Why We Should Hate King Achashveirosh Just As Much (Or Even More) Than Haman by Ari Solomon


When we’re in Shul on Purim listening to Megillat Esther, one of the highlights for every child, is the opportunity to drown out Haman’s evil name by making an enormous racket. Every child’s mind is set on creating an uproar the next time Haman’s name is read. However, when King Achashveirosh’s name is read, there is never a sound in the room. If Achashveirosh approved the decree that ordered the destruction of the Jewish people, why do we not despise him as well? Both Achashveirosh and Haman had obsessions: Haman desired to annihilate the Jewish people, and Achashveirosh was fixated on displaying his power and authority to the entire world. The Gemara in Megilla (14a) explains that Achashveirosh was like a mound of dirt and Haman was like an empty pit. In my opinion, this Gemara is highlighting that Achashveirosh could have disposed of his mound of dirt without filling “Haman’s hole” in numerous ways: by filling any hole with it or simply spreading it out.  However, Haman’s pit will remain empty unless he fills it specifically with Achachveirosh’s mound of dirt. With regards to the Purim narrative Achashveirosh could have fulfilled his obsession with power in countless other ways that didn’t involve the Jews, but Haman could only fulfill his desire to destroy the Jewish people with King Achachveirosh’s help. Since Achashveirosh consented to place his mound of dirt specifically in Haman’s pit, even though he could have disposed of it in countless other ways, Achashveirosh was just as culpable for the evil decree as Haman. Similarly, when asked the question about who the main villain responsible for the Holocaust, everyone will certainly answer Adolf Hitler Yemach Shemo, since he claimed the lead role in the destruction of the 6 million Jews in World War 2. However, Adolf Eichmann, the “brains of the operation,” guided Hitler. Eichmann was responsible for the concentration camps, gas chambers, and the Final Solution, yet Hitler is still recognized as the main perpetrator of the Holocaust. By the near destruction of the Jews in the Purim story, Achashveirosh is like Hitler and Haman is like Eichmann. Haman needed Achashveirosh, the leader, to carry out his horrifying plans; so why do we not hold Achashveirosh as responsible as Hitler? Achashveirosh was just as instrumental in the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people as Haman, so we should recognize him as not just the “silly king,” but rather as yet another cruel world leader who tried to wipe out the Jewish people over the course of our history.

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