On this Shabbat Zakhor, the Shabbat before Purim, we will take a deep dive into chapter 2 of Megillat Esther at our pre-Purim lunch and learn. Vashti has been deposed, and the vacancy is going to be filled. The king’s advisors hatch a plan for an empire-wide search for a replacement. In this chapter, we are introduced to Esther and her cousin Mordekhai. What exactly are their roles in the plan–are they active participants, or passive royal subjects?
Their ethnic identity also bears mention, specifically because Esther is instructed not to mention it at Mordekhai’s behest. We later learn in our chapter that Mordekhai is responsible for foiling an assassination plot against the king. Can we draw any conclusions about Mordekhai’s loyalties and Jewish identity from this chapter? What about Esther’s Jewish identity? Are there any red flags that come up in this chapter?
Finally, the dynamics of the Persian state, which we saw on ostentatious display when we studied chapter 1 last year, are evident again here. What role do state mechanisms play in this story, and what lessons can we learn from these findings?
Again, you can find the text of chapter 2 of Esther here.