1. Esther 1:16-22. In Chapter 1, the king's advisers warn him that word of Vashti's (mis)deed will spread amongst the provinces and other royal women will also stop obeying their husbands. To remedy the situation, they decide to spread word that Vashti has been deposed and replaced, as a warning to any woman who dares defy her husband's order.
2. Esther 2:21-23. This postscript to Chapter 2, the story of Bigtan and Teresh's treachery and Mordechai's saving of the king's life. It's just three verses tacked on here, but it makes chapter six so perfect!
3. Esther 4:14, 16: This is in Chapter 4, when Mordechai begs Esther to intercede on the Jews' behalf. I'm not even sure I can explain why I love these verses, I just do.
Esther 5:9-14, 6:1-14: The whole bit when Haman, puffed full of hubris from having been invited to Esther's banquet with only the king for company, goes home and tells his wife that it's all worthless to him as long as Mordechai is alive. The advice? Hang Mordechai. Then Chapter 6 happens, and Ahasuerus remembers Mordechai's good deed (see #2 on this list), and decides to honor him. Meanwhile, just at that moment, Haman appears to tell the king the grand plan to hang Mordechai. And he's still puffed up from having been to Esther's banquet, and assumes that the king wants to honor him. But he doesn't! Instead, Haman is publicly humiliated by having to lead Mordechai, the man that everyone knows sits in the king's courtyard and bows to no one, especially not Haman, around town on the king's horse. But that isn't the worst of his day. No, Haman tells his wife and buddies this story, and they respond, and "עוֹדָם מְדַבְּרִים עִמּוֹ," "they are still speaking with him, when he is summoned to Esther's banquet where the ultimate downfall happens. I love this part because it is entirely unnecessary for the narrative of the story. Bigtan and Teresh? Just tacked on to the end of Chapter 2. Leading Mordechai through town on a horse? Doesn't change anything. But it's all so perfect! It would be a worse story without it.
The rest of the story is...well, the rest of the story. It all ends happily ever after. Haman falling onto Esther's couch to beg for his life (Esther 7:8) and Ahasuerus subsequently seeing that and assuming that he's propositioning Esther is a nice touch, but otherwise things basically proceed as they should without too many literary flourishes. I guess hanging Haman on the gallows that Haman prepared for Mordechia (Esther 7:10) is also a nice touch.
I also love is the repetition of certain words throughout the story. I think such a word is called milah miftachat ("key word"--or is it milah mafte'ach?) in Hebrew. I thought it was called a hapax legomenon in English, but that's apparently wrong. Examples include:
Finally, the two best costumes I saw over Purim were:
- a woman who dressed up as a pareve Shabbos sponge. One might call this costume a shibboleth. Either you use a Shabbos sponge and know what it looks like, or you don't. She wore a sign that said "pareve" and she was dressed in green with this cool spiky thing on her head (i.e., a non-absorbent-sponge-like thing), but if you weren't familiar with the concept, you just weren't going to get it.
- two guys (Jarls Berg and Matt Zarella) dressed up as Jews for Cheeses, complete with proseletyzing literature ("We want to show you the whey!""To this day many Jews still deny Cheeses into their hearts and stomachs.").