Monday, March 17, 2008

The Purim Story, Part the First

Narrator: Good evening and welcome to the Book of Ester. There are many tales of how the Book of Ester got its name. According to one story, it was written several thousand years ago by an infinite number of gorillas. According to this theory, the Book of Ester was named for the leader of these gorillas, Megillah Gorilla.
Another theory observes that the Book of Ester opens with a description of a party that lasted for 180 days. As anyone who ever organized a party knows, this is quite a megillah.
In any case, our story begins with Ahasuerus, the King of Persia and environs, and 126 other provinces, throwing a party that lasted for six months. The rabbis are still debating why the party lasted that long; the most common theory is that the Persians had had their fill of Mede, and were trying to avoid a hangover.
After the big party was over, the king threw a second, smaller party for everyone who was still standing. This party only included everyone in Shushan, the Capital. At the end of a week of serious drinking, the king ordered Vashti, his queen, to come and display her beauty before the royal court. Realizing that she hadn't a thing to wear, Vashti refused.
When Ahaseurus finally sobered up enough to realize that he'd spent the night alone, he was furious. For whatever reason, it never occurred to him to ask wherefore this night should have been different from all other nights. Thus, he called together his wise men, the seven princes of Persia and Media to seek their advice. The princes of Media were particularly upset since they had lost heavily in the ratings when Vashti didn't show.
Poor Vashti was sent into exile with a giant honeycomb upon her head, for, so claimed the wise men, the law decreed that she who disobeyed the king must be exiled and bee headed.
And that was the end of Vashti's story until, so the Talmud teaches us, the Rabbis chose to reexamine her case and found her guilt far greater than it had first appeared. Let us now return to the days of that fateful conversation between those three great Talmudic Scholars, Rabbi Larri of Mysogen, known as the Mysogenist; Rabbi Josef of Chauvan, known as the Chauvanist; and Rabbi Moe of Saxony, known as the Saxist.

Rabbi Larri: Wherefore can one show that the sin of Vashti was, in fact, composed of two sins? For it is written that the refusal of Vashti was an affront in the eye of the King, but before the royal court it was said that her sin was most grievous in the King's eyes. If we may assume that the King had, at most, two eyes, then was her sin composed of two sins.

Rabbi Josef: How can one show that each sin of Vashti was as 32 sins? For it is written that the refusal of Vashti pained the King as the loss of a tooth, but before the royal court it is said that her defiance was like unto a kick in the teeth. Thus it was that her sins may be seen to be 32-fold.

Rabbi Moe: How may one show that the sins of Vashti are innumerable in number? For it is written that the refusal of Vashti was like unto tweaking the hair of the King's beard. But before the royal court, it is said that her defiance was like unto the pulling of his beard. From the use of the word "hair" we can conclude that but a single hair was meant, whereas the word "beard" alone implies all the hairs of his chin. As no man can count the number of hairs upon his chin, it can be seen that Vashti's sins are beyond counting.

Rabbi Larri: Unless the King had shaved recently.

Rabbi Josef: Or was too young to have a beard.

Rabbi Larri: Or had had an unfortunate accident involving a lawn mower.

Rabbi Josef: That would explain why he was always hanging gardeners.

Rabbis exit, arguing.

Narrator: The three rabbis went on to form a famous Jewish rock group. Surely you've all heard of "A Band of Evil Angels?"
What will King Ahaseurus do when he realizes that he's just lost his wife? Will he seek out a new queen? Find out in our next episode, "The Royal Beauty Pageant" or "Fine Silks and Polyesters."

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