Why Ahashverosh’s big gala dinner was so bad for the Jews
In Babylon, Am Yisrael stumbled twice: Firstly, they had relationship with non-Jewish women, and secondly, they ate at the festive meal of that evil-doer (King Ahashverosh.)
What does is really mean, that they ate at this evil-doer’s big gala dinner? They didn’t eat forbidden foods, they didn’t drink wine that was nesech [forbidden for Jews to drink]. Everything there was under the supervision of Badatz Shushan, under the auspices of Mordechai.
Ahashverosh was an enlightened monarch who understood the religious requirements of Am Yisrael, and who understood that the Jews wanted to eat kosher food:
“We understand every person’s culture, and we respect it!”
Seven days of feasting
The gala dinner lasted for seven days. For the first two days, they only had male waiters serving the men’s section, but after two days they were tired, already, there was some sort of manpower shortage. Suddenly, a few female waitresses showed up…
The midrash tells us that the whole dinner was arranged as per the advice of Haman and Ahashverosh, who wanted to try to trip Am Yisrael up from the side of what was permitted, and not what was forbidden.
After the Jews stumbled into having relations with non-Jewish women and in eating at this evil-doer’s gala dinner, it was already impossible for them to rectify the situation they found themselves in.
The situation in Shushan became impossible to rectify
When a person follows after their evil inclination, they lose their spiritual strength and they become very weak, and then it’s already practically impossible for them to rectify the matter, spiritually.
So then, what can we do? The Arizal teaches us that at this juncture, the Tzaddikim need to take suffering and hardships upon themselves, and that their mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) is what can rescue Am Yisrael. This was the job that was given to Mordechai and Esther.
They had to come and rectify what Am Yisrael was no longer capable of fixing.
Esther fixed ‘fallen love’
Esther was giving the job of fixing the ‘fallen love’. Mordechai was a prophet, and a person who possessed ruach hakodesh (a spirit of Divine revelation), and he understood the clarification that Esther had to undertake. He told her: “You have to be with Achashverosh, and not accept any pleasure or enjoyment whatsoever from any of your experiences in the palace.”
But there are things that are very hard for a person to not take pleasure from. For example, if you show a woman a nice piece of jewellery, it’s very hard for her to not admire it and enjoy it’s beauty. So Mordechai told Esther: “I’m advising you to spend your whole time praying, and speaking to God. If you enjoy something, immediately go and protest about your enjoyment to Hashem, and that way you’ll nullify it straight away.”
Hashem, don’t hide Your face from us!
Esther’s name figures prominently in the verse that applies to our generation, the generation where Hashem has ‘hastir’ – hidden – His face from us.
In the six years that Esther was in the King’s palace, she went through everything that our generation is going through. Achashverosh tried to tempt her with everything, and to get her to ‘enjoy’ it all. But Mordechai told her: “Don’t stop talking to G-d! Immediately go and protest to Hashem, and then you’ll nullify these dark-side pleasures.”
By talking to Hashem, a person can completely nullify these spiritual blemishes, and remove all the barriers the yetzer hara has erected between him and coming back closer to G-d.
And this is one of the reasons the light of Purim is so strong, and can effect so many spiritual turnarounds, reversals and changes.
Based on the teachings of Rav Ofer Erez in the Ohr HaDaat newsletter, #117.
PURIM SAMEACH FROM THE RAV OFER EREZ ENGLISH-LANGUAGE WEBSITE!