Saturday, February 27, 2010

Haman as Matchmaker? Just Call Him Yenta?

Purim Sameach, Joyful Purim, One and All!

Today, Shabbat, pre-darkness, was really The Fast of Esther, but we don't fast on Shabbat, except Yom Kippur which overrides everything.  Now it's Purim.  Back to Shabbat...

At this Shabbat's Shiur Nashim, Women's Torah Class, the most long-standing, ongoing Torah Classes in Shiloh, having passed twenty-eight years already, I kept wishing that I could take notes.  It's forbidden to write on Shabbat, so you'll have to trust my memory.

King Achashverosh didn't inherit the crown of Persia.  He married into it.  It was Queen Vashti who was of royal blood, the daughter of the previous king.  That's a good reason why she refused his demand that she appear for his friends.  She was not only the queen; she was  a king's daughter and expected to be treated just right.

Now, I've always wondered why Achashverosh had given so much authority to Haman.  It's one thing to make him a "department head" or something similar, but to give him the royal ring and stamp, kingly authority...  Isn't that too much?  What did Haman have over Achashverosh?  Did Achashverosh owe Haman for something?

The palace intrigues intrigue me, like all politics.

Suddenly it hit me.  Maybe it was Haman who arranged the marriage of Princess or was she already Queen Vashti with Achashverosh.  The rabbi who gave the class said that it could well be.

So, nu, should we call Haman... Yenta? 

7 comments:

Sammy Finkelman said...

BM> I kept wishing that I could take notes. It's forbidden to write on Shabbat, so you'll have to trust my memory.

Maybe they should give lectures other times?

BM> King Achashverosh didn't inherit the crown of Persia. He married into it.

That really shouldn't be the meaning of the Medrash. Many usurpers tried to make things a little bit more legitmate by marying into the royal family. That's what Herod did. But don't think there eve was a case of a queen who got displaced by a king.

The idea that Achashverosh was not really the legitmate king traces back probbly to the second and third versee of the Megillah, where it says "K'sheves Hamelech Acashveosh al Kesay Malchuso" he made a big feast - when his kingdom was firmly established he made a big feast - and this was the thrd year of his reign! So he couldn't have simply inherted the kingdom.

But this does not mean he was not the son of the prevous king. He was - he was just not the oldest son - and this more or less the story, as gotten maybe third hand from the Greeks though books that didn't completely survive:

Hs father, Xerxes, was assassinated in the year 465 BCE in a plot led by 1) the Prime Minister or whatever you want to call him, who 2) the chief eunuch Aspamitres, and 3) Megabyzus, who was marred to a daughter of the king.

Megabyzus may have joined in because shotly before his wife had been accused of adultery. She had denied it to the king, and the king had rebuked her but not gone further. Perhaps he was afrad she might be killed - or he was lied to.

After killing Xerxes, they persuaded Artaxexes, who was then 18, that hs older brother Darius, had been behind the plot, and Artaxerxes consented to having Darius killed at his house, in spite of Darius' vehement denials, and they made Arataxerxes,the second son, the king.

But not too long afterwad, there was an attempt to kill Artaxerxes which he narrowly escaped,we don;t know exactly how maybe. It looks like Artabanus was trying to make himself king.

At that point Megabyzus revealed the whole previous plot to Artaxerxes (and he was forgiven or explained himself and there maybe something here we don't know) and Artabanus was put to death, as was Aspamitres the eunuch, except that he was put to death in a cruel way.

After that, the three sons off Artabanus or others tried to seize power and there was a big fight, in the course of which the three sons of Artabanus were killed and Megabyzus was gravely wounded, but his life was saved by the care of a Greek physician.

So that's why it was only in the third year that the king was established on his throne.

Now why did Achashverosh give Haman so much authority? Well, look he also gave it to Mordechai later. It looks like he wasn't too much into governing, but wanted to live well, and wanted the kingdom to protect himself from assassinaton. The experience wth Arrtabanus, if this is the sme king, may not have been enough to persuade hm not to hve such an office. Now the question s who reommended him. The Mdrash thnk has it that Haman was rch and he BRIBED the king to give hm ths power. The Megillah doesn't actually say anything about ths. Perhaps the king's mother (who seems to have had a little bit ondependent power of her own - she was responsble fo killing theh Egyptians who had surrendeered to Megabyus after a revolt and been pomoised their lives) - peharps she recommended him.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Artabanus (or Artapanus) is the name of the "Prime Minster" who aranged to kill the king's fathe.

