Barry Newman

A Yogi Midrash on Purim and the Megillah

Embed from Getty Images

Yogi Berra is as well known for his malapropisms (lovingly referred to as Yogi-isms) as he is for his formidable baseball skills. Can you imagine if Yogi had the opportunity to regale us with some of his thoughts on Purim?

Good evening everybody, and thank you for coming. I’m very glad to be here. Of course, if I wasn’t here I’d most likely be somewhere else. But here is as good as there, you know.

I’m not Jewish, you know, so I’m sure you’re wondering what got me interested in Purim. Well, when I was much younger, back in St. Louis, some friends told me to try out a new place called Charley’s Bar. I guess I wasn’t paying too much attention because the place I walked into had a sign that said CHABAD. No beer’s there, that’s for sure. Instead I heard a rabbi talk about Purim, and I was hooked from the start. Just goes to show you, there’s no way to know what fate’s future will be. And your feet, well, they have a mind of their own.

Anyway, as I sat there listening I began to realize that something so complicated as Purim and the Megillah must be really very simple. And because it’s so complicated makes it possible for me to explain what is going on. After all, if I understood the ins and outs of the what the holiday was all about, I probably wouldn’t know anything about it.

So, after giving it careful consideration, I jumped to the conclusion that the main theme of Purim is that the most important things for human beings are intelligence, sensitivity, and courage. And it’s no coincidence, by the way, that this is the same theme that we get from the Wizard of Oz. Look carefully and you can’t miss it: those munchkins sure looked Jewish, didn’t they? Who knows, maybe they were headed to Brooklyn when they were kicked out of Jerusalem and took the wrong fork in the road. Just goes to show you, you gotta be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going because you might not get there.

Now, take note that very early on Acha…um, Achi.., um, the king got bent out of shape when Queen Vashti refused to come and show off the crown he gave her. I’m telling you, his wrath was really angered. I know that there are a number of different ideas about what the king intended by summoning for Vashti, but, hey, that’s okay. There are, after all, two sides to every triangle, right? But what really got to me was that he then issued as order that all women will from now on respect the commands of their husbands. And he meant all women, dead or alive.

Now we come to the greatest duo in Jewish history, Esther and Mordechai. If it wasn’t for them, the Megillah would never have been written. Imagine how difficult that would make reading it on Purim. And if nothing else, you gotta give Mordechai an awful lot of credit. It couldn’t have been easy for him to raise Esther all by himself. Single parents don’t have mothers, you know.

Esther, the rabbis tell us, might have been seventy-five or even eighty when she was chosen to replace Vashti. Well, that certainly make the king no spring chicken, does it? After giving it some thought, I came to the end of the conclusion that the king most likely selected Esther before he died.

But while there are many exciting episodes throughout the Megillah, I was particularly interested in the plot against the king. Those two guys –  Bigthan and Teresh – they really blew it. Why they didn’t make a move right away beats me. I mean, you can’t kill somebody if they’re not alive.

The real problem for the Jews began when Mordechai refused to bow to Hamen. What bothers me, though, is that we don’t know why Mordechai refused to bow. Honestly, though, I prefer not knowing. Some mysteries were meant to stay unsolved. It makes no difference, for example, if the chicken came before the egg, or if it was the other way around.  Both are gonna be eaten in any case.

But it sure bent Haman out of shape, and he wasted no time in turning Mordecai’s refusal to bow into some Jewish thing. And worse, he convinced the king that the Jews were his enemies and that they all must be destroyed. Now I can’t say for certain if either the king or Haman were antisemites, but boy, did they hate Jews.

What’s clear to me, though, is that the king would have acted differently if he knew Esther was Jewish. Too bad Mordecai told her to say anything about it. In the end, hiding who you are is never a very smart thing to do. I always, for example, answer any anonymous letter I receive. How else will the guy who wrote it know I read it?

Everybody talks about how courageous Esther was by  going to the king uninvited. But I think she knew exactly what she was doing. I’m sure she figured that the king would not kill her or even turn her away. She was one smart cookie. Always looking through a telescope with two eyes, y’know. And he even offered her half his kingdom. I mean fifty percent might have been better, but you don’t give a horse without a mouth to anyone as a gift, right?

And man, was she the clever one by inviting Hamen to the feast together with the king. The guy sure thought he was a big shot by Esther’s invitation. But once she fingered him, he knew it was all over. Just goes to show you, not too many can walk away once they’ve been hung.

The rest of what happens in the Megillahs is basically that Esther and the Jews live happily ever after. So, I’d like to take these last few minutes to talk a little about some of the Purim customs . Hamantaschen, for example. I’m crazy about them. Particularly the ones filled with poppy seed or apricot. If I had to choose between the two, I guess I would take the latter rather than the one that came earlier.

And while I haven’t made up my mind, I think I’ll be dressing up this year as either a cowboy or a policeman. Gotta give it some thought. It’s hard to make predictions, y’know, particularly about the future.

And in closing, let me just say give you a tip for Passover. You know how kids start squirming toward the second half of the seder and want to finish things up and go to bed. Well, you tell them this: It ain’t over till it’s over.

About the Author
Born and raised on New York’s Lower East Side, Barry's family made aliya in 1985. He worked as a Technical Writer for most of his professional life (with a brief respite for a venture in catering) and currently provides ad hoc assistance to amutot in the preparation of requests for grants. And not inconsequently, he is a survivor of stage 4 bladder cancer, and though he doesn't wake up each day smelling the roses, he has an appreciation of what it means to be alive.
Related Topics
Related Posts