I paused and looked out over the small crowd of children sitting cross-legged on the floor of the Sunday school room, waiting for their response. I played the role of narrator in a short play about the book of Esther, and as I’d just said the name “Haman,” I was waiting for the hisses and boos. Sure enough, they came.
“Sssssss.” “Boo for Haman.” “Bleahh!” the children screamed, some actually shaking their fists in the air and flinging thumbs down in front of their bodies.
We’d prompted the children for this response before the start of our volunteer production. During my research when writing the script, I found that Jewish audiences often hiss at the name Haman when the book of Esther is read during Purim. And since watching the play meant the children of our audience would have to sit still for close to 30 minutes, they relished the opportunity to shout and scream at the antagonist of our story.
Written as though commissioned by Hollywood itself, the book of Esther is full of action and intrigue, treachery, and heroism. Known as the only book in the Bible where God is not mentioned, we see his invisible hand moving throughout the circumstances of the book, like a director calling shots behind the scenes: Exiled Esther chosen as queen, evil Haman plotting murder of the Jews, and Esther’s uncle Mordecai foiling an assassination attempt on the king, just before Haman could fulfill his evil plan. Then there’s the king’s sleepless night where he discovers Mordecai’s good deed gone unrewarded, and even the extension of the golden scepter, rather than sudden death, when Esther dared approach the throne without invitation.
When Mordecai utters the most famous line of the book—”And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”—who could help but think: Surely this is a story about God putting his people in positions of power in order to carry out his will.
But as I’ve returned again and again to this story, I’ve begun to see more than theatrical possibility and happy endings. I think back to our Sunday school production and the children hissing wildly at the young man wrapped in a bed sheet playing the role of Haman. Had we done them a disservice with our G-rated version of the story?
Originally published at Redbud Post on August 1, 2020.