For Adina, On Her Birthday: The Story of Esther Ahasuerus, who reigned from India to Ethiopia, sent for Vashti, his queen, to come before a banquet of his chamberlains. She was beautiful and the king wished to have his subjects look upon her. She refused and this caused Ahasuerus considerable anger. In his rage he decreed that all wives give their husbands honor, both great and small. This meant that wives must only come when called. Persian law was such that no law could be altered once it was declared. Vashti was no longer queen. Ahasuerus began a new search for her replacement. He sent his eunuchs out to find the most beautiful in the land. Esther, who had been taken to raise by her uncle, Mordecai who was a Jew, pleased the king's servants. She was removed to take her place in the harem of Ahasuerus. Esther gained status among the harem and Ahasuerus favored her and made her queen. During this time, Mordecai visited the palace daily, checking on the well being of his niece. During a visit, he told her to withhold that she was a Jew. Shortly after this meeting, Mordecai, who occupied an area just outside of the gate to the palace, learned of a plot by two of Ahasuerus' servants to take the king's life. Mordecai made this threat known to the king's advisors and the two servants were hanged on a tree. Afterwards, Haman, an advisor was promoted. When Haman passed by, all were supposed to bow in reverence. Mordecai did not and this inflamed Haman. Haman met with King Ahasuerus and said this, "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the kingdom" and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed." Haman did not divulge the name of the people, but it was the Jews who had been exiled from Jerusalem that he spoke of. Ahasuerus gave Haman his ring, so that his seal could be imprinted on the decree, and bid Haman's wishes to be carried out. The act was to be carried out throughout the kingdom; Men, women, and children were to be killed. When Mordecai learned of this plan, he rent his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned in ashes. Esther sent her chambermaid to learn why Mordecai was in such anguish. Mordecai told Esther that she must appeal to the king and save her people. When she reminded her uncle of the punishment for arriving before the king uninvited, Mordecai said this, "If you hold your peace at this time, deliverance for the Jews may come from another place, and you and your house may be destroyed." Esther sent Mordecai away with a promise to stand before the king in defense of her people. The next day, Esther entered the king's court and invited him to a banquet. She asked that Haman attend, as well. Ahasuerus was not angry at her presence and granted her request. Esther said that, at the banquet, she would have something important to ask the king. However, when the dinner ended, Esther's only asked for another banquet to be attended by the king and Haman. When Haman left, he passed Mordecai kneeling, in mourning at the palace gate. Mordecai did not rise, nor did he move to allow Haman to pass. This infuriated Haman and when he arrived home, he and his family plotted the death of Mordecai. Haman ordered his servants to erect a gallows for Mordecai's hanging. The night after the first banquet, Ahasuerus could not sleep and called for the chronicles to be read to him. As they were read, he learned, for the first time, that Mordecai had saved his life by revealing the plans of the king's servants to murder him. The King declared that Mordecai be honored. He asked Haman what should be done to exalt the most honored of the kings staff. Haman thought Ahasuerus was speaking about him and listed several wonderful gifts and ceremonies. The king agreed and told Haman to exalt Mordecai in the manner that Haman described. Haman obeyed and upon arriving home, strengthened his resolve to destroy Mordecai's people. The next day, at the second banquet, Ahasuerus again asked Esther what she wanted and he promised, on half his kingdom, that it would be done. Esther replied, "Let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we are sold, I and my people to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. If we had be sold to slavery, I would have held my tongue." Esther said that she would have held her tongue because she knew the law, and that Ahasuerus could have her killed for disobedience. But, instead the king flew into a rage and asked who would wish such a thing to happened. Esther replied that Haman wished it so. Ahasuerus lept up and went into the garden. When his rage subsided, he returned to the court and declared that Haman was to be put to death—and they hanged him, from the very gallows Haman built for Mordecai. Ahasuerus then sent forth another decree, for he could not rescind the one that Haman had used the king's ring to seal, the one calling for the death of each and every Jew. This decree was a call for each and every Jew to rise and destroy those who would plot their destruction. The decree was sent to the four corners of the kingdom. The force that had been assembled throughout the Ahasuerus' kingdom was destroyed by the Jews, but unlike Haman's force, who planned to take the Jew's possessions for their own, they left their enemy's property alone. And the celebration of this victory is Purim. It was the first decree set forth by Esther, the Queen, who saved the Jews from extinction.