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Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

The Megillah Diet: A Purim Special

 

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Some people think that Megillat Esther is an historical record.  Some think it is an allegory. Some think it is a satire.  Some think it is a farce.  Some think it is a parody.

They are all wrong.  The actual truth has been staring us in the face all along and, in the spirit of the holiday, I am about to share it with you.

Weight loss.

I sense your doubt.  Before going further, let me tell you why I am uniquely qualified to advance this interpretation.  I am a former professor.  I am a former attorney.  I am the author of The Manly Man’s Diet For Manly Men.  It is available on Amazon and has sold well over 26 copies.  Check it out.  Let me know when you return.

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Oh.  Hi.  I wasn’t sure that you were actually coming back, so I went to get a snack.  Many people get so engrossed in the book that they forget who they are or what they are doing.  Being thinner, they tend to date more and/or spend more time alone with their spouses.  So I am both surprised and delighted that you are back.

You look terrific.

As noted, a serious reader should not disregard the centrality of food in the Megillah.  But, to any of you hamstrung by traditional interpretations and understandably dubious that Megilat Esther is primarily concerned with nutritional issues, consider this:  there are ten–count them, ten–feasts or banquets in the Megillah.  Ten.  Almost as many feasts as eunuchs, and there are eunuchs in every corner of the story–more eunuchs than you can shake a stick at.  Ten chapters in the Megillah–and ten feasts, more feasts than in the entire Megillot of Lamentations and Ruth combined.

Coincidence?  I think not.

As an aside, you also might think it a mere coincidence that there are ten commandments in the Torah, but there are no coincidences and there are clear connections between eating and the various commandments. Just as one can covet a neighbor’s donkey, one can covet her lemon meringue pie.  Shabbat is supposed to be sanctified, in part, through food.  Would it hurt you to occasionally honor your elderly parents by inviting them for a meal? While eating may not be exactly the same as adultery, there is cheating involved in both. Eating unwisely can kill you, and if you are on a diet, you have both cheated, stolen, and probably taken God’s name in vain.

It is also the case that Haman had ten children, but that is probably just a coincidence.

I digress.

Why, you ask, would anyone with even an ounce of common sense think that Megillat Esther is about weight loss? Well, ye of little faith, consider this: the paramount goal of the wicked Haman was to render us all obese: “.בקש המן הרשע להשמין את כל היהודים”  And Esther was the one who thwarted him and wrote a megillah about it. Q.E.D.

The Megillah begins its diet program by describing two feasts sponsored by Achashverosh, one lasting 180 days and the second lasting seven days.  While this may seem like an unlikely way to begin a diet program, the message is clear to those of us who, in our desire to lose weight, have commenced well over 1,200 diets, I am ashamed to admit.  The message:  Even if you have previously overindulged in a truly disgusting and extreme manner, you can begin to cut back.  The reduction should not be sudden, but gradual.  Too many people start diets with unrealistic expectations and doom their efforts to failure.  Go slow. Have a treat.  Feast for seven days once in a while, but no more 6-month binges.

Another bit of salutary advice comes from no less a personage than Queen Esther, who is reported to be envied by all the other Biblical heroines for her trim figure.  She invites the King and her arch-enemy Haman to not one, but two, feasts.

“. .יבוא המלך והמן היום אל-המשתה אשר-עשיתי לו” and

“יבוא המלך והמן אל-המשתה אשר אעשה להם מחר”

As Esther knew, one sure way to lose weight is to invite the king (in a democracy, a President may substitute) and an antisemite who wants all Jews dead (these days, pretty much anyone on the left . . . or right) to meals at your home.  History has proven that there is no more effective curb to a hearty appetite than dining with someone who wants to annihilate you and your people and someone else who has the power to do it.

Some might consider that approach extreme, because of the performance anxiety and inflationary food prices involved, but losing weight is serious business.

