Guest post by R. Shaul Gold / The Purim story discusses three women – Vashti, Zeresh and Esther. In the homiletic spirit, let us say that these three women symbolize three types of women, three models of female behavior. Vashti represents Women’s Empowerment, women’s desire...

Modesty in the Megillah

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Guest post by R. Shaul Gold

Rabbi Shaul Gold taught in several yeshiva day schools and served as Rabbi at the YI of Avenue U.

The Purim story discusses three women – Vashti, Zeresh and Esther. In the homiletic spirit, let us say that these three women symbolize three types of women, three models of female behavior.

Vashti represents Women’s Empowerment, women’s desire to be men’s equal, to even surpass males and out“man” men. The licentiousness of Vashti’s party surpassed Achashveirosh’s and, one could contend, was pushed by the need to be more depraved than the men. Her failure to obey the king’s command was an assertion of Female Emancipation in the spirit of “Anything men can do, women can do better.” Vashti is the prototypical misandrist.

Zeresh represents the classical harridan and Haman, the hen-pecked husband. He is forced to conspire to legally empower men because he has been psychologically emasculated by his spouse. She is unhappy with her life because she has tied her success to her husband’s. She is constantly plotting and scheming; her husband is the key to her success. A consummate termagant, she abandons her husband coldly, knocking him when he is down.

Esther represents the very best of womanhood. Her modesty and simplicity earn her the respect due her. She is steadfast in her ideology. She understands her position and carries it forth with grace. This position is Queen, and she fills it with poise, dignity, charm and humility. It is not as a subservient wife [contra Zersh] nor as a timid wallflower [contra Vashti]. Esther needs neither power nor public acknowledgement to validate her essence. She possesses inner contentment. Faced with a situation that is foreign to her upbringing and moral compass, she soldiers forth in the knowledge that her path is the correct one, as understood by Torah scholars.

When faced with the ultimate challenge, one that she understands well after years of living palace intrigue, she sublimates her thinking and follows a seemingly non-logical course – because that was the Torah course.

After eliciting Mordechai’s moral support and the unity of the community as backing, Esther, after 70 hours of fasting, offers one of the most eloquent and humble entreaties to God to support her and bring success to her venture. It is never about her, never about empowerment; it is only about concern for the good of the people.

At her moment of victory she spares her husband’s dignity. She showers the glory upon Mordechai. Even at the moment that she asks of the Sages, “K’va’uni le-doros” and “Kisvuni le-doros” (establish this holiday and megillah for the generations –Megillah 7a), it’s not about her but about the challenge and victory of the Jewish people.

She is the very essence of modesty and humility.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

77 comments

  1. LongTimeReader

    Is there any basis for the descriptions of Vashti & Zeresh?

  2. Rabbi Gold’s comments about Vashti are based on various midrashim, not on the Megillah. As far as the Megillah is concerned, she seems quite admirable.

    Incidentally, many people believe that Vashti was put to death. The Megillah doesn’t say this. It says that she was deposed as queen and banished from the king’s presence.

    It has been observed that Vashti’s “punishment, never to come again before the king, is perhaps her dearest wish.” The author of that comment is a gentile Bible professor, but it has merit.

  3. Lawrence Kaplan

    A very disappointing and tendentious homily– to say the least, with absolutely no basis in the Megillah.

  4. It’s just this type of post that makes people think a serious strain of misogyny runs through Orthodoxy. What would this author say about Devorah ha’neviah? Is she in the Vashti mode? Esther is one model of a brave and great Jewish woman. There are many others, and standing out doesn’t make a woman “like a man.” It makes her an individual who stands out. And what’s wrong with equality? Are you arguing that women are less than men?

  5. Ignoring for the moment the more serious issues of “typing” women at all and of suggesting that women who are not “misnadrist” would “obey,” what about this supposed “modesty and humility” of Esther is _womanly_? It seems that listening to the sages and not seeking self-aggrandizement is a Jewish value, not a Jewish women’s value. What am I missing?

