Esther 1:22, Question 1. Why did the books have to be written in different languages?

כב וַיִּשְׁלַח סְפָרִים אֶלכָּלמְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶלמְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה כִּכְתָבָהּ וְאֶלעַם וָעָם כִּלְשׁוֹנוֹ לִהְיוֹת כָּלאִישׁ שׂרֵר בְּבֵיתוֹ וּמְדַבֵּר כִּלְשׁוֹן עַמּוֹ

22. And he sent books to all the states of the King – to each state according to its script and to each nation according to its language – that each man should rule in his home and speak the language of his nation.

  • The Vilna Gaon relates that residents of Achashverosh’s 127 states spoke different languages because Sancherev mixed up the locals populaces he conquered. This is because a Frenchman and his descendants forcibly removed to Romania by a conquering ruler are less likely to rebel. After all, for what heritage are they fighting?
  • In Yosef Lekach, Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi writes that Achashverosh wrote his decree in different languages in order to ingratiate himself to his subjects. Much like the Soviet Union had the languages of all the republics on the rubles, Achashverosh attempted to show how much he cared for his subjects.
  • The Malbim writes that Achaverosh chose to write the decree in multiple languages to pointedly tell the people that, despite the fact that they lived in Persia, they were ruled by him alone. He was telling them that he was more special than the nation from which he comes.
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Esther 1:1, Question 4. Where are Hodu and Cush, and why does it matter?

There is an argument in the Talmud (Megillah 11a) regarding whether Hodu and Cush are near each other or far apart. Either way, the Talmud concludes, Achashverosh’s conquest of them was indicative of his great power. If they were far apart, the phrase “from Hodu and until Cush” shows that his kingdom was large geographically. If they were close, “from Hodu and until Cush” shows that his powerful influence was just as strong in Hodu and Cush as it was in the more far-flung provinces of his kingdom. This is unlike even more recent dictatorships like the Soviet Union, where the government’s anti-religious laws were far more influential in the capital, Moscow, than far-away Tashkent. Whereas Moscow Jews did not by and large get circumcisions, did not eat kosher, and could not learn basic Jewish traditions, the situation was markedly different for the Jews of Tashkent and its surrounding environs. The Rema famously writes that the two opinions in the Talmud are not necessarily contradictory. He writes that the distance from Point A to Point B on a sphere depends largely on which direction the line is going. If two people are next-door neighbors, and one takes the long route around the globe to reach the other, that person traveled an unnecessarily circuitous path, covering far more ground. This, according to the Rema, is indicative of the sheer size of Achashverosh’s kingdom – it covered all the the known world.