Undoing a Feminist Misreading of the Book of Esther

Queen Esther has been criticized, most notably by feminists, for her alleged passivity, deviousness, and reliance on her beauty alone. Michael V. Fox argues that such a reading not only is ahistorical but profoundly misunderstands Esther’s evolution from a passive naïf to a brave and intelligent operative and heroine. The pivotal moment, Fox writes, occurs the second time Mordecai urges her to take action against Haman’s genocidal plot:

[Esther] resolves to do her duty and immediately a change comes upon her. She abruptly and surprisingly commands Mordecai [who until now has done all the commanding] and, using the imperative, with no polite circumlocutions, instructs him to assemble the Jews for a public fast. In convening such an assembly and issuing directives to the community, Esther is assuming the role of a religious and national leader. She has taken control. . . .

She now takes her fate in her hands with a courageous declaration: “And in this way I will go to the king, contrary to law, and if I perish, I perish.” This is the courage of one who realizes she must do her duty without certainty of success, and even without a simple faith that a higher being will protect her. . . .

Read more at TheTorah.com

More about: Bible, Esther, Feminism, Judaism, Purim, Religion & Holidays

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy