Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Book (Scroll) of Esther

In a word, the Book (Scroll) of Esther, one of the five scrolls in our canon has been the inspiration for the joke “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.” It’s a story of exaggeration and hyperbole.

King Ahaseurus who ruled approximately 4000 B.C.E. governed from Ethiopia to India and of course ruled large multicultural Jewish communities. The Jews of these communities were by and large secure, but felt at times insecure as a result of periodic surges of anti Semitism imperiling their lives and communities.

The Purim story tells of such a moment in our history of insecurity, exploited by Haman a supposed descendent of Amalek, whose intentions were foiled by Queen Esther. Esther, a beauty, beguiled the king with her world class looks, won the local and national beauty pageants, thus becoming another of the King’s wives, but soon replacing Vashti for the number one spot. Understanding the perilous situation of the Jewish community she schemes plots and orchestrates, doing whatever necessary to manipulate the king to her position. Making the story even more complex was the fact that she hid her own Jewish identity from the king. Only after she flushes out Haman and exposes him and his dastardly intent does she reveal her true Jewish identity. As a result of her moxie the Jews are saved and haman and his ten sons are hung from the same gallows intended for Mordechai.

The main cast of characters is the following:
Esther aka Hadassah - a beautiful teenager our star and heroin.
Ahaseurus – King of Persia and hopelessly in love with Esther.
Vashti – Ahaseurus first wife who refuses the king’s command to appear at the party.
Haman – Advisor to the king, anti Semite and descendant of Amalek.
Mordechai – aka Marduk. Cousin of Esther and architect of the plan to save the Jews.
Hatach – Messenger boy.
Zeresh – Haman’s wife.
Teresh – Treasons plotter to kill the king and Mordechai uncovers the plot.
Hegai – The harem czar.
God – Never once mentioned in the story.