Megilat Esther, Exile, and Zionism – 28

Purim is generally viewed as a particularly happy holiday, characterized by a number of customs designed to make us laugh, to make us “push the envelope” of what is permitted and what is acceptable, in the direction of wild celebration. The story behind the holiday, contained in Megilat Esther, is an entertaining drama, with suspense, irony, sexual innuendo, cartoon violence, and a happy ending. So we read the scroll, but parts we drown out with noise; and we sing, and clown, and masquerade, and party – and move on to the more serious joy of Pesach. This picture is true in the Diaspora as well as in Israel, and part of this unit will look at Purim observance in Israel.

However, it is possible to see in the Esther narrative a darker view of the events, which all the merriment, perhaps, comes to cover up. Perhaps the Purim story can be seen as a dark satire on the Diaspora, as a “Zionist” tract, emphasizing the vulnerability of the Jews when they are not in their own land. Thus, it can give us some insight into the meaning of Exile and the necessity of national sovereignty.

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