The Spirit(s) of the Festival

19 03 2008

While most of the world is preparing to get drunk over Easter, those of us who were actually responsible for the festival are going to be getting drunk for a very different reason. Purim is, to me, exactly what I love about Judaism. We get to read a nonsensical story about a stupid, drunkard king and his Gargamelesque viceroy, both of whom get outsmarted by a silly, dithering queen and her irritating cousin. And then, to clinch the matter, the “victims” of the narrative run around murdering all the people by whom they feel threatened, and we all head off to the bar to consume enough drinks that the story makes sense. I am not a fan of organised religion, but this is disorganised religion at its absolute finest.


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9 responses

19 03 2008
Michael

“murdering all the people by whom they feel threatened” ?? — i think it was a bit more serious than that — since according to the story the plan was to exterminate all jews in persia i reckon this would be the equivalent of jews having the opportunity to kill 70,000 ss officers etc before the holocaust started — which i think would be a cause of celebration.

19 03 2008
Simon Holloway

You raise a good point. This wasn’t really a serious post, but I did once write about this topic in a post called “Esther’s Mirror”. Part of the carnivalesque nature of the festival, so far as I am concerned, is in the way that the different protagonists are paralleled with one another. I felt, and do feel, that the Persians who are willing to exterminate the Jews are being paralleled with the Jews who are willing to exterminate the Persians.

If we read the book seriously and literally then we might take something else from it, but there are too many indications within the text that it is a comedy.

19 03 2008
Michael

You’re probably right — I know some classical Jewish sources say Job is a parable, do you know if any do the same for Esther?

19 03 2008
Simon Holloway

‘Fraid not. Despite the fact that it clearly is comedic, exegetes have traditionally read it literally. In some ways, that’s the funniest bit of all.

21 03 2008
In Defence of Purim -- a Nadder!

[…] buy it for a second. Of course some claim the whole story is meant as a parable, mystery play or a joke, that the events in the Book of Esther didn’t happen historically. I think this is true, but has […]

24 03 2008
Iyov

“those of us who were actually responsible for the festival”

I didn’t know you were a Roman.

24 03 2008
Stacey

Do you know how to say “The Fifth Cup” in Hebrew (i.e., transliteration?)

24 03 2008
Simon Holloway

The word for cup, in Hebrew, is /kos/ (כוס), which only ever appears in the Bible as a feminine word. For that reason, “the fifth cup” would be /kos haChamishit/, or /kos haKhamishit/ (depending on your preference; כוס החמישית in Hebrew). In Aramaic, however, “cup” is /kas/ or /kasa/ (כס, כסא), and appears as a masculine word. This may be the reason behind the Hebrew word also becoming masculine in the period of the Mishna’s composition. Jastrow lists it as being either masculine or feminine, but Rabbinic references to the fifth cup of wine are always /kos haChamishi/ – that is, without the /t/ on the end (כוס החמישי).

Sorry if that was too much detail. What you are looking for, I suspect, is “kos haChamishi”. But I can’t resist an opportunity to gush grammar.

30 09 2008
Pro-Bible Atheism -- a Nadder!

[…] eventual triumph of the socially marginalised EstherPolitical cartoonMore archetypes plus the element of satire DanielTim Burton movieCombination of the hellish, the sublime, the ludicrous Ezra/NehemiahMovie […]

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