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"...then I will go in to the king, though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."
With these words, Esther, queen of Persia, determines she must risk her life to save her people. Her decision is bold, disobedient and daring - but it is just the tip of an iceberg of intrigue, heroism and power politics described in the biblical book of Esther, the story of the salvation of the Jews from annihilation at the hands of the Persian court.
But when the dust has settled and the Jews emerge victorious, many ready of Esther are still left wondering: What, after all, is such a book doing in the Bible? There is no mention of God, nor is any moral message easy to discern amid the hairpin turns of the tale.
In The Dawn, Israeli political theorist Yoram Hazony introduces us to a different book of Esther, removed from the fairy-tale feel that is normally associated with the account. The book of Esther, in truth, is about politics - the politics of a Jewish nation newly in exile. It is about a disempowered Jewish people, struggling against idolatry, against assimilation and against the most ancient of enemies, Amalek. And it is also about the Jewish idea of the good state, depicting how good leadership, Jewish or gentile, makes decisions for the welfare of its people.
In The Dawn, Hazony addresses the question that many are afraid to ask: Once the Jewish people are cast into exile, deprived of their land, their kings, their armies, their prophets and the Temple in Jerusalem, how are they to face the challenges that continue to confront them? How can they now stand up to their enemies? How can they prevent themselves from assimilating into oblivion? In short, how can the Jews survive now that God has "hidden his face" from his people?
The Dawn is about politics and faith. It is about religion in an era in which the prophets have been silenced and miracles have ceased, and in which Jewish politics has come to depend not on commands from on high, but on the boldness and belief of the individual Jew. As such, it translates the political thought of the biblical narrative into teachings of utmost relevance to our own day.
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