Monday, March 08, 2004

Truth, Lies in the B. tales

Since I was a child each time I hear Haman’s name mentioned the first time I wonder why whoever the hell wrote the Megilla tells us all of went on in his mind. When I asked my Rebbe in school that, I was told that we musn’t try to be cleverer than the Megilla. I now know that he was only self-righteously hiding his ignorance, the way so many Rebbes do. Against his advice I have been thinking about it and reached exactly the conclusion he would not have wanted me to reach.

If I had given been given the job of writing the Book of Esther from the point of view of Jewish Nationalism, I am sure my editor would have stripped the entire middle bit out. As indeed was done with all the detail in Esther’s part of the story.

Nobody knows what exactly went on at that first party Esther called. I suspect that when the Queen invites her husband to a surprise, intimate drinking party with a only one favourite Minister and he drops all he is doing and insists on attending immediately, that it was not simply a wine tasting. The Midrash offers one indication of some kinky goings by saying that Esther, by calling these parties, forfeited her right to become Mordechai’s wife at some later stage. Until then it seems she could be considered a captive of the King but now she had ‘gone’ to him voluntarily.

The Megilla omits all these details because, while they might hold voyeuristic interest for us, they add nothing of interest to the story of the miraculous way we were saved by the belle. At first sight you could argue that the same for many more bits. I am sure that if the story had jumped straight from when Esther becomes queen to the moment when she calls the last party, it would still have been a pretty acceptable miracle story. I can only suppose that the reason we get to read so much of what Haman thought and did is because there is a message for us in there.

Part of the problem with Haman according to the Megilla is that seeing Mordechai and his blatant disrespect, albeit well deserved, angered him. The Megilla says that when Haman saw Mordechai sitting at the Palace gates he was “filled with rage”. Well it’s hard not to wonder how I would feel in his place. The Jew not only being there and visible but refusing to bow to boot.

In my opinion the megilla is giving us a very fundamental piece of advice. There are only so many Esthers. It is not practical to always rely on the Board of Deputies or the Jewish Lobby. Hamans abound and the first line of defense has to be being inconspicuous. If that cannot be done at least we should learn not to annoy the bastards. Some of the arguments Haman specified to the king against the Jews were that their customs are different and it is not worthwhile to the king to keep them. My understanding therefore is that in absence of any miracle makers the advice is clear.

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