On this Shabbat before Purim, as we have for the last few years, we take time for a close reading of a different chapter of Megillat Esther. This year, we’ll pay particular attention to chapter 3.
It would be reasonable to say that the first two chapters of the Megillah are rather frivolous. We learn of the outsized appetite of the Persian royal court, for both alcohol and women. They do everything, from parties to beauty contests, to excess. We’ve been introduced to most of the main characters in the story, except for one: Haman, who we meet at the beginning of chapter 3.
What begins as a rivalry between Haman and Mordechai for the king’s attention turns into a conflict of national proportions. Haman wants to punish not only his rival, but his rival’s entire ethnic/religious group. So he presents to the king a portrait of a people that must have been part of the psyche of the Jewish community from which this story emerged: “There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; and it is not in Your Majesty’s interest to tolerate them” (Esther 3:8).
What are the core anti-Jewish elements in Haman’s depiction of the Jews to the king? Which of his claims are utterly false, and which might be distortions of truth? We’ll look at this and other features of chapter 3 at our Purim Lunch and Learn on Shabbat morning.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,