Eretz Yisrael Time

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Sunday, February 28, 2010
Sometimes it's easy to forget, Purim is a very serious holiday.

Haman makes a deal with the king. He's going to guarantee the king 10,000 talents of silver (approximately two-thirds of the kingdom's normal annual tax revenue) within a year. Money needed after the coffers the have been depleted from war. Haman's plans is to extort one of Persia's client nations, and when they can't pay up the full amount, he's going to have them all killed and take their property for the state (and what's left over for himself).

The king agrees, perhaps (or perhaps not) knowing that Haman specifically meant the Jews. He doesn't really care. He's told the victim is weak, disunited, unloved, and most importantly unable to fight back.

The plan begins. Perhaps Haman is already collecting from his Jew tax and adding the money to the king's coffers, and the Jews are starting to be impoverished, and they certainly realize they can't make up the missing sums.

The threat of death looms closer.

And then the miracle of Purim happens, and everything is turned around.

I've always wondered about two things. The first is why didn't the Jew take the booty from the fighting. After all it was theirs by right. The second is why did Mordechai and the King implement a tax.

In his amazing book "Esther, Ruth, Jonah Deciphered" Stephen G. Rosenberg provides an answer (to the second question, for sure).

One traditional answer as to why the Jews didn't take the booty was to send the king a message. The Jews are just looking to survive and not take from other people, that the Jews are controlled and united in their actions, etc.

But Rosenberg, by explaining the background of the 10,000 talents of silver provides the background for a different explanation. The tax at the end of the story that was implemented, was a tax created to make up the shortfall in the budget (that Haman had promised), but one that was fairly distributed, instead of just on the Jews. (Rosenberg also explains that the other nations that "became Jews" doesn't mean they converted - the wording is unusual - but rather they helped the Jews pay the Jew tax).

And that actually helps explain why the Jews didn't touch the booty. Haman had planned to take the Jews property and give that to the king as part of the 10,000. The Jews here did they same thing. They left the booty to the king and filled up the King's coffers.

Suddenly King Achashveirosh learns quite a lot. His queen is a Jew. His best advisors are Jews. The people looking out for him (without expectation of reward) are Jews. The people able to help him fill his coffers are Jews. The most able fighters in his kingdom are Jews. The most united people in his kingdom are Jews.

From a disrespected people at the beginning of the Megillah whose holy Temple vessels are used for binge drinking parties, to a people that everyone fears and respects at the end, that really is a Purim miracle.

Please God, in our day too.

5 comments:

Sophie Huber said...

Hello,

I kindly invite you to take part in my survey about conflict related communication on the social web. It would be great if you - as an active contributor to the online conversation(s) surrounding the Mideast conflict – could take the time.

Please find the survey here: www.conflict.uti.at/survey/index.php?sid=31416&lang=en

Feel free to post the link and promote the questionnaire on your page(s)!

I am a doctoral candidate at the ICT&S Center, University of Salzburg, Austria, Europe. I really appreciate your opinion and help – thank you,

Sophie Huber [sophie.huber@sbg.ac.at]

Anonymous said...

where do you get the idea that haman was taxing the jews though? the notice is only to kill them

Anonymous said...

also what does achashverosh mean when he says "hakesef nasun lach" what is he returning to haman?r

JoeSettler said...

Both excellent questions, and both directly addressed by Rosenberg in his book (p.66-69).

The answer has to do with the Persian government system, where every year a new "Prime Minister" was selected (by a lottery - the Pur) from the 7 ministers. He also takes on the job of tax farmer.

Haman who became PM in Nissan plans to spend the next 11 months (Adar) to raise the 10,000. If he only wanted to kill the Jews, he could have ordered that in a month. Instead he plans to raise the money over the year through taxes, and then when the Jews can't pay, then kill them.

The money that Haman can keep is not the 10,000. It's his commission. Any money that he can extract above the 10,000.

The basis for his conclusions are third party historical documents that document similar acts and behaviors during that era.

Anonymous said...

i guess i'd have to read the book. i mean, how can he send out letters to have them killed, is that on the assumption that they won't pay? yet we see that the letters can't be revoked, as mordechai and esther can only send out letters that the jews can defend themselves. so even if they did pay, wouldnt the letters haman sent out mean theyd be killed anyway? anyway, its an interesting idea. a lot of people seem to think that achashverosh is telling haman that he needn't pay to kill the jews, he can keep the money and kill them for free. but if so, why does mordechai tell hasach about his offer to pay if its irrelevant? and what does ester mean with ki nimkarnu ani veami? so ive been looking for an explanation. i thought maybe haman is offering to pay the expense of sending out letters and organizing the slaughter and achashverosh is saying that if he pays the money into the treasury he can use it for this purpose rather than keep the money.

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