Rembrandt van Rijn, Esther Accusing Haman Before Ahasuarus, 1660
Today is Purim, the Feast of Esther, the day to party, get drunk and release our inhibitions behind masks of all kinds. By now, most people accept that the Book of Esther in the Bible is not true. We read the story to explain the reason we celebrate Purim and to re-inspire our capacity to do good in the face of powerful forces that seem impossible to defeat. Queen Esther, you may recall, was asked to be the whistle-blower in order to save the Jews, "her people," by informing her husband that his prime minister, his appointee, scheduled the annihilation of the Jews (herself included) on the 14 day of Adar. She was fully aware that accusing Haman of wrongdoing might displease the king and his wrath might end her life. Yet in the face of possibly losing her crown and/or her head, she courageously pursued her clever plan. Rather than go straight for the indictment during her first audience with the king, she played it cool and invited him to her private apartment in the palace for an intimate banquet - not once, but twice. Then, like Judith, Esther pleasured her man with food and drink before striking the decisive blow. This fairy tale plot seems based on both archetypal tropes and real experience. Begun as an oral history (possibly linked to the Persian New Year), ir was added to the Hebrew Bible as yet another Wisdom Tale that instructs the Jews about life among those who see them as unwelcome Others.
Who indeed are the Others in our society today now threatened by government actions? Consider the cost of actions to combat injustice (time, inconvenience, social ostracism). Imagine how difficult it was to #BeLikeEsther and fight for the underdog. Imagine how heroic it is to try.
Here is an old blog post that tells the story of Esther and Purim:
And here is an excellent article in The Jewish Magazine about Rembrandt and Purim, written by Helen Webberley. http://www.jewishmag.com/121mag/rembrandt-purim-art/rembrandt-purim-art.htm
Chag Sameach - Happy Holiday - Happy Purim 2017/5777,
Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director and Owner
New York Arts Exchange
A division of New York Arts Etc., LLC