The Esther Scroll is, in a sense, the most relevant biblical book today. It is about assimilated Jews and written for them.

The Greek version of the Esther contains profuse prayers, but the Jewish canonical version lacks any reference to God. It is as secular as Woody Allen’s movies. Perhaps for that reason Esther is the only canonical book absent from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Religious people simply were not interested in secular romance.

Purim in the 21 century

The Esther was written for intelligent people. Judean peasants could believe that Joshua parted the River Jordan and the flowing water kept forming a wall into the skies; Rambam warned that these miracles were not to be taken literally. Educated Babylonian Jews wouldn’t buy that. In the Esther, miracles are of a different order: they represent improbable rather than physically impossible events. To educated Jews, God performs miracles by adjusting probabilities rather than by violating the laws of nature.

Mordechai Bilshan was a typical assimilated Jew, much like any ADL functionary today. Just as Jews of today are called Paul, after our Christian nemesis, he took the name of Marduk Bel Shunu, [god] Marduk Our Lord. Not unlike the modern court Jews, Mordechai was extremely ill-mannered, as he refused to show basic respect to viceroy. The entire Jewish community was endangered because of Mordechai’s frankly unethical behavior; did you think, “Polish tax farmers?”

Rabbis surmise that Mordechai behaved brutishly because he was certain of eventual deliverance. Such a hypothesis does not square with the fact that Mordechai rent his closes and was otherwise shocked upon hearing of Haman’s reaction—extermination of all Jews.

Mordechai was a scheming Jew at that. Upon overhearing putschists, he quickly ratted on them to the king. By doing so, Mordechai kept alive the very ruler who would order the annihilation of all Jews. The narrator missed no opportunity to hint to his readers that assimilated Jews are guilty, and deserving of their fate.

Mordechai was only happy to introduce Esther, his cousin, to a pagan king for a marriage which would likely have amounted to a one-time concubinage. Esther, too, had no trouble understanding that she should keep her Jewishness from the king. She abandoned Judaism in favor of pagan religious ceremonies.

At the time of the crisis, both assimilated personages changed. When Esther initially refused to plead with the king for the Jews, Mordechai clearly hinted to her that she could not expect that her own Jewishness would remain hidden from the king. Pressed against the wall, Esther sprung into action, and with much cunning and strong nerve overcame Haman, her husband’s favorite.

Esther was not your liberal Jew. After she managed to reverse the edict, Jews were allowed to slaughter those who hated them. After five hundred alleged anti-Semites were murdered in the capital, the shocked king turned to Esther to ask if, perhaps, she wished for something else. Pretending not to understand him, Esther answered that indeed, she had a wish—for one more day of killings. So the Jews murdered another three hundred residents the next day.

Among other things, the Esther Scroll reminds American Jews to gather their last shreds of Jewishness and support the expulsion of the Arabs as the least criminal measure according to our religious precepts.