Midrash Esther Chapter Three IV: Where is God’s Celebration?
Rabbi Yitzchak began his lecture on this section of the Book of Esther with the following verse, “Yet you have not called upon Me, O Jacob, neither have you wearied yourself about Me, O Israel (Isaiah 43:22).”
Rabbi Yochanan derived the meaning of this verse from another verse, “The burden of Damascus. Behold! Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken (Isaiah 14:1).” Why does the prophet mention Aroer when speaking of Damascus, seeing that Aroer is in the territory of Moab? The fact is that there were three hundred and sixty five houses of idol worship and Damascus including temples for the idols of Aroer and each had its day of worship, but there was one day in which the worshipers used to go round to all the temples and worship, and Israel united the whole of them into one body and worshiped them, and if so it is written, “And the Children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baalim, and the Ashtarot, and the gods of Aram, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook God, and served Him not (Judges 10:6),” not even on long with all the other gods they served.
Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said: should not a priestess be at least equal to an innkeeper?
He continued: The Holy One, Blessed is He, said: “My sons have not even treated Me like the dessert which comes at the end of the meal.”
Rabbi Levi said: the Jews were like a king’s minister who made a feast for his troops and invited all the King’s legions but did not invite his master. The king said to him: “You might at least have put me on a level with all my troops!” So too, the Holy One, Blessed is He, said: “I wish that My children had treated Me at least like the dessert which comes at the end of the meal!” But, “You have not called upon me, O Jacob, neither have you grown weary about Me, O Israel!”
In connection with Baal is written, “And they called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying: O Baal, answer us (I Kings 18:26).” A man will sit and talk all day without growing tired, but as soon as he gets up to say prayers he feels tired. A man will sit and talk all day without being tired, but as soon as he sits down to study he feels tired. Hence, “You have not called upon Me, O Jacob!”
Would that I had not recognize you, Jake up, because you have not grown weary about Me, Israel! “You have not brought Me the lamb of your burnt offerings (Isaiah 43:23),” these are the two regular daily offerings, as it says, “The one lamb shall you offer in the morning (Numbers 28:4).”
“Neither have you honored Me with your sacrifices,” this refers to the sacrificial parts of the holiest offerings.
“I have not burdened you with a meal offering,” this refers to the handful from the meal offering.
“Nor wearied you with frankincense,” this refers to the handful of frankincense.
“You have brought Me know sweet cane with money.” Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rabbi Yosi: Cinnamon used to grow abundantly in the Land of Israel, so that even the goats and dear used to eat it.
“Neither have you satisfied Me with the fact of your offerings,” this refers to the sacrificial parts of the less holy offerings. “But you have burdened Me with your sins; you have wearied Me with with your iniquities.”
See what your guilt has forced Me to do, Israel: not only must I record the banquets of powerful men, but I have even to record the banquets of women intended only for frivolity; and so it says, “Also Vashti the Queen made a feast for the women.”
The midrash is describing God as observing the parties of Achashveirosh and Vashti and remembering how the Children of Israel would party at the three hundred and sixty five houses of idol worship in Damascus and yet not bother to worship Him at all. They had time and energy for every one of the false gods, but no time and no energy for God.
So, He took away His temple. There were no more demands for the daily offerings, the holiest offerings, meal offerings, or even frankincense. He had blessed them with such abundance of wealth that even the goats and deer would eat crops precious to everyone else in the world but worth nothing to the Children of Israel because they had such abundance. God had blessed then with great wealth, but they still had no time and no energy to turn to Him at all. Parties for hundreds of gods, but no service of God. Certainly no joyous service, just a tired and exhausted formal service., And here they were again. They did not only join the party of Achashveirosh under Royal pressure and with the motivation of earning the King’s goodwill, they joined Vashti’s party as well for empty fun.
His Temple was in ruins. He removed His Temple because the only service they would offer it in it was just exhausted. But here they were, once again, with all of the energy and strength in the world to party away.
They were not tired; they were tired of God. They did not even experience a sense of weariness when they fought of the destroyed Temple and Jerusalem, His holy city, in ruins. They were too busy partying to even think about what they had lost, what they had forced God to do.
It’s important to note that the first Purim story, the original battle with Amalek, was caused by the Children of Israel being, “Tired and weary.” The Midrash is telling us that our exhaustion when praying and serving God, especially when contrasted with our energy when partying, led to the challenge of Haman.
They didn’t realize that from God’s perspective it was no longer that they were just turning to Him without energy; they were tiring Him out having to observe and record all the joy they were discovering in the Shushan party season.
A powerful midrash introducing the reason for why Israel was threatened by Haman’s horrible decree.