Monday, March 9, 2009

Random Megilah Thoughts

OMG, it's, like, almost Purim and I didn't write anything about it yet!

Well, one thing that quickly crossed my mind last night, that others I spoke with actually concurred with a bit, is that it seems that it was Mordecai who started the whole debacle, since he was the one who incurred Haman's anger when he refused to bow or rise for him. It is obvious that Haman was a pathological individual, and that it would serve him better not to be heeded, but according to what I was reading in the NIV he wouldn't have been transgressing any sin if he did bow to him (since there are other biblical characters who did bow to people--Abraham bowing to the sons of Heth for example), and the only reason he would not was due to an obvious strife he had with a personage such as Haman. Yet the fact remains that if he did bow, Haman's anger against the Jews might not have been incited, he would not have plotted against the exiled Judeans, and we would never have heard the story (and it was Mordecai himself who later sends to Esther that "if you don't risk your life to save us, salvation will come from another source", as if to suggest that he is sure a salvation must somehow come, although it is he that caused the very need for a salvation).

But that is just a whimsical thought, obviously it was part of G-d's plan for Mordecai not to bow or rise (since that is what happened), and there is a likelihood that based on the circumstances refraining from showing honor to such a person was in fact the superior course of action.

Yet aside from that, every year I come upon a few small realizations about Megilat Esther that I had in the past. Though aside from seeking textual, moral and literary insights, I, in general, like reading Megilat Esther in a "realistic" sense, especially through the subject of archaeological and person identifications. This is due to the fact that in the "Boro Park society" in which I reside the Megilah is obviously taken far from it's original meaning, and contorted to become some Chasidic fairy tale, where Mordecai is an "Admur" and Haman is visibly villainous. If one does believe that the events recorded in the Megilah actually occurred in reality, one obviously must distance such imagery from himself. Now, as far as we're concerned Haman was indeed sinister, but considering his stature, most probably saw him only as an elderly statesman.

Also in regards to Mordecai, some interpret that he himself was exiled from Jerusalem, while some, based on the dates we have, say that it is impossible for him to have come from Jerusalem, and it is more likely that he was first or second generation foreign-born. Also, I mentioned before a "villainous appearance"; keep in mind that Persians are known to despise middle-easterners. Mordecai must have been somewhat racially different than the others, which is enough to create within him the animosity of his countrymen.

In regards to Vashti as well, there is textual as well as historical evidence that she was not killed, but rather dethroned, and actually returned after Esther either died or lost favor with the king.

Something I enjoy thinking about in regards to Ahasuerus that he is, for the most part, associated with the Persian king "Khashayar-sha", which sounds more Persian, since it ends with "shah".

Yet these are essentially trivial points. The main point is obviously to internalize the lesson of the Megilah, something which, I'm afraid, is somewhat overlooked due to the pervasive cultural aspects of Purim. I am actually of the opinion that few, very much including myself, fully perceive the spiritual significance of Ta'anit Ester, and Purim itself.

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