Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for March 2015

Cue: (Esther 1:12) But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by the chamberlains; therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.


Newsreader: The following information was obtained through Wikileaks from the Babylonian Talmud (tractate Megillah), the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, the Midrash Rabbah, the first and second Targums to Esther and the Zohar

Visual and sound

Edward Hughes: This is Edward Hughes with the News at 10. A storm brews at the castle in Shushan where relations between the King and his consort reach crisis point. We’re going straight over to our royal correspondent, Nicholas Whichway, in Shushan.

Whichway: Well here in Shushan, Persia, a situation is developing as Queen Vashti disobeys the king’s command to appear at his banquet. King Ahasuerus has been wining and dining his guest for many weeks now, sparing no expense. There are dazzling gold utensils which are said to be spoil from the late King Nebuchadnezzar’s military incursions to Jerusalem. Queen Vashti is the daughter of King Belshazzar, also known for his lavish lifestyle. The Queen has often compared Ahasuerus unfavourably with Belshazzar, saying‘My father could down a quart of Jim Beam without get drunk, but Ahasuerus is hammered after half a cider and a tequila sunrise.’

Queen Vashti is known to be a strong-minded woman, severe with her staff of servants and slaves. Our source reported that she forces the Hebrew women who spin her designer caftans to work naked every Saturday. It is perhaps poetic justice that King Ahasuerus has ordered Vashti to appear naked at his banquet.

Another witness from the queen’s apartments has described an unusual supernatural episode, which has yet to be confirmed. It is said that the Queen was in fact preparing to go the King’s banquet wearing nothing but her crown when a winged man calling himself Gabriel appeared in her bedchamber. He was carrying a blindfold, a roll of duck tape and a pair of handcuffs and was seen tying Vashti to the shower rail in the en suite. This may have been the reason why Queen Vashti was detained.

Hughes: Well we’ll be following events in Shushan throughout the evening. And now, as the General Election looms, we ask if the beleagured Lib-Dems would consider entering into a coalition with Justin Bieber.

Cue: (Esther 1:22, last verse of Chapter 1) …that every man should bear rule in his own house, and speak according to the language of his people.
jon snow

SL: Good evening. I’m Jon Whiterthan, fully recovered from my recent adventure with skunk. Following events in Persia, we ask: Who exactly is King Ahasuerus? We have in the studio the historian Darth Starkley. Darth, just what do we know about the Persian king?

Darth Starkley: We know Ahasuerus by his Hebrew name, Achashverosh, but the Greeks called him Xerxes and the Persians called him Artaxerxes.

Whiterthan: So he’s either Xerxes or Artaxerxes?

DS: It’s not as simple as that. All the Achaemenid kings – that’s ‘Persian’ for the hoi polloi I look down on – were called Artaxerxes or Darius. Now we know Ahasuerus wasn’t called Darius so, by a process of elimination, he must have been Artaxerxes. Or Xerxes. If you’re Greek.

JW: There are some who identify him as King Artaxerxes II.

DS: Yes. But there are others who call him Artaxerxes I. I sometimes call him Artaxerxes III, just to court controversy and draw attention to myself.

JW: What’s this story about the King trying to sit on Solomon’s throne?

DS: King Nebuchadnezzar seized the throne of Solomon when he was despoiling the temple in Jerusalem. This was an elaborate golden throne decorated with mechanical lions. When Nebuchadnezzar tried to sit on the throne, one of the lions snapped at his leg. Ahasuerus once tried to sit on it and the same thing happened…he required a tetanus vaccination. The only king who could sit on that throne, apart from Solomon was Cyrus.

JW: Well thank you Darth Starkley, informative as ever.

Visual and sound: (Channel4)

Cue: (Chapter 2:18) Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther’s feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the bounty of kings.

Visual and sound (BBC)

Nicholas Whichway: Queen Esther is a refreshing change from her predecessor Vashti,who was known for love of luxury and her wild parties – considerably more than twelve in three years.. By contrast, Esther lives very quietly in her quarters in the palace, with a small retinue of maids. They are believed to observe an unusual diet and it’s said that Queen Esther chooses simple dishes, such as chopped herring and pickled cucumber, instead of the more usual roast sucking pig or lobster bisque. She is said to bathe in water rather than asses’ milk and her maidservants say she likes to immerse herself every month in her own small water bath.

In spite of these apparent eccentricities, Esther succeeded in winning the heart of his Royal Highness. Many beautiful young women had been entertained at the palace under the supervision of the eunuchs. One of these young women was the daughter of the rising minister Haman, who came to prominence by campaigning for the execution of Queen Vashti. However, Haman’s daughter suffered an unfortunate malady. She was sent home from the palace when diarrhoea resulted in damage to an expensive Persian carpet and the King’s best slippers.

