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Megillah, Daf Yod Aleph, Part 5

 

Introduction

This section continues to interpret the first verses of Megillat Esther. The basic plot in this section is that Ahashverosh had a feast and used the Temple vessels when he became sure that God was not going to redeem the Jews.

 

+אסתר א’+ בימים ההם כשבת המלך, וכתיב בתריה בשנת שלוש למלכו.

אמר רבא: מאי כשבת – לאחר שנתיישבה דעתו.

 

In those days, when the king sat [on his throne] (Esther 1:2). But it says just afterwards, "In the third year of his reign?

Rav said: What is meant by "when he sat"? After he began to feel secure.

 

The Talmud perceives a discrepancy in the second and third verses of Esther. At first it seems to imply that Ahashverosh had just ascended to the throne. But then it implies that this was the third year of his rule.

Rava resolves the tension by saying that Ahashverosh only began to feel secure after three years of ruling. We will now see why he felt insecure.

 

אמר: בלשצר חשב וטעה, אנא חשיבנא ולא טעינא.

מאי היא? דכתיב +ירמיהו כ"ט+ כי לפי מלאת לבבל שבעים שנה אפקד אתכם, וכתיב +דניאל ט’+ למלאות לחרבות ירושלים שבעים שנה. חשוב ארבעין וחמש דנבוכדנצר, ועשרים ותלת דאויל מרודך, ותרתי דידיה – הא שבעים, אפיק מאני דבי מקדשא ואשתמש בהו.

 

He reasoned thus: Belshazar calculated and made a mistake; I have calculated and made no mistake.

What is the meaning of this? It is written, "After seventy years have been filled for Babylon I will remember you" (Jeremiah 29:10), and it is written, "That He would accomplish for the desolations of Jerusalem seventy years" (Daniel 9:2). He reckoned forty-five years of Nebuchadnezzar and twenty-three of Avil-Merodach and two of his own, making seventy in all.

He then brought out the vessels of the Temple and used them.

 

The issue at hand is the prophecy to Jeremiah and Daniel that the Jews would be under Babylonian rule for seventy years. Belshazar, who ruled before Ahashverosh, made a calculation and thought that these years were up. Nebuchadnezzar had ruled for 45 years and his successror, Avil-Merodach had ruled for 23. After Belshazar had ruled for two years and the Jews were still in Babylonia, he assumed that the prophecy was untrue. He took out the vessels that had been stolen from the Temple and began to finally use them.

 

ונבוכדנצר מנלן דארבעין וחמש שנין מלך? – דאמר מר: גלו בשבע, גלו בשמונה, גלו בשמונה עשרה, גלו בתשע עשרה.

גלו בשבע לכיבוש יהויקים גלות יהויכין, שהיא שמונה לנבוכדנצר.

גלו בשמונה עשרה לכיבוש יהויקים גלות צדקיהו שהיא תשע עשרה לנבוכדנצר, דאמר מר: שנה ראשונה כיבש נינוה, שניה כיבש יהויקים, וכתיב +ירמיהו נ"ב+ ויהי בשלשים ושבע שנה לגלות יהויכן מלך יהודה בשנים עשר חדש בעשרים וחמשה לחדש נשא אויל מרדך מלך בבל [בשנת מלכתו] את ראש יהויכין מלך יהודה ויצא אתו מבית הכלוא, תמני ותלתין ושבע – הרי ארבעין וחמש דנבוכדנצר.

 

And how do we know that Nebuchadnezzar reigned forty-five years? As a Master has said: They went into exile in the seventh year and they went into exile in the eighth year; they went into exile in the eighteenth year and they went into exile in the nineteenth year: [That is to say], in the seventh year after the subjection of Jehoiakim they underwent the exile of Jechoniah, this being the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar.

In the eighteenth year from the subjection of Jehoiakim they underwent the exile of Zedekiah, this being the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, as a Master has said, In the first year [of his reign] he [Nebuchadnezzar] overthrew Nineveh; in the second year he conquered Jehoiakim. And it is written, "And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month in the seven and twentieth day of the month, that Avil-Merodach King of Babylon, in the year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him forth out of prison" (Jeremiah 52:31). Eight and thirty-seven make forty-five of Nebuchadnezzar.

 

The Talmud here reckons how Belshazar calculated that Nebuchadnezzar had reigned 45 years. After his first year of rule, when he conquered Nineveh, he subjected Jehoiakim, King of Judah. Seven years later he took Jechoniah and many other Jews as captive back to Babylon. This was in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. Eleven years later he destroyed the Temple and exiled Zedekiah. Avil-Merodach began to rule 37 years after Jechoniah was taken as a captive. Thus Nebuchadnezzar ruled for 45 years.

 

ועשרין ותלת דאויל מרודך – גמרא, ותרתי דידיה – הא שבעין.

