The Catholic Fathers rearranged the “Old Testament” and put the Book of Esther between Apocryphal books – Tobit and Judith, and 1st and 2nd Maccabees. The Protestants' leaders put Esther in the “Histories,” after Kings and Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. Burying it like that, combined with Christianity's emphasis on its own “New Testament,” keeps most people from reading it. But Esther, and the great Jewish holiday of Purim that’s part of it, are huge in the life of the Children of Israel.
For thousands of years, critics argued that the Purim story was impossible: “No nation, in reality, would ever try to kill off the world’s Jews.” After the 20th Century, when Germany tried to do just that, and others - particularly in the Arab world, and Iran - spoke (and still speak) longingly of emulating the Nazis, that idea, of driving Israel into extinction, mostly just strikes us as old news.
The key driver of the anti-Jewish forces is a force or phenomenon called “Amalek.” We’ve talked of it before in these pages: in June 2009 (Vol. 4.3) and July 2006 (Vol. 1.8); go to Covenant Connection Journal. Those two pieces are pretty good and you might want to look at them again – or, possibly, for the first time.
We’ve heard a lot of silly things said about Amalek, the Anti-Israel, especially regarding Amalek’s religion. Amalek supposedly stands for atheism, the rejection of Divine Providence and/or God. But recent history, and Scripture, teach a different lesson. As a rule, Amalek does believe in Deity. Amalek just thinks that God favors Amalek, not Israel; that Israel is made of very poor stuff; and that Amalek is nearer God – “Deutschland über alles [Germany over everybody],” “Disbelievers shall be gathered into Hell” [The Holy Qur’an, Sura 8:6] – than thee.
On this basis, Amalek likes to target Jewish women, children and babies, particularly, for destruction. Obviously, that bespeaks very peculiar ideas about God. But one of Amalek’s chief distinguishing characteristics, besides its cruelty, is that it believes what it wants.
One unpleasant aspect of the otherwise delightful experience of reading the Book of Esther: the body counts at the end. The hate-filled enemies of Israel finally get their comeuppance, but so many thousands of them get killed that it sounds like a horrid bloodbath. Naturally, one regrets the loss of so many human lives.
We have spoken of this before: Scripture often uses what we believe to be a highly figurative, technical term for a full, complete set of something. In other contexts this term is used very simply and literally as the word “thousand” – eleph. And conventional-minded translators end up multiplying the quantity provided by Scripture by 1,000. This results in some crazy numbers. So, for instance, Scripture reports that Samson kills a whole unit of Philistine soldiers with the jawbone of an ass - Judges 15:16 - and that gets translated as Samson wiping out a thousand of them.
Rabbi Michael Bar-Ron, a college professor in Israel who recently joined First Covenant, was moved by one of our pieces on this subject, he says, and produced a commentary of his own. It particularly concerns the census numbers in the Five Books of Moses but it’s applicable to many other apparently “crazy numbers” in Scripture. You might want to look at it. It’s “The Good Torah Sense of the Alpha-Eleph: How the Torah Counts the Tribes and Why.”
Here's the link
One reservation we had about this piece: the figures for the Temple offerings. Rabbi Bar-Ron posits that they literally involve “thousands,” as per conventional interpretations and translations, but it appears to us that Scripture may simply be describing whole, complete, self-sufficient units, rather than uniquely literal, simple but improbable quantities of “thousands.”
You may be interested in new offerings from our competitors and colleagues. Noahide Nations (“Lets [sic] Work Out Our Salvation Through Obedience”) offers a “Noahide Laws and Lifecycle Yeshiva Course.” The subject line is “How Important is Torah Study?” Here's a link to it
You can inspect the course syllabus for yourself. We were particularly intrigued by the class heading, “The Prohibition of Masturbation.” And then by a few other Commandments, listed in the syllabus, that we’d never heard - or even dreamt of - before.
Another group, Ten for the Nations, led by its editor, Mrs. Rivkah Lambert Adler (editor @ tenfromthenations . com), has produced a number of YouTube videos.
Here's a link to one, among others.
As we noted earlier, Ten For the Nations, edited by Mrs. Lambert, is also a book offered on Amazon.com.
Quite a few “Noahide Outreach” groups compete for attention on the Internet. One of the problems we have with most of them is that they posit a great yearning among the world’s non-Jews to convert to Judaism, or, at least, take up as many Jewish laws and customs as they can, and sit at the feet of Jewish rabbis, and put themselves under rabbinic authority.
In all our years of doing “Noahide outreach,” we have never actually noticed anything like that. And, if we did, we’d regard it suspiciously – as not necessarily as healthy or wholesome.
We have noticed a real yearning by many non-Jews to know and come closer to the God of the Jews (blessed be He, and blessed be His Name).We've noticed the desire in many non-Jews to better understand the People of Israel, to be able to bless the Jews – the elder brother of the nations (as opposed to the father of the nations) - sincerely. We've noticed a willingness among non-Jews to learn and accept upon themselves certain Jewish Teachings – that is, Torah teachings – in order to better themselves and their loved ones, and come closer to God. But they want to do this on their own terms and in their own time.
We remember a wise woman of blessed memory, Naomi Dallen, who helped make our foundation possible. She was the late mother of the writer, and a teacher who helped many children – Jewish and non-Jewish – learn the love of reading.
She succinctly expressed her desire for the nations, concerning their understanding and approach to the Jewish People: “If only they [the world’s non-Jews] knew how good we are.”
That’s our hope for the world. To understand and recognize that the Jewish People really were created by God’s will, as His special instrument to help elevate their brothers and sisters among the nations, guided and elevated by a Torah - or Way, Teaching or Guidance - that was created by God’s will and that isn’t just nonsense but true: that's what we ask for from the nations. Not obedience, not dominance, nor authority; just a modicum of respect for Jews and Judaism and the elevating, civilizing mission of Israel among the nations.
By Michael Dallen