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Vashti: Shrew or Shplendid?

She doesn't even make it past chapter one. Vashti's banished from the kingdom before you can say, "Beauty contest, anyone?"

What's up with that lady, anyway? Well, before consigning Queen Vashti to the dungheap of historical castaways, you may want to take a closer look at Esther's scroll (that is, the original Megillah).

To paraphrase: On the seventh day (of drunken revelry), King Ahashuerus ordered Queen Vashti be brought before him wearing a royal diadem (only a royal diadem ... and nothing else) "to display her beauty." But Queen Vashti refused. The king consulted his sages who advised banishing Vashti, lest "all wives no longer treat their husbands with respect." And so it was done.

Hmm. She sound like a shrew to you?

Rabbi Arthur Waskow teaches that our biblical story reflects a long-ingrained fear on the part of men at the idea of an independent woman. Throughout the Talmud, women are portrayed as deviations from model human beings (ie, "male") and their role is defined as subordinate and protected (to be treated nicely by those who subjugate them).

Vashti clearly challenged that role. As well she should have. And doing so, she becomes for us not only a model of the ongoing need to continue challenging gender prejudices in our world today, but to challenge all attitudes and acts of bigotry being imposed by one class upon another.

Esther grew up in her new job as queen, learning to take a stand for important issues in life. Queen Vashti was a veteran of the fight for justice. We do well to honor them both come Purim time.

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782