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Purim – A salvation or a pretext?


While still at Sunday School, the Book of Esther from the Bible, was centred around the storyline that Esther had been elevated to the Queenship of King Ahasuerus by God, in anticipation of the impending troubled times to be raised by Haman against the Jews. And the efficient manoeuvrings of Esther and turning of the tables against Haman.

This storyline was undisturbed till I reached college and met a classmate who told me: If the Jews were interested in saving their own lives and properties, where was the need for the Jews to kill 75,000 persons in the Empire of Ahasuerus, whom the Jews perceived to be their enemies and a further 810 in the Citadel of Sushan? Therefore he concluded that it was not salvation that the Jews were seeking from the unalterable decree, wangled by Haman from the King Ahasuerus, but the Jews with the aid of their new found influence through Esther from the King that the Jews exploited to their benefit by annihilating, probably their business rivals and probably the lenders who had lent money to the Jews inside and outside the Citadel of Sushan.

The line of reasoning forwarded had a ring of truth to it, but I couldn’t rebut it on facts. Rather my sense of Liberty had not matured enough then to gently add facts into the gaps of the story, as he had inserted with unobtrusive elan.

But had I read the Book of Esther a little carefully, with a lot of reading of the Histories of Herodotus in the background, I’d probably have found out the reason as to why the Jews had killed 76,310 of their enemies on that day – in which according to the first decree they should have been the victims.

The answer is that Haman’s indignation towards Mordecai was NOT SEEN by Haman as one between him and the individual Mordecai. This is reflected in the third chapter where Haman decided to not just eliminate the ‘arrogant’ individual Mordecai, who refused to wish Haman in deference to Haman’s higher entitlement in the table of precedence, but Haman wanted to kill Mordecai’s people. In furtherance of his plans Haman had arranged for 10,000 talents of silver to the treasury of King Ahasuerus.

The question is whose silver was that? Why were the Jews as a people hated in the realm of Ahasuerus?

Haman had been promoted to the position of Chief among the Princes almost 7 years after Ahasuerus became the King. And the decree was passed in the 12 th year of the reign of Ahasuerus, which means that it happened almost five years after Esther had become the queen and likewise Haman had also been elevated to the position around the same time.

Esther would have also stabilised her position and would have had enough information of the system.

If we remember, Mordecai had warned Esther NOT TO TELL ANYONE THAT SHE WAS A JEWESS.

Why did Mordecai tell her to be cagey about her stock? Was it because he was apprehensive of the fact that the Jews were those enslaved by the Babylonians and somewhat redeemed only after the arrival of the Persian/Medes? And hence wanted to avoid the stigma of an enslaved lot? I guess not.

If we read Ezra, Cyrus, the grandfather of Ahasuerus, from his mother’s side, had decreed for restoration of the Temple at Jerusalem at least forty years before this event took place. Therefore, it can be reasonably presumed that Jews had by then found favour during the intervening reign of the Persian king Darius before Ahasuerus became king in his stead.

The Jews must have become wealthy, as lending money on usury was not prohibited by their law to people other than their brother Jews! But a wealthy moneylender attracts negativity more than any other professional – as the perception was that Jews could recover their interest and their capital with sternness and efficiency – which is a nightmare to any wayward borrower.

I have reason to believe that Haman must have had a private deal with all those people who had borrowed monies from the Jews and conspired with such borrowers and enriched himself by granting a mechanism to write off their debts to the Jews en bloc.

That is how Haman got his 10000 talents of silver – not a mean sum considering the fact that Herodotus says that some of the vassal states were assessed to only 10,000 talents of silver.

Haman had made a devious plan to get rid of all the Jews who had lent amounts to others by casting Pur, which returned the 13 th day of the twelfth month.

It was these rebellious borrowers who were probably attacked and killed by the Jews as they had conspired and paid huge sum in silver to Haman.

I feel that it was truly a salvation for the Jews to recover their outstanding capital lent to others in the realm of Ahasuerus. This, I believe that Purim is not a pretext but a true story of salvation through self help. No wonder the word God doesn’t appear in the Book of Esther.

LAWS OF THE MEDES & PERSIANS!


In two books of the BIBLE the laws of the Medes & Persians find prominent mention.

ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF THE MEDES & PERSIANS, ONCE A DECREE IS PROMULGATED, IT CANNOT BE RESCINDED OR ALTERED, COME WHAT MAY! THE LAW STAYS.

The books in the Bible are ESTHER and DANIEL. Both Esther and Daniel were from Jewry, but both belonged to a generation when the Jews were under captivity. Esther was chosen from among many who competed to become the queen of  an Emperor called XERXES (Ahasuerus) of Persia. His father was Darius, son-in-law of Cyrus, who founded the Persian Empire.

So historically when we try to put things chronologically, Daniel served Darius before Esther warmed the bed of Xerxes.

Before Darius took over BABYLON, there was a king called Balshazzar s/o Nebuchadnezzar, who saw a WRITING ON THE WALL and got the writing interpreted through Daniel. The interpretation was ominous, yet Belshazzar true to his word honoured Daniel with a robe, gold chain etc etc. The next morning Belshazzar was killed, or atleast deposed, and Darius took over as the King of Babylon. Thereafter Daniel is elevated to being one of the top three rulers of the land and exercises great control and influence over Darius, that the other nobles scheme to get Daniel into trouble. A decree is passed that none shall petition any God or man except the King for thirty days and if anyone dared to petition his God or any man, the  OFFENCE would be  punishable by death.

Daniel used to pray thrice daily to Jehovah. So the nobles put him up for trial before the king Darius and it was decreed that Daniel should be put in a Lion’s den overnight. Daniel is put in a Lion’s den and he survives ( i think the Lions were well fed before Daniel went in- after all the King was sympathetic to him you see!). Darius is relieved the next morning to see Daniel alive.

The decree that none shall PETITION GOD OR MAN FOR 30 DAYS, was passed as a decree under the LAW OF THE MEDES & PERSIANS. So, whoever be the person found to have disregarded the decree was punishable. SO even DARIUS was not able to help. But the interesting part is that Darius after finding Daniel alive after his stint at the den, issues another order that all the nobles who accused Daniel were to be thrown into the Lion’s den (whether the same set of lions or not, i know not!). IN ANY CASE, the LAWS OF THE MEDES & PERSIANS BACKFIRED on the jealous nobles. The Bible says that the other nobles did not find favour with the lions as Daniel had!

In the curious case of ESTHER, she had married a Persian XERXES, against the tenets of  the Jewish Laws (plz refer EZRA chapter 9, if you doubt that!). This anathema-tic marriage to XERXES had its benign fallout for the Jewry who were in exile at SUSAN PALACE of Xerxes.  Xerxes was also a Persian like his father Darius and his blood was bluer than that of Darius, as Xerxes was not a commoner ever. His mother was Tossa d/o Cyrus. SO XERXES was doubly BLUE. Otherwise how could one justify a virgin being sent as a sexual fodder for Xerxes each evening, and at dawn the deflowered virgin was to get back to the custody of a Eunuch in another harem, and until called for by name should never go before XERXES?

ANYWAYS, getting back to our thread, Jews were hated by the chief Minister of Xerxes. His name was Haman. But he was not sharp – serious condition of INTELLIGENCE FAILURE. Haman had an enemy by name Mordecai, who was a Jew. The relevant part was that Haman, despite holding a position of such authority, did not know that ESTHER was the COUSIN of MORDECAI and therefore ESTHER  should also be a JEWESS. SO in a classic case of cutting off the nose to spite the face, HAMAN gets a DECREE under the LAWS OF MEDES and PERSIANS marking a date for destruction of the persons and property of the Jews. XERXES issues the decree. He himself doesn’t know a damn as to the stock from where his second Queen came from. So much for running their Kingdoms.

Esther, like any sharp Jewess, acts on the advice of her cousin Mordecai. Ensnares the busy Xerxes to come for dinner to her palaces, seduces his palate before she makes a petition for her LIFE. XERXES is outraged that anyone would dare kill his primus inter pares concubine. She lays it all open and begs that she and her people be spared.

