Sunday, Jan 16, 2022

Megillah 12: An Acceptable Argument

On this daf, we find that when Vashti defied Achashveirosh’s order, he initially asked the sages to advise him in this matter.

Not many are aware of a series of events not too different from our Purim story that took place around a century ago. The king and queen of Egypt took a stroll through their beautifully appointed garden, when the queen suddenly decided to bathe in the spring that ran through the palace courtyard. The king was very unhappy about this idea and did his best to discourage it. When he saw that the queen was insistent, he ordered her not to bathe in that water. She completely ignored him in front of all of his officers.

After her bath, the king’s officers respectfully pointed out that the king could not just accept his will being defied publicly by his beloved wife. It would be his duty to either punish her severely or explain why she did not deserve such punishment.

This king had a special council made up of an Muslim cleric, a priest, and the chief rabbi of Egypt. When he consulted this board, the rov, Rav Nochum, was absolutely staggered. He decided to send an emergency messenger to Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, the rov of Yerushalayim, to request advice on how he should advise the king.

Rav Yehoshua Leib immediately replied that the king did not have to punish the queen: “The halacha is that if one bowed to a stream, it does not become prohibited, because the water he worshiped has been replaced with fresh water that was never worshiped. Why should the new water be prohibited?

“Similarly, the king ordered his queen not to bathe in the water that was in the spring. By the time the queen bathed, there was different water in the spring. She therefore was not technically disobeying the king’s order at all. This argument can serve as her defense.”

When Rav Nochum told this reasoning to the king, he was thrilled, since he did not wish to punish the queen. He made use of Rav Nochum’s argument and then appointed him his chief advisor (Tuvcha Yabiu).

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