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Monday, August 19, 2019


Introduction to the Book of Ester[1]

How do you deal with someone's insidious plot to murder you and everybody like you?
The Book of Esther provides one possible answer to that question, tough cookie though it is. Today, that query may not loom quite as large in America, but it definitely does in many other places throughout the world (the Middle East, Burma, the Congo—and about a dozen or more other places). It happened to loom really large in the ancient Middle East too. In Esther's case, though, no one seems to know if there really was a wicked counselor named Haman who attempted to manipulate the emperor (probably Xerxes I, though here he's called "Ahasuerus") into having all the Jews in the Persian Empire murdered during the fifth century BCE. Nevertheless, you don't have to look too deeply into Jewish history to find highly similar attempts at genocide and persecution against the Jews. The story (which was probably written during the third or fourth Century BCE) may have helped people who were living under later rulers and needed to reckon with threats from above (regardless of how historically accurate the story is—or isn't).


Good Girl, Mad World

Esther is one of the first in a long line of stories about how a good and clever woman helps a powerful, evil, and monstrous (or maybe just confused) villain switch towards making the right decisions (in this case, it's King Ahasuerus). In a way, it's a little like Beauty and the Beast—except the Beast never sat around tacitly supporting a genocide, Belle never sought vengeance against the people who were trying to kill her, and Lumiere never walked around weeping and wearing sackcloth. But despite all that, Esther's a good example of this type of story. To give a non-Disney version, you could think of The Arabian Nights, where the heroine gets her husband to stop murdering his wives every night by telling him a series of entertaining tales (come to think of it, actually that is a Disney example, because Aladdin's part of The Arabian Nights). It's also a bit of an unusual fit. It isn't one of the major books of the Tanakh or the prophets or anything. It's wedged in with the "Writings," next to a miscellany of texts, like The Book of Daniel and The Song of Songs. It's also particularly odd because it doesn't really mention God, doesn't really fit into that whole spiritual narrative which occupies the Torah and the Prophets. It's a suspense and adventure story on the one hand, but it's also a more serious tale about how the Jewish people manage to preserve themselves and their culture when faced with a threat from hostile authorities. Additionally, one of Esther's greatest contributions to culture—the holiday of Purim—is a time for fun and merriment (and also an opportunity to look for spiritual meanings hidden within the tale).


Why Should I Care?

The Book of Esther has a James Bond-ish, ticking-time-bomb plot. It's also heavy on action, drama, and Game of Thrones-style intrigue, while being notably lacking in legal codes, commandments, theology—all that kind of thing. This is one book of the Bible you could easily read while marinating in a bubble bath, without feeling particularly sacrilegious. The book is compact and smooth—a straightforward, streamlined example of an ancient Hebrew short story. We're not suggesting that whoever wrote the book of Esther was exactly the Alice Munro of his or her time, but the author was indeed another master storyteller. A closer comparison would be a story that's a classic, but more focused on action than on character. Maybe F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" would work as an example of the style (if not of the substance).


Darker Dimensions

But Esther is more than an entertaining yarn. To be sure, it is more of a "tale" than an epic investigation into the relationship between God and humanity. (In fact, considering that it doesn't really mention God, it might be the Bible's most secular book.) Overall, though, it's a story about how a pair of scrappy underdogs—Esther and Mordecai—face seemingly insurmountable odds and end up putting it all together in the end. The author suggests that, while living in exile the Jewish people can—with tough work and intelligence—secure a decent place for themselves within the kingdoms ruled by Gentile conquerors. (So, maybe it's more like The Little Giants or The Mighty Ducks than all that high-art literary Munro and Fitzgerald stuff.) Yet, there are darker dimensions to the story, going beyond the basic theme of preventing a genocide. Esther, Mordecai, and their allies seek vengeance against the supporters of the evil counselor Haman, racking up a considerable death toll, for one thing. As well, the king Ahasuerus is a bit of a cipher. You can't really figure out what the dude's psychology is, or what he's "on about" (to borrow a U.K.-ism). So, that's all disquieting food for thought. But despite these violent and confusing undertones and the somewhat confusing, momentary disappearance of God from the Biblical storyline, the reader will undoubtedly be moved to repeat an immortal line from The Royal Tennenbaums: "Go, Mordecai!"

AUGUST 19 Monday
WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY

Ester, Chapter 1, Verse 8
The whole nation of the just was shaken with fear at the evils to come upon them, and they expected to perish.


Sounds like 2019 to me, afterall we according to AOC we only have 12 years left-so let’s party!
Party Like It's Roughly 500 BCE[2]
  • The first chapter starts off by describing the setting: this all went down in the Persian capital of Susa, where King Ahasuerus was ruling over an empire that extended from India to Ethiopia.
  • Three years into his reign, Ahasuerus throws a huge banquet, showing off his wealth to all of the different governors and officials in his kingdom. It's a massive party that goes on for one hundred and eighty days.
  • Then, he gives another banquet for all the people living in his citadel—both the important people and the unimportant. It lasts for seven days. All of the kings' luxurious couches and curtains are on show, and he amply provides wine for his guests in golden goblets.
  • The queen, Vashti, also provides a separate banquet for all the women in the kingdom.
  • On the seventh day, King Ahasuerus orders the queen to come so that he can show her beauty off to all the people in the kingdom, sending eunuchs to tell her.
  • But the queen refuses to come. Uh-oh.
Sounds like a Case for Judge Judy
  • King Ahasuerus goes into a rage and asks his sages what the law says about this.
  • The sages say that the queen has not only wronged the king but all the people in the kingdom as well, since she's setting a disobedient example for all the wives. They tell him he needs to dismiss the queen.
  • So, the king divorces Vashti, strips her of her title, and orders her never to come before him again.
  • He also writes letters to each of his provinces telling everyone that men should be the masters of their houses. (Nice touch, fella.)
World Humanitarian Day[3]


World Humanitarian Day seeks to recognize the compassion and bravery of humanitarian workers. The day also serves to gain international cooperation to meet the needs of humanitarian work around the world.  Humanitarian workers provide life-saving assistance consisting of first aid, nutrition, shelter and help rebuild after disaster has struck. These workers often battle violence, local diseases and hunger while attempting to save lives and provide relief to those most in need. World Humanitarian Day was designated by the United Nations in December of 2008 in an effort to honor the sacrifices of humanitarian workers. It is celebrated annually on August 19, a day that commemorates the 2003 bombing of the UN Headquarters in Iraq.

World Humanitarian Day Facts & Quotes

·         It is estimated that approximately 22 billion dollars of aid was given worldwide in 2013, though there is no official way to track exactly how much money is spent.
·         The US is the top national donor in terms of raw dollars allocated to humanitarian aid. In 2013 it gave approximately 4.7 billion dollars. However, among developed nations, it donates the lowest percentage of its GDP.
·         Despite all the money and aid that is being given for humanitarian relief, it is still estimated that one-third of all global humanitarian needs are not being met.

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Battle for the Soul of America-Day 5
·         Ask for the Prayers and assistance of the Angels



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