I also meant to say that I don't think there was ever a king who succeeded aqueen who had royal power. The closest smaybe Wlliam III of England (William of Orange)but they were joint rulers.

Sammy Finkelman said...

It's the history of Aartabanus tht makes Acheshverosh so ready to believe that Haman is really planning a coup, which he wasn't.

And that he's fooling him greatly, because a trick had been played on hm before.

You get the feeling that a lot of people in the capital, wanted to keep Achashverosh king, in spite of any foolishness, just to keep themselves safe. And before, people had helped Esther even though she wasn't asking fo anything.

Batya said...

thanks, Sammy, for all the extra points. re: other shiurim. I'm pretty tied down now with my father here. Otherwise I'd take more shiurim.

Sammy Finkelman said...

About shiirum - it may not be so difficult to remember the main points. I think when the Lubavicher rebbe used to speak, if it was on shabbos or yom tov, someone later would write down the main points.

I have to make some corrections to what I wrote above. I looked at book Google scanned called The ancient history of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians and Grecians by Charles Rollin ... tyranslated from the French. It was published in 1869 in Philadelphia, a copy of the London edition - I think at that time British copyright didn't automatically extend to the United States. Google bookmarked each page and is still warning people about copyright. Something i saw in the book - date since creation - made me check further and the book was actually written during the 1730s when Rollin was not allowed to teach and it became kind of a textbook. It's mostly taken from what several books said and he also doesn't want to argue. People disagreed even about basic facts.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Anyway, here are the corrections.

What is not needed to be corrected is that there was a power struggle at the beginning and it did takle a while till Aratxerxes was established on his thone.

1. He was the third son not the second son as a source I read said. The second son was away governing a province (Bactria or Bactriana, not to be confused with Bacteria in Charlie Chaplin's 1937 movie "The great Dictator. It's all the way east by the Hindu Kush, now part of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and, a bit of Turkmenistan)

So, being far away, he couldn't have been used by Artabanus in his plot. I had the idea Aratxerxes was the third son but went with what I read now. The thing is there was another power struggle for the succession later after Darius II that's been written about where Greeks were involved. I had thought that maybe the third son was the one who became the eventual long ruling king in that case. There was also one after Arataxerxes I. That's one of the possible problems with a monarchy.

Even monarchies where it is clear what child succeeds, can have a problem when someone doesn't leave children or there's a disqualification. The Arab monarchies today don't have the oldest son automatically succeed and make sure there is always a Crown prince. King Hussein switched the crown prince at the last minute and that was probably very good for Israel..

2. The power struggle was not just with Artabanus's sons and supporters but there was also a separate power struggle with the second son, after the one with Artabanus' followers.

The second son didn't recognize Aratxerxes' rulership He basically stayed where he was and declared himself the ruler.

Artaxerxes sent an army against him, but it lost and then he sent a second army and it won. After that he replaced any of the satraps who had sided with either Aratabanus or his older brother. so it did take awhile to get established.

Artabanus by the way had seven sons, not three. I guess three is the number who were killed in the fighting.

This rollin book has something that doesn't fit. Now the reason plotted to kill killed Xerxes he says is that Xerxes in a drunken fit asked him to kill Darius, teh oldest son. He didn't do it thinking he would forget about it, but then Xerxes started asking questions as to why he hadn't gotten around to it yet. But this does not make sense. He kills Xerxes - because he doesn't want to kill Darius presumably or is afraid the king will regret it - and then after he ALSO kills Darius, telling Aratxerxes that Darius plotted to kill Xerxes? No, this must be a story Artabanus made up in his own defense becaus that way, killing Darius would be sort of legal since he following a king's order.

3> Rollin has a different name for the eunuch who was also part of the plot to kill Xerxes and he explain how he was killed. He was put into a trough and his biody sealed and exits kleft only for teh arms and legs and head and fed with honey and flies went on him and he lingered for about 15 days that way.

Batya said...

sammy, too bad I didn't take the handouts.
Your research makes them sound like a soap opera.