Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Feast of Ahasuerus

Do we know what Ahasuerus' feast was really about? Reading Esther, the few short verses that talk of this meal set the tone for the grandeur of palatial living. We knew he ruled 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia; was wise and rich; had ornate decorations in his palace, including fine textiles and expensive gems; and offered the feast to dignitaries and commonfolk alike.

Today's reading suggests four themes for the feast: redemption, wealth, hospitality, and satisfaction. (14-17.) Of these four, it is only satisfaction and, specifically, G-d's unique ability "to satisfy the wish of every human being" that is not mirrored in the Tanakh.

But, wait, where is G-d in Esther? Before the megilla is read on Purim, the reader says three blessings, the second of which thanks G-d for performing miracles. Where was the miracle that G-d performed? How did G-d play a role in the story of Esther and Mordecai? Does today's reading (17) suggest that G-d's role was in guiding Ahasuerus, and not or Jewish protagonists? "Tomorrow two men, Mordecai and Haman, will come to you. Do you think you can possibly satisfy both as you might if there were only one? You will have no choice but to exalt one and hand the other." Was Ahasuerus a good guy or a bad guy? "No one except the Holy One can satisfy the wish of every human being. Of Him it is said, 'Thou satisfiest the wish of every living thing' (Ps. 145:16)."

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