Some thoughts on Esther

 

After completing our examination of the book of Esther, we see that Esther is in no way similar to what people think the book contains.

  • There is no mention of God in the book of Esther and no indication that the Judeans observed any biblical command. Even when the Judeans fasted because of Esther’s request, no mention is made that they prayed for divine aid. This failure to state that they observed the Torah bothered the Jewish community and many imaginative additions were invented to supply the missing religious content. These additions were placed in the Greek Septuagint translation, the two Aramaic translations of the book, the Talmuds, and Midrashim.
  • Esther was not a heroine. She repeatedly expressed hesitation from the moment that Mordecai requested that she speak to her husband the king to save the Judeans from Haman’s decree to every encounter she had later with her husband. She needed the people to fast for her safety. It appears that she was unable to talk to him because of fear when she approached him after the fast, began to reveal why she came, but then, instead of revealing why she came to see him, invited him and Haman to a feast. Even at the feast, she was hesitant and stalled by invited the pair to a second feast.
  • Mordecai is the hero of Purim. It is he, not Esther, who the book praises in its conclusion. According to II Maccabees 15:36, 14 Adar was called “The Day of Mordecai.”
  • Purim today is not celebrated as Mordecai asked the people to do and as they agreed to do. The original holiday was observed for two days, on 14 and 15 Adar. Later, for unknown reasons it was changed to a single day holiday observed on 15 Adar in Jerusalem and 14 Adar elsewhere.
  • Both Esther’s and Mordecai’s names, although considered Jewish names today, are Persian names most likely based on the idols Ishtar and Marduk.
  • Purim too is not a Hebrew word. The book had to define Pur as a lottery. Thus the holiday’s name is based on the superstitious notion that Haman had that a lottery could reveal the auspicious day for exterminating Judeans.
  • The Hebrew noun used for Judeans, Yehudim, is obscure. It could refer to the descendants of the tribe of Judah, the principle tribe of the time and therefore, for simplicity sake, all were called by this name, or it could be translated Jews. While the name Jews was derived from Judean, there is no certainty that the people were called Jews at that time.
  • The primary practice of Purim is feasting, drinking alcohol, and sending gifts. This reflects how Ahasuerus celebrated. He had banquets with much alcohol and shared the food and drink with his people. There is nothing Jewish about this kind of celebration. The notion that one should drink so much that he cannot distinguish Mordecai from Haman, mentioned in the Talmud, is also pagan. It reminds us of how Ahasuerus was so inebriated that he dismissed his wife who he considered so beautiful he wanted to show her off to his people. The requirement to read the book of Esther during the holiday is not mentioned in the book and is a later-instituted practice.
  • Yet, Purim reminds the Jew that despite many persecutions Jews will not disappear, that even Haman’s wife is reported in the book to recognize this fact.

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