  6. Post summary: women who suck, women who suck even more, and women who don’t suck at all because they’re not so damned annoying.

  7. Again, a brief bio of guest contributers would be helpful.

  8. I agree with LK and Anonymous 🙂

  9. I often wonder whether drashot writers/givers are aware of the extent (greater or lesser) they are overlaying their priorities/perceptions onto text/chazal.

    KT

  10. Vashti was asked to do something immoral; how is that outmanning a man?
    I agree with Moshe Shoshan’s comment above.

  11. “Vashti was asked to do something immoral; how is that outmanning a man?”

    Yes, and she was prepared to do it, but sudden physical changes prevented her.

  12. In the spirit of purim, let’s turn this around. There are three main men in the megillah, corresponding to the three types of husband, three models of male behavior.
    First we have Achashverosh, the incompetent, needy-yet-controlling husband who always needs his wife by his side just to feel validated, when she has more important things to do. When he demands your presence you better be there, but when he forgets about you he might kill you just for showing up. To make matters worse, because of his insecurity he is constantly sleeping with other women.
    Then we have Haman. He’s always getting obsessed with one crazy scheme or another, never leaving well-enough alone and always trying to make a huge project out of his personal hobbyhorses. Usually you try to be a supportive wife, but sometimes you realize his half-baked plans might just get your whole family killed. Sadly, by then it might be too late.
    Then, of course, there’s Mordechai. He’s “modest and humble,” he is willing to give up his wife to save the Jews, he worries about her and makes sure to keep her informed of important developments, and he makes sacrifices to do what is right. He is the ideal Jewish man.

  13. Really, Rafael? Where does it say that?

  14. Brava, Emma.

    If women today aren’t behaving modestly enough (in Rabbi Gold’s view), why should the poor Megillah suffer?

  15. The use of a thesaurus to find fancy words only rarely makes writing better.

  16. What concepts do we know better because of this article?

  17. “Really, Rafael? Where does it say that?”

    In CHAZAL. Of course, in these parts, that doesn’t count for much.

  18. ותמאן המלכה ושתי מכדי
    פריצתא הואי דאמר מר שניהן לדבר עבירה
    נתכוונו מ״ט לא אתאי א״ר יוסי בר הנינא מלמד שפרהה בה צרעת במתניתא
    תנא [בא גבריאל ועשה לה זנב]

    Mas. Megillah 12b

  19. Lawrence Kaplan: A very disappointing and tendentious homily– to say the least, with absolutely no basis in the Megillah.

    He was, of course, basing himself on Gemara and midrashim. Certainly a firm basis for a derush.

    reader: What would this author say about Devorah ha’neviah? Is she in the Vashti mode?

    Why would you think that she was anything other than a modest woman?

    emma: Ignoring for the moment the more serious issues of “typing” women at all…

    You don’t believe that there are different general types of people? Do you believe that everyone is an individual and therefore no generalizations can ever be made?

    It seems that listening to the sages and not seeking self-aggrandizement is a Jewish value, not a Jewish women’s value.

    Agreed. And therefore…?

    joel rich: I often wonder whether drashot writers/givers are aware of the extent (greater or lesser) they are overlaying their priorities/perceptions onto text/chazal.

    See this post: https://www.torahmusings.com/2006/04/dont-ask-on-derush/

    emma: In the spirit of purim, let’s turn this around. There are three main men in the megillah…

    Nicely done!

  20. “He was, of course, basing himself on Gemara and midrashim. Certainly a firm basis for a derush.”

    The author does not mention the words “Gemara” or “Midrash,” leading the reader to choosing between two conclusions — that he does not know (or recognize) the difference between Pshat and Drash (a common enough malady in the Orthodox community) or that he thinks that the Pshat of the Megillah actually supports his inferences. The substantive question of whether the author’s dread of “feminism” can fairly be called mysoginistic (I think that it can, but that just one person’s opinion) is a separate matter.

