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Megillah, Daf Yod Aleph, Part 2

 

Introduction

The Talmud now continues with what are either more "opening discourses" or perhaps midrashim on the Megillah itself.

 

ויהי בימי אחשורוש. אמר רב: ויי היה. הדא דכתיב +דברים כ"ח+ והתמכרתם שם לאיביך לעבדים ולשפחות וגו‘.

 

"And it came to pass [vayehi] in the days of Ahashverosh:: Rav said, [The word vayehi means] There was "voi" [trouble]. This is what is written, "And there you shall sell yourselves to your enemies for slaves and for bondwomen, and no man shall buy you" (Deuteronomy 28:68).

 

I have rendered this line as it is found in manuscripts. Rav reads "vayehi" as if it reads "voi" and "hayah" which means "There was trouble." He interprets the troubles in light of the rebuke found in Deuteronomy. Haman will issue such a horrific decree upon you that you will not even be able to be sold into slavery.

 

ושמואל אמר +ויקרא כ"ו+: לא מאסתים ולא געלתים לכלותם לא מאסתיםבימי יוונים, ולא געלתיםבימי אספסיינוס, לכלותםבימי המן, להפר בריתי אתםבימי רומיים, כי אני האלהיהםבימי גוג ומגוג.

במתניתא תנא: לא מאסתיםבימי כשדים, שהעמדתי להם דניאל חנניה מישאל ועזריה, ולא געלתיםבימי יוונים, שהעמדתי להם שמעון הצדיק, וחשמונאי ובניו, ומתתיה כהן גדול, לכלותםבימי המן, שהעמדתי להם מרדכי ואסתר, להפר בריתי אתם, – בימי פרסיים, שהעמדתי להם של בית רבי וחכמי דורות, כי אני האלהיהםלעתיד לבוא, שאין כל אומה ולשון יכולה לשלוט בהם.

 

Shmuel said from here: "I did not reject them, neither did I abhor them to destroy them utterly" (Leviticus 26:44). "I did not reject them" in the days of the Greeks; "neither did I abhor them" in the days of Nebuchadnezzar; "to destroy them utterly" in the days of Haman; "and to break my covenant with them" in the days of the Persians; "for I am the Lord their God" in the days of Gog and Magog.

In a baraita it was taught: "I have not rejected them" in the days of the Chaldeans, when I raised up for them Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; "Neither did I abhor them" in the days of the Greeks, when I raised up for them Shimon the Righteous and the Hasmonean and his sons, and Mattathias the High Priest; "To destroy them utterly" in the days of Haman, when I raised up for them Mordecai and Esther; "To break my covenant with them" in the days of the Persians, when I raised up for them the members of the house of Rabbi and the Sages of the various generations. "For I am the Lord their God" in the time to come, when no nation or people will be able to rule over them.

 

Both Shmuel and the baraita interpret the verse from Leviticus as referring to various times or events in Jewish history in which God stood by Israel throughout its various subjections to foreign rule. Both also interpret the end of the verse as referring to the world to come, when God alone will have dominion over Israel.

The main difference between Shmuel and the baraita is that the latter refers to those particular leaders who brought Israel salvation.

We should note that there are definitely various mistaken readings in this section. First, "Hasmonean and his sons, and Mattathias the High Priest" is a case of a "double reading," where the text either should read "Hasmonean and his sons" or "Mattathias the High Priest" but not both, because the "Hasmonean" is "Mattathias." There are certainly another mistakes in the version found in the "printed edition." "Nebuchadnezzar" is out of chronological order, for he ruled well before the Greeks. Manuscripts read "the Emperor Vespasian" who destroyed the Second Temple. Rabbi [Judah Hanasi] and the other sages operated during the Roman period, not the Persian period, as the baraita implies. Indeed, manuscripts read "Romans" not "Persians." It is likely that these last changes were made by Christian censors.

 

רבי לוי אמר מהכא: +במדבר ל"ג+ ואם לא תורישו את ישבי הארץ. רבי חייא אמר מהכא: +במדבר ל"ג+ והיה כאשר דמיתי לעשות להם אעשה לכם.

 

R. Levi said from this verse: "But if you will not drive out the inhabitants of the land before you" (Numbers 33:55).

R. Hiyya said from this verse: "And it shall come to pass that as I thought to do to them, so will I do to you" (Numbers 33:56).

 

Numbers 33 states that if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, they will come back to be formidable enemies for you. Rashi explains that Haman, the descendent of Amalek, attacked Israel as a punishment by God for Saul not having finished off the Amalekites, as is told in I Samuel 15.

