Learning From a Foolish Dictator How to Celebrate Life



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    Learning From a Foolish Dictator How to Celebrate Life

    Read an essay about Purim written by Rabbi YY Jacobson, a world renowned lecturer on Nigleh and Chassidus and the dean of www.TheYeshiva.Net • Full Story

    Read an essay about Purim written by Rabbi YY Jacobson, a world renowned lecturer on Nigleh and Chassidus and the dean of www.TheYeshiva.Net.

    The Party

    In the opening of the story of the book of Esther, the Persian Emperor, King Achashverosh, throws a massive feast to celebrate his consolidation of power on the Persian throne. It is a lavish, completely over-the-top party, a drunken, decadent bacchanal that lasts for a full 180 days.

    And then, when the 180 days are over, he throws yet another feast, lasting seven days. The celebrations continue for 187 days, non-stop!

    It seems strange. Although the only aspect of the party of any obvious relevance to the plot of the Purim story is that the King has his wife killed for not entertaining his drunken guests, the Megillah provides us with verse after verse of vivid description of the party itself.

    We learn of the setting of the party, the guests, the vessels and utensils used, and the materials and fabrics used to dress up the banquet:

    There were hangings of white, fine cotton, and turquoise wool, held with cords of fine linen and purple wool, upon silver rods and marble pillars; the couches of gold and silver were on a pavement of variegated marble.

    And they gave them to drink in golden vessels, and the vessels differed from one another, and royal wine was plentiful according to the bounty of the king.[1]

    Why does the book of Esther feel the need to familiarize us with all the opulence of Achashverosh’s banquet? Do I really have to know how many fabrics were used at the feast and what was their type? Do I really have to know the types of goblets used? How does that help me understand the story?

    Rarely do the Torah and the Tanach give vivid descriptions of events unless it is important to grasp the story. The Torah is not a classic history novel; it is, as its name indicates, a book of lessons and teachings. It wants us to learn something. Why on earth would the king’s notorious decadence be relevant to us?

    In a Purim address, on Purim 1973, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested a beautiful explanation.

    All In

    The message of the Megillah is a simple one, though in a way surprising. When King Achashverosh throws a party, he knows he must go all in. Not for him was a mere hundred-day feast, or goblets from silver instead of gold. He makes a serious party and throws everything he has at his disposal at the party.

    This king will not settle for mediocrity or even normal standards of a feast. He will not just get away with doing a fine job. If he can do it over the top, he will have it just that way! If he can drink for 187 days, so be it. If he can give his people a memory of a lifetime, this is what he will do. No less.

    Now, this king was a fool. He wasted his money and creativity on a foolish endeavor. Achashverosh’s motives in throwing his bash were far from holy. But the Torah is telling us the story, the Rebbe suggested, to teach us an invaluable lesson.

    Even this paranoid, foolish king understood that in life you got to give it all you got! You ought not to live a life of “quiet desperation.” Do not settle for smallness. You got to suck the marrow out of life. Carpe Diem! Life calls on us to live it to the fullest.

    If even the Persian dictator understood this, how much more do we—G-d’s people—need to understand this! Do not settle for smallness. Give life all you got. Utilize every potential, every resource, every opportunity, every faculty, and every talent. Do not squander a moment, and do not squander any aspect of your soul.

    Show up to life and to love with every fiber of your being. Hold nothing back. Dance to the end of love. Celebrate to the heavens. Flex all your spiritual, physical, and emotional muscles—let your infinite light radiate and inspire every person you encounter.

    Don’t be stingy with your love and passion. Be who G-d meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

    If someone is blessed with the ability to write, continued the Rebbe, then he or she must find a way to use that to change the world for the better. If you can raise 18 million dollars a year for Jewish education, do not be content with 17 million. Do not let fear or too much logic stifle you. Aim for the top. Do not make your target close and easy just to avoid fear and shame.

    The days of an impersonal, restrictive Judaism must remain behind us. The Torah wants our youths, and each of us, to develop wings—wings that will propel them upward to reach their maximum potentials and change the world!

    ____________________

    [1] Megilas Esther 1:6, 7.

    ____________________

    Class Summary:
    In the opening of the story of the book of Esther, the Persian Emperor, King Achashverosh, throws a grand party to celebrate his consolidation of power on the Persian throne. It is a lavish, completely over-the-top party, a drunken, decadent bacchanal that lasts for a full 187 days.

    But although the only aspect of the party of any obvious relevance to the plot of the Purim story is that the King has his wife killed for not entertaining his drunken guests, the Megillah provides us with verse after verse of vivid description of the party itself.

    Rarely does the Torah and the Tanach give vivid descriptions of events unless it is important to understand the story. The Torah is not a classic history novel; it is, as its name indicates, a book of lessons and teachings. It wants us to learn something. Why on earth would the king’s notorious decadence be important, or relevant to us?

    In a Purim address, on Purim 1973, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested an answer to this question that was, at the time, radically novel. It reframes our entire perspective about the type of person Judaism tried to develop.

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