אמר: השתא ודאי תו לא מיפרקי, אפיק מאני דבי מקדשא ואשתמש בהו. היינו דקאמר ליה דניאל: +דניאל ה’+ ועל מרא שמיא התרוממת ולמאניא די ביתה הייתיו קדמך, וכתיב +דניאל ה’+ בה בליליא קטיל בלשאצר מלכא [כשדאי] וכתיב +דניאל ו’+ ודריוש מדאה קבל מלכותא כבר שנין שתין ותרתין.

 

The twenty-three of Avil-Merodach we know from tradition. And two of his own [rule] make seventy. He [Belshazar] said to himself, Now they will surely not be redeemed. So he brought out the vessels of the Temple and used them. Hence it was that Daniel said to him, "But you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven, and they have brought the vessels of his house before you" (Daniel 5:23). It is further written, "In that night Belshazar the Chaldean king was slain" (Daniel 5:30), and it is written, "And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about thirty two years old" (Daniel 6:1).

 

This is the conclusion of Belshazzar’s error. Nebuchadnezzar had ruled 45 years, Avil Merodach 23 and Belshazzar himself two. Belshazzar now assumes that the seventy years are up. Since the Jews have not been redeemed, he might as well go ahead and use the Temple vessels. That night he died the very night he used the Temple vessels and Darius succeeded him.

אמר: איהו מיטעא טעי, אנא חשיבנא ולא טעינא. מי כתיב למלכות בבל? לבבל, כתיב. מאי לבבל, – לגלות בבל. כמה בצירן – תמני. חשיב ועייל חילופייהו. חדא דבלשצר, וחמש דדריוש וכורש, ותרתי דידיה הא שבעין. כיון דחזי דמלו שבעין ולא איפרוק, אמר: השתא ודאי תו לא מיפרקי, אפיק מאני דבי מקדשא ואשתמש בהו.

בא שטן וריקד ביניהן והרג את ושתי. –

 

He [Ahashverosh] said: He calculated and made a mistake, I will calculate and make no mistake. Is it written, "seventy years for the kingdom of Babylon?" It is written, "Seventy years for Babylon." What is meant by Babylon? The exile of Babylon.

How many years [is this reckoning] less [than the other]? Eight. So in place of them he inserted one of Belshazzar, five of Darius and Cyrus, and two of his own, which made seventy.

When he saw that seventy had been completed and they were not redeemed, he brought out the vessels of the Temple and used them.

Then the Satan came and danced among them and slew Vashti.

 

 

Ahashverosh now clarifies what Belshazzar’s mistake was. The latter calculated based on the years of the kings’ rule, whereas the 70 years really referred to the years of the Babylonian exile. Since the first exile occurred eight years into Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, we have to reduce 8 years. He then added one more year of Belshazzar’s rule (he ruled 3 years) five of Darius and Cyrus and two of his own and this brought him to 70. Now that he figured he got it right, he made a big feast, using the vessels from the Temple. This is the story told in chapter one of the Megillah, which ends in Vashti losing her crown. The Talmud relates the legend that Satan danced at the party and eventually slew Vashti.

 

והא שפיר חשיב? – איהו נמי מיטעא טעי, דאיבעי ליה למימני מחרבות ירושלים. – סוף סוף כמה בצירן – (חדיסר) +מסורת הש"ס: [חד סרי]+, איהו כמה מלך – ארביסר, בארביסר דידיה איבעי ליה למיבני בית המקדש! אלמה כתיב +עזרא ד’+ באדין בטלת עבידת בית אלהא די בירושלם! – אמר רבא: שנים מקוטעות הוו.

תניא נמי הכי: ועוד שנה אחרת לבבל, ועמד דריוש והשלימה.

 

But he reckoned correctly?

He also made a mistake, since he ought to have reckoned from the destruction of Jerusalem.

Granted all this, how many years are short? Eleven.

How long did he reign? Fourteen.

Consequently in the fourteenth year of his reign he ought to have rebuilt the Temple. Why then is it written, "Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem" (Ezra 4:24)?

Rava said: The years were not full ones.

It has also been taught in a baraita: There was yet another year left to Babylon, and Darius arose and completed it.

 

The Talmud now explains what mistake Ahashverosh made. He reckoned from the exile of Jechoniah, whereas he should have reckoned from the destruction of the Temple.

This leaves us another 11 years short. Ahashverosh ruled for fourteen years, so in the fourteenth year of his reign the Temple should have been rebuilt. So how come the Temple was not rebuilt until the reign of Darius his successor (this is a different Darius then above).

Rava said that the years were not always full one. When a king dies, one year could be reckoned as two, because it is counted as the last year of the previous king’s rule and first year of the new king’s rule. This is how Ahashverosh erred in his counting.

 

I should note that the Talmudic chronology does not always match that in the Bible. Thus there seem to have been two Darius’s according to the Talmud, even though it may be that the Bible refers only to one.