Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 194


RABBI Eleazar, son of Rabbi José, says that he saw in Rome fragments of King Solomon's throne.--Mid. Esther 1.

As early as the time of creation it was decreed that the following should have precedence, each in his own sphere. Adam was first of man, Cain of murderers, and Abel of the murdered. Noah the first to escape from peril. Abraham held the enviable position of first of the faithful, and Isaac was the first of those ready and willing to sacrifice themselves at the bidding of God. Jacob was the first of plain men, Judah of the tribes, and Joseph of saints; Aaron first of priests, Moses of prophets, and Joshua of conquerors. Samuel was the first anointer, and Saul the first anointed (of kings), David the first singer, and Solomon the first builder; Nebuchadnezzar the first destroyer, Ahasuerus the first seller, and Haman the first buyer.--Mid. Esther 1.

Among the vices of Ahasuerus his four cardinal virtues should not be overlooked. (1) Modesty: he reigned three years without demanding a crown or throne. (2) Patience, as he waited patiently for years until he found a wife worthy of his exalted position. (3) He was not too self-reliant, as he did nothing without consulting first those whom he trusted. (4) He was grateful, since any benefit bestowed on him had to be recorded in a book kept for the purpose.--Mid. Esther 1.

Ten measures of prostitution were given to this world, of which Alexandria (in Egypt) took nine. Out of ten measures of riches Rome took nine; and of an equal number of poverty Lud took nine. Ten measures of witchcraft

p. 195

were also appropriated to the world, and of these Egypt grasped nine for herself. Out of the ten measures of stupidity, of an equal number of health, and of the same number of strength, Ishmael is the possessor of nine of each. Persia can boast of nine measures of vermin (כנים) out of the ten that were sent here below. Media is the happy owner of nine measures of beauty out of the ten that were given to the world. Nine measures each of contempt and ugliness fell to the lot of the East. The Chaldeans had for their share nine out of the ten measures of might, and Judah an equal share of strength. Jerusalem got for her share nine of each of the ten measures of comeliness, flattery, learning, and wisdom.--Mid. Esther 1.

The question is raised, whence had Ahasuerus his riches? And it is answered that Nebuchadnezzar, who was as rich and as mean as he was wicked grudged Avilmerodach so much wealth, and therefore had secret caves made on the shores of Euphrates and diverted its waters on to them to cover them. Cyrus, when he decreed to rebuild the Temple, was rewarded by the Lord, who revealed to him the hidden treasures (Isa. 45. 3), of which he took possession, and which eventually found their way to Ahasuerus.--Mid. Esther 2.

Semiramis was the name of Nebuchadnezzar's wife, and she was one of four women who ruled; she and Vashti amongst gentiles, Jezebel and Athalia amongst Jews.--Mid. Esther 3.

A woman's pleasure consists in a fine house and fine clothes rather than in the best of food.--Mid. Esther 3.

When Israelites assemble for eating, drinking, and making merry, they do not omit to offer praise and thanks to God for the meat and drink. With some of the nations it is different; in an assembly of that sort the conversation is confined to the question who are the more beautiful, the Persian or the Median women.--Mid. Esther 3

Rabbi Simon b. Jochua and his son Rabbi Eleazar hid

p. 196

themselves for years in caves to escape death on account of their religion. They suffered greatly from hunger. Now and then R. Simon ventured to peep out of the cave, and he used to see a hunter shooting at birds with varied success. Sometimes the bird fell, and at times a bird escaped. From this he gained greater resignation to his lot, saying, 'even a bird does not fall to the hunter's bow unless death is decreed for it, and what is decreed we must accept cheerfully.'--Mid. Esther I

The Hebrew language for speech, Latin for war, and the Persian language for lamentations.--Mid. Esther 4.

The misdeeds of faithless servants sometimes bring about the reward of deserving men, as was the case with Joseph and with Mordecai.--Mid. Esther 6.

The book of memorial of Ahasuerus should remind us of the Book of Memorial of the Most High (Mal. 3.).--Mid. Esther 6.

David's blessing, 'Blessed are they that keep judgment and he that doeth righteousness all the time' (Ps. 106. 3) is applied to him who adopts an orphan.--Mid. Esther 6.

The fact that the wicked are free from sorrow and wax fat in this world by no means implies their ultimate good. The Prosperity of Haman only made him feel his fall all the more keenly. Said the young ass to his elder: 'How wrong it is on the part of our master to feed that pig of his which does no work, and fatten it up with such care; whilst for us, who work for him, he has but a small measure with which he gauges our food.' 'Do not judge things by appearance,' answered the older and more experienced animal: 'that very fattening of the pig will cause its destruction. When he is fit and fattened up his master will kill him.'--Mid. Esther 7.

The narrative of the sixth chapter of the book of Esther seems to corroborate the tradition that the sleep of Ahasuerus was broken by a dream or vision that Haman was stripping him of his crown and royal attire previous

p. 197

to taking his life; and when Haman suggested putting the crown on the man whom the king delighted to honour, he saw in this that his dream was about to be fulfilled.--Mid. Esther 10.

The following is the origin and history of the letters and presents that Merodach-baladan sent to Hezekiah (Isa. 39.). This heathen, a sun worshipper, was accustomed to sleep regularly up to a certain hour of the day. Once an eclipse of the sun caused darkness at the hour when he should have risen, and he overslept himself, and was incensed with his courtiers for allowing him to do so. When they pleaded the sun's eclipse and the consequent darkness he seemed amazed at their statement. 'What God is greater than my god, the sun,' he asked, 'that could control his movements?' 'The God of Hezekiah,' they replied, 'is greater than your god.' He was struck by their reply, and proceeded to write to Hezekiah a letter to accompany the presents which he sent him. The letter began: 'Peace to Hezekiah, Peace to the God of Hezekiah, and Peace to Jerusalem.' He handed the epistle with the presents to the messengers, but they had only gone a short distance when he bethought himself. 'All the honour,' he said to himself, 'that I now bestow on Hezekiah is only because of that great God of his, and yet I indited the letter to him, with peace to him first, and then peace to his God.' So distressed was he at this serious error that he himself ran after the messengers, brought them back, tore up the original letter, and framed another one which he headed, 'Peace to the Great God of Hezekiah, Peace to Hezekiah, and Peace to Jerusalem.' The Eternal decreed as a reward for him that three of his descendants--Nebuchadnezzar, Avilmerodach, and Belshazzar--should reign over extensive kingdoms.--Mid. Esther 10.

Next: Midrash Psalms