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Bidden or Unbidden God is present. My sisters and brothers, God is always working
in our lives whether we name him or not. What is most conspicuous about the Book of
Esther is the absence of God being named. Esther is the only book of the Bible that does
not mention the word God. But God is present, God acts in the world, God’s work among
us is apparent in the story of Esther and in our daily lives.
Imagine with me that we have entered a darkened movie theatre. We have our
popcorn and pop. We turn off our cellphones and settle in to sit through the interminable
previews. Then the title appears on the large screen: Purim: Esther’s Epic. Now during
the real Jewish festival of Purim the Book of Esther is read in its entirety. The music
swells and the cast of characters is presented graphically interspersed with scenes from a
lavish banquet. We meet Esther, of course, whose name is from the Persian stara meaning
star and likely derived from that of a Babylonian deity, Ishtar. We will later learn that
Esther, being an orphan, was raised by her cousin Mordecai whose name is from that of
the Akkadian god, Marduk. Mordecai, a Jew, served in the royal court of King Ahasuerus
from the Persian form of the Greek Xerxes. King Ahasuerus ruled over 127 provinces
from India to Ethiopia. Haman is introduced with a suspenseful musical underscore that
gives us a foretaste of the intrigue that he will bring to today’s feature presentation.
(During the celebration of Purim when the reader mentions Haman (and that is 54 times
in the reading) the congregation hisses and stamps their feet and rattles a noisemaker
called the ra-ashan.) Haman was a member of the court; for a time he served as the prime
minister. (Hisses and boos and stamping of feet, please!)
Esther’s story took place in the 5th century BC. The Jews were in exile in Persia
having been conquered by the Babylonians. Haman and Mordecai are antagonists,
Haman being Agagite, an enemy of the Jews. Mordecai was descended from Kish who
was exiled more than 150 years before Esther’s tale. And Saul, Kish’s son had taken
King Agag in battle. King Ahasuerus appointed Haman prime minister. As such all were
to bow to Haman. Mordecai refused, and Haman put a plan in place to kill not only
Mordecai but all the Jews throughout the king’s domain.
Without the cinematic tools of flash-backs or flash-forwards, this story begins with an
empire-wide banquet that lasted 180 days. Our screenplay adapted from the Book of
Esther is set around 10 such celebrations, although lesser in scope but not in significance
for God’s people. These Persians were noted for their overindulgence in drink at these
banquets. By law the guests were to partake cup for cup as the King drank. In his drunken
state the King wished to show off his wife and she refused, thus paving the way for
Esther’s entrance into the king’s court and into his heart. (God does indeed work in
To further set the stage for this captivating story of Queen Esther saving the Jews
from annihilation, after the King’s former queen disobeyed him she was dismissed, and
Mordecai brought the fair and beautiful Esther to the king’s court. Esther earned his favor
from among all the young women in the harem (According to the ancient historian
Josephus there were 400 girls in all.). The king chose Esther as his Queen although she
kept her ethnicity to herself as Mordecai had advised her. Mordecai overheard a plot
against the king and Esther shared this with the King thus saving his life.
So in the fifth year of the lovely Queen Esther’s rule, Naman is finalizing his plans to
destroy Mordecai who has offended him, but not just Mordecai, but all the Jews in the
Persian Empire. Haman and the King conferred and cast Pur – or lots – to set a special
date for this campaign against the Jews. Haman had made his case before the King
spinning half-truths into threats by the Jewish community. True, the Jews had their own
laws as set in the Torah, set by God, but they also obeyed the king’s laws. The king was
convinced not to tolerate the Jews and gave the order to use 10,000 talents – that is 375
tons of silver – to carry this out. Haman issued a royal edit to destroy the Jews – to
Mordecai sent word to Esther along with a copy of the written decree ordering the
destruction of the Jews. By law noone could go to the King unless summoned – on pain
of death. Esther asked Mordecia and the Jews to fast and pray for her mission. On the 3rd
day of the vigil she dressed in her finest robes and went uninvited into the inner courts of
the king. She won his favor, and he offered her anything she ask for, even half of the vast
kingdom of Persia. She asked the king to bring Haman to a banquet that she had
prepared. But Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s court and made plans to kill him having
the gallows erected, planning to hang him and then go to the queen’s banquet supposing
that he Haman was to be honored there.
