Midrash Esther Chapter Three VI: What Once Was
It is written, “From among those whose death is by Your hand, God, from men who die of old age, whose portion is eternal life, and with Your hidden treasure, You’ve fill their stomach, who are satisfied with children, and leave their abundance to their offspring (Psalms 17:14).” Rabbi Chanina the son of Rabbi Acha went to a certain place where he was asked to lecture on the following verse, “But that which is left of the meal offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons (Vayikra 2:10).”
He opened his lecture with the following verse, “From among those whose death is by Your hand, God.”
“How mighty in righteousness,” he said, “are those who received their portion from Your hand, O God! Who were those? The tribe of Levi.
“Whose portion is eternal life,” meaning, who receive no portion in the land.
“Whose portion is eternal life,” meaning, the holy things of the Sanctuary.
“With Your hidden treasure, You fill their stomach,” the holy gifts they receive from the farmers.
“Who were satisfied with children,” as it says, “every male among the Cohanim may eat from it (Leviticus 6:22).”
“And leave their abundance to their offspring (Psalms),” as it says, “But that which is left of the meal offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons.”
This paragraph of the midrash is intended to serve as an introduction to the following paragraph. However, when we consider how Achashveirosh and Vashti said their guests with such abundance, Rabbi Chanina’s lecture becomes a poignant description of what once was, but was no more.
There was a time when those “mighty in righteousness” would feel that they were fed from the portion of the eternal life and from God’s hidden treasure. They did not have much, but they were able to leave their abundance to their offspring. No more. It is not those who are mighty in righteousness who have abundance, but the wicked Achashveirosh and Vashti. The Jews had lost their sense of the treasure of the eternal life that is opened to those who strive to live a life of righteousness. They were devastated.