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Midrash Esther I: Achashveirosh: Burned Pot

“Now it came to pass in the days about how Achasveirosh.” Rabbi Joshua son of Karcha said: he was called Achashveirosh because he made the face of Israel black like the sides of a pot.

Rabbi Berechiah said: because he made the head of Israel ache with fasting and affliction.

Rabbi Levi said: because he made them drink gall and wormwood.

Rabbi Judah said: because he sought to uproot Israel from the foundation of their future.

Rabbi Tachalifa the son of bar Chana said: because he was the brother of the head, the brother of Nebuchadnezar. How could he be his brother? Was not one a Chaldean and the other a Median? The fact is that one stopped the building of the Temple and the other destroyed the Temple; therefore Scripture puts them on the same level. (Esther Rabbah 1:1)

Rabbi Joshua explains compares the effect of Achashveirosh to that of a fire on a pot. A pot is necessary. It is used to prepare food. Despite the fact that it is being used for a constructive purpose, it still will be burned by the fire over which it cooks. Whatever how Achashveirosh did ultimately benefited Israel. He unintentionally placed them in a position from which they grew. They were like food cooking on a pot. However, even in such situations, the pot is burned; it turns black. The fire was necessary but it was also destructive.

Rabbi Joshua what is teaching us to study this story about Achashveirosh from both perspectives: how we were being “cooked” by Achashveirosh in a way that would prepare us for the future, but to also remember that he was always a destructive force.

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