Esther 1

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King of the Castle

The following story takes place during the reign of King Ahasuerus of Persia, who ruled over 127 provinces, from India to Ethiopia. Ahasuerus governed from his capital city of Shushan. In the third year of his reign, he made a 180-day party for all the officers of his kingdom, specifically to show off all the wealth he had. When that party concluded, he threw a week-long party for everyone in Shushan, regardless of their station. All the finest things were there and wine was served in the golden vessels seized by the predecessors of Ahasuerus when the first Temple was sacked. The wine was free-flowing, but the rule given the waiters was that no one was to be pressured to drink. Vashti, the wife of Ahasuerus, made a concurrent party for the women of the capital.

On the seventh day of the party, when the king was feeling giddy from all the wine, he instructed his aides to bring Vashti so that he could show her off wearing her crown (presumably ONLY her crown). Vashti (whose father was King Belshazzar) resented being ordered about by Ahasuerus (who was not of royal descent), so she refused to go. Ahasuerus was furious at Vashti for making him look bad and he asked his advisors what he should do. An advisor named Memuchan (whom the Talmud identifies with Haman - see tractate Megilla 12b) told Ahasuerus that Vashti wronged not only the king, but every man in the empire. If she gets away with it, Memuchan said, all women would learn to be insubordinate to their husbands. Vashti should be executed and her position given to someone more worthy. This way, all women would see that such behavior would not be tolerated, not even from the queen herself.

This made perfect sense to Ahasuerus and his court, so he made it so. Letters were sent to every corner of the kingdom making it clear that the man was boss.

Author: Rabbi Jack Abramowitz