Purim 2017

The feast of an upside down world

Purim is the feast of an upside down world[1]. Indeed the book of Esther is full of oddness, incoherencies, things which seem to happen “by chance”, contradictions, even scandals. It begins like a fairy tale: A king who repudiates his wife because she refuses to attend a banquet (ch.1). He then convokes the most beautiful young maids of his kingdom in order to choose a new wife. And here we are. His choice falls on a young Jewish woman, Esther (ch.2). If the king did not know that she was Jewish, she knew it. Then how could she marry a pagan king? How she and her uncle Mortdecai could take part in banquet, for sure no kosher?

A plot against the king is discovered “by chance”(ch.6), and thanks to this, the decision to exterminate all the Jews (for the only reason that  they were different : c h 3,8-9), is reversed; and to Haman is inflicted what he wanted to inflict to Mordechai. The supplication of Esther has been heard (ch 4 and 5 ).

And finally the scandal of ch 9: The Jews of The city of Shoshan massacre the population. Is not it written in Lev ch 19: You will not revenge?[2]

How to interpret all that?

The secret could be in the name of Esther. We can see in her name an allusion to the Hebrew verb “to hide”. (s t r) . God is hidden. His name does not appear in the Hebrew text of the book of Esther. A God who reveals himself secretly in the human history with all its ambiguities, its sins and  also of course its goodness.

We are under the Greek domination and persecution[3]. The revelation has been achieved with the last prophet. God does not anymore speak in a spectacular way. Up to Israel to read their history with  the  key of interpretation which is the Tora.

The book of Esther is called a “scroll”, in Hebrew “Megila” which means a book that you have to enroll in order to discover and unveil its content. God is hidden and this is good, because it is in his apparent absence that He is the most present  and unveils himself in the intimacy of our existences.

The scroll of Esther is so important that Maimonides could say: “One day all the books of the Holy Scriptures will disappear. When will come the days of the Messiah, only the Tora will remain and the book of Esther”

[1] It is  one of the reasons for disguising on this day.
[2] We remember Baruch Goldstein who chose the day of Purim, on Februar 25th 1994, to kill 22 Muslims in the mosque of Hebron.
[3] The story occurs in Persia. According to scholars, it has been written in the 2d centyry bc, during the greek domination.