The Gantseh Megillah

March 1, 2000

Monday evening, 20 March, is the beginning of one of the most joyous holidays of the Jewish calendar, Purim! This is a holiday, that as a child, I looked forward to eagerly every year. As a student in my synagogue’s Hebrew school I had the pleasure of helping to plan and set-up the annual Purim carnival. It was great fun deciding on what games would be included in the booths we would assemble all around the large hall that was used for these kinds of occasions. There were also areas set aside for the sale of food (kosher of course ) and souvenir trinkets.

By far, the best part of the Purim carnival was the play put on by some of the students who would re-enact, in very simple form, the highlights from the story of Purim. Our mothers would help us assemble our costumes and the teachers would make sure we learned our lines properly. The music teacher would teach us the songs appropriate to the holiday which was sung by all of the children in the Hebrew school, not just the “actors” appearing in the play.

In those days, the story seemed so simple to us. King Achasheveros was holding a banquet for the wise men of the kingdom. After indulging in copious amounts of alcoholic beverages, his emboldened tongue allowed him to brag about what a great beauty his Queen Vashti was. Such beauty as has never been equaled in his kingdom before. Of course his friends were curious and wished to see this fabulously gorgeous Queen the King was raving about. Achasheveros sent word to Vashti, insisting she appear before his guests and entertain them. Insulted by being treated as a common slave, she refuses to obey his wishes. The King, embarrassed by his wife’s refusal to obey his commands in front of his guests, he orders her death as punishment for her disgraceful behaviour.

The rest of the story of course involves his marriage to Queen Esther, who he does not know is Jewish and the tyranny brought upon her people by the evil Haman. I am sure all of us know how the rest of the story progresses, and there will be other articles in this appropriately named newsletter (The Gantseh Megillah) that will remind us of the highlights. My reason for bringing this up, is because while re-reading this particular section of the story it suddenly struck me how relevant it actually is to women today.

Vashti recoiled from the disrespect the King was subjecting her to. Why would he have the nerve to do this, other than the fact he was King,? Obviously he did not value a woman with the same importance he would a man. This attitude has continued right into the present day, but there is a huge difference. Now it is not just one woman who displays the courage to demand the same respect as a man is afforded.

Thanks to the women’s movement which began in earnest during the 1960’s, women throughout society are refusing to put up with the idea that they are somehow subservient to men. At first, many men reacted as did Achashveros in Persia so long ago. Of course they did not kill their women, but they certainly tried their best to “keep them in their place.” Little by little though, women began to take their place in areas that men for so many years had claimed as their own. The glass ceiling of the business world was cracked and then broken. Many women have joined the ranks of upper management as executives in companies and corporations large and small. Politics has seen women elected to high office and our Supreme Court at last count has two justices who are women. There is no doubt in my mind that this situation will continue as women take their place beside men in almost every aspect of life.

While it is true that Queen Vashti was no friend of the Jews and was known to treat Jewish children with meanness and contempt, we must give credit where credit is due. It would appear that Vashti was the very first women’s libber.!!

I am very grateful to everyone who has written to me with kind words about the newsletter. It makes me very happy to know that it is being well received and that you are finding it enjoyable and entertaining. Plans are being made to make the “Megillah” even better. This month I am asking all of you to answer the following question. “Do you have either the Real Player, or the Windows Media player installed in your computer?” These are the two players most widely used for receiving streaming audio and video content on the Web. I would like to know if it is feasible for me to include some of these kinds of items in future editions of the newsletter, and your answers will help me make that determination.

I also wish to thank those of you in our family of subscribers who responded to last month’s question…” To me, Jewish love is______”. Below are some of the words chosen to fill in that blank.

Understanding & Acceptance Always being there for each other in good and bad times.
Warmth - Mom - Yeshua - Unconditional - Israel - Guilt - Family - Encompassing - Trust - Devotion To Family - Caring - Compromise

This is just a sampling of the many responses I received over the past few weeks. It is clear to me, that Jewish love is above all, very special.

Enjoy this month’s Gantseh Megillah!
“til next time, my love to all of you,
Michael D. Fein

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