Megillah, Daf Yod Aleph, Part 3



Today’s section continues with midrashim on Megillat Esther.


המלך אמר רב: שמלך מעצמו. אמרי לה לשבח, ואמרי לה לגנאי. אמרי לה לשבחדלא הוה איניש דחשיב למלכא כוותיה, ואמרי לה לגנאידלא הוה חזי למלכותא, וממונא יתירא הוא דיהב וקם.


"Who reigned": Rav said: this indicates that he made himself king.

There are those who interpret this to his credit, and those to his discredit.

Those who interpret it to his credit hold that there was no other man equally fitted for the throne.

Those who interpret it to his discredit hold that he was not fit for the throne, but that he was very wealthy, and that he gave and thereby became king.


Rav interprets the Megillah as implying that Ahashverosh seized the throne and did not inherit it from his father. However, it is unclear whether this is offered as praise for Ahashverosh, that he took the kingship from those less worthy, or a denouncement of him for having bribed his way into the kingship, thereby depriving a more worthy inheritor.

מהדו ועד כוש רב ושמואל, חד אמר: הודו בסוף העולם וכוש בסוף העולם, וחד אמר: הודו וכוש גבי הדדי הוו קיימי, כשם שמלך על הודו וכושכך מלך מסוף העולם ועד סופו.


"From Hodu to Cush": Rav and Shmuel: One said that Hodu is at one end of the world and Cush at the other, and the other said that Hodu and Cush are right next to each other, and that just as he ruled over Hodu and Cush, so he ruled from one end of the world to the other.


Rav and Shmuel agree that Ahashverosh ruled the entire (known) world. They disagree as to where Hodu and Cush are. We interpret these today as India and Ethiopia, which seems to accord pretty much with the opinion that says they are at opposite ends of the world. Another opinion believes them to be right next to each other. However, even this opinion agrees that he ruled over the whole world. Therefore, it reads the Megillah metaphorically. Just as he ruled over these two lands that were right next to each, so too he ruled over the whole world.


כיוצא בדבר אתה אומר +מלכים אד‘ /ה‘/+ כי הוא רדה בכל עבר הנהר מתפסח ועד עזה, רב ושמואל: חד אמר: תפסח בסוף העולם ועזה בסוף העולם, וחד אמר: תפסח ועזה בהדי הדדי הוו קיימי, כשם שמלך על תפסח ועל עזהכך מלך על כל העולם כולו.


Similarly you say, "For he had dominion over all the region on this side of the River, from Tiphsah until Gaza" (I Kings 5:4). Rav and Shmuel: One said that Tiphsah is at one end of the world and Gaza at the other, and the other said that Tiphsah and Gaza are near one another [and that what is meant is that] just as he [Solomon] ruled over Tiphsah and over Gaza, so he ruled over the whole world.


Here we see that Rav and Shmuel had the same dispute concerning a verse from Kings.


שבע ועשרים ומאה מדינה, אמר רב חסדא: בתחילה מלך על שבע, ולבסוף מלך על עשרים, ולבסוף מלך על מאה.

אלא מעתה, +שמות ו‘+ ושני חיי עמרם שבע ושלשים ומאת שנה, מאי דרשת ביה? – שאני הכא דקרא יתירא הוא, מכדי כתיב מהדו ועד כוש, שבע ועשרים ומאה מדינה, למה לי? – שמע מינה לדרשה.


"Seven and twenty and a hundred provinces". R. Hisda said: At first he ruled over seven, then over twenty [more], and finally over a hundred [more].

But if so, [what did you do with the verse], "And the years of the life of Amram were seven and thirty and a hundred years?" (Exodus 6:20). How do you expound this? It is different here, because the whole text is superfluous, since it is written, "From Hodu to Cush," what would I then do with, "seven and twenty and a hundred provinces"? You must conclude that it is for a special lesson.


R. Hisda notes that the verse counting Ahashverosh’s provinces begins with seven, and then moves to twenty and then one hundred. From this he learns that his rule expanded from 7, to 27 to 127. The problem with this is that there are many verses that list large numbers this way, including Exodus 6:20. What could we possibly learn from this way of writing numbers about Amram’s life? The answer is that there is nothing inherently midrash-worthy in the way that the number is listed. What is "midrash-worthy" is the very fact that the Megillah lists the number of Ahashverosh’s provinces. This is superfluous for the verse already stated that he ruled over the whole world. Therefore, R. Hisda can midrashically interpret it.