Or How One of Many Hadassah Women Who Do, Does
I figure most of you know the story of Purim: about Esther the (undercover) Jewish heroine who tricked King Ahasuerus, Mordechai the brave and faithful relative to Esther as well as leader of the Jews, Vashti the wronged and executed wife of Ahasuerus, Ahasuerus the horny king and pursuer of the beautiful, clever, and alluring Esther, and bad old Haman, the counsel to the king who declared a scourge upon all the Jews of the land. Those are the players. The setting was the 14th of Adar in the ancient Kingdom of Persia. On today’s calendar it was Iran on the evening of Feb 25th; in 2000 it was March 20, my 18th anniversary. Our current setting is Los Angeles, California.
Today’s players: Me as Vashti without the execution but divested of many properties and tomorrows; my brother Paul – an entertainment and AI attorney for a very major concern-as Mordechai (Esther’s stepfather) but on Vashti’s side; Peggy Sue as a pretend Jewish refugee/survivor (grew up Catholic) and with an alcoholic Esther. Although she wasn’t that pretty, she was powerful and alluring. Donald as the faithless and easily beguiled and beguiling ruler of my suburban kingdom, and every attorney I met as Hamen. NOTE: Donald is a California attorney with a specialty in Divorce-thus, the old boys’ club I ran into when looking for representation. No one thought of a woman – Me – as strong and capable. Did they forget that I am one of the many Women Who Do – I am a member of Hadassah. And although that has nothing directly to do with my personal life, it is part of Hadassah’s essence.
Let’s look at this through modern Vashti’s eyes. I (Vashti) have a long-term marriage on a normal even keel and life cycle happiness. No trouble on the horizon. Or so we think. But, as it happens in days of old as well as nowadays, Ahasuerus the King (my husband) has been playing around. It seems he’s got a bit of a harem thing going, then as now; but he’s always been able to talk to women easily. And he has a secure and steady place in the world, plus diamonds and jewels. Then add an easy way of making conversation and even listening to you-especially if you’re a woman. Who wants to resist? Who notices the slight shifts in timing and availability?
My brother Paul (Mordechai) smells a rat and invites the family over for a feast. King Don is busy, for a change, with a client who can only see him that day. Not that unusual, but Paul feels he must make some warning noises, unfortunately they are disregarded and soon forgotten. There are rumblings throughout the kingdom. People start to notice the King out and about with a blonde instead of loyal Vashti (me) with her long radiant brunette locks. Word makes it back to the castle, but once confronted, the king is irate and in strong denial.
However, the next Shabbat they have a loud altercation and all but ruin a lovely night of regaling and feasting with lords and ladies of the land. By morning, they are exhausted, and any veneer of kindness has been removed. Vashti – I am Woman Hear Me Roar – confronts the king and in moments he’s out of the royal abode. He claims he has something to do. So (she prods), “When will you return?” King – “Not ever! I disown you, leave you now and will leave you with nothing! I have a smaller but more splendid castle on the water’s edge and will live all my days there.”
Strong Vashti gathers her courage and swallows her fright. Her response is controlled and clear: “Should you leave me, I shall change every lock and secure every artifact and coin here. You will no longer have entry to any portal nor grasp of any object within these walls. G o-I shall help you pack.” And so, as it said, it is done. Mordechai alerted every money changer and tax man in the realm to come and assess the royal belongings. Gems, wall hangings, ancient vases, decorated clay and china pots, silver, gold, wooden furnishings-beds, couches, fine fabrics, and woven objects. And gems again. It helped rally the prince and princess to gather, remember, and name what they could and even what they might wish to claim as part of their inheritance. Many friends assisted and brought testimony against the King at great cost to their friendship. Sides were drawn. Then – and only then – did greed and sex rear their ugly heads.
Time for legal accusations and reams of paperwork. That not being degrading and overwhelming enough, many law- givers were in the King’s pocket and advised the unknowledgeable Vashti that she had few rights or legal holdings. It all came from the King and therefore was all HIS. Sleepless nights, hair pulling days. All the carefully prepared meals went to waste. For one full year she went from attorney office to attorney office. Even decided to leave the Kingdom for a more even playing field. But the King’s reach was deep and wide. It came to mudslinging, verbal abuse, even an attempt at property destruction. Finally, she went to his new place, looked around, and threw everything in reach onto the floor. As she left, the cowardly King mumbled, “Truce! Truce! We each keep what we have, and I go on to live with the beautiful Peggy Sue who needs me.”
Flash forwards a score of years. His Peggy Sue / Esther suffered from dementia and died. But before passing, she left all her earthly belongings to her own family leaving the great King not great by half. After all, he chose the smaller castle. Oh, and he – sure to inherit her kingdom and power – grandly gave his fortune to a place which would display it and not give him any income. Fame-perhaps. Fortune – Not. At. All.
And Vashti maintained and grew her portion. She kept her friends and family close. She became a board member of her local Hadassah group as well as her regional chapter. The lords and ladies of her domain remained loyal and supportive. And now she is known for her spirituality, equanimity, good deeds, sense of humor, and the ability to turn a tale. I am part of a tradition and legion of women who do (Hadassah). I am Woman Hear Me Roar.