Some find the violent pedigree of the Purim celebration distasteful. In a day that has seen too many religious massacres, it hardly seems right to gather with family and friends on the anniversary of an ancient one, when according to the book of Esther the Jews of the Persian diaspora brought vengeance down on those who had planned to destroy them.
To this reader, such moral sensitivity seems too finely tuned. (more…)
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In the face of Esther’s passivity when informed of her people’s peril, her uncle Mordechai has strong words. Considerable heat might well have surged as he dictated his response to his courtly adoptive niece:
Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.” When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
At the risk of caricature, the book of Esther is in particular ways representative of the history of the Jewish people. Disproportionate achievement, access to the halls of influence, and acute peril comingle in this people as a constant that is persistent against the turn of generations and the shifting of circumstance. (more…)
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