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Study and Theory/

Aryeh Ben Gurion

Reading the Book of Esther

A confrontation between the following two characters: A representative of the absolute monarchy and a Jewish subject. Haman considers himself the embodiment of G-d on earth. All must kneel and bow down to him when he exits the gate of the palace on his way to the market square. The entire empire bows down to him. There is only one subject who stands apart from this absolute unanimity: “He will not kneel or bow down.”


Mordechai does not represent anybody; just an individual with norms based on his faith.


He will not bow down to any man, even if he be king. To consciously bow to a person or an object constitutes idolatry (this is precisely how Hazal defined who is a Jew – he who does not practice idolatry). This is a Jewish norm, and Mordechai, with his Jewish pride, remained standing erect, ready to be punished. Haman, who saw himself as G-d Almighty, cannot restrain himself until this man is made to submit.


Mordechai thought he was only endangering himself, but was found to be putting all his brethren at risk. At just a scornful glance by the ruler, Mordechai transforms from I to we, and the personal contest gives birth to: “And Haman wanted to destroy all the Jews.”


My conclusion as a reader: A Jew cannot just be “me”. He shall always be “us”. This, in my opinion, is the lesson learned with regard to Esther as well: The most protected woman in the harem and the palace, in the king of the empire’s private room, in which she is just a woman with no identity, a sex queen. Then, all of a sudden, the moment of this anonymous woman –“a pretty virgin girl”– arrives.  Jewish fate compels her to risk her life, and before undressing physically, she must present the king with her identity: Who I am, who my people are, and where my homeland is. Thus, she too is transformed from “me” to “we”, and all at once, the fate of her entire people depends on her. All Jews.


When I finish reading the book, I ask myself what it’s message is, in the last chapter never written. My answer: In order to prevent decrees of annihilation on the Jewish minority in the diaspora, and since it is forbidden to rely on a repetition of the Purim miracle (all the more so after the Holocaust, in which no Purim miracle occurred) one must return home to the Land of Zion and Jerusalem from which Mordechai the Jew was exiled, and then there shall be a holiday that “turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day... ...and of sending portions one to another.” As long as Mordechai remains in Persia, he will have to wear a costume.

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