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Vashti

Bella and Esther: If You've Got It, Flaunt It

How did Esther and Bella Abzug make change in their communities? How have Jewish women used costumes to help them achieve their goals? What can these stories teach us about gender and Judaism today?

Queen Esther and Bella Abzug: Costumes, Leadership, and Identity

On Purim we dress in costume to create a new persona. We delight in unexpected images. We poke holes in the humdrum everyday roles of men and women, rich and poor, young and old. Our assumptions about people shift, and thus, the holiday transforms us.

International Women's Day and Purim: Finding the connection

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s.

Vashti is not a failure; Esther is not a bad feminist

Abby Wisse Schachter, associate editor at the New York Post, recently published an article in Commentary Magazine that suggests that feminist thinking has changed the meaning of Purim, and that that is a bad thing. I have not read the piece because the article is only available to subscribers, and therefore I cannot evaluate the merit of Schachter’s individual arguments. Still, I reject the idea that a feminist interpretation of the Purim story “lionizes the wrong woman, promotes a false political message of nonviolence and tolerance, and worst of all embraces failure instead of promoting perhaps the greatest of Jewish heroines,” as Schachter argues in her abstract.

Vashti: Bible

The first wife of Ahasuerus (Xerxes I, reigned 485–465 B.C.E.), the king of Persia, Vashti is the featured character in the first episode (thought by some scholars to come from a “Vashti” source) of the Book of Esther, a work of historical fiction of the late Persian-early Hellenistic period (fourth century b.c.e.).

Vashti: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis state that Vashti was one of the four women who were enthroned, two of whom ruled over Israel (Jezebel and Athaliah) and two over other peoples (the heathen Semiramis and Vashti) (Esther Rabbah 3:2).

Leadership and Authority

All early biblical leaders of the Jewish people were elected by God. The matriarchs and patriarchs, priests, prophets, kings, judges and warriors were chosen by divine plan to lead the nation at different points in its history. The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] offers us glimpses into the relationships between Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, Rachel, Leah and Jacob, based on the principle that ma’aseh avot siman le-banim (the deeds of the ancestors serve as a model for the descendents). Beyond the biblical text, the influence of matriarchal faith and insight is conveyed in the midrashic literature which expands the role of wife, helper and mother to include prophetess, teacher and visionary. Yet it is clear from the biblical narrative that females did not serve in the broader leadership roles filled by males.

From Wonder Woman to Wonderbras

Though some Jews reject Halloween because of its Christian origins, others fully participate in what they consider to be a neutral, mainstream celebration. Either way, it’s difficult to escape the flood of candy, jack-o-lanterns, and synthetic spider webs as well as the latest Halloween “fashion.” Anyone who has watched the evolution of women’s Halloween costumes over the last several years may have noticed that Cinderella and the Hershey’s Kiss have long gone out of style in the wake of more risqué get-ups.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Vashti." (Viewed on October 30, 2014) <http://jwa.org/taxonomy/term/10892>.

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