For Wednesday, January 4, please consider these questions and reflections of Ruth and Esther.
Ruth and Esther Introduction
Vocabulary and definitions
- Shavuot – the “Feast of Weeks,” is celebrated seven weeks after Passover (Pesach)
- origins are to be found in an ancient grain harvest festival
- Identified with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai
- Pentecost – in the Christian tradition, 50 days after Easter; In Jewish tradition, 50 days after Passover
- Purim – also called the Feast of Lots, recounts the saving of the Jews from a threatened massacre during the Persian Period (539-330 BCE)
- Ahasuerus – a King in the Persian Period (pronounced: ay-HAS-eeoo-EHR-uhs)
- Sometimes known as Xerxes I (Persian) or Artaxerxes (Greek)
- diaspora – the dispersion of a people (specifically the Jewish people in the Bible) from their original homeland
* What are the commonalities between the books of Ruth and Esther?
* What are some of the unique features of Ruth? Esther?
Questions for reflection
- The dating of Ruth has been posited to either (1) the time of David or (2) post-exile to Babylon. What difference might the dating have regarding the original intent of the book?
- Why might Ruth be the heroine of the book as opposed to Naomi of Bethlehem?
- What is your understanding of the term “chesed” [חֶסֶד] (or “hesed”)?
- How do the changes of Ruth’s identity from Moabite to marrying Boaz and her incorporation in the Jewish community challenge our understanding of our spiritual identity?
- One of the themes of Ruth is “survival.” Naomi and her family flee to Moab due to a famine, hoping to survive. While in Moab Naomi’s husband and sons die, leaving her widowed and in a foreign land. What is ironic about survival juxtaposed with death and disruption?
- What might the importance be of the form of the text, being a short story as opposed to other prophetic types of writings in the Bible?
- What might be the reason the writer chose to not mention God, Torah, covenant, or temple in this book?
- One of the principal themes in Esther is the story of revenge, especially revenge meted by Esther against Haman as proxy for Mordecai. How might that theme influence the lack of mention of God? Why might this book be included in Scripture, even with the notable “deficiencies” in orthodoxy?
- Besides being forced to audition for queen after Vashti’s banishment, what might the benefits and risks of the virgins becoming Queen in Persia?
- How might the story of female empowerment in the characters of Vashti and Esther challenge religious orthodoxy?
- What might be objectionable about the methods Esther employs (sexuality and food, tactical indirection, and outright subterfuge) to achieve her goals?
6. How might Esther and Vashti help us develop our capability to serve as our own, and our community’s agent, especially under difficult circumstances?