  21. You are correct. He assumed a certain amount of knowledge and Jewish education among readers. I immediately recognized his sources and assumed others did as well.

  22. lawrence kaplan

    Gil: I was careful to say “with absolutely no basis in the Megillah.” I was aware that Rabbi Gold was basing himself exclusively on midrashim. It would have been nice had he indicated that at some point in his derashah. My point about tendentiousness remains unchanged. I found his analysis crude and bordering on the offensive. Others may differ.

  23. I was careful to say “with absolutely no basis in the Megillah.”

    I saw that. I just didn’t, and still don’t, understand its significance.

  24. Rabbi Student, you really don’t seem to get it. The willingness (indeed, insistence) of certain writers to emphasize Midrashim that demonize women whose behavior, on the words of the Pshat, is unobjectionable is one of the least most offputting characteristics of the Orthodox community. It is challenging enough that many aspects of the halachah treat women in ways that are “separate and unequal,” and usually not to women’s benefit. Is it unreasonable that some of us are uninspired by homilies that seem to reach out to the most benighted Midrashic sources for their foundation?

  25. Correction: I, of course, meant “is one of the most offputting…”

  26. These are mainstream midrashim. Who suggests that Vashti was a “good guy”? Besides which, I don’t understand your complaint. There are good and bad men in the Megillah and good and bad women.

  27. The only things that the Megillah says about Vashti’s behavior is that she made a party for women (separate seating!) and that she refused, when summoned for the explicit purpose of showing off her beauty, to appear before her husband’s male guests (a level of Tznius of which the airbrushing crew of certain right-wing publications would be proud). Not one word in the article’s paragraph on Vashti has any basis whatsoever in the Megillah’s (Pshat) description of Vashti.

    Again, this is quite apart from the question of why the author is in such dread of “Female Emancipation” (his capital letters and quotation marks).

  28. I didn’t realize that we are bound to peshat. That wasn’t how I was educated. I side with R. Mosheh Lichtenstein on this issue.

  29. Gil, what are you talking about? If it doesn’t say it in Megillas Esther, it doesn’t exist. And if its found in a medrash, well we know how mysoginist the authors of the medrashim were.

  30. By today’s standards, many of the Midrashim ARE mysoginistic. (I can’t comment about the authors.) If Rabbi Gold chooses those Midrashim as the basis of his article — particularly Midrashism that have no grounding whatsoever in the text or in any apparent problem that it presents — he risks being tarred with that brush.

  31. Hirhurim: “You don’t believe that there are different general types of people? Do you believe that everyone is an individual and therefore no generalizations can ever be made?”

    There may be “types” of people. but typing women based on how they relate to men as somehow the biggest/only indicator of their overall character is, well, not something I like.

    But, the author does suggest that he is showing three types of “female behavior.” So that’s why I questioned what is so feminie about Esther’s virtues. Perhaps, despite his apparent, if bizzarre, phobia of “Female Emancipation” (from, let’s note, an actual tyrant who, if we take the midrash seriously, owed his power to his marriage to the woman who was supposedly trying to one-up him), the article actually has a good point: the “bad” women are defined in their relationships to men. but good women are just good people.

  32. emma: There may be “types” of people. but typing women based on how they relate to men as somehow the biggest/only indicator of their overall character is, well, not something I like…

    We also type people on other things but when you are doing something gender-specific, you usually expect the differential to be gender-relevant.

    It’s like saying some people like chocolate and some don’t. Would you then object to the description of someone’s entire character based solely on that one preference? Of course not.

  33. Anonymous: By today’s standards, many of the Midrashim ARE mysoginistic.

    As I understand Rav Soloveitchik’s 1975 address to the RIETS rabbinic alumni, he believed that your statement is beyond the bounds of Orthodoxy.

  34. “when you are doing something gender-specific, you usually expect the differential to be gender-relevant.”

