A Spring Purim Play
Purim, the Feast of Chance and the Jewish celebration of early spring, falls on the evening of March 4, and during the day on March 5. The main characters of the Purim story--Queen Esther, Mordechai, Queen Vashti, Haman, and King Achashverosh, all represent the coming of spring in different ways. As it's traditional to poke fun at what is sacred on Purim, this Purim play pokes fun at the Book of Esther from an earthy point of view.
Announcer: The crocuses have finally opened here on the western side of Central Park, just in time for the official start of spring, and days before the arrival of the holiday of Purim. Geese are appearing in the sky and daffodil buds are sprouting all over. The cast of the Book of Esther is appearing today to compete for the role of ďHarbinger of Spring.Ē Here they are on the steps of Belvedere Castle. Letís see how they intend to convince the judges they are right for the partÖ.
Esther (wearing a wreath of flowers and precious little else): Like the goddess Ishtar descending to the underworld in order to return with the new grain, I descend into the kingís harem, then return to plead for the defeat of death. I am called the morning star. Even my name is related to the word for Easter! Okay, wrong spring holiday, but you take my point! My beauty and grace are reflected in the blossoms of the season. The judges should choose me as Harbinger of Spring. I was born for the role!
Vashti (wearing a white chiton and carrying a bow and arrow): Itís not enough that you took my husband? Now you want my job as well? Honored judges, I am the emissary of spring! I was rejected by my husband Achashverosh, but midrash claims I am the true queen of Persia, daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. The king demanded that I come before his drunken guests to dance, but I refused. I am the virgin maiden of spring, untamed and untouchable.
Esther: Untouchable? Iíve heard about your antics in the harem!
Vashti: That was a ritual matter. It doesnít count.
Haman (in a dark cloak and deer antlers): Iím sorry to point this out, ladies, but I am the only real candidate here. Your romantic portrayal of nature bears no correspondence to the facts on the ground! Do you think spring hesitates to push a few chicks out of the nest? I represent the truth: the cruel and powerful rains of spring, washing away all who are not strong enough to stand.
Mordechai (wearing green robes and a mighty sword): On the contrary, spring comes to redeem the wasted animals who have searched for food all through the winter, and to revive the seeds that have frozen underground! I, Mordechai, the hero, saved the kingís life and convinced Esther to rescue her people. I am the defender of life, slaying winter and bringing joy to my people. I pursue my enemies without mercy and rise to regal power! I am the Prince of Spring!
Announcer: You and Haman seem somewhat alike to me. Could you say something to distinguish yourselves a bit?
Mordechai and Haman: Alike? Us? (The two men begin to argue.)
Announcer: The judges have disqualified Mordechai and Haman for fighting during the contest! Do we have any other candidates?
Ahasuerus (wearing a cap with bells): Yes! I am the true messenger of spring. Spring is a time of silliness and frivolity! I, king of Persia, spitefully divorced my wife because she tried to tell me what to do, then ended up obeying the words of my next wife. I agreed to kill the Jews for almost no reason, then saved them for almost no reason. My phallic scepter rises like a comedy prop. I am the April Fool!
Announcer: You do have a good case. Wait, Iím receiving a message from another candidate. (A bluejay brings the announcer a scroll.) Zeresh, the wife of Haman, cannot attend today. She has accepted an invitation to become one of the minions of the underworld. We will have to decide among the candidates who are present.
Vashti: So who is the messenger of spring? We demand to know!
Esther: Is it me?
Achashverosh: Is it me?
(A small green envelope floats into the hands of the announcer.)
Announcer: And the prize goesÖ. to Hatach!
Esther: Hatach?! My eunuch? He didnít even try out!
Announcer: Hatach delivered the messages between Esther and Mordechai, the messages that convinced Esther to become the star of the Purim story. He is almost invisible, but without him, Purim could not go forward. So too, when spring first comes, it is almost invisible, but its presence makes new life possible. Congratulations, Hatach!
(A thin, graceful man in brown robes with hints of green comes across the grass and up the stairs. The announcer hands him a watering can. The trees applaud. Esther, Vashti, Mordechai, Haman, and Achashverosh do a circle dance. Hatach disappears into the forest without saying goodbye.)
Rabbi Jill Hammer is the director and co-founder of Tel Shemesh and the author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women and The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for All Seasons.
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