Saturday, March 07, 2009

Purim Shpiel 2009, pt 2

Now, a king without a queen is... lonely. So, Achashverosh held a beauty pageant, bringing in eligible young women from all over the kingdom to the capital city of Shushan, or Susa, to compete for the title of Miss Persia and Mrs Achashverosh! That’s right! Whoever he liked best, he would marry as the new queen. I think they may have called this competition "The Bachelor: Royalty Edition," or "Shushanian Bridal," or maybe "Who Wants to Marry a Royal Heir?"

Enter into the story a Jew named Mordecai. He was the brother of Less-decai, and had a kinsman named Annuh-decai, who was the son of You-know-decai, and so on and so on for 2 or 3 pages which we will skip because it’s not only tedious, it just not that funny. Mordecai was a righteous and upright man–so upright that he didn’t even lie down to sleep!

Mordecai was raising his cousin Hadassah, whose name means "myrtle tree," and though Joyce Kilmer would later write "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree," a tree had nothing on this girl! On a scale of 1 to 10, she was about a 15! She was so beautiful that her Persian neighbors called her "Esther" after "Ishtar" the Persian goddess of love and beauty.! Esther was among the young women who were brought to the palace to be entered in the Miss Persia pageant.

But before she went, Mordecai took her aside and offered her some wise advice. "Esther," he said, "There are three things you must never tell anyone. First of all, never tell them your real name is Hadassah. They’ll never be able to spell it right. They can’t even pronounce it! Secondly, never tell anyone that you’re a Jew. That wouldn’t be kosher! Well, it would, but... you know what I mean. And thirdly, Esther, Darling, never tell them that you’re not a natural blonde." And here we have a play-on-words, because while "Esther" means "Ishtar" to the Persians, it means "hidden" in Hebrew, and Esther would keep her Jewish identity hidden from the king and his officials. And so, armed with Mordecai’s advice, Esther went to the palace.

The pageant was not going as well as expected. The king, you see, had discovered that he wasn’t just meeting several hundred beautiful women to be prospective wife candidates, he was also meeting several hundred potential mothers-in-law. After this, Esther was a shoo-in, because not only was she beautiful and charming, she was an orphan. No mother means no mother-in-law!

In those days, Mordecai–despite being so upright he never laid down–finally relaxed enough that the Bible says he "sat at the king’s gate." What this means, of course, is that he was a royal official in the palace. One day, while he was there, Mordecai overheard 2 of the king’s guards, Teresh and Bigthan, talking. They were scheming together against the king. No one knows just why. Maybe they were simply disgruntled employees. With names like Teresh and Bigthan, wouldn’t you be disgruntled? And whoever heard of a "gruntled" employee, anyway?

And so they plotted together against the king. It was a clever plot! I was a devious plot! It was the kind of plot that advances our plot! And it does just that! When Mordecai found out what they were planning, he told Esther, who told the king, who had the men arrested and put to death. And so, their plot plotzed–but not our plot, which is just starting to get hot! For this act of bravery, the king recorded Haman’s name in "The Royal List of People to whom I Owe a Debt of Gratitude, but Because I’m the King, I’ll Forget All About Them."

Now, , no story is complete without a villain, and do we have a doozy of a villain! Do we? Um... yes, we do... Our bad guy is a man so wicked that hearing his very name elicits booing from those who hear it! His name was Haman. (Boo!)

King Achashverosh decided that he liked Haman and promoted him over all the other officials in the kingdom. Furthermore, the king commanded that all the other royal officials bow down to the wicked Haman! Well, they don’t call it a "king-dumb" for nothing. But Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, because the Law of Moses forbids bowing down and worshiping idols–and Haman was about as "idle" as you could get! And Mordecai said,

"I won’t bow down and doff my hat!
I won’t bow down upon a mat!
I will not bow down in the rain.
I will not bow–are you insane?
I won’t bow down, for a Jew I am,
I will not bow down, Ham-I-am!

When Haman saw that Mordecai refused to bow, it made him stern, and he cast off every moral anchor, and decided that every Jew be port to death!

And so Haman cast lots (that is, he rolled dice) to determine what month and day would be a nice one for this slaughter. He cast lots of lots. Lots and lots of lots! In fact, Haman was quite the gambler! He cast lots and lots of lots... lots! The reason it took so long was that the dice kept turning up dates that fell on a Monday–and nobody likes Mondays, not even for killing your enemies! Finally, the job was done and the date was chosen. The 13th day of the 12th month was to be the 11th hour for the Jews–or so in-ten-ded the scoundrel.

part 3

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