SO NOW THE DECREE PASSED UNDER THE LAWS OF THE MEDES & PERSIANS CANNOT BE RESCINDED OR ALTERED, SO THE KING ORDERS THAT THE JEWS COULD GATHER THEMSELVES TOGETHER AND KILL AND PLUNDER THOSE WHO TRY TO KILL THEM  OR VANDALIZE THEIR PROPERTIES!

So eventually, the JEWS end up killing those who wanted to kill them. SO the Jews celebrate that day as PURIM.

ANOTHER CLASSIC CASE WHERE THE LAWS OF THE MEDES AND PERSIANS BACKFIRED.

The TRUTH is that, NEVER EVER MAKE A PROGRAMME TO EXTERMINATE ANYONE. IT COULD BACKFIRE AND THE ANGEL OF DEATH COULD TURN TO THE PERSON WHO BROUGHT HIM THERE TO EXECUTE IN THE FIRST PLACE. AFTER ALL HE CAN NOT PUT HIS DRAWN SWORD IN HIS SCABBARD WITHOUT SOMEONE’S BLOOD!

That is why, the LAWS OF MEDES & PERSIANS did not survive. In India we have MALLEABLE LAWS, with provisos, exceptional clauses, interpretations, ingenuous orders and a long winding legal labyrinth to hide some where.

LONG LIVE INDIAN LAWS AND LEGAL SYSTEM.

 

 

 

 

ABRAHAM & HAMAN!


Abraham, the Patriarch of the Jewish faith and the spiritual forefather of Christians, as per chapter 18 of the Book of Genesis, in The BIBLE, when in conversation with the angels who had come in the guise of wayfarers to announce the birth of a son to Abraham and Sarah broached on the topic of Sodom and Gomorrah,  asks the angels in disguise, if there were 50 righteous people would they spare the city of Sodom from destruction. Thus Abraham in multiples of 10 reaches the last ten, asks the angels if they would desist from destroying the city, if there were only 10 righteous persons? The angels agree and depart. We know from the latter part of the book of Genesis that there were only 4 who would find grace and also out of that 4, one became a PILLAR OF SALT (Lot’s Wife).

Let us look into the BOOK OF ESTHER in The Bible, where the minister HAMAN has a running feud with Mordecai, the Cousin of Esther the Queen to Xerxes. Haman to spite Mordecai gets a decree passed by Xerxes that  anyone could plunder the Jews and pillage and kill them and that the Jews would not have the protection of the state. The state was by no means small. 127 provinces stretching from Ethiopia to India. So here we have a character HAMAN who wants all the Jews to be slaughtered so that the people of Mordecai could be wiped out.

Contrast this with the first part of the blog. ABRAHAM wanted to save the city for the sake of 10 good men and HAMAN wanted to destroy an ethnic group just to settle his personal scores with a single INDIVIDUAL. This attitude of Abraham was LIFE ORIENTED and the attitude of HAMAN was ANTI-LIFE. It is that which brings about the downfall of the man Haman.

PRO LIFE attitude breeds and sustains LIFE, whereas ANTI-LIFE attitude brings about death , destruction and chaos.

What Haman missed out was a crucial piece of information. HAMAN did not find out the ethnic background of ESTHER- in that she was a Jewess. Mordecai had instructed her that she should not divulge that she was a Jewess. Hegai did not probably know, or did and concealed it well. Why did Mordecai want Esther to conceal that she was a Jewess? Could be a zillion reasons. One is that Jews were as greedy then as now and there was a general ill-feeling and therefore to avoid further heartburn had instructed Esther to conceal, or that the Jews having survived the onslaught of the Assyrians, Babylonians and being in exile did not think it wise to advertise their occupation of crucial positions within the political hierarchy. In any case that was a good strategy!! Otherwise Haman would have had a whiff of the ethnic lot of Esther and would not have ventured to get the decree passed. And Jews would not have instituted PURIM to disguise the moral fall of a Jewess, who went to get married to a non-jew Xerxes!!

IN ALL, LIFE BREEDS LIFE AND ANTI-LIFE ALWAYS BOOMERANGS!! ABRAHAM LIVED AT LEAST 80 YEARS AFTER THE EPISODE, BUT HAMAN DIED ON THE SECOND DAY OF THE BANQUET!!

