I stared at my still mostly blank monitor, the “Notes for Purim Talk” header still mocking me. I finally started to add a series of bullet points, beginning with the question of how many in attendance had read Megillat Esther and what they remembered of the story of Esther and Mordecai and Haman and Ahasuerus. I would then ask for a volunteer to recount the story, after which I would correct any misperceptions. If it were a Jewish audience, I’d ask them to find the passage saying that Vashti, the king’s disobedient and defiant queen and chief wife, was beheaded. But I wasn’t sure if a group of Christian clergy, who had probably read the story way back in their seminary days, had heard that bubbe meiseh, a cautionary tale for nice Jewish wives to obey their husbands or else. Athough, I would point out, in those days, a member of the king’s harem who was banished may as well have been sentenced to death, as she would become a non-person with no privileges or allies.
After my feminist screed, I would ask why a book that never mentions the name of God would become part of the canon, which would lead into a description of the popularity of Marduk and Ishtar and spring holidays celebrating rebirth, while skirting parallels with Easter, which falls only a month later.
Okay, this should be fun. I love tiptoeing through theological mine fields.
I added reminders to discuss Purim shpiels, satirical and irreverent skits; the commandment to become so drunk as not to know the difference between “Blessed be Mordecai” and “Cursed be Haman;” and the irony of blotting out Haman’s name by reciting it. I figured I had enough to wing it, and closed down my laptop after sending the document to the printer. I hoisted myself off the couch and went out to Liz’s office to make sure the printer had worked. It had. She was looking over my notes and frowning. “Are you sure about all of this?” she asked. “Do you think they’ll be ready to hear about how Mordecai pimped out his niece or cousin or whatever relationship Esther was to him? Or that the vindictive Jews rioted and despoiled their neighbors’ homes? Hanged Haman’s sons? How unholy a book of the Holy Bible Esther is?” She softened her criticism with a grin and a wink. “I wish I could be there.”