Midrash Esther Chapter II: VIII: Introducing Jealousy
“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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