Alberuni & HISTORY


There is an interesting anecdote, maybe apocryphal, which goes as follows:-

There was a boy who told another boy, from another city, that his father dug and dug and dug the soil and they discovered cables running which belonged to times anterior to Graham Bell and that upon verification they found out that the telephone system was in use in their town prior to the claim by Graham Bell.

Upon hearing this, the other replied, ” How interesting! U know, that my father told me just a few days back, that his town’s-folk dug and dug and dug the ground and after many months of digging they found nothing and upon verification came to the conclusion, that their town was using the WIRELESS system prior to the time of the claim of invention of wireless by Marconi!”

Jokes apart, the anecdote reveals that our claims on science, history, statistics and such subjects shud have cold facts to sustain our premises, especially so when claims are being made. Otherwise it becomes just a claim to temporarily outwit other claims. We shud submit ourselves to the scrutiny of others, instead of telling others to have BELIEF or Faith in our presentations.

In INDIA, according to ALBERUNI (a historian who came with Mohd. of Ghazini), there were no historians in INDIA and consequently there were only Philosophies and MYTHS and no HISTORY.

There have been Fahien, Hieun Tsang, Kautilya and others of their ilk, who had left copious writings on the facts as seen by them, which in my view was sufficient to constitute history. Further, we as Indians (unlike the pompous Jews who had an exalted notion of their own importance in the world history!) have been modest in perception of our own importance and consequently led our day to day lives, without embarking on presentation of perceptions and calling them as HISTORY. So Alberuni’s statement may not be all that right.

WHAT is History?- is in itself a polemic. If i were to be asked, if the books written under the patronage of a Ruler were to constitute History (however impartial it may seem), i’d say an emphatic NO. In this 21st century, when information and knowledge have exploded beyond the imagination of man, there are many untold reasons for which people write. In those olden days why a Fahien or Hieun Tsang had to write and to what extent they benefited from such writings cannot be fathomed now. Consequently, where all they adjusted the facts to suit their paymasters, cannot be known.

THE WINNER WRITES HISTORY.

History also conceals the most disturbing areas. For example, the BOOK OF ESTHER in THE BIBLE, is the story about a woman called ESTHER saving the JEWS from utter destruction from the mischief planned by Haman, who was the chief minister to the emperor Xerxes (Ahaseurus(?sp.) in the KJV). The more important issue that shud be of concern is that how a Jewish woman cud be encouraged by another Jewish guy, called Mordecai, to become a co-wife of an INFIDEL called Xerxes? The Mosaic commandment proscribes the Jewry from wiving or giving in marriage to persons outside their community. Here she is “BEAUTY TREATED” by Heggai, and is sent to be the fodder for the lust of Xerxes and comes out triumphant as the Queen.

NOW how do we include this book in the holy BIBLE? After all the book of JUDITH was excluded on similar grounds(in the protestant Bible), but for the fact that the man, Holofernes, therein was merely a general and not an Emperor!! So, we romanticize the hole issue, oops- whole issue, and skim over the commandments and present a great history for the festival of PURIM.

Therefore HISTORY is not an impartial account of facts, but presentation of FACTS to ultimately lead the reader to an OBJECTIVE. AKBAR NAMA and BABUR NAMA are not meant to be impartial accounts of facts for the reader to arrive at his own conclusions, it is an effort to display the greatness of their subjects.

Even Boswell, was blinded by his admiration for Dr. Johnson. How else could we explain the taunts heaped on  the Scottish by Dr.Johnson? If in a Biography, a person can’t be impartial, how much worse wud it get, in the so called historical writings.

Alberuni, if i get my facts right, was in the entourage of Mohd. of Ghazini. The Mohd. we are talking of, had to have someone to narrate the exploits and obviously Alberuni was living off the munificence of the RAIDER. To pass off his writings as HISTORY, wud be a misnomer. Paens or Panegyric wud be a better classification of his works.

IT IS WORSE STILL, WHEN SUCH A PANEGYRIST as ALBERUNI , LOOKS AROUND FOR PAENS AND PANEGYRICS AND WHEN HE FINDS NONE, MAKES A BLATANT STATEMENT THAT INDIANS HAVE NO HISTORIANS OR SENSE OF HISTORY!!


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