אחשורוש, אמר רב: אחיו של ראש, ובן גילו של ראש. אחיו של ראשאחיו של נבוכדנצר הרשע שנקרא ראש, שנאמר +דניאל ב‘+ אנת הוא רישא די דהבא. בן גילו של ראש, הוא הרגהוא ביקש להרוג, הוא החריבהוא בקש להחריב, שנאמר +עזרא ד‘+ ובמלכות אחשורוש בתחלת מלכותו כתבו שטנה על ישבי יהודה וירושלים.

 

Ahashverosh: Rav said: The brother of the head and the counterpart of the head "The brother of the head": the brother of Nebuchadnezzar the wicked who was called head, as it is written, "You are the head of gold" (Daniel 2:38). "The counterpart of the head": the one slew, the other sought to slay; the one laid waste, the other sought to lay waste, as it is written, "And in the reign of Ahashverosh, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem" (Ezra 4:6).

 

Rav begins to offer midrashim on Ahashverosh’s name, reading the Babylonian name as related to Hebrew words "Ah shel Rosh" the brother and counterpart of Nebuchadnezzar, except that whereas the latter succeeded in destroying, Ahashverosh failed. The context of the verse from Ezra is an attempt by the Samaritans in Canaan to prevent the returning Israelites from rebuilding the Temple. This proves that Ahashverosh attempted to lay waste. We should note that in the Megillah itself Ahashverosh is not portrayed as the enemy. Haman is the enemy.

 

ושמואל אמר: שהושחרו פניהם של ישראל בימיו כשולי קדרה.

ורבי יוחנן אמר: כל שזוכרו אמר: אח לראשו.

ורבי חנינא אמר: שהכל נעשו רשין בימיו, שנאמר +אסתר י‘+ וישם המלך אחשורוש מס.

 

Shmuel said: The face of Israel was blackened (hushcharu) in his days like the sides of a pot.

R. Yohanan said: Everyone who thought of him said "alas for my head (ah lerosho)."

R. Hanina said: That all became poor (rash) in his days, as it says, "And the king Ahashverosh laid a tribute" (Esther 10:1).

 

There are three more amoraic puns here on the name of Ahashverosh.

הוא אחשורושהוא ברשעו מתחילתו ועד סופו. +בראשית לו+ הוא עשוהוא ברשעו מתחילתו ועד סופו, +במדבר כ"ו+ הוא דתן ואבירםהן ברשען מתחילתן ועד סופן. +דברי הימים בכ"ח+ הוא המלך אחזהוא ברשעו מתחילתו ועד סופו.

"That (hu) is the Ahashverosh. [this means that] he persisted in his wickedness from beginning to end.

[Similarly] "This is [hu] Esau": he persisted in his wickedness from beginning to end.

[Similarly] "This is [hu] Dathan and Aviram": they persisted in their wickedness from beginning to end.

[Similarly], "This is [hu] king Ahaz": he persisted in his wickedness from beginning to end.

 

The Megillah contains a curious phrase, "This is the Ahashverosh." Why repeat his name right in the beginning of the book?

The midrash answers that the verse alludes to his remaining wicked from the beginning to the end. It then links Ahashverosh through the word "hu" to four other wicked characters, also introduced by "hu." Ahaz was king of Judah from 741-726, and was not a good king.

 

+דברי הימים אא‘+ אברם הוא אברהםהוא בצדקו מתחילתו ועד סופו, +שמות ו‘+ הוא אהרן ומשההן בצדקן מתחילתן ועד סופן. +שמואל אי"ז+ ודוד הוא הקטןהוא בקטנותו מתחילתו עד סופו, כשם שבקטנותו הקטין עצמו אצל מי שגדול ממנו בתורהכך במלכותו הקטין עצמו אצל מי שגדול ממנו בחכמה.

 

[Similarly], "Avram, the same [hu] is Abraham": he persisted in his righteousness from the beginning to the end.

[Similarly], "These are [hu] Aaron and Moses": he persisted in his righteousness from the beginning to the end.

[Similarly], "And David, he was [hu] the smallest": he persisted in his humility from the beginning to the end; just as in his youth he humbled himself before anyone who was his superior in Torah, so in his kingship he humbled himself before anyone who was his superior in wisdom.

 

The word "hu" does not necessarily indicate evil. It merely indicates consistency. Therefore the Talmud now moves to show that just as there were consistently evil characters, so too there are consistently good or humble characters.