Tag : Queen Esther

The Lilith Blog

February 23, 2021 by

Digging Deeper into Esther’s Mysteries

Some consider the Book of Esther history. Others, a fairy tale. After all, there is a virtuous and beautiful maiden and her protective (non-fairy) godparent, a king, a villain, looming danger, a heroic act and then… an improbably happy ending. Whether history or myth, Esther is more complicated than she seems. Like all biblical literature, there is meaning in the details. With its multiple reversals of fortune and the absence of any direct reference to God, Esther’s story raises numerous questions. So, it’s a thrill to read an author and teacher whose knowledge of rabbinic texts, classical sources and modern critical commentaries combine to tackle these questions. Esther: Power, Fate and Fragility in Exile by Erica Brown [Maggid Press, $29.95], does just that, while remaining accessible to readers of all levels.

Brown’s thought-provoking explorations of character, especially of the mysterious Vashti and her more successful counterpart, Esther, are well worth reading, as is her analysis of their reception throughout history. Brown details rabbis’ condemnation of Vashti’s alleged immorality and also explains how the pioneers of the women’s suffrage movement adopted her as a defender of women’s rights! 

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The Lilith Blog

February 23, 2021 by

Esther in a New World

As part of his only recorded direct speech in the book of Esther, Mordechai exhorts his orphaned cousin Esther to appeal to King Ahaseurus, suggesting that Queen Esther’s raison d’etre was to rise to the occasion and deliver the Jewish people from danger. And yet, as a new anthology of essays suggests, Queen Esther has served many purposes over time — her inspiration and her legacy have been invoked and appropriated in contexts from colonial politics to the coronavirus vaccine clinical trials.

In Esther in America, edited by Rabbi Dr. Stuart W. Halpern (Maggid, $29.95), an array of scholars, rabbis and educators consider the various roles that Esther — and the scroll in which she appears — have played throughout American political and cultural history, making the case that this ancient Persian story of Jewish triumph over evil resonates with many aspects of the American experience. 

The popular and prolific Puritan minister Cotton Mather frequently cited Queen Esther as a model of independent action and fidelity to her husband in his Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion, a conduct and virtue manual. American abolitionist women, including Angelina Grimke, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Sojourner Truth, identified the plight of the Jews in Persia with the suffering of the American slaves, casting Esther first in the role of the Black slave woman, valued for her sexual capital, and then in the role of the Southern Christian white woman, charged to speak out against injustice. In both contexts, Esther emerges at once obedient and independent, abused and empowered.

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The Lilith Blog

February 19, 2021 by

An Open Letter from Vashti to Her Successor

Dear New Queen, 

If you are reading this, I am long gone. I left the palace behind. I may have even left Shushan. I’m not sure where I will be when you receive this letter, but I’m far away from the king, his ministers, and a life that was never mine. Wherever I am, my story is now my own. I am free.

My name is Vashti. The king sent me away because I refused to dance at his party. As a child, I loved dancing. I spun barefoot circles with my mother and her sisters. My palace was in her arms, her stories were in my ears, and her song was my heartbeat. When I think of dancing, I think of my mother, even though she is long gone too.  

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