    So my real question is: why is this gender specific? Most of the drashos about male characters or personalities are not about their gender-specific features. Why is there such an automatic move to genderize things when females are involved? And even if we want something woman-specific, being a woman is about more than being a wife. It is a distinctly male perspective that sees “womahood” as the same as “how women relate to men.”

  35. See this post: https://www.torahmusings.com/2006/04/dont-ask-on-derush/
    —–

    ty
    Baruch shekivanti
    KT

  36. “Anonymous: By today’s standards, many of the Midrashim ARE mysoginistic.”

    Well, can I assume that if Megillas Esther incorporated these medrashim into the text, you would also call it “mysoginist”?

    “…particularly Midrashism that have no grounding whatsoever in the text or in any apparent problem that it presents…”

    Right. Only medrashim “grounded in the text” are worth something.

  37. R Gil aptly summarized my view on the issue raised by some commenters here:

    “I didn’t realize that we are bound to peshat. That wasn’t how I was educated. I side with R. Mosheh Lichtenstein on this issue”

    Anonymous: By today’s standards, many of the Midrashim ARE mysoginistic.

    As I understand Rav Soloveitchik’s 1975 address to the RIETS rabbinic alumni, he believed that your statement is beyond the bounds of Orthodoxy”

    Viewing Vashti as some sort of liberated woman as opposed to the Prutza that she is viewed as in Midrashim illustrates what happens when one’s first point of reference is feminist theory, as opposed to Midrashim.

  38. lawrence kaplan

    Gil: As I have argued before (I believe in posts on hirhurim), the Rav’s views on the meaning of the phrase “makhish magideha” in Hilkhot Teshuvah are not supported by the plain sense of the Rambam. Surely you will agree that at least the MT ought not to be interpreted homiletically, certainly not in order to determine the borders of Orthodxy.

    I still think that R. Gold, even if only in a parenthetical comment at some point in his article, ought to have indicated that he was relying on midrashim. I confess to being troubled by some of these midrashim. I am even more troubled by the use R. Gold made of them. By the way, there are indications in the Guide that the Rambam himself found certain midrashim troubling.

  39. As I have argued before (I believe in posts on hirhurim), the Rav’s views on the meaning of the phrase “makhish magideha” in Hilkhot Teshuvah are not supported by the plain sense of the Rambam.

    I was careful to write what (as I understand it) the Rav believed and not what the Rambam believed. It is, in my mind, a machlokes between the Rav and Dr. Kaplan, about both of whom R’ Spira would certainly are tzadikim gemurim and we need a convention of gedolei Torah to decide between them.

  40. emma: So my real question is: why is this gender specific?

    If I understand you correctly, you are objecting to someone comparing the female characters in the story. I’m no expert in literature but that seems to me to be a fairly common analysis in many genres. Not that it excuses such sexist behavior. I’m just saying that next time I read Macbeth I will try to remember not to compare the female characters.

  41. Larry Kaplan wrote:

    “Gil: As I have argued before (I believe in posts on hirhurim), the Rav’s views on the meaning of the phrase “makhish magideha” in Hilkhot Teshuvah are not supported by the plain sense of the Rambam. Surely you will agree that at least the MT ought not to be interpreted homiletically, certainly not in order to determine the borders of Orthodxy’

    Larry Kaplan-Yet, when one wants to label sections of the MT as mere Musar, one has no hesitation in viewing sections of the MT with homilectical eyes and ears.

  42. “Viewing Vashti as some sort of liberated woman as opposed to the Prutza that she is viewed as in Midrashim illustrates what happens when one’s first point of reference is feminist theory, as opposed to Midrashim.”

    It is Rabbi Gold who views Vashti as a liberated woman, and you who would equate that characteristic with Pritzus. I content myself with confessing that, having read the Megillah, I don’t know much about Vashti. I do affirmatively, explicitly, and vigorously disagree with the notion that there is something wrong with a woman’s being liberated.

