Sunday, March 24, 2024

King Saul in reverse, and other thoughts about the Book of Esther

If you haven't yet taken a close look at Megillat Esther/the Scroll of Esther, here's a good place to check it out.

I have a few things to say about this book, much of it inspired by the commentary of folks who are more learned than I (such as those writing essays on their Purim page here).

My question:  Why on earth would the king have wanted it known throughout his kingdom that his own queen had disobeyed him?  Why did his dumb advisors suggest that Achashverosh make an example of Vashti, rather than trying to cover up the story?

Here's another noteworthy point:  Some soul politely pointed out that there was never an actual beauty contest to chose a successor to Vashti--beautiful young virgins were simply rounded up en masse and brought to the harem to be prepared to be raped, one by one, by the king.  Assuming that this story ever actually took place, it would have been pretty gruesome for the women involved.  I guess we cleaned that up for the kids.

Then there's the interesting fact that the decree giving the Jews of the Persian Empire permission to fight for their lives also contained a provision allowing them to take the spoils of war, but the Jews refrained, nevertheless.  This is the reverse of the story of King Saul's downfall, in which G-d, through the prophet Samuel, tells Saul not to take the booty, but the people defy him and take it anyway and he doesn't stop them (see here). 

As for Mordechai and Haman, let's just say that politics wasn't invented yesterday.

I had a few other thoughts about this absurd story, but I guess I spent too much time Purim-partying to remember them.  :)

Esther, of course, is still stuck in the palace with a drunken fool for the rest of her life.  Where's her reward?  :(

See my Purim post from last year.


Blogger Shira Salamone said...

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Judith Naimark
I haven't read the links yet, but the point of making the example of Vashti is explained within in the suggestion: To scare women into complete submission to their husbands.
In terms of story telling, it also sets her Esther up as the complete opposite: A woman who is so submissive that she won't even make a request until she has gotten her husband inebriated 2 nights in a row. Because Esther is so belittling of herself, as opposed to Vashti, who dares to say "no," Achashverosh will do anything for her.
The author(s) of this story certainly believed in what used to be called "feminine wiles." Or perhaps, it's meant to be a paradigm for any dealings between diaspora Jews and the powers of their host countries.



Shira Salamone
Judith Naimark , "A woman who is so submissive that she won't even make a request until she has gotten her husband inebriated 2 nights in a row." Ouch. But that said, it's unfortunate that sometimes one has no choice but to work with whatever weapon is available. Vashti sounds good to current-day feminists, but her approach would not have gotten the job done.



Judith Naimark
Shira Salamone and that is the key to my failure in life: not learning to kiss a** for my own good.

Tue Apr 02, 01:35:00 PM 2024  

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