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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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This coming week is Purim. We will look at Midrash on the Megillah and see what we can learn from it.

Esther 1:2


The King Achashveirosh: Rav Yochanan said: Whenever it says the 'King Achashveirosh' in this Megillah it refers to the King Achashveirosh , and every place it says just 'king' it means both Holy and secular.

This Midrash highlights a fundamental point of the Megillah.

What Is the Midrash Saying?

The word "king" in the Megillah, when it doesn't say explicitly "King Achashveirosh" refers to G-d, who is the King of the universe. As we mentioned in our Introduction, G-d's name in not mentioned even once in the Megillah. This is unique for there is no other book in the Bible where G-d's name does not appear. On the other hand, says this Midrash, G-d is referred to many times in the Megillah, albeit obliquely, that is whenever the word 'king" is mentioned it actually alludes to G-d. This is quite an apt technique for mentioning G-d. For in the story of Purim G-d's presence is hidden from the naked eye. So too his name is hidden and referred to only in disguised form.

A Closer Look at the Midrash

The exact words of the Midrash are "every place where it says 'king' it means both Holy and secular."

What would you ask about these words?

Your Question:

Questioning the Midrash

A Question: We understand what the Midrash means when it says "holy," this refers to G-d. But what does it mean when it says "secular" ? Does this refer to Achashveirosh, the secular king? But that cannot be. For if it means G-d, then it cannot also mean Achashveirosh.

How do you understand this?

Your Answer:

Understanding the Midrash

An Answer: The Midrash is making a profound point. While claiming that G-d is hidden and only alluded to in the Megillah story, yet His influence is evident in the events and in the shaping of the development of this story. By telling us the that the word "king" is both Holy and secular we are being enlightened that G-d works behind the scenes by working through the secular, earthly king, Achashveirosh. Thus many, if not all, of Achashveirosh's actions, his decisions and revisions, were made, unbeknownst to him, as he was acting as an agent of a Higher Power. In this way, the secular king's actions fulfilled the Holy King's plans. We have two kings, but one authority.

A Scribal Confirmation

Many hand written Megillas are written such that every column in the Megillah scroll begins with word המלך "the king" This a graphic scribal expression of the concept that the King - G-d - is at the head of events, leading developments that transpire in an apparently mundane way.

This is an additional confirmation that the natural and the supernatural are combined, and intertwined in an inextricable mixture whose sum product is history, as we know it.

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Somayach
Avigdor Bonchek "What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. All 5 volumes on What's Bothering Rashi? are available in Jewish book stores.

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