Our friend and reader of Booksnthoughts.com asked a good question: Is the Purim story a parable? “What is the significance that Esther is a Persian name? Did Esther really exist or is she a fictional character?” I thought all of our readers would be interested in the answer. Therefore, I am writing the following.


Esther and Mordecai have names based on Persian idols Ishtar and Marduk, but I see no significance in this. Many Talmudic rabbis and Jewish kings had non-Jewish names. The names of our Jewish months are derived from Babylonia and include an idol’s name.


I have two thoughts regarding whether the biblical tale occurred or is a parable. First, I am reminded to recall and follow the advice of the Greek philosopher Plato’s story, which states that his teacher, the philosopher Socrates, was the most intelligent person because he knew he did not know everything. I admit I do not know. Some scholars contend that there is no evidence that Esther existed and the story is a parable. The French Jewish philosopher Joseph ibn Kaspi (1279-1240), who generally followed the views of Maimonides, viewed the Esther story as an allegory that shows how human beings can overcome unfavorable situations. Other scholars disagree. Most rabbis insist it is actual history. I do not know if some of them are saying so only to make Jews who feel they must believe the tale occurred are correct.


Second, even if the book is a parable, it is still sacred because of the many lessons it teaches. Many parts of the Torah itself, such as the introduction about how the world was created, are parables. Some other biblical books, such as the Book of Job, are parables.