8: Literary midrash excerpt, Norma Rosen's “After Esther,” 2009.
Norma Rosen (b. 1925) is a novelist whose work explores being a Jew and a woman in contemporary urban America. In fiction and essays, she examines ethical and social issues in Jewish identity and feminism. Her collection Biblical Women Unbound, from which this excerpt is taken, is a series of rebellious midrashic rewritings of biblical texts about women. In her version of Esther’s story, she draws a portrait of Esther as a victim of rape whose victimization by the king was condoned by her own people in exchange for their survival.
Suggested Activity: Have your students read the excerpt and discuss the following questions: What is the “truth” that Rosen brings to light in this passage? Who, if anyone, is to blame? What connection does the power dynamic she presents have to the greater tapestry of Jewish history and contemporary Jewish society? According to Rosen, what role does Esther play in her titular book—is she a hero, a role model? Is anyone?
Source: Norma Rosen, “After Esther” in Biblical Women Unbound (Jewish Publication Society, 1996), p. 178.