Purim 2019

The Feast of Achashverosh and The Final Redemption


י״ז במרחשון ה׳תש״פ (15 בNovember 2019)


We have a rule concerning the Book of Esther: every place where the text mentions “King Ahasuerus”, it refers only to him. Wherever the text states “king” by itself without mentioning Ahasuerus, the literal meaning refers to King Ahasuerus but at the deeper allegorical and esoteric levels, the meaning is to the King of the universe. This is stated in the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 3:10): “Wherever the Book of Esther mentions ‘King Ahasuerus’, it is referring to King Ahasuerus. But wherever it is written ‘king' alone, the inference is both to the human and divine.”

Therefore, when the text says here that “the king made” a feast, the book is hinting that this feast was orchestrated by God to test the Jews if they would participate in it like all the other nations and sin there, or if they would refrain from going there and instead gain heavenly favor.

At this point, the time of their redemption was very near and the seventy years of exile predicted by the prophets was at its end. If they would refrain from participating in the banquet out of loyalty to the Torah, they would be redeemed from the tribulations of the Diaspora. They would be allowed to return to the Land of Israel without afflictions or difficulties, even though they were not paragons of virtue and had previously sinned by bowing down to an idol during Nebuchadnezzar’s times.

By their refraining from taking part in the drunken revelry despite being invited by King Ahasuerus, they would prove that they had repented of their actions and had rectified their sin of bowing down to the idol at King Nebuchadnezzar’s orders. Our loving King in heaven does not want to punish His beloved sons after they demonstrate regret and repent.

But when the Jews failed the test, they demonstrated that they were still rebellious — so how could they be redeemed? Therefore it was necessary to put Haman in power and through his decree, compel them to repent. Only then could they be redeemed.

Our rabbis (Sanhedrin 97b) learn from this how God conducts the world. Just as the Jews could have been redeemed from the first exile without the anguish of Haman’s decree — if they would have repented for the past and avoided Ahasuerus’s party — it is the same with the final redemption: “Rabbi Eliezer said: ‘If Israel repents — they will be redeemed, but if not — they will not be redeemed.’ Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: ‘What do you mean they will not be redeemed? Instead, the Almighty will put over them a king whose decrees will be as vicious as Haman’s, and Israel will repent and again become virtuous.’”

This teaches us that we will not be redeemed unless we repent. The choice is ours whether we will repent out of love and joy, or, God forbid, because we are oppressed by a king whose decrees are as bitter as Haman’s.

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