Saturday, March 07, 2009

Purim Shpiel 2009, pt 1

Sorry about the lengthy absences, readers! I've been subbing quite a bit, and working on my Purim shpiel for this Sunday.
The Jewish holiday known as Purim is a celebration of the events recorded in the book of Esther. According to the old tradition, you are supposed to "blot out" the name of the villain, Haman, by booing and making lots of noise. Another oral tradition, is that you are to drink–a lot! In fact, the suggestion is that you keep drinking until you can’t tell righteous Mordecai from wicked Haman. I guess this makes Purim a feast of "boo’s" and "booze."

Our story opens far, far ago, in a land long, long away–That is to say, around 470 B.C. (That’s "Before Cell phones") in the exotic land of Persia. Having enjoyed a 70-year compulsory vacation in the land of Babylon on King Nebuchadnezzar’s tab, many Jews decided they liked the place and stuck around. This was after the Persians took things over back in 539, and their king, Cyrus, had freed them to go home to Jerusalem.

The king of Persia at that time was a man whom everyone delighted to call "your majesty," because his name was so hard to pronounce. Achashverosh was his name–apparently his parents were very cruel. The Greeks didn’t really help matters. They called him Xerxes! Some scholars have suggested that what the Greeks really meant to call him was "Xeroxes," but I think they’re just being copycats.

After King Achashverosh had reigned for 3 years, making everything thoroughly soggy, he threw a party at the palace for his princes, satraps, sand traps, speed traps, rat traps and other VIPs in all the land. It lasted 6 months, and was followed with another banquet that was just for those in his palace. It lasted a week.

During this second extravagant party, the king commanded that everyone drink as much as he wanted of whatever he wanted! Oh those beautiful Persian night! Oh those lavish Persian parties! Of those exotic Persian wines! And O-O-Oh, those terrific Persian hangovers! By the end of this, Persian began to run out of wine and beer, having long ago had their fill of Medes–like Darius & Cyrus, for instance.

So, to liven things up, the king commanded that his queen Vashti appear at his party, wearing... her crown, so that his drunken male guests could gaze upon her beauty. Queen Vashti refused, insisting that she had nothing to wear. "Well, that was kinda’ the idea," said the king, and Vashti refused even more emphatically than before!

So Achashverosh asked his sages what to do. They told him that the queen had to be gotten rid of, since she was a role model for their wives, and if she went unpunished, no wife would ever respect her husband again! So the king decreed throughout the 128 provinces of Persia that a man should be master in his own house. This worked back then about as it well as it would today, I imagine. It went over like a pregnant woman on a pole vault.

Furthermore, Queen Vashti was sent far away, never to return, wearing a large honeycomb on her head instead of a crown. For, you see, the king had commanded that she be banished and bee-headed.

part 2

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