Search URJ.org and the other Reform websites:

Vetting Vashti: A Megillah-Inspired Missive

Vetting Vashti: A Megillah-Inspired Missive

A Fictional Letter Prompted by a Factual Crisis

Wooden door painted with an American flag with a large lock on it

Secretary of State
The State Department
Washington, DC.

Dear Mr. Secretary,

We write to you on behalf of an Iranian asylum seeker by the name of Vashti. The circumstances under which she has become a “displaced person” are as follows. Her former husband, and current head of state, Mr. Achashverosh of Shushan, demanded that Vashti dance for him and his inebriated guests at a prolonged celebration at the palace. While we cannot prove with perfect certainty that “dance” is an idiom for striptease act, there is cultural and historical evidence that lends validity to such an interpretation.

It is unclear where Vashti is supposed to go, who might be willing to take her in, whether she has children (and if so how many), etc. If indeed, she does have children they might also be subject to banishment and various forms of mistreatment by their father as a means of punishing her refusal to perform that which she was ordered to do.

As you know, sir, the situation in Iran right now is rather tenuous. According to our latest intelligence reports, hardliners in Mr. Achashverosh’s inner circle are plotting a pogrom aimed at annihilating the country’s Jewish population so as to seize its assets for themselves. One source has even suggested that a chief advisor to Achashverosh has offered him a considerable bounty, a “kick back” if you will, providing he signs off on the proposal.

Returning to the case of Vashti, it seems that she would be eligible for asylum as someone subject to or at risk of sexual abuse, and/or other forms of revenge, and retaliation at the hands of the regime. I must point out to you sir that the nation is one of the world’s leaders in politically motivated executions. The current method of implementing capital punishment here is to impale a person or persons on the gallows. The use of “gallows” seems to have led to some confusion that the method of death is hanging. We have graphic evidence, however, demonstrating that the former method, that of impaling persons on a stake (mounted on a dais or “gallows”), is the one being currently employed.

We would be remiss were we not to point out that several advisors to Achashverosh told him that banishment was required “to keep the female population of the nation subservient to their husbands”. There is reason to believe that women in general could be the recipients of harsh collective punishment so as to deter any effort at a popular uprising demonstrating support for Vashti’s defiance of her spouse or the cause of women’s rights in general. We need to prepare ourselves for the likelihood of a wave of asylum seekers if these potential threats to Women, Jews, and other at risk groups, gain greater support with those surrounding Achashverosh.

A complicating factor here, Mr. Secretary, is that if our proposed travel ban on several nations, including Iran, were to prevail in the Supreme Court, it would make it extremely difficult for us to admit women like Vashti, or religious minorities like the Jewish community at risk of persecution, into our nation even on an emergency basis. We recommend that with your approval, our Embassy convene a conference call including representatives of the State Department, Justice Department, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Defense, Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, NSA, and other concerned agencies, to see how we might be able, to revise current goals and strategy in a manner that balances well founded concerns for security with the humanitarian crisis that is particularly acute in this region of the world. We suggest the development of a comprehensive plan for all contingencies, including that of substantial turmoil for an indefinite period of time.

Respectfully,
Undersecretary of State for Mid-Eastern Affairs

Rabbi David Wirtschafter is the rabbi of Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, KY. Confronting violence in classic Jewish texts and contemporary society is the focus of his work in progress, The Torah They Never Taught You, Bad Stories from The Good Book.

Rabbi David Wirtschafter
Submit a blog post

Share your voice: ReformJudaism.org accepts submissions to the blog

Blogroll