Part II - Vashti
by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
"It was in the days of Achashverosh..."
At the same time that Achashverosh was throwing his party, his wife, Queen
Vashti, was hosting a party for the women. Vashti's background differed from
Achashverosh's in one very important aspect: she was from royalty, from the
family of King Nevuchadnezzar of Bavel. Achashverosh's only legitimate claim
to the throne stemmed from his wife, and Achashverosh and Vashti both knew
that well. At the time of the party, Vashti saw that her husband was trying
to boost his image and that he was actually being shown respect by the
people. Vashti also saw that her husband's ego was growing and he was
beginning to feel that he was actually deserving of all the honor being
showered upon him. Vashti couldn't tolerate her husband's swelling ego and
wanted to remind him who the real royal was in this royal couple. Normally, a
queen would not want to belittle her husband at the time he was in the height
of his glory. Angering the king at such a time would mean certain death.
However, G-d placed these thoughts into Vashti's head, and she then acted
Vashti did not throw this party in just any banquet hall in the palace. To
show her disdain for Achashverosh (who had now been the party host and
recipient of honor for 187 days) Vashti threw her party in the king's private
hall, a place where no ordinary man had permission to enter. This, Vashti
felt, was a demonstration of her superiority over Achashverosh. It happened
to be that the room from where Achashverosh was hosting his party was
adjacent to this room where Vashti's party was being held. When the men at
Achashverosh's party heard the voice of the women next door, they started
arguing which nation produced the most beautiful women. Some argued that
Persians were the most beautiful. Others argued that those from the nation of
Maddai were the most beautiful. Achashverosh, out of his strong desire to
show that he was the greatest, told the crowd that his wife Vashti, who was
from Kasdim, was the most beautiful. The crowd told Achashverosh to prove it:
they wanted to see Vashti wearing only her royal crown. Normally,
Achashverosh would never have honored such a request. However, now he was at
the height of his glory, and he wanted to keep things that way. People were
supposed to get anything they wanted at the party, so that they would believe
that Achashverosh was truly a generous and giving king. If he refused, the
people at the party would think that he was lying , and he would then lose
the respect of all these people who he had worked so hard to impress. He
therefore sent the order to Vashti that she should appear in front of him
wearing only her royal crown.
Vashti was not one known for her high moral standards. Under normal
circumstances, she would have honored this request. However, now that she was
set on putting Achashverosh in his place, she refused. She sent a message back
to Achashverosh that not only would she not come, but she reminded him that he
was a mere stable keeper, and that if he was truly of royal blood, he would
have been able to "hold his liquor" and he would not have gotten drunk so
quickly and made such a stupid request. This response infuriated Achashverosh.
His guests were laughing at him. Vashti could not be allowed to do this
without receiving punishment. But what should he do?
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.
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