompense.”

Rabbi Berechiah in the name of Rabbi Levi, and Rabbi Huna in the name of Rabbi Levi, and Rabbi Yudan in the name of Rabbi Levi, all expounded in the same way the verse, “Your hand shall be equal to all Your enemies; Your right hand shall overtake those that hate You (Psalm 21:9).” This means: May Your right hand be ready to punish Your enemies; May the Attribute of Justice be at hand for them; May Your right-handed disclose how few good deeds they have performed. Therefore it is said, “May Your right hand find those that hate You.”

Rabbi Levi's opening teaching is a direct follow up to the previous Midrash which described Achashveirosh's single extra province as a reward for the good he did when he allowed some Jews to a send it to Jerusalem and participate in rebuilding the Temple. “And the hair of his head like pure wool (Daniel 7:9)." God is pure and perfect. Even the wicked Achashveirosh receives his just reward.

However, this raises other issues regarding God's justice, especially for people living in a long and painful exile: Do we truly see God's justice against our evil tormentors? If Achashveirosh received such reward for allowing a small group of Jews to return to Jerusalem, why was he not as quickly punished for his evil?

Rabbi Pinchas and Rabbi Chilkiah respond: as long as these nations have merit God will not crush them in the wine press.  Even the wicked Achashveirosh had merit for the Jews received great blessing at the end of our story. we can not read the story and fully understand i am less we appreciate his merit as well as his evil.

This leads to the next question: does God seek the merit of our enemies rather than seek to destroy them for their evil?

Rabbi Pinchas and Rabbi Chilkiah respond: as long as these nations have merit God will not crush them in the wine press.  Even the wicked Achashveirosh had merit for the Jews received great blessing at the end of our story. we can not read the story and fully understand i am less we appreciate his merit as well as his evil.

This leads to the next question: does God seek the merit of our enemies rather than seek to destroy them for their evil?

Rabbi Pinchas and Rabbi Chilkiah respond: God's Attribute of Justice demands that He first seek, (research the records of the nations),  before He will seek to destroy them.

Does not everyone have some merit? Most people have their “usual” good deeds. Even their habitual good deeds must be rewarded before God will seek vengeance for what they have done to His people.

This was not enough for the people who lived under Achashveirosh’s rule. This is not enough for the generations who suffer through the agonies of exile.

Therefore, the Midrash ends with a prayer: “May Your right hand be ready to punish Your enemies; May the Attribute of Justice be at hand for them; May Your right hand disclose how few good deeds they have performed.”

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