Cue (Chapter 3:1): After these things did King Ahasuerus promote Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.

Visual and sound (Russell Brand Trews)
hustle bland
Hustle Bland:
Hello, welcome to the Trews. I’m Hustle Bland, the host of the Trews.
Today I’m bringing you the true news, about our most powerful minister, Haman. The king thinks he’s a cool dude and has let him become a fat cat, except he isn’t fat or a cat…no, he looks like Jaffar from the film of Aladdin, don’t he? He charges a daily fee of 5000 dinars if he’s doing a speech and calls himself a Persian potentate, but he ain’t a Persian at all. He’s an Amalekite and they’ve got a very scurrilous history which Haman don’t want you to know about. Remember to blot out Amalek, mate. So Haman’s the great-great-great grandson of Esau. Some of the Persians call Haman a Macedonian. Don’t forget mate that Alexander the Great was a Macedonian who challenged the Persian hegemony before he got corrupted by colonial, supremacist ambition. So you might think the Persians are calling Haman a Greek upstart, but that ain’t the truth, because they’re calling him Macedoine de Fruits, that’s a Macedonian fruit salad in Francophone Persian. I wouldn’t vote for a fruit salad because there ain’t much difference between a mango, a peach and an apricot and I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t vote for any of them because I’m the only one who tells the true news!
Jaffar as Haman

Visual and sound: (Russell Brand)

Cue: (Esther Chapter 4:3) …and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

Visual and sound (BBC)

Jeremy Arrow: This is Jeremy Arrow, your Ancient Near East correspondent. There are disturbances in the streets of Shushan this evening, where a high ranking civil servant has covered his head in ashes and called on the Jews of the city to fast for three days. The civil servant, Mordechai, maintains that Minister Haman is planning to destroy the Jewish population of Shushan. Records show that Mordechai is a member of the tribe of Benjamin – that’s Benjamin, not Bibi – and a descendant of Saul, a powerful king of Israel.

Cue: (Chapter 5:8) …let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do tomorrow as the king has said.

Jeremy Arrow: And now we have some breaking news from the palace. It concerns Queen Esther. It seems that the Queen approached the King this evening without his invitation, which is of course a capital offence in Shushan. A witness reports that the Queen was accompanied by her maidservants and by three unusual looking winged men. Another witness says they were winged women. A third said it was difficult to place the gender as they were wearing unisex white tunics. Apparently, the king was enraged by this lese-majesté, but his anger melted as soon as Esther touched his sceptre. All our witnesses report that the sceptre extended miraculously by several cubits. One witness insists it extended by sixty cubits, but he must be exaggerating.

Esther was heard to say ‘This whole thing is so much harder than I expected.’
13. Esther behind the curtain7. Valentino

Visual and sound (BBC)

Cue: (Chapter 6:11) …and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delights to honour

Jon Whiterthan: This is Jon Whiterthan, bringing you up to date with more breaking news. Mordechai has succeeded in evading the limelight until now, but he is being honoured today by the King for thwarting a coup d’etat which was being planned by courtiers with impossibly silly names. Mordechai is being led on a triumphal parade through the streets of Shushan, on the King’s own horse. The man leading the horse is some kind of servant, with a slight resemblance to Jaffar from the film of Aladdin, but, as far as I can see, no parrot. There are crowds lining the streets, waving Persian flags and carrying placards with slogans: I can see ‘God save the king’ on one placard and ‘Je suis Mordechai’ on another and, on a third placard ‘Shushan Metropolitan University says No to tuition fees.’ Some people in the crowd are chanting ‘Mordechai, Mordechai, Am Yisroel chai!’ and there are also cries of ‘Down with the Macedonian fruit salad!’ This would be a reference to the chief minister, Haman , who is nowhere to be seen… but wait! The man leading the horse…it is the minister Haman himself. And now something’s happening at an upper window. There’s a young woman on the balcony, shouting ‘Long live Haman and death to Mordecai.’ She seems to be armed with a round object. It’s a chamber pot and now – oh no! – she’s emptied it on Haman. The young woman’s shouting something. It seems to be ‘Sorry Dad, I thought you were going to be the one on the horse. My bad.’ Well that’s a very unfortunate turn of events, which are growing increasingly volatile. This is Jon Whiterthan, in Shushan, Persia.

17. Haman leading Mordechai

Cue: (Chapter 7:10) Then was the king’s wrath assuaged.
orla g
Rula Ringoe: This is Rula Ringoe and I’m in Shushan. The Persian Minister Haman was hanged today for treason, attempted homicide, conspiracy, fraud, corruption, impersonating a Chelsea Pensioner, larceny, felony and double parking. Not only did Haman intend to murder all the Jews of Persia; he also was planning a coup d’etat against King Ahasuerus. It’s being said that Haman was a Macedonian, planning to subjugate the Persians, although it’s more likely that he was an Amalekite with an ancient grudge against the Israelite people.