  43. >Viewing Vashti as some sort of liberated woman as opposed to the Prutza that she is viewed as in Midrashim illustrates what happens when one’s first point of reference is feminist theory, as opposed to Midrashim.

    Why is it a binary choice? In fact, by positing it as a binary choice you are really equating both choices as implausible, but we have a duty to choose the religious choice over the feminist one.

  44. I think that you are missing Emma’s point, which is, if I may speak for her, to ask why, of the universe of Midrashim that mention women, so large a portion focuses specifically on their relationship with men, compared to the portion of the universe of Midrashim that mention men that focuses on their relationship with women.

  45. R. Shaul Gold sent me a few comments. Most of them have already been mentioned so I am only posting his response to emma.
    —–
    Emma: ” the article actually has a good point: the “bad” women are defined in their relationships to men. but good women are just good people”.

    Thank you for noticing that. Esther was comfortable enough with who she was that she didn’t have to weigh her decisions based on gender politics. She, like the male protagonists, followed the sages of their generation, even when it ran counter to logic. Gender was not the issue; fealty to G-d, Torah and the Sages was.

    The Purim story was much greater than any of the actors. Esther understood this well and pursued a course that saved her People and created a lasting, inspiring message for all generations.

  46. “In fact, by positing it as a binary choice you are really equating both choices as implausible, but we have a duty to choose the religious choice over the feminist one.”

    There are still some members of the Orthodox community who do not view “religious” and “feminist” as antonyms!

  47. So, liberated = perutzah? That fits with today’s zeitgeist.

  48. No! Exactly the opposite! The difference in outlook between us, I think is over whether there’s something “pritzusdik” (hate that word!) about a woman’s having any character trait (such as independence, drive, intellectual curiosity, leadership, etc.) that would be viewed as positive in a man.

  49. “She, like the male protagonists, followed the sages of their generation, even when it ran counter to logic.”

    I feel like a participant in a dialogue of the deaf. There aren’t multiple “sages” mentioned in the Megillah, there’s just one Mordechai, and Esther’s obedience to him is presented in a familial, rather than a religious, context. (And, if Mordechai is, as the Midrash makes him out to be, one of the sages, who are the other male protagonists who follow his direction?)

  50. “Gender was not the issue; fealty to G-d, Torah and the Sages was.”

    Please listen to yourself. If gender was not the issue, why did you write an article to hold up Esther as a model of specifically “female
    behavior” (your words)?

  51. “If I understand you correctly, you are objecting to someone comparing the female characters in the story. I’m no expert in literature but that seems to me to be a fairly common analysis in many genres. Not that it excuses such sexist behavior. I’m just saying that next time I read Macbeth I will try to remember not to compare the female characters.”

    When contemporary critics analyze women in shakespeare, they would never stop at “she is the classic harpie” or “shakespeare shows us how Emancipated Females always meet a bad end.” Rather, to the extent that female characters are portrayed so stereotypically, the criticism would explicitly recognize that those are, in fact, stereotypes imposed on femininity by the male author. More likely in the case of Macbeth, for example, the critique would show how social constructs of “femininity” play out when characters don’t _actually_ really fit them – it would show how the characters are not flat “types” at all, even as they live in a society that expects them to be. In other words, there is some consciousness that portraying women this way (in terms of how men perceive them) leaves a lot unsaid. I see none of that self awareness in the post here.

    Which brings me to my second point: Let’s say it is reasonable to do a “women of the meggillah” post. Why the equation between talking about women and talking about gender roles/marriages? Vashti and Zeresh are “evil” because of how they relate to men. Is it impossible for women to be evil because of how they relate to the world? Is there nothing noteworthy about women qua women than how they relate to their husbands?
    Furthermore, to the extent the megillah explicitly draws attention to the theme of marriage relationships/heriarchies via the “every man shall rule his house” decree, is there nothing to say about men when it comes to gender/marriage relationships?

