Midrash Esther VI: One More Than Half, Part Two
We have the story of the king, who does not inherit his role from his predecessor, beginning his reign with the loss of half the kingdom. He would seem to be a total failure, a temporary king at best. And yet, even during his dark beginning he granted permission for some Jews to go to Jerusalem and participate in rebuilding the Temple. Perhaps he believed he could win the Jew’s support. Perhaps he felt it was a perfect way to solidify his rule over that area of his kingdom. However, as soon as he received a letter from Haman’s sons warning that the Temple would unite the Jews against Achashveirosh, he ordered the cessation of all work. He is not yet secure in his kingdom.
All he needs is to add that single extra province, one more than half. That one extra province would give him the confidence he needed to feel that he was secure as King. He will have an opportunity to expand his kingdom. However, the man who sees expansion as the key to his success ends up constantly struggling to secure his hold over his own capital city, Shushan. He is so wrapped up in protecting himself that we never read of Achashveirosh successfully expanding beyond that one extra province.
Our story is of a man driven, a man of volatile passions, a man whose rise from nowhere to assume the reigns of the kingdom, overcomes his original and begins to expand, only to become so obsessed with protecting what he believed was his that he ultimately fails in his greatest dream, expansion.
This is a story of how a potentially great man will limit and destroy himself by his need to control all around him. He is similar to King Saul, the ancestor of Esther.
We have also said based on our reading of the opening verse, “and it was in the days of Achashveirosh,” that this man defined his times. His volatility, his drive, his obsessions, his feelings about women, his fears, his hesitations, his instability, all became part of the nature of his tkingdom. We have also said that not only did the King influence his own kingdom, he influenced the entire area.
It is in such an unstable situation that Mordechai and Esther rise to the occasion and give the Jews a gift, a perspective that will allow them to survive that countless times they will exist in similar situations over the coming millennia.
We must read every effort of Mordechai and Esther with this in mind. What was their real message? What were their skills? How did they manage, and what can we practically learn from them even now?
Do we find any indication that they learned from Achashveirosh’s story the dangers of attempting to control the environment?