My gorgeous 12-year-old daughter Madison has to prepare an outfit for her youth group’s Purim party. I volunteered to put together a lovely Esther costume, but she’ll have none of it. She insists on dressing as Lady Gaga! Have you ever heard anything so crazy?
— Exasperated Ima
No, I have not (except maybe for that time a Jewish couple named their kid “Madison.”
But then again, which famous female really sets a better example for your municipally named little girl? Let’s review:
As the Book of Esther opens, the Persian king Ahasuerus, whom the Greeks called Xerxes, is in a good mood. And why not? The Persian legions had recently defeated Leonidas and his cadre of 300 at Thermopylae. Forget the riches to be gained by looting Sparta and Athens — the movie rights alone are worth millions!
And so the Persians celebrate. After a few days of partying like it’s 1999 BCE, the king summons his wife, Vashti. The queen, whose name translates roughly as “Gloria Steinem,” sends back word that she doesn’t appreciate being summoned, and “His Highness” can expect to sleep on the royal couch until further notice. Yada yada, next thing you know, Vashti is out and Esther is in.
Meantime, the evil Haman doesn’t like Jews and gets the king’s permission to have them all executed. Ester’s uncle Mordechai hatches a plan that is very risky for Esther (but for him, not so much). In the end, the Jews win by slaughtering their enemies in a series of bloody and close fought battles. In commemoration, we celebrate by drinking heavily, because as those victorious Jews would eventually discover, in those days there were few really effective pharmaceutical options for treating PTSD.
Esther’s Uncle Mortie ends up a big macher in Shushan, while the queen herself is simply never mentioned again, as is appropriate given her gender. You may be surprised to learn, though, that, unlike Miss Gaga, there’s no record that either of them ever took so much as a long holiday weekend in the Holy Land. What’s their excuse? A weeks-long ride on a smelly, cantankerous camel still beats coach on El Al. And if you find yourself waiting an hour to be served a cup of coffee, you can at least have somebody flogged.
Exasperated, do you really want your Wisconsonymous offspring to show up at her Zionist youth group dressed as a symbol of unengaged diaspora Jewry? I think not. Put down your sewing needle, run to the kosher butcher and transform your daughter into her meat-attired idol. Esther may have feasted in the throne room of one of the greatest empires in history, but Gaga (named for the favorite sport of Jewish camps everywhere) has had take-out falafel from a kiosk on Ben Yehuda Street. Decide for yourself who is the greater role model.
N. Troyer believes that every day should be Purim. The other library patrons do not seem to agree.