Don't miss this popular story of life in the Persian Court of Shushan in the fourth (or fifth) century BCE!
Ponder the deeper meaning of this satirical tale filled with greed, emotion, irony, comedy and tragedy. It's a story as relevant today as it was when it happened.
Read what some critics have to say:
A satirical work "laced with allusions to the fact that Am Yisroel does not answer the Divine call during the Persian time period" to return to their Homeland after the 70 year exile predicted by the prophet Jeremiah and the resultant Divine punishment for their apathy.
--Rabbi Menachem Leibtag
"As desperate as the situation is for Esther, Mordechai and the Jews of their generation, the story always closes again with a happy ending."
"...Megilla reveals its profundity as well as many practical ramifications. As humorous as some of its images may be, the latent messages are rich in meaning and significance. "
--Rabbi David Nativ
Come to the MEGILLAH ESTHER readings for excitement, noise and fun. An event voted by Jews 'round the world as the place to be on Purim eve and Purim morn.
Meet the cast of characters as they come to life:
• KING ACHASHVEROSH (“IT’S GOOD TO BE KING") the seemingly foolish ruler of Persia who in fact is an anti-Semite. Fearing the Jews, their G-d and public opinion (how would it look for the King to order the murder of a significant portion of his citizens?), his Royal Majesty devises a clever strategy that employs Haman to execute (pun intended) his dastardly plot. And, of course, it is ultimately Haman the Evil One that is hanged (alongside his 10 sons) and the King who comes out looking like the Good Guy.
• HAMAN of Amalek (he wasn't even Persian but still went to the top) — the man who had it all but still wanted more! He was Chief Advisor to the King. He had wealth, honor, a good job and nachas from his ten kindah. But was that enough? Noooooo. He couldn't take it that one Jew (Mordechai) refused to bow down to, or even acknowledge, his presence. And, in the tradition of all anti-Semites, he decided on a punishment that "fit the crime" — killing every Jew because of his irritation with the one.
• VASHTI the queen reputed to be of royal blood (unlike her husband the King who possibly was not) who both strikes a blow for Women's Rights and manages to embarrass the King when she refuses the King's request to appear at the Royal Palace stag party wearing her crown (and nothing else). Her independence backfires, she pays for it with her life and the King issues a Royal Proclamation making every Husband the King of his home.
• MORDECHAI a really good human being ("Ish Yehudi") who was also pious, scholarly and a member of the Sanhedrin (High Court). Though a man of few words, he finds the right ones to catalyze Queen Esther into action to save the Jews.
• ESTHER the unassuming Jewish maiden destined to become Queen of an essentially pagan empire. In a dangerous and stressful situation (remember what happened to the King's first wife who spoke up?) she still manages to rise to the occasion and parties her way to save the Jews.
• CHARVONA is the opportunistic leech who just happens to be present at Esther's party when the King finds Haman sprawled on Esther's bed and just happens to remind the King of a Hanging Tree that was originally meant for Mordechai that just happens to be available.
• GOD appears nowhere but in fact is "Here, There, and Everywhere" (in the famous words of Uncle Moishy) as alluded to by the word Hamelech (The King) at the beginning of each column in the Megillah scroll.
Perspectives on the Megillah
Many think that King Achashverosh is King Xerxes I of Persia and that the Purim story occurred in about 474 BCE. (For historical perspective, the Second Temple was built about 516 BCE, some 42 years earlier.) Other scholars suggest that Achashverosh ruled immediately after King Koresh (Cyrus the Great) who allowed and encouraged the Jews of Persia to return to Yerushalayim and rebuild the Second Temple. This view places events in the Megillah in or about 519 BCE.
Uncertainty surrounds the questions of when the Megillah was written, and who its author is. Some opine that Mordechai and Esther are the authors. Others claim that the Megillah was written well after the actual events occurred, at a time when the holiday of Purim already was widely observed. The author certainly was someone familiar with the language, culture and court intrigue of Persia. Although a Braisa in the Talmud states that the Megillah was written by the Anshei Knesset HaG'dolah (supreme council during the Second Temple), their influence lasted for many years, making it difficult to pinpoint an exact time.
The Megillah plays out like the plot of a comic opera. Parties and partying take up much of the story line—and are the cause of, and resolution of, the Jewish crisis. Coincidences abound. Characters make their entry as if on cue. The author seems to go out of his way to mock the King, his royal court and their declaration of national policy immediately after a drunken stupor. Legislating male kingship over one's home is deemed a pressing issue, necessitating immediate action. Even clearly identified secondary characters in the drama have their role to play.
"Ish Yehudi haya b'Shushan habira u'shmo Mordechai..."("In the capital city of Shushan, there was a Jewish man whose name was Mordechai..."). What kind of name is Mordechai for a good Jewish boy in Persia? Would any self-respecting Jew name a child after a Babylonian deity, Marduk? Also, the word Habira is interesting: it is mentioned in only one other place in Tanach and there it refers to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem!
The Megillah provides interesting detail on life in the Royal Palace. Materials described and vessels used in the Royal Hall -- where the King threw his wild parties--sound remarkably similar to those that existed in the First Holy Temple. The layout of the Palace and its environs closely resemble the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and its surrounding areas. The King's Palace consisted of different sections:
• Chatzar P'nimit, the inner chamber--similar to the Kodesh Kedoshim (Holy of Holies) in the Holy Temple
• Chatzer Chitzona, the waiting area outside the inner chamber--Kodesh (holy) in the Holy Temple
• Sha'ar Bait HaMelech, where citizens congregate sounds like the Azara
• Rechov Ha'Ir Shushan, the city streets in Shushan, are similar to the streets of Jerusalem
Partly drawing on these observations, Rabbi Menachem Leibtag concludes that the Megillah was written as a critical satire on the behavior of the Jewish people during this most important time in their history. After seventy years in exile, the Jewish people were offered the opportunity to return and rebuild their Homeland. But relatively few went. Instead, they…
o Stayed in Persia
o Made Shushan into their own "Bira" (i.e., Holy Temple)
o Preferred the Holy Temple-substitute (the Royal Palace) to the real thing in Jerusalem
o Chose the partying (“service”) of King Achashverosh in his Royal Palace over the true service of God in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The near-destruction of our people at the hands of evil Haman as portrayed in the Megillah may be understood as a planned Divine punishment for the sin of Jewish apathy toward their Homeland. Jews became too comfortable in their surroundings in Persia. Perhaps it took the threat of the anti-Semites to get us to achieve our true destiny.
Rabbi H.L. Berenholz
"Daat Mikrah" commentary on the Megillah
"Psychobabble: An Analysis of the Megilla Characters"
by Robin Treistman
Yeshivat Har Etzion Virtual Beit Midrash
Last edit: 4 years 11 months ago by Heshy Berenholz.