Achashverosh’s Party – Why Throw a Feast Without Music?

  1. Dror


It’s that time of year when children discuss what costumes they will wear. The older kids focus on the annual candy trade show. For teens drinking is the topic. For adults it’s time to distribute Matanot L’evyonim. And the women are quite busy with preparations for the Purim Party – doing their best to satisfy family and friends. These are just a few different ways people prepare for Purim. 


The pasuk says Achashverosh gave a banquet for seven days in the court of his palace garden for all who wanted to attend, satisfying every single individual without fail – “Kadat En Ones.” “And the rule for the drinking was, ‘No restrictions!’ for the king had given orders to every palace steward to comply with each man’s wishes” (Ester 1:8).  Achashverosh made sure to cater the banquet with every single type of food possible for all the people attending from different countries. Even special sweets were served to the children attending, to satisfy them, too. Just imagining the amount of money, time, and effort that was spent in order to coordinate such an event is enough to get one thinking: was this just a party? Or was it a mastermind plot to trap the Jewish nation once and for all? (Of course the food was all strictly kosher.) 


Some commentators add that Achashverosh not only tried to satisfy his guests’ sense of taste with food, but he also actually tried to satisfy all of their five senses, except for one. He satisfied their sense of sight with beautiful tapestries and couches made of gold and silver on pavements of marble and mosaics, their sense of touch with beds that had the most luxurious fine linens, and their sense of smell with all types of foods and fragrant aromas. 


The Missing Music 


So, what happened to sense of hearing? Many mefarshim explain that the party was missing one thing: music. 


How was it possible for such an elite, well-coordinated party not to have any music?  


The Maharam Shiff explains that one of the criteria of the party planning was to do the will of every single guest. If music had been played, it might have gone against the will of some of the guests, since not everyone enjoys the same type of music. Furthermore, one of the secret plots behind the party was to get Jews to sin of their own free will.(The Maharam Shiff, working with the opinion in the Gemara (Megilla 12a) assumes that the sin the Jews were committing was that of deriving benefit from the party of an enemy of the Jews.) If there had been music, the guests would have been forced to violate the Torah, since the Jews accepted upon themselves from the time that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed not to listen to music and drink wine at the same time at a party (Isaiah 24:9). (This is not our custom.) 


Rav Shlomo Alkabetz was a great scholar who lived in the mid1500s. He was born in Salonika, Turkey (currently known as Greece). Rav Shlomo is well known for composing the song that is sung by all Jews around the world as they welcome the Shabbat, the “Lecha Dodi.” In 1529 Rav Shlomo wrote Matnot Levi, a sefer on Purim, as a gift to his future father-in-law.  


In his sefer Rav Shlomo comments on the wondrous reason why music was absent at Achashverosh’s party. Before a person is born, when the soul is still in heaven, all the soul can hear is the angels singing praises to Gd. This music is so programmed into the soul that each time the soul hears music in this world it automatically elevates itself back into the highest spiritual spheres. (This is one of the many reasons why one is not obligated to say a blessing on the pleasure of listening to music, as opposed to saying a blessing on other pleasures, for example on smelling spices, since music is more of a pleasure for the soul than the body.) Likewise, one of the reasons why babies are so comforted by music, to the point that they will fall asleep, is because the music that the soul just heard in heaven is still playing in their ears.  


Achashverosh knew that if the Jews would listen to their music, they would get distracted from all the food and other pleasures that were present, and their music would prevent them from sinning.  

But on the contrary, there are also a number of types of music that can actually cause one to sin, and Achashverosh knew the Jews would not show up if that type of music was played. 


The Hiddenness of Purim  


It is well-known that the story of Purim unfolded in a way where nothing seemed to be unusual. For example, we know the name Ester comes from the word “seter” hidden. In reality, everything was hidden, full of secrets and miracles. Although Hashem’s name is not mentioned in the megillah even once, we know He was there every single step of the way, preparing our salvation. 


The exclusion of music at the party is just one of many hidden examples of the extent of Achashverosh’s planning. He intended to get the Jew satisfied with strictly kosher food, and then get them to sin. Everyone knows that if someone is wearing a costume, underneath that costume is  a real person. You just can’t see him, but he is there. Mordechai realized and knew that the party was one big costume, concealing Achashverosh’s real intentions, and there was something bigger behind the party. But not many wanted to believe Mordechai. 


Purim is a great time to bring out one’s inner secret of what his soul really desires in this world. Thankfully we are blessed to live at a time with so many Mordechais who can see right through the costumes of this world, teaching and showing us right from wrong, what is a trap and what is not. B”H, very soon we will all attend the real party, the party of the dedication of the third Beit Hamikdash. 


Happy Purim!