Friday, February 20, 2015

Telling (or Not) the story of Purim

Old & New by Lindsey McCormack
I've been trying to tell EG the story of Purim now for a few days.  She's got the basics (you should hear her say Mordechai, so proud!) but it's the nuances I'm having a hard time telling.  The Purim story isn't all giggles and happiness.  In fact, it's one of those iffy stories that I'm almost to worried to tell her.  If this were a Disney movie, you can bet I wouldn't be taking her to see it.  Let's review:

The Killings:

  1. The first thing that happens in the story is drunken debauchery.  The second thing is the killing of the queen.  Who did nothing except decide that she wouldn't parade around naked in front of strangers because her husband told her to.  I totally want EG to be Vashti, except that death thing.  How do you explain that death thing?
  2. Murder plots to kill the King.  I'm not saying I'm a fan of King Ahasuerus, but murdering the man in power.  Not exactly a message I want EG to get in her mind.  Mutiny in the household anyone? Then a few lines later we hang these people from a tree.  Okay, they were bad guys, but it's a lot of killing.
  3. We hang Haman from the gallows that are intended for the Mordechai.  Okay, that might be fine, he's the bad guy here.  But what about the looting, pillaging and death the Jews exact upon the rest of the city.  Sure, the King says he couldn't reverse his decree, so we had to fight back.  That might seem fine, except we did more than protect ourselves.  According to the story we went out deliberately to kick some butt.  We killed and killed and killed.  Then we did it again on the second day.

The Lies: 

  1. Mordechai and Esther are husband and wife.  Or at least Rashi says they were. So, so so many things wrong with this message.  That you can just abandon your wife or that the vows you took on your wedding day can be annulled for a little while because it's convenient for you.
  2. Esther is a Jew.  You know this, I know this, and she knows this.  Yet somehow when she decides to enter this beauty contest to marry the king (you know, as an already married woman should) and then just not mention it.  And it's not like this wasn't something that should have been brought up.  She chooses to deliberately withhold this information, like it's something we should hide about ourselves.
The Treatment of Women:
  1. I've already discussed the unjust murder of Vashti, so that's square one.  But beyond that, we start out with a beauty contest to determine the next queen.  Not that beauty contests are a problem, per se.  It's the fact that this is a legitimate and believable way to choose a queen or a mate that I have issues with.  I don't want EG thinking that the most important part of her is her looks. (of course, the research says I shouldn't tell her she's smart either...)
  2. The fact that Esther has to wine and dine her man to make a request also seems a bit trite to me.  Yes, you can explain it away that he's not really her man, Mordechai is.  But then we've come full circle to the problems of women in this story.
But at the end of the day, it does have at least one redeeming factor: The Heroine...Esther initially doesn't want to do anything.  She tells Mordechai that she can't go in front of the King without death.  And he tells her that he's not worried.  His faith in G-d is so great that he knows that somehow they will be saved.  She responds that she will take the plunge, but that she won't go it alone.  This is where things get interesting, and the morals behind the tale take on a surprising turn towards the good.

Esther must approach the King by herself.  Only she can speak the words to him.  Only she can attempt to sway him.  However, before she does so, she asks that everyone in the community fast for three nights and days.  They they join with her, and help her in spirit to accomplish her task.  

The moral of the day, or at least the one I'll be trying to get across to EG this year, is that just because you are scared doesn't mean you can't do it.  Just because you think you can't doesn't mean that when others join with you, that you can't.  You can stand-up. You can have help.  You can overcome.

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