Midrash Esther Chapter Three VIII: On This World
Another explanation: “From among those whose death is by Your hand, God.” How mighty are those who have received empire from Your hand. Who is this? This is Nebuchadnezar.
“From among those,” namely, those who have received their portion on this world.
“Whose portion is in this life,” namely, those who receive their reward while still alive.
“And with Your hidden treasure, You fill your belly,” since they became rich from what they stole from the Temple treasury.
“Their children are satisfied,” namely, Evil-Merodach and Balshezzar.
“And leave their abundance to their offspring,” one child who was left to him You made Empress over a kingdom that was not hers. Who was this? This was Vashti.
The midrash continues to struggle with the issue over which these Rabbis and their generation agonized: why do we see the wicked live so well while we suffer so horribly? How could the Jews who suffered the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and then exile into Babylon, witness the ascendancy of Vashti to the throne as Queen and not wonder, “How could God allow this to happen?” How could God allow these people to become wealthy from the gold and silver they stole from Is Temple? How could these people possibly experience or even believe that all was guided by God’s Hand?
This midrash is teaching us that what Mordechai and Esther accomplished in the Purim story was to reach people who felt abandoned by God and reattach them to Him. Vashti represented not just suffering, but the sense that God had abandoned His people. Esther, who takes the place of Vashti, is able to bring the Jews to greater heights than ever before under the worst of circumstances.
The Rabbis of the midrash were struggling with this same issues of abandonment. They focused on this story to remind their generation and themselves, that it was not only possible to maintain a relationship with God even under these horrible circumstances, it was possible to do as did Esther; reach heights greater than ever before.