Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Things about Purim that raise questions

I ran this last year, and the year before that, too. Oh, well you know what they say: mee she nichnas adar marbim old posts


Well, the Purim season is off to it's traditional start: The price of wine has gone up, the mosdos are clamoring for support, and [something true, but a little mean about another blogger, now no longer relvant.]

Anyway, I suppose it's time for me to get in on the Purim fun, while first making clear that this post is from last year, and also, I don't care one whit about the origins of Purim: No matter what the skeptics have to say about how Purim came into being, the fact is Purim has been around for a long, long time, and it's a day full of great fun.

Things about Purim that bother me
In no particular order

1) The Persian sources are't especially gap-filled yet they contain no references to the events described in Megilas Esther. There's no record of a King Ahashverosh, a Queen Vashti, a decreee to kill Jews, or of Jews killing thousands of their enemies. Why wasn't any of this recorded?

2) The names Haman, Esther and Mordechai sound suspiciously like those of Babylonian gods, making it possible that our story is a retelling, maybe a parody, of some ancient folktale or myth. In Persian mythology Ishtar is the goddess of fertility; Marduk is the god of the heavens; and Haman is the devil. Is this a strange coincidance? A deliberate parody? Or (more) proof that the whole 'lo shanu et shimon/they didn't change their names' is just so much Haredi bushwah?

3) Esther is a Jewish woman, living well after the Torah was given. So what is she doing in a harem, paying no attention to dietary laws? And, is anyone else concerned that Mordechai seems to have been the original funny-uncle?

4) Late in the story, a guy named Hatach appears. Essentially, he's Esther's messanger-boy, yet the Rabbis insisted he was the very famous Daniel. Why is this necessary?

5) Early in the story, the King receives advice from a man named Me'muchan. The Rabbis insist that this is Haman. Why is this necessary?

6) The Rabbis also insisted the Vashti had a tail. WITN?

7) Hasidim make a fetish of mispronouncing Mordechai's name. Instead of Mor-DOH- Chai, they say Mud-cha. WITN?

A question I can answer: In the Megillah, Esther three-day fast is long before Purim, so why is Ta'anit Esther, the rabbinic fast day, on 13 Adar, the day before Purim?

Short Answer:
The Rabbis were shrewd at politics.

Long Answer:
Second Temple Jews had a Maccabean holiday that the Rabbi's disliked, called Nicanor Day, celebrated on 13 Adar. The Rabbis also disliked the Maccabees and therefore turned their big day into a solemn fast.

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