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Shabbat Zachor: Learning From Ahashverosh

At the very end of the Megilla, we are told that the full story of Ahashverosh reign in Persia is written "Al Sefer Dibreh Ha’yamim Le’malcheh Madai U’Faras" – "on the history books about the kings of Madai and Persia." The Megilla here is informing us that more material about the history of the time period of the Purim story is available in other texts, but the facts that we need to know appear here, in Megilat Ester. Every history book is written from its particular perspective, and so we are to learn our history from the texts which were written with the correct perspective. Therefore, the Megilla emphasizes that although other information is written elsewhere, the information that we need in order to understand the story of Purim from a proper Torah perspective is written here, in the Megilla.

Rav Haim Ha’kohen of Aram Soba (1585-1655), however, added further insight into this verse.

Ahashverosh was a very evil man, who authorized the extermination of an entire nation without giving it a second thought – but nevertheless, there is something very important that we can learn from him. Namely, he made a point of writing down the favors done for him, and repaying those who did those favors. The Megilla tells that Ahashverosh had it written in the empire’s chronicles that two servants plotted to assassinate him, and their plot was foiled by Mordechai. And when Ahashverosh discovered that Mordechai was not rewarded for this, he immediately demanded that he be granted special honor and distinction in gratitude for saving his life. This is something we can all learn from Ahashverosh, and that we all should learn.

Rav Haim Ha’kohen interprets on this basis the verse, "Al Sefer Dibreh Ha’yamim." Although the history books written by the Persian scribes, quite obviously, have no sanctity, they nevertheless received an "Aliya" – an "elevation" – by virtue of the fact that they speak of Ahashverosh’s admirable quality of gratitude. And thus the verse states, "Al Sefer Dibreh Ha’yamim," using the word "Al" (literally, "on"), as opposed to the prefix "Be-" ("in"), to allude to the fact that these books received an "Aliya," they acquired some level of importance and value, because they teach us about the importance of showing appreciation.

We all are the beneficiaries of kindness. Our family members, our friends, our work associates, and so many other people in our lives are constantly doing things to help us. If Ahashverosh understood the importance of showing appreciation and feeling a debt of gratitude, then certainly we should, as well.

Just as importantly, we are all the beneficiaries of Hashem’s great kindness each and every moment of our lives. As in the time of the Purim story, these kindnesses are often hidden, or otherwise difficult to see and recognize. But we need to pay attention, open our eyes and take note of all that Hashem does for us. When we live with this mindset, being attuned to recognize and appreciate Hashem’s unlimited kindness, we will experience true joy and happiness each and every day, celebrating all the good in our lives and feeling fortunate and blessed to have received so much from our Creator.

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