3.07.2007

Post-Purim wrapup

My Purim was quite nice in the end. I figured out where to go to shul, and once again, the sheer loveliness of the Esther story swept away any lingering anti-Rabbinic crankiness. Some of my favorite parts of Esther are:

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.
טז וַיֹּאמֶר מומכן (מְמוּכָן), לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַשָּׂרִים, לֹא עַל-הַמֶּלֶךְ לְבַדּוֹ, עָוְתָה וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה: כִּי עַל-כָּל-הַשָּׂרִים, וְעַל-כָּל-הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר, בְּכָל-מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ. 16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: 'Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the peoples, that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus.
יז כִּי-יֵצֵא דְבַר-הַמַּלְכָּה עַל-כָּל-הַנָּשִׁים, לְהַבְזוֹת בַּעְלֵיהֶן בְּעֵינֵיהֶן: בְּאָמְרָם, הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אָמַר לְהָבִיא אֶת-וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה לְפָנָיו--וְלֹא-בָאָה. 17 For this deed of the queen will come abroad unto all women, to make their husbands contemptible in their eyes, when it will be said: The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not.
יח וְהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה תֹּאמַרְנָה שָׂרוֹת פָּרַס-וּמָדַי, אֲשֶׁר שָׁמְעוּ אֶת-דְּבַר הַמַּלְכָּה, לְכֹל, שָׂרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ; וּכְדַי, בִּזָּיוֹן וָקָצֶף. 18 And this day will the princesses of Persia and Media who have heard of the deed of the queen say the like unto all the king's princes. So will there arise enough contempt and wrath.
יט אִם-עַל-הַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב, יֵצֵא דְבַר-מַלְכוּת מִלְּפָנָיו, וְיִכָּתֵב בְּדָתֵי פָרַס-וּמָדַי, וְלֹא יַעֲבוֹר: אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תָבוֹא וַשְׁתִּי, לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, וּמַלְכוּתָהּ יִתֵּן הַמֶּלֶךְ, לִרְעוּתָהּ הַטּוֹבָה מִמֶּנָּה. 19 If it please the king, let there go forth a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, that Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus, and that the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.
כ וְנִשְׁמַע פִּתְגָם הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲשֶׂה בְּכָל-מַלְכוּתוֹ, כִּי רַבָּה הִיא; וְכָל-הַנָּשִׁים, יִתְּנוּ יְקָר לְבַעְלֵיהֶן--לְמִגָּדוֹל, וְעַד-קָטָן. 20 And when the king's decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his kingdom, great though it be, all the wives will give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.'
כא וַיִּיטַב, הַדָּבָר, בְּעֵינֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ, וְהַשָּׂרִים; וַיַּעַשׂ הַמֶּלֶךְ, כִּדְבַר מְמוּכָן. 21 And the word pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan;
כב וַיִּשְׁלַח סְפָרִים, אֶל-כָּל-מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ--אֶל-מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה כִּכְתָבָהּ, וְאֶל-עַם וָעָם כִּלְשׁוֹנוֹ: לִהְיוֹת כָּל-אִישׁ שֹׂרֵר בְּבֵיתוֹ, וּמְדַבֵּר כִּלְשׁוֹן עַמּוֹ. {ס} 22 for he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and speak according to the language of his people. {S}

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.

יד כִּי אִם-הַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי, בָּעֵת הַזֹּאת--רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר, וְאַתְּ וּבֵית-אָבִיךְ תֹּאבֵדוּ; וּמִי יוֹדֵעַ--אִם-לְעֵת כָּזֹאת, הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת. 14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father's house will perish; and who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?'
טו וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר, לְהָשִׁיב אֶל-מָרְדֳּכָי. 15 Then Esther bade them return answer unto Mordecai:
טז לֵךְ כְּנוֹס אֶת-כָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשָׁן, וְצוּמוּ עָלַי וְאַל-תֹּאכְלוּ וְאַל-תִּשְׁתּוּ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים לַיְלָה וָיוֹם--גַּם-אֲנִי וְנַעֲרֹתַי, אָצוּם כֵּן; וּבְכֵן אָבוֹא אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-כַדָּת, וְכַאֲשֶׁר אָבַדְתִּי, אָבָדְתִּי. 16 'Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.'
4. 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:
  • שלח
  • ספר
  • קצף
I think there are more, but these are all that jump out at me right now.

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.").
As for myself, I wore a sparkly metallic wig for much of Purim. I was walking from my apartment to shul on Saturday night and passed a little boy riding on his father shoulders. He pointed at my sparkly, glittery head and said, "Oooooooohhhh!" with great wonder. So cute! A few blocks later, I passed some not-so-little-boys who said, "Hey, bitch, what's wrong with your hair?" That wasn't so cute.

2 comments:

Avi said...

Yeesh, this blog has become a real snooze-fest. Why is school still in seassion? Please bring on the fun posts!

ALG said...

As always, I am happy to take suggestions for fun posts or to share this space if you want to write your own fun post as a guest blogger. Just let me know when!