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The Royal Feast

The Royal Feast

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Being a usurper, King Achashverosh was constantly seeking new ways to strengthen his kingdom and to become popular with his subjects and with the powerful Persian statesmen who surrounded his court.

One of the important moves in this direction was to transfer his capital from Babylon to Shushan in Persia.

But even more important was his royal feast, which lasted one hundred and eighty days, nearly half a year. To this feast he invited representatives from all the nations of his vast empire. Then at the end of the half-year, he made a special seven-day feast for the entire populace of Shushan. At this feast, designed especially to win the favor of the masses, common men were given seats of honor, and their slightest request was immediately granted.

There was an old Persian custom (of great benefit to the brewers and vintners) of providing at every important repast a huge goblet of wine, nearly five-eighths of a bucket, which every guest was required to drink to the bottom. But King Achashverosh, who wanted to satisfy everyone, disregarded this custom, because he was unwilling to impose upon any of his guests, or force them to do anything against their will.

G‑d, seeing this, said, "You conceited fool! How can you seek to satisfy everyone? When two ships are sailing in opposite directions, one needing a south wind, and the other needing a north wind, can a human being make one wind speed both of them on their way? Tomorrow two men will come to you, Mordechai and Haman, and you will not be able to please both of them. You will need to exalt the one and debase the other. Only G‑d alone can satisfy everyone."

King Achashverosh had become somewhat disturbed at having stopped the reconstruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

He became especially worried when the seventy years of exile, that had been predicted by the Jewish prophets approached their end. He was afraid that the restoration of the Jewish commonwealth and the rebuilding of their Temple in Jerusalem might shake the foundations of his world empire. So he anxiously waited for the end of those seventy years.

According to Achashverosh's reckoning, the seventy years of the Jews' exile were to end in the third year of his reign. When that time came and nothing happened, he became very jubilant, believing that now the Jews would remain his subjects, without ever regaining power and independence.

This is one more reason why he made such a pompous feast. He felt secure and powerful, so much so that he did not hesitate to adorn his tables with the precious and sacred vessels of the Holy Temple, which had been captured by the wicked Nebuchadnezzar.

Like all other nations, the Jews also were invited to attend the King's feast. This was Haman's plan; he saw an opportunity of luring the Jews into eating non kosher food and then using G‑d's momentary anger at His people for the persecution and destruction of the Jews which he had been planning.

Mordechai, the great Jewish leader at that time, was aware of this sly scheme. He exhorted the Jews to avoid the palace and thus avert G‑d's anger. The vast majority of the Jews followed his advice, but many Jews did not heed his words of caution. They went to the feast at the palace. To their consternation they discovered the holy vessels of the Temple on the King's tables, and they drew back. But the King quickly commanded his servants to set up tables especially for the Jews. The Jewish guests swallowed their pride and remained for the feast, eating and drinking the non kosher food and wine, and making merry like the other guests.

And G‑d, whose anger was aroused by His people's disobedience, decreed in Heaven that His people should suffer the full weight of the wicked Haman's persecution, until they returned to G‑d wholeheartedly and would then be saved.

Photo courtesy of Chabad of Northern Virginia.
The Complete Story of Purim, published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn NY.
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