A typical Purim column usually consists of heralding the heroism of Esther and Mordechai, the role they played in standing up for their people and saving the Jews from impending annihilation. It is often about the lessons we can learn today from these Jewish leaders, and how we should strive to be like them.
But what would Purim be without turning convention on its head and focusing on a different character from the Purim story, the Persian monarch Achashveirosh. The Megillah describes the king as being corrupt and self-absorbed, looking out for his own best interests rather than his subjects’. He was a canny survivor, knowing when to shift his positions as the tide turned to place himself on the side of the winner.
So while it seems that there isn’t much to learn from this unprincipled narcissist, what stands out about him is that he didn’t do things half way.
At the beginning of the story we read about a lavish party that he hosted for—get this—180 days! Not a day or even a week or a month, a half a year! And then there is the description of the opulent displays at the party and the high end wines and food he served, and many other luxuries that were literally fit for a king. He did not hold back; he was celebrating his survival and he put it all out there.
In other words, Achashveirosh was all about committing to something and doing it right. Don’t settle for second best; always strive to be number one.
Sure, that sounds cliché. But how often in life do we slink back and say, “You know, I think I’ll just take it easy today, I won’t exert too much effort, I’m good with lesser accomplishments this time around.” Even if it’s not in those exact words, we sometimes can’t help but feel like slowing down.
The fact that the description of this party is included in the Megillah—and right at the beginning no less—must be telling us something. If you’re going to do something good, you might as well do it right and do it all the way. Let’s utilize the time that G-d has given us in this world and make the most out of it, every single day!
And of course, don’t forget to RSVP for Purim in Outer Space, where you can be sure to have a party fit for a king!
Shabbat shalom and happy Purim!
(A version of this column appeared in The Times of Israel.)