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Megillas Esther

Part 1 - Achashverosh

by Rabbi Yehudah Prero

"It was in the days of Achashverosh..."

Achashverosh, the king of the Persian Empire and a central figure in the Purim story, had an interesting background. Achashverosh was not of royal blood. In fact, he was far from it. His initial connection to the royalty was his position as stable-keeper for Evil Merodoch, the son of King Nevuchadnezzar of Bavel. Due to political upheavals, he was able to maneuver into the position that allowed him to literally purchase the kingship. Because he was not a royal by birth, Achashverosh felt a strong need to build up his own glory and honor, to assure that his subjects would treat him as a true king.

Achashverosh's passion for honor plays an important role in the Purim story, as we will soon see. (As mentioned in the last post, nothing is coincidental. It was not a coincidence that Achashverosh, a power hungry person who bought his position, was king at this time. Therefore Achashverosh's resulting actions that play a role in the outcome of the story are truly the hidden hand of Hashem.)

Achashverosh wanted a magnificent throne, modeled after that of the Jewish King Shlomo, built for himself, to increase his majesty. The only place where there were artisans who could craft such a work was in the city of Shushan. Upon completion of the throne, it was discovered that there was no way to move the throne anywhere; it had to stay in Shushan. Because Achashverosh was so concerned with his honor, he needed that throne, and he therefore moved the capital of his empire to Shushan so he would always be sitting on his magnificent throne. Normally, a king would not change the capital of his empire just because a throne was there that he liked. However, Achashverosh was so concerned with his image that he did this unusual action. It was no coincidence, as we know, that Mordechai, who we will meet later, lived in Shushan.

Upon completion of the throne, which was in the third year of Achashverosh's reign, and upon moving the capital to Shushan, Achashverosh decided to throw a huge party. This party was a public relations move by Achashverosh. He firstly wanted to become a familiar figure to the citizens of Shushan, where he had just moved. Secondly, he knew that he could not impress any of his subjects with his lineage. He therefore had to impress them with huge displays of wealth, grandeur, and extravagance. This party would accomplish these objectives. He first threw a party for all of his subjects who lived outside of Shushan. It was important to gain the favor of these people, as

they lived far from Shushan and he would only have power over them if they respected him. Therefore, their party was first. After this party ended, he threw a party for the citizens of Shushan. This party was for every resident, regardless of social class or standing. Achashverosh wanted to demonstrate to his subjects that he was a kind and giving king who wanted to fulfill the desires of everyone. At the party, everyone was served what they desired. They were served using the finest gold and silver. Utensils were not reused. Achashverosh tried to make everyone happy by letting them do and have as they pleased. As this was the goal of the party, it seems ironic that Queen Vashti (who we will meet in the next post) was killed because Achashverosh would not let her do what she wanted at the party.

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For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.


 






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