Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access


The petichta to Esther Rabbah (c. 6th century CE) reflects a pessimistic rabbinic response to the physical and theological displacement of the Jews in an increasingly Christianized Roman Palestine. Using the covenantal curses (specifically Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26) as a frame, the rabbis situate the book of Esther and their current socio-political context into the rabbinic paradigm of the Four Kingdoms, representative of ongoing imperial oppression. According to Esther Rabbah, Jews living under Roman rule–even those in Palestine–are living in a state of “exile” characterized by the ongoing impact of the covenantal curses. For the rabbis, Israel cannot flourish as God’s chosen people under these exilic conditions, which will culminate in the kind of state-sanctioned annihilation of Jewry that appears in Esther. The Midrash arrives at this theo-political worldview by reading Esther as a narrative of subjugation to the covenantal curses. In presenting their current oppression as a recapitulation of the oppression suffered in Esther, the rabbis interpret the Torah’s covenantal curses as a necessary precursor to divine salvation under Rome.



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