Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The True Story That Never Happened
Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim, which celebrates the almost certainly fictitious events depicted in the biblical book of Esther. Persian monarchs did not pick their brides via beauty contest, although they might have been happier if they had. But even if the events never happened, there is eternal underlying truth to the Purim story. An evil, power hungry schemer influences a dopey king and a compliant populace by sowing seeds of hatred and fear. All too easily, they come to believe that a minority group in their midst is dangerous and must be eradicated. The two unlikely and unwilling heroes are ordinary people, one outside the power structure and the other inside, and it takes both of them, working together, to avoid catastrophe. I can think of at least ten current-day examples of this scenario. But in the book of Esther, the good guys win and the villain gets caught and punished. That, I suppose, is where the fiction kicks in.
But so what. This is a day of religiously encouraged excess. We are supposed to feast, drink, and give gifts of food to one another, and to the poor. Be happy and enjoy Purim.