Lesson 38

On the weekend, it finally happened.
This Tash told tales.
And lots of people came to see and hear.
The show was a roaring success and I wholeheartedly thank all who were involved and/or offered support.
Before anyone asks – I don’t know if it’ll happen again (at least, not in the same way that it happened on Saturday), but I hope that it may… So stay tuned.

Throughout the show, I did talk about a few J-themed bits and pieces.
And I thought these would be great nuggets to expand upon with you, my delightful bunnies.
Perhaps these will become a little series…
Who knows?
I guess it depends how many of them I can think about to expand upon!

The first nugget, is one that came into my mind as I was discussing the story of Purim within my show.
Way, way back, I did a quick run down of Purim – its traditions, its story, its snacks – so I’m going to assume you’re all familiar with the festival itself.
(Hint: if you didn’t read that post, all those months ago, click the above hyperlink and you’ll be caught up.)

In preparing that section of the show, and my discussion of my deep love for this particular festival, I came upon a sad realisation:
This festival is exceptionally misogynistic.
The very beginning of the story involves a King replacing his Queen because she’s pissed him off.
Why?
How?
Do we know what she did to anger him so?
Was it just that she denied his advances in the bedroom on one particular evening?
Or was it that she had opinions about the way he was running the kingdom?
Or was it – G-d forbid – the fact that she had opinions at all?

The next part of the story involves him finding a new queen by having all the beautiful women (note that only the hottest women got to compete) of his kingdom parade around in front of him until he could select his favourite.
In other words, he was running the original Miss Universe competition.

And lastly, the conclusion of the story involves the new, attractive, secretly Jewish Queen Esther being told to risk her life – not asked if she was prepared to, but told that she must – by her uncle.
How did she risk her life?
By approaching her husband without being summoned – because he could kill her for wanting to talk to him without him having requested her presence.

Also, this whole story is known as The Story of Esther.
Really?
It’s her story?
If it were her story, it’d be very different.

Lesson 38

If this were The Story of Esther…

In ancient Persia, under the rule of King Ahashueros, there lived a bunch of Jews.
There was this one, beautiful orphaned Jewess called Esther.
She lived with her Uncle Mordechai.
Uncle Mordie did his best to raise little Esther, but he was from a different generation.
He thought that girls were chattel to be owned and controlled.
He thought they were only worth as much as their beauty.
Luckily (according to Uncle Mordie), Esther was worth a lot.
The Jews of Persia tried to keep to themselves and not cause trouble within the kingdom.
They knew their history and knew that they were often used as scapegoats during times of political and economic turmoil so they didn’t want to see that happen here also.
Within Persia, although they were being charged higher taxes than everyone else, they were otherwise just like everyone else.
And they wanted to keep it that way.

One day, word came round that King Ahashuerus was looking for a new bride.
The Jews were confused, they’d heard that he already had a queen and hadn’t heard any news of her recent and sudden death.
In spite of that, when Uncle Mordie heard that the king wished to pick his new bride based on her beauty alone, he knew that Esther was a shoo in.
Esther, meanwhile, had no interest in being married off.
At all.
Not to a king.
Not to a butcher.
Not to a tailor.
Not to a communist revolutionary who gets arrested in Kiev and sent to Siberia…
… Sorry, I got lost in another story there for a minute…
But, the point stands, Esther wasn’t fussed.
To please Uncle Mordie (because if she didn’t, she was likely to be hearing about it for the next ten years) Esther packed her swimsuit, her evening wear and the equipment to show off her special talent, and headed to the parade.
Esther was convinced she wouldn’t win.
She looked too Jewish.
No king would choose a Jew.
Unless it was a King Solomon or King David, perhaps – am I right, J’s?
#biblecomedywithtash
Lo and behold though, Esther did win herself a reigning monarch.
What a lucky Beauty Queen.
A king she’d never asked for.
And didn’t really want.

So Queen Esther had to move into the palace.
She went home to pack her mother’s candlesticks and her grandmother’s menorah, but Uncle Mordie suggested it was best to leave those at his place.
Better that than they get mixed up with the palace stock.
“Oh! And also,” he says as she’s leaving his home for the final time, “don’t tell anyone you’re Jewish.”
Great advice.
Build a new marriage – that you didn’t want – on lies.
Perfect plan.
And we wonder why Uncle Mordie is single…

Blah, blah – lots of story about the men hating each other and being self-righteous and having a messiah complex and waging religious war and all the other fun, meaty filling of a man story.

Then we come back to Esther.
Why?
So that she can save the day.
By starving herself.
Oh.
Wait.
That’s because she’s fasting.
To be pure –
Which was probably Uncle Mordie’s idea.
As all great ideas in this story seem to be.
And no doubt after being raped many times by her new kingly spouse.
– To pray to G-d about whether or not she should go and talk to her husband.
Let’s take a pause here.
I’m not married.
Never have been.
So I realise I’m not speaking from first-hand experience…
But – as far as I know – you shouldn’t have to fast and pray for three days in order to feel safe when approaching your husband for a chat (whether the subject matter be important or not!)
Once she gets skinny and hungry enough that G-d is happy with her, she has to use her feminine wiles to convince the moron she’s married to not to kill her people.
The people she’s never expressed any interest in before.
The people she’s actually related to.
Those people.
SURPRISE!
Lucky she’s so damned hot, because it works out in the end and it’s only one racist bigot who gets killed instead of a whole population of Jews – the hot and the unattractive.
The thing is, if King Ahauhueros had decided to lash out at his wife, the only time that you could understand it (not endorse it, obviously, because domestic violence is never ok) is at the time that he discovers his wife is someone very different from the woman she’s been pretending to be.
But then, he forced her to marry him in the first place, so what choice did she have..?
It’s a complicated issue.

Where is the lesson here?
The lesson is in the thinking about the holiday.
We dress up in fancy dress for this holiday.
Little kids start their Purim costume career as King Ahashuerus or Uncle Mordie and as Queen Esther.
Esther was forced to marry a man she didn’t know.
She didn’t get to make any decisions of her own.
She had to hide any element of her personality that gave away who she truly was.
And she did all this for a non-Jewish husband.
Whom she never asked for.
If this was my life today, I would not be happy.
I would want someone to help me out of this toxic situation.
I would not want to be reminded of that time in my life by being faced with the image of little girls everywhere dressed as my imprisoned self.
And parents everywhere should probably think about the female role models they’re presenting to their children.
From day one.

Lesson one?
Let’s start finding the strong female characters in the stories.
And praising them.
I bet the OG Queen (Vashty) woulda been pro-Jew.
Poor, wronged woman.

#yourewelcome

#tashtoldallhertalesandnowneedstofindsomemore
#purimfromafeministperspective
#strongwomenneedtobecelebrated
#ruthyisastrongfemalerolemodel

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