This is the fourth year that we have spent the Shabbat prior to Purim studying a chapter of Megillat Ester at a lunch and learn, so by my count we should be on chapter 4. I enjoy this annual tradition because while we read the megillah every year, and we think we know the story of Purim well, many of us learned it as children. Seen through adult eyes, the megillah is quite a different book than the one presented to children!
Chapter 3 introduced us to Haman, and we learned of his plot (sanctioned by the king) to exterminate the Jews of Shushan. The decree was communicated throughout the kingdom. “The city of Shushan was dumbfounded” (3:15) is an eerie conclusion to the chapter, and the low water mark of the narrative.
The text of chapter 4 is attached here, in Hebrew and English. As you read the chapter in preparation for Shabbat, please consider the following questions:
1. How are Mordechai’s and Esther’s initial reactions to the decree different from the rest of Shushan, and from one another?
2. Once they begin communicating through Hatakh, one of Esther’s attendants, how do they each see the impending crisis?
3. What does this chapter teach us about Jewish power in a minority status? What power do they have? What power do they lack?
We’ll discuss these questions as we do a close reading of the chapter on Shabbat morning at lunch!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Simhat Purim,