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Megillah 15a: Why Do the Sages Discuss the Most Beautiful Women in the World?

The Unique Powers of Rachav, Avigayil, Yael & Michal

Class Summary:

This class was presented on Tuesday, 21 Adar, 5780, March 17, 2020, by Rabbi YY Jacobson, and due to the coronavirus, the class was taught virtually from his home.

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  • CL

    Cirel Lipskier -4 years ago

    Beautiful Women

    What about Avishag Hashunamis?

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  • MJ

    Moshe Jaron -4 years ago

    This morning on Yeshiva.net Rabbi Jacobson discusses tractate Megillah 15A.  At 10’24” the Rabbi says that Ahasuerus was the son of Cyrus.  Although few historians would agree, I certainly agree and this is what historians say about Cyrus’ son, known to all as Cambyses.  And my opinion as to how Cambyses/Ahasuerus figures in to the Megillah.

    What Do We Know About Ahasuerus?

    Cyrus dies and there is a new king on the throne. His name is Ahasuerus (אֲ חַ שְׁ וֵרוֹש); what can we say about him?  Well, we can say a lot.  Who was he, and when did he reign? Well, he was not Cyrus the Great, and must have come to rule sometime after Cyrus’ death in 530 BCE.  Many scholars suggest that Ahasuerus was Xerxes I who ruled between 486-465 BCE.  They see in the names Xerxes and Ahasuerus certain similarities on which their claim is based. 

    If you give any credence at all to the Book of Esther where it states that Mordechai went into exile with king Jeconiah, and that happened in 598 BCE, then Mordechai is least 112 years old when Xerxes began his reign.  Come on folks, claiming that Xerxes is Ahasuerus is ridiculous; Ahasuerus was somebody else.

    I think Ahasuerus was the king of Persia who immediately followed Cyrus’ reign.  This would be Cambyses (Kamboujyeh or Kabūjiya) II. He was the son and successor of Cyrus the Great and he ruled from 530 BCE until 522 BCE.  Mordechai’s earliest age at Cambyses’ II’s death would be 76 years old, and unlike the probable age at the time of Xerxes is reasonable.  A weakness to this hypothesis is that Cambyses ruled for only eight years, not enough time for all the events in the Book of Esther to take place.  However, during the lifetime of Cyrus, in 539 BCE, Cambyses was proclaimed king of Babylonia giving another nine years for his story to unfold.

    The Megillas Esther begins in the 3rd year of Ahasuerus’ reign, 527 BCE, with the wine party that lasts for 180 days.  The Persian-Greek historian writes that Cambyses was given over to drunkenness.  The association of that long wine fest and overindulging on Purim with strong drink cannot be passed up here.  

    Herodotus also writes that Cambyses was insane, had a short fuse and committed many crimes.  Maybe this adds credence about the plot discovered by Mordechai to assassinate Ahasuerus.  Most telling however, is that Cambyses murdered one of his wives. My guess is that it was not Vashti. But no wonder that Esther was extremely fearful in approaching Ahasuerus with her petition.  The man was irrational, had a bad temper and was given over to violence.

    Having said that, we know that he loved Esther, and because of his love for her he viewed her people the Jews with much favor.  Cambyses also favored the Jews.  In 525 BCE Cambyses set out and succeeded in conquering Egypt.

    During his campaign he is said to have wreaked havoc, looting temples, ridiculing the local gods, and defiling royal tombs.  When Cambyses conquered Egypt, he declared himself as “Pharaoh”.  As to how he was regarded there are two opposing points of view:

    The historian, Herodotus puts an emphasis on Cambyses' supposed killing of the Egyptian sacred bull called Apis. On the contrary, others say that Cambyses took part in the preservation and burial ceremony of Apis.

    There is an Egyptian record that says Cambyses decreased the sizeable income Egyptian temples received from the Egyptian pharaohs.  Under Cambyses, only three temples were given permission to maintain their entitlements. This caused those Egyptian priests who lost their entitlements to circulate spurious stories about Cambyses…maybe true…maybe not.

    In Egypt at this time there was a military colony of Jews living on an island in the Nile called Elephantine.  The Jews of Elephantine had their own Temple. This is a quote from a Jewish inhabitant of Elephantine found on a papyrus, showing Cambyses’ favorable connection to Jews:

    “'Now our forefathers built this temple in the fortress of Elephantine back in the days of the kingdom of Egypt, and when Cambyses came to Egypt he found it built. They (the Persians) knocked down all the temples of the gods of Egypt, but no one did any damage to this temple."  

    I think that because of his love for Esther, Cambyses looked upon Jews with favor.

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  • RA

    Reb Aharon -4 years ago

    And like Yosef saw vision of his good father, we can also unashamedly thinking of a mentor, teacher, one who we admire to give ourselves chizuk.

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  • M

    Moshe -4 years ago

    Ezra aka Malachi urged the yidden to abandon their nonjewish wives

    But, didn't Mordechsi urge Esther to marry Achachveirosh? Moreover "who knows" whether this is  her whole raison d'etre? And she did, saving the  yidden and giving spiritual birth to  the greatest yom tov that alone will shine after Moshiach comes  and also gave physical birth to  Darius who would rebuild the  beis hamigdash 

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Gemarah Megillah #32

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • March 17, 2020
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  • 21 Adar 5780
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