I think this one is self-explanatory.
This week’s daf continues with midrashic discourse related to Megillat Esther.
Each element of the verse from Psalms is interpreted as referring to a case where God cast the Jews, or some Jews, into something. “Fire” refers to the casting of Hananyah, Mishael and Azaryah into the furnace (see Daniel 3). “Water” refers to male children being cast into the Nile. “Abundance” refers to the feasts through which Israel was saved during the time of Esther.
There may be two reasons why R. Yohanan assumes that in the days of Mordecai and Esther the word of God’s salvation reached all the ends of the earth. Either because letters were sent out to all of the ends of the earth, or because Ahashverosh ruled over all of the known parts of civilization.
Resh Lakish interprets the verse in Proverbs as referring to various enemies of Israel. They rule over the “poor people” Israel as a punishment for Israel not observing the commandments.
Elazar uses the verse from Ecclesiastes to teach that through Israel’s “laziness,” i.e. their neglect of Torah study, God Himself became poor. “The enemy of the Holy One” refers to God—the editor did not want to even say that God was damaged, so he euphemistically added in “the enemy of…”
The “man” referred to in the verse is Haman, who was most certainly not a king.
Rava notes the contrast between the victory of Mordecai and Esther which caused the people to rejoice and the (temporary) ascent of Haman, which caused the people of Shushan to be perplexed (or ashamed).
Both of these seem to be abbreviated openings of derashot, without the usual continuation of the interpretation. Somehow each amora connects his verse to the characters and stories of Megillat Esther.
The Talmud now continues with what are either more “opening discourses” or perhaps midrashim on the Megillah itself.
I have rendered this line as it is found in manuscripts. Rav reads “vayehi” as if it reads “voi” and “hayah” which means “There was trouble.” He interprets the troubles in light of the rebuke found in Deuteronomy. Haman will issue such a horrific decree upon you that you will not even be able to be sold into slavery.
Both Shmuel and the baraita interpret the verse from Leviticus as referring to various times or events in Jewish history in which God stood by Israel throughout its various subjections to foreign rule. Both also interpret the end of the verse as referring to the world to come, when God alone will have dominion over Israel.
The main difference between Shmuel and the baraita is that the latter refers to those particular leaders who brought Israel salvation.
We should note that there are definitely various mistaken readings in this section. First, “Hasmonean and his sons, and Mattathias the High Priest” is a case of a “double reading,” where the text either should read “Hasmonean and his sons” or “Mattathias the High Priest” but not both, because the “Hasmonean” is “Mattathias.” There are certainly another mistakes in the version found in the “printed edition.” “Nebuchadnezzar” is out of chronological order, for he ruled well before the Greeks. Manuscripts read “the Emperor Vespasian” who destroyed the Second Temple. Rabbi [Judah Hanasi] and the other sages operated during the Roman period, not the Persian period, as the baraita implies. Indeed, manuscripts read “Romans” not “Persians.” It is likely that these last changes were made by Christian censors.
Numbers 33 states that if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, they will come back to be formidable enemies for you. Rashi explains that Haman, the descendent of Amalek, attacked Israel as a punishment by God for Saul not having finished off the Amalekites, as is told in I Samuel 15.
Rav begins to offer midrashim on Ahashverosh’s name, reading the Babylonian name as related to Hebrew words—”Ah shel Rosh”—the brother and counterpart of Nebuchadnezzar, except that whereas the latter succeeded in destroying, Ahashverosh failed. The context of the verse from Ezra is an attempt by the Samaritans in Canaan to prevent the returning Israelites from rebuilding the Temple. This proves that Ahashverosh attempted to lay waste. We should note that in the Megillah itself Ahashverosh is not portrayed as the enemy. Haman is the enemy.
There are three more amoraic puns here on the name of Ahashverosh.
The Megillah contains a curious phrase, “This is the Ahashverosh.” Why repeat his name right in the beginning of the book?
The midrash answers that the verse alludes to his remaining wicked from the beginning to the end. It then links Ahashverosh through the word “hu” to four other wicked characters, also introduced by “hu.” Ahaz was king of Judah from 741-726, and was not a good king.
The word “hu” does not necessarily indicate evil. It merely indicates consistency. Therefore the Talmud now moves to show that just as there were consistently evil characters, so too there are consistently good or humble characters.
Today’s section continues with midrashim on Megillat Esther.
Rav interprets the Megillah as implying that Ahashverosh seized the throne and did not inherit it from his father. However, it is unclear whether this is offered as praise for Ahashverosh, that he took the kingship from those less worthy, or a denouncement of him for having bribed his way into the kingship, thereby depriving a more worthy inheritor.
Rav and Shmuel agree that Ahashverosh ruled the entire (known) world. They disagree as to where Hodu and Cush are. We interpret these today as India and Ethiopia, which seems to accord pretty much with the opinion that says they are at opposite ends of the world. Another opinion believes them to be right next to each other. However, even this opinion agrees that he ruled over the whole world. Therefore, it reads the Megillah metaphorically. Just as he ruled over these two lands that were right next to each, so too he ruled over the whole world.
Here we see that Rav and Shmuel had the same dispute concerning a verse from Kings.
Hisda notes that the verse counting Ahashverosh’s provinces begins with seven, and then moves to twenty and then one hundred. From this he learns that his rule expanded from 7, to 27 to 127. The problem with this is that there are many verses that list large numbers this way, including Exodus 6:20. What could we possibly learn from this way of writing numbers about Amram’s life? The answer is that there is nothing inherently midrash-worthy in the way that the number is listed. What is “midrash-worthy” is the very fact that the Megillah lists the number of Ahashverosh’s provinces. This is superfluous for the verse already stated that he ruled over the whole world. Therefore, R. Hisda can midrashically interpret it.
This section deals with the kings who seem to have ruled over the entire earth. Since that list includes Ahashverosh it is included here.
There are three kings about whom it can be proven in Scripture that they ruled over the whole earth.
The first is Ahab. This is learned from a conversation that Ovadiah had with Elijah, where he told him that Ahab had made every nation swear that they had not seen Elijah. From here we can learn that Ahab had power over every nation.
God promises Jeremiah that all nations of the world will be subject to Nebuchadnezzar.
The verse from the previous section already demonstrated that Ahashverosh ruled over the whole world.