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Midrash Esther X-From Field to Province

Rabbi Levi said: wherever you find the word “field” in Scripture, it implies a city; where ever you find “city” it implies a metropolis; where ever you find Metropolis it implies a province.


From where do we know that “field” implies “city”? Because it says, “Get you to Anatot, onto your own fields (I Kings 2: 26).” From where do we know that “city” implies metropolis? Because it says, “go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9: 4).” (Jerusalem, the ‘city’ was considered a ‘Metropolis.’) From where do we know that “metropolis” implies a province? Because it says, “A hundred and twenty and seven provinces.”

It’s possible that Rabbi Levi is simply defending the honor of Jerusalem, as if to say, it was not just a city, it was a large metropolis.

However, I suspect that there is far more meaning to Rabbi Levi’s teaching: Rabbi Levi is telling us to realize that Achashveirosh’s kingdom was far larger than we may realize. In order to appreciate his impact on the Jews and on the world we must understand how you reach his kingdom really was. Rabbi Levi is calling our attention, not to the number, but to the size of his provinces.

Although we may read the Book of Esther and be highly critical of Achashveirosh, we must remember the full extent of his accomplishments and power. We may enjoy laughing at his insecurity and his foolishness however we must still understand how serious a person he was.

We must understand that the decisions of a king of such a huge empire were far reaching. He probably did not make any decision without considering its impact on his entire kingdom. This would apply to the decree against the Jews as well. He was not only dealing with people who threatened his insecurities, “They do not accept the King’s ideas,” he was sending a message to all his subjects, far and wide.

This is why Haman does not suggest that the King use his troops to massacre the Jews, but rather to decree that “they should be killed.” The King would simply grant permission to his subjects to massacre the Jews. Achashveirosh understood and appreciated the impact of such an order.

Citizens, just as we know from recent history, from the behavior of the average German citizen under the Nazi regime, would  use this opportunity to attack a scapegoat to experience a sense of power and to enrich themselves. This would, as it did in Germany, connect them to their leader. It would also mean that the average citizen was now paying attention to the King’s letters and decrease. This was something that concerned Achashveirosh because of the cynical response to his “Letter Regarding Women.”

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