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    Telling our own story – Purim

    megillahThe Book of Esther is one of a handful of self-contained Biblical novelettes. Others are Ruth and Jonah – all of them tales to which we return year by year with immense affection.

    This is not to suggest that these books lack their serious themes or literary and historical difficulties. As far as Esther is concerned a number of recent writers such as Stephen Rosenberg and Yoram Hazony have written convincing studies that place the Purim events in a context of Persian history.

    No-one these days would dream of arguing that the Book is a fabrication from beginning to end (a century ago a non-Jewish author called the story “wild and improbable”). On the contrary no-one can understand the political, social or even religious history of ancient Persia without seeing the M’gillah as a valuable historical resource.

    There still remains, however, the problem of whether it is a valid approach to history writing to tell a Jewish story from a Jewish point of view.

    The answer is quite clear. Autobiography, even community autobiography – the story of a group told by themselves – is an accepted literary genre.

    Did the events really happen in the way the author/s suggest?

    Admittedly it is all a question of perception and a different author or group of authors might see things from a different perspective, but the advantage of autobiography is that it is vivid and full of human interest and whether it is completely objective or not isn’t the point. It is always open to someone else to retrace the events from a different point of view.

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