    Now, sometimes the main female character has foils who are set up to contrast her. Perhaps vashti and zeresh are such foils here. (Though on this point the post is confusing, since he specifically says that esther is not the _opposite_ of either, but chooses a totally different way.) But then I would have liked rabbi Gold to explicitly acknowledge that they are unnaturally flat characters because their main purpose is to contrast to esther, who is not flat. Instead he tells us that just as esther is a “type” so too vashti and zeresh are “types.”

  52. What is wrong with the term Pritzusdik? It is merely the antithesis to Tzniusdik.

  53. Emma wrote:

    “More likely in the case of Macbeth, for example, the critique would show how social constructs of “femininity” play out when characters don’t _actually_ really fit them – it would show how the characters are not flat “types” at all, even as they live in a society that expects them to be. In other words, there is some consciousness that portraying women this way (in terms of how men perceive them) leaves a lot unsaid.”

    Only feminist theory could see Lady Macbeth in a favorable light. Can’t wait to see the reaction to Deborah Lipstadt’s views of Hannah Arendt’s defense of Eichmann.

  54. Emma wrote:

    “Furthermore, to the extent the megillah explicitly draws attention to the theme of marriage relationships/heriarchies via the “every man shall rule his house” decree, is there nothing to say about men when it comes to gender/marriage relationships?”

    Like it or not, both man and woman are viewed as incomplete by the Torah and Chazal without each other. See how the Imahos interact with the Avos-they are hardly BY aidel maidel types. The Talmud tells us in Yevamos-Ohev Ishto Yoser MeGufo. The same Rambam who views the man as the king of his castle also tells us the man never to speak harshly with his wife.

  55. lawrence kaplan

    Steve: If you will check my latest post on Halahhic Philosophy of History, you will see that I AGREE with you re your critique of Brown’s viewing Hilkhot Deot as musar. Now will you agree with me that the Rav’s explanation of makhish magideha is derush?

    Gil: I see you are already in the Purim Spirit. But the truth is that no less an authority and fan of the Rav than FKM admitted that my objection to the Rav’s explanation is a davar pashut that occured to many. Of course, they assume that the Rav must have had some teirutz, but no one, to my knowledge, has been able to come up with one.

  56. “Only feminist theory could see Lady Macbeth in a favorable light. Can’t wait to see the reaction to Deborah Lipstadt’s views of Hannah Arendt’s defense of Eichmann”

    Ummm… who said anything about favorable? My point is that she is not just a flat character, and that part of her not-flatness is her complicated relationship to gender roles. She can be both complicated and ultimately negative. Just like Macbeth, the tragic hero, is not “just” a murderous bad guy, he has a complex inner life. That’s the whole point!

  57. As to your 3:57 comment, Steve, I think you and i agree that if one is going to talk about marriages one needs to talk about more than wives (i.e., there is an entire other half!). So I am not sure why you preface your comment with “like it or not.”

  58. “What is wrong with the term Pritzusdik? It is merely the antithesis to Tzniusdik.”

    Well, tzniut is a value that applies to men as well as women. Bu you never hear either pritzusdik or tzniusdik applied to men.

  59. Why has no one explicitly said the obvious and that rightfully underlies many comments: that the author of this post is attempting to read into the megillah a current fight within Orthodoxy. Whether there are some midrashim that support that view are not relevant; I can guarantee the midrash was not talking about “Female Emancipation” nor did it present Vashti as a hater of men (i.e. misandrist; nice word BTW).

    No doubt the last time this dvar Torah came out was when people were debating whether women ought vote.

  60. lawrence kaplan

    Gil: In the Purim spirit, perhaps after the convention of Gedolei Torah adjudicates the “mahloket” in Libya between Col. Ghadafi and his opponents, they can– lehavdil– adjudicate the mahloket between the Rav and myself as to the meaning of makhish magideha. Well, at least R. Spira doesn’t refer to Ghadafi as a “tzaddik gamur.”

