Happy Purim — from the king

Dear Jewish People:

This is the time of the year where you read the story of Purim. PC (pre-Corona) you have parties and get drunk. I can get into that. I love parties and trust me, no one drinks me under the table. Why? Because I’m the king. You call me Achashverosh. I’m the guy who lives in the big palace, pays for the music and the booze, and no one does a party better than me. So I really like this idea.

But, I’m getting a little tired of you saying my name all wrong, and to tell you the truth, I don’t really get the good press the way you tell the story. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to set the record straight.

Firstly, can we deal with the name thing? Please stop using the Babylonian pronunciation Aḥšiyaršu. What have the Babylonians ever done for you? Like maybe destroy your Temple? I know Old Persian is tough, so I don’t expect you to know my name as it was really written or spoken. So let’s make life easy, use the name the Greeks used — Xerxes, or as I preferred to call myself, Xerxes the Great, King of Kings, ruler over Hero’s. I could go one and on and on (just check anyone of my inscriptions — I really do go on and on), but trust me, ask anyone in Susa or Persepolis. No one calls me Ahsiyaru. Not even my Babylonian captives.

And speaking of the Greeks, I really really hate them. In your story, I’m Achashverosh the idiot? That’s all the Greeks. I lose one battle at Salamis, and that’s what I’m remembered for. I was delayed by a bunch of Spartans, who I eventually defeated by the way, and they make of movie of Leonidas King of Sparta and his so-called 300, and not me. Did you see the movie,  Leonidas with a six-pack? Now that’s a good Purim costume. The guy could barely pick up a six-pack, let alone look like one. Did you know that I attacked and destroyed Athens? But do they give me any credit? You can get on board with that. The Maccabees beat an Army. I smashed the whole souvlaki. And if we’re talking about diversity, I did it with Persian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Thracian, and even Jewish soldiers! Multiculturalism — that’s my middle name!

So here’s the thing. I ruled almost the entire ancient world for over twenty-five years. Ever hear anyone say, rich as Croesus? Well, I made him look like a beggar in a shtetl. When you read that Esther was brought to me, it was at the hall of One Hundred Columns at Persepolis. One hundred columns! Gotta give the girl credit, that’s a long walk. Ok, it’s a bit of ruin now, but let’s see what Trump Tower looks like in two thousand, four hundred years.

And that’s my point. My political enemies (you think Haman was bad? Never trust a Eunuch, especially Aspamitres!) emphasized my very very few teeny tiny defeats. So in your story, I come off as a dim-witted fool. Ok, it’s true, I had an eye for the ladies. Is that so bad? How many wives did King Solomon have? And in the end, one special lady caught my eye. A nice Jewish girl, drop-dead gorgeous (just ask Haman, he dropped dead). And what happens to her? I didn’t stick her with the concubines, I married her, made her a queen, and gave her uncle a top job. Tell me that’s not a Jewish dream come true.

So please, when reading your story, get my name right, and say it with some respect. And when you raise up a glass to drink, toast a Persian! No, not an Iranian. A Persian King, like my father Darius, who let you rebuild your temple, and me, who gave you this excuse to drink and be merry.

And just before you plan any parties, don’t forget your next holiday — Passover. Remember — plagues, sort of the Corona of its day? So no parties this year, wear a mask and stay home.

About the Author
Michael Loftus has a masters degree law from the London School of Economics. He has been involved in business and capital markets for 40 years. Additionally he is a licensed tour guide, and a docent at the Israel Museum, Bible Lands Museum, and Tower of David Museum and has a specialist designation in Jerusalem from the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
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