It’s easy to underestimate the story of Esther. With its burlesque scenes, over-the-top characters and ancient court politics, it can seem uninspiring. Its setting in the child-friendly Purim and its violent ending make it seem juvenile, if not inappropriate. Yet the scroll of Esther is the Biblical book which comes closest to describing our current reality. I am not referring to Iranian plots against the descendants of Mordechai, but rather the attempt to navigate an absurd world, caught between the opposite poles of randomness and law, without divine guidance.
|Persian royal ring|
- Notice that some characters are “flat” (Ahasueres, Mordehcai) and others “round” (Haman, Esther); for some characters we are privy to their inner monologue (Haman) and/or emotions (Ahaseures), while others we never encounter their emotions or thoughts (Esther and Mordehcai). Why does the author portray the characters in such a way, and how would the story be told differently by changing these characterizations?
- The opening two chapters set up the rest of the story, inviting the reader into the worldview of the story. As Michael Fox writes in his commentary on Esther: “The sensuality [of the virginal pageant], like the burlesque of the opening banquet, softens the mood and puts the reader off-guard, making the coming danger all the more harsh” (pg. 36). What can thus be said about the last three chapters of the book?
- The banquets – lining up the banquets allows one to identify the inner structure of the story. What do you make of this lineup:
Dedicated to a theme in the Jewish month, Moonshine is a combination Dvar Torah and springboard for learning in the coming 30 days. Moonshine - in honor of the Hebrew month’s commitment to the lunar cycle, with a hint of distilling fine spirits off the beaten track and - perhaps - intoxication.