  61. Steve, I’m pretty sure that Prof. Lipstadt never claims that Arendt was “defending” Eichamann. (Although what she *did* do may have been far worse.) I also don’t see how it’s connected.

  62. “reader: What would this author say about Devorah ha’neviah? Is she in the Vashti mode?
    Hirhurim: Why would you think that she was anything other than a modest woman?”

    She was a communal leader. And she sang with men. 🙂
    =================
    “I didn’t realize that we are bound to peshat. That wasn’t how I was educated. I side with R. Mosheh Lichtenstein on this issue.”

    R’ Moshe Lichtenstein’s position is apparently based on the assumption that Chazal thought their midrash had nothing to do with physical history. It is a very questionable position.
    ================
    “Anonymous: …particularly Midrashism that have no grounding whatsoever in the text or in any apparent problem that it presents…
    Rafael: Right. Only medrashim “grounded in the text” are worth something.”

    The vast majority of those midrashim are in fact grounded in the text, whether or not you agree with the method of grounding. But for people like us who haven’t memorized Tanach and who think differently, the grounding is often hard to identify, or to fully identify.

  63. Larry Kaplan wrote:

    “Steve: If you will check my latest post on Halahhic Philosophy of History, you will see that I AGREE with you re your critique of Brown’s viewing Hilkhot Deot as musar. Now will you agree with me that the Rav’s explanation of makhish magideha is derush”

    I saw your post-that’s why I thought that your post on this thread was inconsistent with your point re Brown. I don’t agree either with dismissing Hilcos Deos as Musar or dismissing comments made by Talmidei Chachamim long before RYBS and subsequent thereto based on the MT as wrong because they are either Drush oriented or not consistent with prior readings of the cited Halacha.

    FWIW, I think that RYBS’s comments re Machish Magideah have a far earlier source in RYBS’s ouever-there is a long essay in Igros HaGrid which reads like the verbatim sources for the 1975 shiur.

  64. Nachum Lamm wrote:

    “Steve, I’m pretty sure that Prof. Lipstadt never claims that Arendt was “defending” Eichamann. (Although what she *did* do may have been far worse.) I also don’t see how it’s connected”

    See the WSJ review of Professor Lipstadt’s book on line.

  65. Joseph Kaplan wrote:

    “Well, tzniut is a value that applies to men as well as women. Bu you never hear either pritzusdik or tzniusdik applied to men”

    Take a look at the opening comments of Rashi and Ramban to Parshas Kedoshim, Then read any article about a certain celberity/actor who was recently terminated from his very hefty contract for conduct which can only be described as Pritzusdik in nature.

  66. Nachum-The WSJ review sets forth that Arendt, despite having very little factual knowledge or interest in the Eichmann trial, viewed Eichmann as a mere cog in the Nazi regime, despite ample evidence to the contrary of his high up role and participation at the Wannsee Conference, his constant refusal to spare any Jews and her own rather unfavorable views on Zionism and Israel. FWIW, a recently published book explored the fact that Arendt had a very close relationship with a German philosopher prior to her departure from Germany who was a notorious apologist for Hitler and Nazism.

  67. As long as I’m probably going to get myself into trouble, I might as well spare myself at least *some* of the protests by quoting someone other than me, namely, one of my commenters:

    ” The serious problem is Achashverosh’s willingness to summon his Queen into a room full of drunken men, instead of leaving her to preside over the drunken women. One might even say that his willingness to, um, expose her to unacceptable risk like this foreshadows the danger to which he will later expose the Jews of Shushan.
    Wed Mar 03, 07:44:00 AM 2010

    If anyone summoned me to appear in a room full of men who’d been drinking for over seven days and whose leader’s heart was “merry with wine” (ArtScroll translation), I wouldn’t go either. It wouldn’t be tzanua (modest), and would likely put a woman at grave risk of, um, having others force her to violate shmirat negiah (roughly, the law against physical contact with the opposite genders) against her will.

