Queen Esther: A Heroine for Our Time?

Resource Kit by
Jessica Kirzane

Module Content

Introduction

Introduction

Queen Esther is the title character of the Book of Esther, which appears in the third section (Ksuvim, “Writings”) of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). Esther has been praised and reappraised throughout Jewish literary history. Understood by some as a passive figure who dutifully follows her uncle’s advice and thereby saves the Jewish people, she has been interpreted by others as a hero who risked her own life to save her people from mass destruction. Some modern feminist writers rejected her as a model of female acquiescence to male power, in contrast to the more rebellious Queen Vashti who appears at the beginning of the Book of Esther. Still others see Esther as a victim of a patriarchal system, putting forth her best effort while limited by societal constraints. She has been hailed as noble, criticized as an emblem of women’s subjugation, and held up as a victim of sexual violence to be pitied rather than scorned. This kit fosters conversation about the ways that the character of Esther has been interpreted in modern Jewish culture, and raises the question of whether or not Esther can be seen as a role model for women today.

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