Mordehcai is now the Prime Minister and the King has bestowed on him many generous gifts: a necklace of gold from Ophir, a purple tunic with birds embroidered on it, a belt set with precious stones, a Median sword, Parthian red socks, tefilin boxes inlaid with gold, a cuddly toy and a Morphy Richards Mix-and-Go blender.

Cue: (Chapter 8:17 last verse in chapter) for the fear of the Jews was fallen upon them.

newsnight logo

Paxes: Good evening. This is Paxes the Impaler, and tonight I’m interviewing Bigathan Average, of the Daily Chariot.

Still Paxes: Bigathan, you claim to have knowledge about Queen Esther’s family background, which has not been generally publicized. You claim, for example, that she’s Jewish.

Bigathan: Yes, she is Jewish. There’s no doubt. She keeps kosher and bensches before and after meals. She’s related to Mordecai, the Jew who was given a triumphal parade in Shushan today. And she’s converted two apartments into a through-lounge. QED.

Paxes: This seems a bit far-fetched. The Queen’s entertaining the King and Haman at a private banquet as we speak, and it’s well-known that Haman refuses to banquet with anyone who’s Jewish.

Bigathan: Esther kept her identity hidden. Didn’t you ever notice that Esther is Hebrew for ‘I am hiding.’

Paxes: Oh come off it. This is all speculative.

Bigathan: Esther was raised by Mordecai after her parents died and, when she was grown up, he married her.

Paxes: Are you saying that Esther’s marriage to King Ahasuerus is bigamous? That’s preposterous. Where are you getting your information?

Bigathan: I have it from an authoritative source.

Paxes: Who is the source?

Bigathan: An authoritative person.

Paxes: Are you going to reveal the source?

Bigathan: I’ve seen a document which proves Esther and Mordecai were married.

Paxes: Are you going to reveal the source?

Bigathan: My source tells me that Esther has visited her husband Mordecai since her marriage to the King.

Paxes: Who is your source?

Bigathan: She came out of the King’s chamber, went into her bathroom, got dressed and nipped out to see Mordecai.

Paxes: This is incredible. Who’s the source of your information?

Bigathan: Someone reliable. Besides, that was never Esther in the King’s bedchamber. It was a female spirit. Not Esther.

Paxes: Are you going to reveal your source?

Bigathan: Amazing what you can do with a succubus these days. I’m thinking of getting one myself.

Paxes: Where are you getting your information?

Cue: (Chapter 9:22) …of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.

Edward Hughes: The new Prime Minister has addressed the nation, beginning his speech with the catchy phrase, ‘I have dreamed a dream.’ In his speech, he recalled having a dream which foreshadowed these turbulent events. He described the dream in which two serpents fight in a time of tumult, with darkness all around them. This, said Mordecai represents his own struggle with Haman. Or possibly Harry Potter’s struggle with Voldemort. Mordecai is a Jungian therapist in his spare time, so he knows about dreams. As it happens, he’s the author of a self-help book called ‘Coping with wife sharing.’ The dedication is ‘To Esther, my anima.’ This may be a misprint for ‘My animal’.

Cue: (Chapter 10: 3 last verse in Megillat Esther) …and speaking peace to all his seed.

DV The Prime Minister intends to commemorate these times with a festival called Purim and has written a letter about it to Ptolemy and Cleopatra, king and queen of Egypt. This isn’t the same Cleopatra who dated Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, but one of the earlier Cleopatras. There were a lot of them, and just as many Ptolemeys. And we know there were a lot of Artaxerxeses. But there’s only one Mordecai as people on the streets are singing:

[song there’s only one Mordechai’ to the tune of Guantanamera]

Words to Guantanamera song:

There’s only one Mordecai
And I’m not gonna lie
He’s a helluva guy
There’s only one Mordecai

There’s more than one Artaxerxes
Two and three, maybe more.
When you’ve done Artaxerxes
It’s like you’ve been there before

And there’s less than one Haman
‘Cause they showed him the door,
He did too much inflamin’
You won’t see him no more…

There was more than just one Ptolemy
Each a Greek-Egyptian wannabee
With a flair for astronomy
So many more than one Ptolemy…

There’s more than one Cleopatra
Sending kisses back atcha
It’s all in Bava Batra*
There‘s more than one Cleopatra.

* Actually it’s Sanhedrin 90b. Who knew?

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  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: You're Nathan Hull, aren't you, an abusive troll who uses the alias Gerard O'Neill?