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One Hundred and Twenty-Seven, All Equal for Good
“Now it came to pass in the days of Achashverosh; he was the Achashverosh who reigned from Hodu to Cush, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces.”
It is not clear why it is important to know that Achashverosh reigned over 127 countries. The Megillah could have simply stated that he ruled over many countries.
The Midrash relates that Rabbi Akiva was once teaching Torah and (some of) the congregation fell asleep. To wake them up, Rabbi Akiva taught the following lesson (since people usually wake up when an easy and interesting lesson is taught): “Why did Esther merit to rule over 127 countries? Esther, being a descendant of Sarah who lived for 127 years, [it was decided that] Esther come and rule over 127 countries.”
Clearly not everything that has the same number is conceptually related. What then is the connection between the 127 years that Sara lived and the 127 countries over which Esther ruled?
Rashi explains that we learn from how the Torah enumerates the years of Sarah’s lifethat “they were equal in goodness.” Although Sarah, like everyone else, underwent changes in her life both physically and spiritually, nevertheless, in terms of “goodness” (i.e., devotion to G-d), all of her years were equal.
Herein lies the similarity to the countries under Esther’s reign. When Haman’s decree was issued, it was only against the Jewish people. If, G-d forbid, a Jew would have converted to a pagan faith, he would have been exempted from the decree. Despite this, in every single country affected by this decree, not one Jew converted or even considered doing so.
This unanimity was unusual. Each country has its unique climate, customs, language and so on. In fact, even the Torah recognizes that there are certain laws of the country that one must follow. In addition, the Midrash says that “when in a city one should follow the customs of that city.” Despite these differences, all of the Jews in all of these countries were unanimous in their “goodness,” i.e., in their absolute devotion to G-d even to the point of risking their lives for G-d. (They drew their strength for this devotion from their matriarch Sarah.)
Just as their devotion was unanimous, so too was their subsequent joy. I.e., when the decree was overturned, the joy of this news was felt equally all over and celebrated in all of these 127 countries. May the Jews in all of the countries in the world where they presently find themselves experience a similar joy with the immediate arrival of Moshiach!
Say a Devar Torah and Save the World
“On the seventh day, when the king’s heart was merry with wine…”
Why is it important to know that the incident that led to Vashti’s death took place on the seventh day of the (second) banquet?
The Talmud says that the seventh day of the banquet was also the seventh day of the week – the holy Shabbat. It was appropriate that Vashti be put to death on Shabbat, for she used to force Jewish women to work for her on their holy Shabbat without any clothes on. (Her punishment, in addition to being killed, was that she was ordered to without clothes in front of Achashverosh and his guests. This was measure for measure in terms of her sin.)
In addition the Talmud asks, why does it say that “on the seventh day” the king’s heart was merry with wine? After all, the feast had been going on for 186 days before this day (180 for the officers of the entire land and six for those from the capital city of Shushan). Presumably, the king drank wine and felt merry on the other days as well. The Talmud explains that this verse comes to show the contrast between the behavior of Jewish people when they drink (on Shabbat, their seventh day,) and the behavior of the pagans when they drink. When the Jews eat and drink (on Shabbat), they begin to speak words of Torah. But when the pagans eat and drink, they begin to speak immodestly as they did at this feast where each group began comparing the beauty of their women. (It was this vulgar conversation that led Achashverosh to demand that Vashti appear in front of them, naked except for her crown, as the Talmud explains.)
This explanation, however, needs further clarification. What is the connection between what the Jews do on Shabbat (the seventh day) and King Achashverosh getting drunk on the last day of his party?
The Midrash explains that when the word “hamelech – the king” is used in the Megillah, it refers (metaphorically) to the King of Kings. Thus, when it says, “the king’s (hamelech) heart was glad with wine,” it means that G-d was (so to speak) glad about the wine (drinking) of the Jewish people and the way they speak afterwards.
Since the simple reading of the verse is referring to the actual king Achashverosh getting drunk, we must find a way to bring together the above explanation (that G-d was happy with the Jewish people) with the simple interpretation (that Achashverosh got drunk).
The idea is that Achashverosh wanted all of his guests to be happy. For this reason, the Talmud says that he arranged the meal to be according to the will of both Mordechai and Haman (lehavdil). This would allow both the Jews and the gentiles (lehavdil) to enjoy his party. So, for the first six days of the feast Haman’s guests (the non-Jews) were certainly happy with the party. But Achashverosh was not happy until Mordechai’s guests (the Jews) were joyful as well. This happened on Shabbat when they were provided with aged wine as is appropriate for Shabbat, after which they began speaking words of Torah as is appropriate for a Shabbat table. At the same time the pagan guests began to talk about immodest matters.
When G-d saw the contrast between the Jewish people and the pagans, He was “gladdened” by the Jewish people’s behavior. As a result of this, He put into motion a plan that would save them in the future by arranging for Achashverosh to get drunk, demand that Vashti appear before him and, when she refused to do so, to kill her. This enabled Esther to become the next queen and, several years later, to save all of the Jewish people.
