The dawn political teachings of the book of esther
The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther by Yoram HazonyThe Dawn removes the book of Esther from the realm of fairy tale, translating the biblical narratives political thought into teachings of the utmost relevance today. It reveals Esthers ideas of the good state, how effective leadership makes decisions for the welfare of its people, and what modern-day Jews can learn about how to stand up to their enemies and maintain Jewish faith and nationhood even as Gods face remains hidden from His people.
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Behind the Mask of Purim: Review of Yoram Hazony's God & Politics in Esther
These works are valuable and often insightful. But they elucidate principles of social and political thought that were enacted by the heroes of the Bible in a world inhabited by the immanent presence of God—a world in which God acts in history, speaks to Moses and the prophets, gives laws and metes out justice, remembers the barren woman and the orphan child, and stands with courageous men in battle. We no longer live in such a world—and have not lived in it, according to rabbinic tradition, for thousands of years. As it happens, however, there is precedent in the Hebrew Bible itself for such a world. It is the world of the book of Esther, which comes near the end of the Hebrew Bible and which features neither the laws of Moses nor the orations of the prophets, and offers not a word about God, His presence in history, or the land of Israel that He promised to the Jewish people. What should we make of Esther? An audacious and original answer to that question was advanced two decades ago in The Dawn , a commentary on the book by the Israeli political philosopher Yoram Hazony.
Instead you will have discovered what might well be the true context of the Esther story and the message of the book named after her. Other recent writers such as Stephen Rosenberg have skilfully interpreted the Megillah as a chapter in the history of Persia; Hazony sees it as a chapter in political history in general and in particular the politics of a fragile Jewish people within a majority gentile society, with all the fragility, ambiguity and ambivalence of trying to live in two worlds. Likewise you can delve into a story and listen to what it tells you; or you can start with a preconceived idea and fit the facts to your theory. A good researcher does the first: he looks at his material and asks it to speak for itself. To Hazony, Esther is a story of the Jews in exile.
The Dawn removes the book of Esther from the realm of fairy tale, translating the biblical narrative's political thought into teachings of the utmost relevance today.
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Purim is most closely associated with costumes, triangular pastries called Hamantaschen, and howls of hatred each time the name of the Jews' genocidal nemesis, Haman, is read from the Book of Esther. In Israel, the tradition of drinking "until you don't know," meaning, until you can't distinguish friend from enemy, is one of the few religious obligations taken up with gusto on the streets of Tel Aviv. But beneath Purim's festival costume is a history of imperial decadence, sexual depredation, internecine politics and--more than anything--power. In his recently released God and Politics in Esther , Israeli political theorist Yoram Hazony presents a political reading of the Book of Esther, deriving from it a political philosophy that cuts to the heart of the archetypal relationship between the weak and the strong, and what that means for those who have power and those who need it. Published by Cambridge University Press, God and Politics is in reality an updated and expanded edition of Hazony's book The Dawn , a little-known but disproportionately influential work that brings to mind Brian Eno's famous comment about the Velvet Underground's first album: few bought it but everyone who did went on to form a band. On its first page, God and Politics addresses the question of what place a tale of "kings and queens and evil grand viziers" has in the biblical cannon.
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