Parashas Zachor and Megillas Esther

In his commentary on Megillas Esther, the Maggid discusses a Midrash that links a verse in the Megillah with a verse in the haftarah for parashas Zachor. The Midrash states (Esther Rabbah 4:9, slightly paraphrased):
Royalty was given to Esther through the same type of statement with which it was taken from her forebear. Shmuel said to her forebear Shaul HaMelech (Shmuel Alef 15:28): “Hashem has torn the kingship of Israel away from you today, and has given it to your fellow man who is better than you (l’reiacha hatov mimcha). In regard to Vashti’s being replaced, ultimately by Esther, it is written (Esther 1:19): “Let the king give her royal estate to her fellow woman who is better than she (lirusah hatovah mimenah).”
The Maggid uses this Midrash to bring out a key insight regarding Vashti’s dethroning and eventual execution. This episode, on close examination, seems perplexing. If a man has a wife who is truly bad, and causes him constant consternation, then he no choice but to divorce her. It is different, though, when a wife commits a momentary and minor offense against her husband, but he still wishes to divorce her, because he wants a totally perfect marriage. In this case, common sense dictates that the husband consider carefully whether he will be able to find a better wife than his current one. Maybe the new wife will be the same as or worse than the old one.
Now Vashti’s offense against her husband Achasheveirosh was a momentary, relatively minor one: She refused to obey a summons from him to appear before him and his entourage, a refusal that could be viewed leniently since the summons – issued while Achasheveirosh was drunk – was accompanied by the outrageous demand that she present herself in an indecorous state (Esther Rabbah 3:13). We thus may wonder how Achasheveirosh could know definitively that his new wife would be better than his old one.
The Midrash answers this question through a comparison with how kingship of the Jewish People was taken from Shaul and given to David. In a moment of weakness, Shaul acceded to the people’s request to save some of the Amalekites’ livestock for sacrifices rather than destroying all the Amalekites’ property as Hashem had commanded. While this was a clear violation of Hashem’s word, it was not such an egregious offense, for it was not committed out of wickedness. How, then, could Hashem tear the kingship away from Shaul for this offense? True, Hashem is exacting with the righteous to a hairsbreadth (Bava Kamma 50a). Still, given that man has free will, how could it be clear beyond doubt that Shaul’s successor would be better than he? How could it be certain that he would never commit a similar act of disobedience?
The answer is that Hashem knew that Shaul’s successor would learn a lesson from Shaul’s severe punishment. The new king would perforce refrain from committing a similar offense, in order to avoid receiving a similar punishment. Thus, Shaul was told that the kingship will be given l’reiacha hatov mimcha – to your fellow man who is better on account of you [rendering mimcha as meaning from you instead of than you]. Even if the successor is comparable in character to you, still he will learn the necessary lesson from what happened to you. Likewise, Achasheveirosh was sure that his new wife would be better than his former wife Vashti, as a result of seeing the punishment that Vashti received. The new wife would learn the necessary lesson from what happened to Vashti and thereby would avoid committing the same offense.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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