  68. “viewed Eichmann as a mere cog ”

    this is not what i took from Arendt’s book (though it’s been a while). Saying that someone evil was “banal” means he _acted_, or self-perceived as a “cog,” not that he actually was one or had more power than he thought. Whether that is accurate description of Eichman himself is something I am not qualified to judge. But again, the point is that someone can be evil and still be something other than a scheming, stereotypical villain. It trivializes evil to suggest that it is always flat.

  69. Emma wrote:

    “Ummm… who said anything about favorable? My point is that she is not just a flat character, and that part of her not-flatness is her complicated relationship to gender roles. She can be both complicated and ultimately negative”

    We disagree. I don’t view someone who with blood on her hands as complicated,but as evil personified.

  70. Emma wrote:

    “As to your 3:57 comment, Steve, I think you and i agree that if one is going to talk about marriages one needs to talk about more than wives (i.e., there is an entire other half!). So I am not sure why you preface your comment with “like it or not.””

    I used “like it or not”, as a comment about how some feminists view the institution of marriage.

  71. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve: You are confusing psychological depth with moral culpability. What about Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishement?

  72. yasher koach to reb shaul gold for this wonderful purim torah. and in that spirit a nice piece of writing in the similar vein as “a principled stand” from april on hirhurim. see https://www.torahmusings.com/2010/08/a-principled-stand/comment-page-3/#comments

    In the homiletic spirit, lets take a look at our heroine – queen esther. she is shy and modest no doubt. but her own woman. at a certain point she stops taking orders from mordechai and starts giving them – change of clothes, fasting etc. but please note reb gold when you say that esther:

    “offers one of the most eloquent and humble entreaties to God to support her and bring success to her venture.”

    i must have missed this tonight during the megilah reading – maybe i will see it with my stupor eyes tomorrow am. i always thought that hashem was never mentioned in the megilah and did not notice any eloquent prayers by anyone. also, there is no mentioned of any religious observance as well as any rituals (like kosher food by a reputable masgiach or hashgacha). jews mourned and fasted but did not pray in the story – very odd don’t you think. was queen esther drinking mevushal wine perhaps or maybe it was not of a fermented grape. and on the modesty issue, after being in a harem for a while she marries and assumed to have sex with a non- jew – (isn’t good to be the king- homage to that gaon reb mel of brooks fame) not that there is anything wrong with that (of course she must have never consummated her marriage or was dormant like a dead fish during intercourse) in the bible (unlees you think esther and mordechai did a quickie conversion of the king) just look at shimshon hagibor – not a jewess he liked only shiksas for him (of course they all converted being he so cute with that curly hair).

    megilat esther a book of comic farce is a wonderful example of symbolic meaning.

    a gut purim and happy merrymaking to all!

  73. “Take a look at the opening comments of Rashi and Ramban to Parshas Kedoshim, Then read any article about a certain celberity/actor who was recently terminated from his very hefty contract for conduct which can only be described as Pritzusdik in nature.”

    I’m talking about the frum world, not Charlie Sheen! When was the last time you heard someone criticize a frum man for being piritzusdik?

  74. Joseph: I definitely hear such talk about men but the term used is menuval.

  75. Exactly; menuval is different from pritzusdik.

  76. Lawrence Kaplan

    BTW, Esther Rabbah views Vashti’s refusal to accept the demand that she attend Ahashveirosh’s party favorably.

  77. Joseph Kaplan-I was taught that the words of Rashi and Ramban at the very beginning of Kedoshim apply to both genders, and agree with R Gil’s comment that there is zero difference between a Mnuval and a Prutzah. I think that the Torah also use the clearly unfavorable terms of a Kadesh and Kadesha to illustrate that such a person, regardless of the gender, is acting in a highly inappropriate manner.

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