Sunday, March 12, 2006

Half the Kingdom!!??

Megillat Esther

The Megilla tells us in 5:3 that esther approached the King (to invite him to the first of 2 meals with Haman, at which she woul devetually reveal her requests). Ahashverosh asked what she wanted and he said, "Until half the kingdon you can ask and it will be given to you".

Rashi tells us (in hist first explanation), that Ahashverosh was saying you can ask anything aside from permission for rebuilding the Bet haMikdash. The Bet HaMikdash sat in the middle of his kingdom and he said until the item which is in the middle of my kingdom, you can ask and it will be granted.

My question is: Why did he assume she was going to ask for permission to rebuild the Bet HaMikdash? He did not know she was Jewish!!
We know when Esther originally went to the King to be selected as Queen, she hid her background from him. She never told him until now, and only at the second meal which would later take place does she actually reveal her Jewishness!! So how did Ahashverosh assume she would ask for the rebuilding of the Temple??

I, up tunil this point, have not thought of nor found an answer to this question.
If you have an answer, please post it in the comments, or email it to me at

After speaking to a couple of Rabbonim over the past couple of days, I have come to an answer. Rabbi's Malinowitz and Leff shlit"a have both given me similar answers (and Tal benschar in the comments section also quoted the same idea from a shiur he heard). I will elaborate on their answers.

The answer is that the bet hamikdash was not really a jewish issue. True the Bet Hamikdahs was most dear to the jews, but really all the nations benefitted from the Bte hamikdahs and it was really an "international issue", so to speak. It seems it was common for all sorts of people to request the permission for continuing to build the Bet Hamikdash. In Rav malinowitz's words, " it is like if Bush would give someone an audience and the guy would ask for a request. Bush might likely say, sure, whatever you want, just do not ask me to take the troops out of iraq". Iraq is Bush's issue and brings it up at every occassion. The Bet Hamikdash was Achashverosh's issue.
In Rav leff's words, the stopping of construction of the Bet Hamikdash is what defined Achashverosh's reign. That was the whole point of the party - to celebrate his control over it and that is why he used the vessels of the Bet hamikdash at the party. To show that he had the control to stop it. It was his issue and whenever anybody spoke to him, he likely said anything but the Bet Hamikdash.


Tal Benschar said...

Some non-Jews apparently also supported the rebuilding of the Beis ha Mikdash -- Koresh, whom Ahashverosh replaced, comes to mind. (Acc. to a tape my son was listening to this morning, which I assume was based on a Midrash, Koresh had permitted work on rebuilding the BHMK to commence, but then Ahashverosh ordered it stopped). So it was an issue in A's court, even if Esther was not known to be Jewish.

Rafi G said...

Thank you. That is more or less the answer I got from 2 Rabbis I asked over Purim. I will update the original post with the answer.

shaya g said...

R' Gedaliah Schwartz gave me the same answer when I asked him your Question. The rebuilding was a very political issue and it was on his mind regularly.

Rafi G said...