There is also Vashti’s feast, just for women. I think it is reasonable to assume, Vashti having been a beautiful woman, that Vashti served only vegetables at the ladies’ feast, with a heavy concentration on kale, squash, cauliflower, broccoli, and anti-autoimmune staples.  Why else, as Rashi would have asked had it occurred to him, would she have needed a separate feast?  My wife has been on this sort of diet for over seven months, and she has been in a bad mood for over seven months.  This might explain why Vashti refused to appear at the King’s feast.  She knew that while she was eating kale, he had been serving real food to all the assembled men, including deli roll, stuffed goose, and seven-layer cake.  And she was in a diet-induced bad mood. So, no dancing.

Another digression:  Vashti’s feast and its consequences demonstrates that separate seating at catered affairs is a Gentile (possibly pagan) custom that is deleterious to marital relationships, both extant and prospective.  Separate kiddushes, on the other hand, are a very good idea. OK–back to the diet.

Of course, at the end of the book, the Jews celebrate with feasts on the 14th and 15th day of Adar, coupled with gifts to the poor.  Once you have been on the Megillah Diet and achieved your goal, you may resume normal feasting, so long as you accompany it with gifts to the poor. Having poor people around while you eat acts as a behavioral appetite suppressant.  I know, I know.  It’s not nice, but that is just the way it is.  It’s hard to eat eclairs and hot fudge sundaes for dessert when there’s a hungry poor person nearby eyeing you, hoping for a handout.

Additionally, Ralbag (Gersonides) says that a mishteh–a feast– is characterized by the consumption of wine.  The Megillah Diet requires you to drink yourself silly once a week, and the drinking must continue until you have regurgitated everything that you have eaten and drank until that point.  This weekly cleansing is an essential part of the Megillah Diet. This phase is called adloyada (but I have, for some reason, temporarily forgotten what that means).

These are all peripheral.  Pay attention.  The centerpiece of the Megillah Diet is the following:

ותאמר אסתר להשיב אל מרדכי.  לך כנוס את כל היהודים הנמצאים בשושן וצומו עלי ואל תאכלו ואל תשתו שלשת ימים לילה ויום וגם אני ונערתי אצום כן ובכן אבוא אל המלך אשר לא כדת וכאשר אבדתי אבדתי.

Esther told Hatach (one of the ubiquitous eunuchs) to tell Mordechai to gather all the Jews in Shushan and have them fast on her behalf, neither eating nor drinking for three days, night and day;  Esther and her maidens would also fast and afterwards, whether or not the dieting had brought them to goal, encouraged by whatever weight she had lost (כאשר אבדתי), she would appear before the King.

And, of course, because the diet works, and Esther now looks smashing, the Jews are saved and may eat again. Twice.  Or more, if they are separated from their wives by a wall.

To summarize the basic weekly elements of the diet.  Day 1: You stop bingeing; you have a normal meal, preferably with a monarch or head of state and an antisemite.  Day 2:  Adloyada– You drink to excess, to the point where you vomit and clean yourself out.  Day 3:  You have one meal–a low-calorie, all vegetable Vashti feast; no dancing.  Day 4-6:  You fast for three days and nights, preferably together with everyone else in town.  Day 7: Shabbat:  you eat a normal meal (monarch, poor person, and/or antisemite optional).

There you have it.  A simple diet, approved by the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah, the Great Assembly, and proven effective in over 127 provinces.  If you still have a hard time remembering it, just recall that the words “fasting” and “feasting” are distinguished from one another only by the letter “e”–which, obviously, stands for “Eunuch.”  You will never forget the meaning of Purim or the associated Megillah Diet if you simply memorize “Fasting, Feasting, and Eunuchs.”

If the Megillah Diet works for you, go and buy my book.  If not, buy my book anyway; maybe that will work, and it involves no fasting at all.  Also no exercise. It is a great gift for birthdays, anniversaries, bar and bat mitzvahs, Purim, Pesach, Yom Kippur, funerals, shiva calls, etc. If you would like multiple copies, buy more than one.

Even as we (I hope) laugh and even as we celebrate the holiday, our thoughts, hearts, and prayers are still turned to Heaven. May our soldiers return home safe and victorious.  May our beloved prisoners be returned to their families safely and quickly.

Happy Purim.

[This article is modified from the form in which it first appeared in The Jewish Link; given the obesity epidemic, it is imperative that it be as widely disseminated as possible among the widest number of wide people.]

 

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.