This is Vox Tablet, the weekly podcast of Tablet Magazine, the online Jewish arts and culture magazine that used to be known as Nextbook.org. Our archive of podcasts is available on our site, tablet2015.wpengine.com. Vox Tablet, hosted by Sara Ivry, varies widely in subject matter and sound -- one week it's a conversation with novelist Michael Chabon, theater critic Alisa Solomon, or anthropologist Ruth Behar. Another week brings the listener to "the etrog man" hocking his wares at a fruit-juice stand in a Jersualem market. Or into the hotel room with poet and rock musician David Berman an hour before he and his band, Silver Jews, head over to their next gig. Recent guests include Alex Ross, Shalom Auslander, Aline K. Crumb, Howard Jacobson, and the late Norman Mailer.
Heroics Aside, the Story of Purim Is the Bible’s Greatest Farce
The Book of Esther is among the Bible’s shortest stories. It tells the tale of a young Jewish woman who saves her people from a genocidal plot conceived of by Haman, an adviser to King Ahasuerus. It’s a story Jews around the world celebrate on Purim with costumes and revelry.
Robert Alter, a professor of comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley, has been working for years on new translations of all the books of the Bible. Included in the most recent edition of project, Strong as Death Is Love, is Alter’s take on the Book of Esther. In living so closely with the Esther text, Alter has come to see the story as a great farce or satire. He joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to offer his theories as to why the Book of Esther, one of the few to omit God’s name, was made part of the Bible, to share insights on the racy euphemisms that appear in Esther’s story, and to explain what Mardi Gras has to do with it all.
Plus, if Purim’s here, Passover isn’t far behind. To get ready, Deena Robertson shares an unforgettable tale about matzo balls. And Vox Tablet listeners are invited to send in their own anecdotes of Seders past.