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by Rabbi David Zauderer    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

One of the hidden messages of the Purim story, as told in the book of Esther, is about the Torah and its positive attitude toward women (rumors to the contrary notwithstanding). A careful reading of the "whole megillah" will illustrate my point exactly.



One of the hidden messages of the Purim story, as told in the book of Esther, is about the Torah and its positive attitude toward women (rumors to the contrary notwithstanding). A careful reading of the "whole megillah" will illustrate my point exactly.

The story takes place 2,500 years ago in Persia (today known as Iran—that "hotbed of tolerance and liberalism" in the Middle East). It starts off with this wacko, male chauvinist King Achashverosh who throws a wild party in his royal palace in Shushan, the capitol of Persia. He gets so drunk that he asks his gorgeous Queen Vashti to parade around in front of the whole crowd in only her birthday suit. (You can’t make this stuff up!) She says, "No way, pervert!," so he has her killed. Talk about male dominance! But wait—it gets worse.

The King’s advisors convince him that unless something is done, other wives might rebel against their husbands in the future and not yield to their every whim. So they brainstorm and come up with this brilliant edict that gets sent out to the entire kingdom. It says, "Let every man rule in his own home and speak the language of his own people." What gross inequality! Where were N.O.W. and the A.C.L.U. when we needed them?

Okay, so then the king does this whole Miss Future Queen Contest, forcing every eligible, beautiful girl to enter, and drown herself in makeup, even against her will. The Jewish girl, Esther, is picked as the winner of this "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" contest and is chosen as the new queen of Persia.

To make a long story short (for the compete, uncensored version, go to your local synagogue on Purim night, March 8th, and Purim day, March 9th), the Prime Minister of Persia, a fellow named Haman (pronounced "hey, man" which rhymes with Farrakhan) was jealous of a Jew named Mordechai who was high up in the government. You see, even way back then, the anti-semites couldn’t handle a Jewish-controlled media. (Laughter, please!) So Haman convinces the king to do away with the Jews once and for all. The King decrees that on the 14th day of of the month of Adar, all the Jews should be round up and shot. Now you can imagine what kind of field day the Anti-Defamation League would’ve had with this one!

Mordechai gets wind of this evil scheme and starts mobilizing all the Jews he can get together to come up with a way to prevent this horrible misfortune. So they immediately start making all different types of committees and subcommittees and board meetings. (Some things never change.) And they also pray to G-d to save them.

Meanwhile, back at the royal palace, Queen Esther (who has just returned from Barns and No Bulls, where she did the first book-signing of her new book, "From Shushan Girl to Beauty Queen: A Persional Tale") is informed by Mordechai of the horrible news. Mordechai, who according to reliable sources, was actually married to Esther, instructs her to do the following. She is to go to the king immediately and to appeal to him and plead with him for her people. This was the first Jewish lobbyist.

But does she listen to him right away? No! Esther senses that if she will approach the king right away, the entire plan will fail and all will be lost. So she devises this whole plan to butter up the king and Haman by inviting them both to a special party she is throwing that night. This will make the king suspicious and turn him against the Prime Minister. And the plan worked! They all drank wine together, the king got upset at Haman for trying to destroy Esther’s people, and Haman and his ten sons had a massive hangover—literally!

The end of the story is that the Jews live happily ever after, and Esther and Mordechai establish the festival of Purim for all future generations to commemorate the great miracle that G-d brought about through Esther to save the entire nation.

Just look at the contrast between the conventional, non-jewish attitude towards women at that time, and the way that Mordechai and Esther worked together in a perfect husband-wife dynamic. Whereas the Persians were busy partying and attempting to denigrate their women by parading them around in an immodest fashion (which seems to have been the standard, accepted mode of behavior at that time), the Jewish people, as represented by Mordechai and Esther, were far more progressive in their male-female relationships. They understood full well that Men are from Baghdad and Women are from Damascus. Mordechai could only suggest a possible plan to save the Jews, but it was up to Esther, with her insight and intuition, to ultimately formulate that plan in a way that would bring it to a successful conclusion. What a team! What mutual self-respect and understanding between husband and wife!

Rabbi David ZaudererThe story of Purim is called Megillast Esther, not Megillat Mordechai. That should tell you a lot about the Torah’s attitude towards women.

You are invited to read more Parshat Terumah articles.

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