Thus it was the gladdening of the “heart” of G-d that led to the gladdening of the heart (drunkenness) of Achashverosh.
It thus emerges that, it was the Devar Torah that the Jewish people said at their Shabbat tables, that moved G-d to save the entire Jewish people.
The lesson that we must learn is that, whenever Jewish people gather for a meal (to eat and drink), they must speak words of Torah and praises of G-d. It is not enough that the food is kosher and that people say the appropriate blessings before and after eating, there must be talk about Torah matters. This is even true of a meal that is a mitzvah as, for example, a dinner to raise money for tzedakah. There should be a speaker who speaks about Torah not only as an introduction to making an appeal (or any other matter) but as an end in itself.
In this merit, may G-d prepare a solution for our problems even before we have them in such a manner that we don’t even experince the problem. And ensure that “the fear of the Jews be upon their enemies,” that “many of the peoples of the land became Jews,” and, most importantly, that “the Jews have light and joy, and gladness and honor.”
May this happen speedily in our days!
 Sicha of Purim, 5730 (Ot 11 in Sichot Kodesh, pg. 637)
 Esther 1:1
 Bereishit Rabbah 58:3
 The Midrash uses the word “tzibur” which means congregation. As such, it is possible that those attending the lecture were members of the general public, not specifically his students.
 Etz Yosef
 The Midrash HaGadol (cited in Torah Shleimah, beginning of parshat Chayei Sara, ot 8) points out that, of all the righteous women mentioned in the Tanach, Sarah is the only one whose lifespan is given.
 Gen. 23:2
 I.e., she spent time in spiritually challenging environments – the house of her parents, and that of Pharaoh and Avimelech
 See Torah Ohr (of the Alter Rebbe), 97a, 99b and 120d
 See Nedarim 28a, Bava Kamma 113a, Bava Batra 54a, and Gittin 10b that “the law of the land is the law.” See Encyclopedia Talmudit entry Dina Demalchuta regarding the scope of this law.
 Shemot Rabbah 47:5. The Midrash mentions this to explain why Moshe didn’t eat while in heaven, whereas, while on earth, the angels did eat.
 See Pri Tzadik, end of Parshat Chayei Sarah as to why Rabbi Akiva used this teaching to awaken the sleeping congregation.
The Chidushei HaRim (cited in Penie Menachem on Chayei Sarah 5755, pg. 121 and in the Insights on the Artscroll Mesorah Midrash Rabbah) explains that Rabbi Akiva was trying to impress upon the congregation as to the preciousness of time. Since Esther merited to rule over 127 countries in the merit of Sarah’s 127 years, this means that every one of Sarah’s years (and every day and hour of those years) was significant. Had Sarah not (G-d forbid) served G-d adequately during those years, Esther would not have merited to the same position. This is a message that one should not “sleep away” their time by being overly involved in material affairs. Rather one should use every minute they have, to study Torah and serve G-d.
The Minchat Aharon (by Rabbi Ahron Yehudah Arak, printed in New York 5738) explains (on pg. 335) the significance of the congregation’s sleep as follows. The generation of Rabbi Akiva had recently experienced the destruction of the second Bait HaMikdash and were going through terrible Roman decrees at the time of Bar Kochba’s rebellion. As a result of this they were falling into a state of depression. (Their falling asleep symbolized that they felt their plight was hopeless.)
Rabbi Akiva reminded them that, in the time of Mordechai and Esther too, the plight of the Jews seemed hopeless. Nevertheless, Mordechai and Esther didn’t despair. Rather they trusted in G-d and tried, with all of their might, to inspire the Jewish people to return to G-d and to the study of Torah. They thus dispelled the depression of the Jews and merited their redemption. The entire world saw how God saved His people.
Now too, Rabbi Akiva was intimating, don’t despair. Rather, strengthen your faith in the Almighty, especially by studying Torah which dispels darkness, and you will merit to freedom and redemption.
 Sicha of Purim 5730, ot 4 (page 603 and on)
 Esther 1:10
 Megillah 12b
 During the week, when people are busy working, they don’t have time to eat and drink (leisurely) and speak words of Torah.
 Midrash Aba Guryon (an early Midrash on the Megillah) on Esther 1:10:, ‘Whenever it says ‘King Achashverosh’ in the Megillah it is referring to Achashverosh. Whenever it says ‘King’ without explaining which king, it is referring to the King of Kings.
 Megillah 12a
 See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 242:2
 They did this despite the fact that they had, for six days “enjoyed the feast of the wicked Achashveros.” A sin for which, some say, they deserved the writ of execution that Haman later signed. See Megillah 12a. Despite this, on Shabbat, they behaved in a spiritually sublime manner and thus merited to have the seeds of redemption sowed.
 Esther 8:17
 Ibid, 16
Wishing you a Happy Purim!