The night before Queen Esther’s banquet, the king was troubled and could not sleep.
He asked to have the royal records read to him. He was reminded in the annals how
Mordecai had saved his life earlier. So he called Haman and asked how this person had
been repaid demanding that Haman dress the one who had saved him in royal robes, be
given a horse the king had ridden, and for a crown to be placed on his head. He then
named Mordicai as the one to be honoured and demanded the Haman dress him and lead
him through the city square to honor him. Haman was mortified.
Haman did go to Esther’s dinner believing. All the while the gallows were waiting for
Mordecai within steps of the banquet hall. The 2nd day of the banquet the king asked
Esther for her petition. She asked for her own life and for the lives of her people. She
reported that she and her people were to be annihilated. The king asked her who had
plotted such a thing, and she identified Haman. So Haman was “hoist on his own petard”
– hanged on the very gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. The Jews were saved
from destruction throughout the Empire, and Mordecai was given the kings signet ring to
act on his behalf as prime minister.
Mordecai commanded that all Jews should keep a holiday, days of feasting and gift
giving to the poor. To this day Purim is celebrated in the Jewish community – named
after the lot, the Pur, that determined the day of their destruction that was thwarted.
A rather new addition to Purim in Europe is masquerading in costumes. By dressing
up on Purim and hiding their faces, Jews remember how Esther kept her Jewish heritage
hidden, how Mordecai hid his knowledge of languages so that he could learn of the plot
against his king, and how God remained hidden throughout the Purim miracle. Through
Esther’s story (and the omission of God's name in it) we learn that while God may not be
conspicuously present at all times, God nevertheless has played an essential role in the
future of the Jewish nation and continues to play an important role in everyone's lives.
Seen or unseen God is there. Bidden or unbidden God is present.
If the Book of Esther were adapted for the screen, it would be a screenwriter’s dream.
The villain Haman is dead; the king Ahasuerus and the good queen Esther are united; and
the faithful Jew Mordecai has been rewarded. Everyone lives happily ever after. But all is
not well. Yes, God’s people have been saved and God has been at work through the
heroine Esther and hero Mordecai. But the Jews are still in exile. The Persian king has
not mended his ways and Persian law still rules and the fortune of the Jews could change
on a whim. The happy ending is oh-so precarious – dependent upon humans not God.
The security of the Jews and our own security depends upon God alone. A rewrite to turn
the heart of the King and return the Jews to Israel might be a change we would like to
see. Perhaps an epilogue might reveal a change in ultimate control with a shift to God’s
agent Esther or Mordicai. But for certain when the screen fades to black and the credits
roll we surely would want to see God’s name placed prominently in the production crew
listings to acknowledge who was in control throughout the Esther Epic.
Seen or unseen, bidden or unbidden, God is present.
MONSTRUL I FILOSOFII R spunzînd unei întreb ri a lui Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs, Peter Sloterdijk observ c exist o rezisten a filosofilor în fa a a ceea ce este imposibil de controlat ra ional, în fa a fenomenelor care dau de gîndit i care amenin s pun sub semnul întreb rii certitudinile intelectuale larg acceptate. Din acest punct de vedere, filosofia s-ar asem na cu gîndirea comun i n-ar
Heteronormativity in Action: Reproducing the Heterosexual Nuclear Family in After-hours Medical Calls CELIA KITZINGER, University of York Heterosexism has become a recognized social problem since the rise of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgen- dered (LGBT) activism in the 1970s. One of its manifestations is heteronormativity: the mundane production ofheterosexuality as the normal, n