The Rabbis state that Vashti was one of the four women who were enthroned, two of whom ruled over Israel Jezebel and Athaliah and two over other peoples the heathen Semiramis and Vashti Esther Rabbah The A type of non-halakhic literary activitiy of the Rabbis for interpreting non-legal material according to special principles of interpretation hermeneutical rules.
Rabbah In the midrashic account of these events, on the night that Belshazzar was killed, Cyrus the Persian and Darius the Mede were guests at his table. The death of Belshazzar caused total pandemonium in the palace. Some killed, while others engaged in looting.
She saw the tumult in the castle and ran among the guests. Darius took pity on her and married her to his son Ahasuerus. Midrash Panim A h erim [ed. Buber], version B, para. He acquired regal status by marrying her Esth. Rabbah ; BT Lit.
The Scroll of Esther is read on Purim from a parchment scroll. Megillah 12b. My father Belshazzar would drink wine in the measure of one thousand men and would not be inebriated, while you act the fool from the wine of a single man! She thereby hinted to him that she was the daughter of royalty, while he was a simple person who had reached his exalted status thanks to her BT Megillah loc. She gave them different types of drinks that women like, and served them different manner of sweets that are favored by women.
According to another tradition, Vashti hosted them in the royal palace, since it is the way of women to want to know all.
The Babylonian Rabbis tend to cast Vashti in an extremely negative light, as wicked, a Jew-hater and wanton. They comment on Esth. They learn from this that Vashti had licentious intent when she organized her banquet, just like her husband Ahasuerus who later summoned her to appear before the men. Megillah 12a—b. When the Israelites eat and drink on the Sabbath, they utter words of Torah she-bi-khetav : Lit. But when the non-Jewish peoples eat and drink on this day, they begin with indecent talk. And so it was at the banquet of Ahasuerus, where an argument erupted among the men.
Her plans were upset when leprosy erupted over her entire body, so that she could not make an appearance before all the guests. According to another tradition, the angel Gabriel came and fixed a tail to her BT Megillah loc. God intervened in various ways in order to prevent Vashti from heeding Ahasuerus.
Thus He directed matters so that Vashti would be deposed and Esther would reign in her stead. The wicked Vashti would bring Jewish women, strip them naked and order them to perform work on the Sabbath.
Consequently, she was punished by being commanded to appear in the nude at the banquet of Ahasuerus, on a Sabbath day BT Megillah loc. This collection of midrashim presents Vashti in a very negative light. The adverse attitude of the Rabbis in Babylonia to Vashti might possibly have resulted from the fact that Vashti was Babylonian, and for the Rabbis she represented the local Babylonian women, who were promiscuous and Jew-haters. Emphasizing their negative traits probably aided in erecting barriers between the Jews living in Babylonia and the local Gentile women.
In contrast to the negative depiction of Vashti by the Babylonian Rabbis, their counterparts in The Land of Israel Erez Israel portrayed her in a positive manner. Vashti was a scion of a royal dynasty and deported herself with the proper honor and nobility.
She sent him messages to which he would be receptive. And if they see me and think me ugly, you will be disgraced because of me. Now that you have become king, you have not mended your degraded ways!
Vashti in this midrash is blessed with wisdom. She cleverly seeks different ways by which to persuade Ahasuerus to withdraw his request. First she appeals to logic by setting forth all the possible scenarios that might result from his demand, all of which are to his disadvantage. Then she addresses his sense of honor and self-respect, demanding that he act as is fitting for a king.
Finally, she appeals to his compassion, and asks that he not insist upon her appearing naked before all his guests. By means of her messengers, Vashti hints to her husband that he does not consider the consequences of his actions and that he wields the scepter only because of his marriage to her; accordingly, it is not appropriate that he order her to do something against her will.
The reader sees Ahasuerus, in contrast with Vashti, as a ruler who acts rashly and does not think even one single step ahead. The hints that his wife sends Ahasuerus merely bounce off the thick-skinned king. Even in his palace his behavior is inappropriate and he continues to act in a disgraceful manner, like a steward.
Despite the positive depiction of Vashti by the Erez Israel Rabbis, they find a flaw in her, for which she is punished by God and is deposed. They assert that Ahasuerus wanted to rebuild the Temple, but Vashti stayed his hand. Rabbah loc. Her replacement by Esther symbolized the reversal that occurs in the Book of Esther and the hope that the ravagers of the Temple would receive their punishment and the people of Israel would return to its former glory.
As recorded in Esth. According to one opinion, his anger was assuaged only when Haman was hanged, as is said in Esth. Memucan, one of the seven eunuchs of King Ahasuerus, counseled the king to depose Vashti. There are three different views as to why Memucan wished to be revenged upon Vashti. According to one, Vashti would strike him back and forth on the face with her shoe. In consequence, Memucan says Esth.
And so he says Esth. According to the third position, Memucan had a daughter and wanted Vashti to be deposed so that his daughter could marry Ahasuerus. Therefore he says Esth. And let Your Majesty bestow her royal state upon another who is more worthy than she.
A recurring theme in the midrashim is that Vashti was not merely deposed, but executed. Thus God fulfilled his prophecy in Isa. Rabbah , Another midrash explains that the negative effect of wine is like a snakebite, separating life and death. The midrash tells us that Ahasuerus acted improperly when he issued the decree Esth.
Rather, she acts as she wishes. Similarly, Ahasuerus acted inappropriately when he attempted to compel Vashti to obey him Esth. In the midrashic depiction, when Ahasuerus grew sober, he regretted what he had done.
He recalled Vashti and her proper behavior, and he also remembered how he had improperly condemned her Esth. Another tradition has Ahasuerus wanting his wife when the effects of his intoxication wore off. And who counseled me to kill her?
Consequently, the seven eunuchs are not mentioned again in the Book of Esther Midrash Abba Gurion [ed. Buber], version B, beginning of chapter 2. Interesting how the rabbis in different times and places have made the rather simple narrative regarding Vashti into a much more lascivious tale. It suited their purposes, but now, people assume that these interpretations are in the megillah itself.
How interesting that a feminist view of Vashti as heroine for refusing to appear naked before the king and his guests is based on mansplaining! I disagree with many of the midrashim on this topic, particularly the identification of Vashti as Chaldean i. Babylonian , and as the orphaned daughter of Belshazzar. How did you "come to know it" that she moved to the her brothers castle?
You could at least furnish enquiring minds with some historical references, rather than your " it just popped into my head" type of proof for why " Reflections of this history are to be found in many others. One glimpses it in the works of Herodotus, Xenophon and Ctesias, in the books of Daniel, Judith and Tobit, in the scroll of Esther and other familiar sources, both historical and scriptural.
Anyone who takes the time, puts in the effort and is reasonably intelligent can expose the thread of this incredible history. But one still has to do the work. Kadari, Tamar. Jewish Women's Archive. Your name. About text formats. Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
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