Mordecai the Jew and Esther the Greek: The Changing Politics of the Book of Esther in Antiquity and Our Times

| Purim By :  Aaron Koller Adjunct Professor of Talmud, JTS and Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Yeshiva University Posted On Mar 18, 2024 / 5784 | Monday Webinar Timely Insight

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Dr. Aaron Koller, Adjunct Professor, JTS, and Professor of Near East Studies, Yeshiva University

The Book of Esther is a diaspora book. None of the action takes place in the Land of Israel, and the Temple is never mentioned. One of the most famous—and significant—features of the Hebrew Book of Esther is the absence of any mention of God. But these features that make Diaspora Jews feel comfortable were profoundly disturbing to some of the book’s earliest readers—so disturbing that they actually changed it. The Jewish-Greek version of Esther adds several elements into the story, including prayers to God, prophetic dreams, and recognition of God’s intervention. These passages were added in Hasmonean Jerusalem and highlight the conflict between the original diaspora book and how it was received in Hasmonean Judea. We gain deeper appreciation for the ideologies of both versions of the book through a careful comparison of the two, and discuss how these tensions play out today as well.


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