Happy Purim: Except You Macedonians
“State Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who was once chief of staff to Mr. Hikind,” speaks up in the face of one sad interpretation, and says:
“Purim is a happy time, a happy day, and it should not be at anyone else’s expense.”
This, in the NYTs article which my co-blogger Theophrastus links to in his post here.
Which makes us all wonder what the Jewish community in Alexandria must have been thinking when Esther was translated into Alexander the Great’s language. That’s right, the Alexander from Macedonia. That’s right, the goyish Greek language.
Here’s the Hebrew (and the NRSV English translation of it) first:
24 Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur—that is “the lot”—to crush and destroy them; 25 but when Esther came before the king, he gave orders in writing that the wicked plot that he had devised against the Jews should come upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26 Therefore these days are called Purim, from the word Pur. Thus because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, 27 the Jews established and accepted as a custom for themselves and their descendants and all who joined them, that without fail they would continue to observe these two days every year, as it was written and at the time appointed. 28 These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every family, province, and city; and these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants. 29 Queen Esther daughter of Abihail, along with the Jew Mordecai, gave full written authority, confirming this second letter about Purim.
Now here’s the Hebraic Hellene, marking Macedonian Greek, giving Haman the face of the true and new villains (and the NRSV English translation of it):
23 So the Jews accepted what Mordecai had written to them 24 —how Haman son of Hammedatha, the Macedonian, fought against them, how he made a decree and cast lots to destroy them, 25 and how he went in to the king, telling him to hang Mordecai; but the wicked plot he had devised against the Jews came back upon himself, and he and his sons were hanged. 26 Therefore these days were called “Purim,” because of the lots (for in their language this is the word that means “lots”). And so, because of what was written in this letter, and because of what they had experienced in this affair and what had befallen them, Mordecai established this festival, 27 and the Jews took upon themselves, upon their descendants, and upon all who would join them, to observe it without fail. These days of Purim should be a memorial and kept from generation to generation, in every city, family, and country. 28 These days of Purim were to be observed for all time, and the commemoration of them was never to cease among their descendants. 29 Then Queen Esther daughter of Aminadab along with Mordecai the Jew wrote down what they had done, and gave full authority to the letter about Purim.
This is no mere “addition” to the whole Megillah, to the Book of Esther, either.
How happy is Purim for all (except for some).