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The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther [Hardcover]

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Item description for The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther by Yoram Hazony...

"...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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Item Specifications...

Studio: Shalem Press
Pages   312
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.6" Width: 6.25" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   1.5 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Feb 22, 2000
Publisher   Shalem Press
ISBN  9657052068  
ISBN13  9789657052068  

Availability  0 units.

More About Yoram Hazony

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Yoram Hazony is the founder and former president of the Shalem Center, where he is currently a senior fellow. He is the author of "The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther" (Shalem Press, 1995) and "The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul" (New Republic/Basic Books, 2000), and has written for newspapers and magazines including "The New Republic" and "The New York Times." Hazony received his B.A. from Princeton University and his Ph.D from Rutgers University, and served as a member of the Israeli delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and children.

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > Old Testament

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther?

Important lessons for our time  Oct 13, 2007
This riveting and edifying work is highly relevant for our time, now that the shadows are lengthening and the dragon of Antisemitism is resurgent. It deals with faith and politics, and with religion in an era when there are no prophets, miracles have ceased and the survival of the Jewish people depends on the belief and courage of the individual. In this way it translates the political thought of the scriptural narrative into teachings that are of cardinal importance for our day.

The Book of Esther presents to the reader a choice between two antithetical conditions: the one a nightmare of impotence and destruction, the other a political choice to act in defense of the Jewish people and how it may be done in practice. The narrative of Esther deals with historical, religious and theological matters and provides answers to relevant questions. In this regard, please also consult Jews and Power by Ruth R Wisse.

Contrary to popular opinion, the plot does not unfold according to "luck" or "coincidence", but succeeds by virtue of Mordechai and Esther's understanding of the principles of politics, their courage and their faith in a seemingly Godless world. Hazony does a splendid job of explaining these teachings which demand our attention more than ever in today's world. He does this without once referring to the hidden codes or acrostics in the book, about which he cannot be ignorant.

Each chapter is introduced by a chapter from the Book of Esther which is then discussed in fascinating and illuminating detail, as regards the characters, their motivations, the twists and turns of the plot, the options available and the choices that had to be made. The author also draws on Talmudic commentary for further insights.

There is not enough space in a review to fully do justice to the marvelous lessons and insights into politics and human nature contained in this wonderful book. Gems of wisdom are found on every page, but it is important to mention the everlasting hatred of Amalek and how it manifests in every generation.

Moreover, it hurts not only the Jewish people but brings unspeakable suffering to all people in all cultures where it gains a foothold. It is therefore incumbent upon both Jew and Gentile to oppose it. The spirit of Amalek is that same spirit of totalitarianism (See Sinisterism by Bruce Walker) that made the 20th century an era of so much death and suffering.

One of the significant lessons of Esther is that God's apparent absence does not need to induce despair and defeat. Mordechai and Esther prove that even in the bleak condition of dispersion, the most horrible of evils can be opposed and overcome, as long as people themselves are willing to take the initiative. Mankind must be instrumental in bringing God's peace and justice into the world.

People of good will must work to preserve liberty and justice according to the principles of investment, boldness and faith. Since God has hidden his face, the initiative has gone over to mankind. The worst man can do is to hide his face too. Then even God cannot respond to the cries of his children. Hazony speculates that perhaps this is why the Shoah occurred - that there weren't enough Esthers and Mordechais who acted in time.

The book has 34pp of notes arranged by chapter, 9pp of scriptural and rabbinic references, an index, and concludes with the complete text of the Book of Esther in Hebrew.

For Christians reading this review, I respectfully refer you to the books:
Christian Attitudes Towards the State of Israel by Paul Merkley
God's Promise And the Future of Israel by Don Finto
Praying for Israels Destiny by James W Goll
Ruth & Esther: Shadows of Our Future by Frank Morgan
Why Care about Israel? by Sandra Teplinsky
All of these works deal with the relationship between Israel and Christians during these perilous times.

Also recommended: Standing With Israel by David Brog, The Politics of Christian Zionism 1891-1948 by Merkley and on a lighter note, A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance by Zev Chafets.
Practical Lessons in Politics and Power from Mordechai and Esther  Sep 24, 2007
According to Rava's dictum, the Jews accepted the Tora twice, once at Sinai, where they HAD to accept it, and again, in Persian diaspora, "in the days of Ahashverosh," where they CHOSE to accept it. Hazony examines Rava's dictum with respect to Esther as he breaks away from its traditional interpretation, where the enemy (Haman) fails in his conspiracy to destroy the Jews, and he himself and the rest of anti-Semites are destroyed because of a series of minor miracles. Instead, Hazony discovers a simple and effective theory to manage political processes and a pragmatic methodology to achieve power, which Esther and Mordechai applied systematically to beat despair, avoid defeat, and achieve their fantastic victory in spite of God's absence.

Hazony shows how Mordechai and Esther saw God's justice and peace even though it was not handed to them; they built it, using three principles of action:

(1) The principle of investment, or positioning, familiar to every chess player from Nimtzovich's "The Praxis of My System" and to every reader of Machiaveli's "The Prince";

(2) The principle of boldness, so colorfully argued by Machiavelli two thousand years later: "...fortune is a woman...; and it can be seen that she lets herself be overcome by the bold rather than by those who proceed coldly;" and

(3) The principle of faith, which places Mordechai's political theory above Machiavelli's: "Do not think you will escape because you are not a Jew. Deliverance will come." If we do our part, God will do his.

"In the great Hebrew tale of the formation of the world and its abandonment, as it seems, by its maker, Esther ranks barely as a postscript," writes Hazony. Then he shows, in this beautifully written and absorbing book, how Esther is the classic text of Jewish continuity and a pragmatic guide for modern politics.

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FREEDOM OF ZION  May 14, 2007
A foe and an enemy, that wicked, wicked Haman. Esther 7:6

"All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that there is but one law for anyone who comes to the king in the inner court without being summoned: that he be put to death, except if the king extends to him the gold scepter that he may live." Esther 4:11

In this book, Haman tries to take the Eichmann approach and have all the jews killed in Persia. Due to behind the scenes planning by Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai, the jews are saved and even are victorious over their enemies.

I love this book. Forget Veggie Tales. This book is the one to read about Queen Esther. To make the book even more kosher, the entire Book of Esther is written in Hebrew and is located in the back of the book. It is read in its entirety, every Purim, usually in March, (all jewish holidays are set based on the lunar calendar). People bring noise makers, the kind you find at children's birthday parties, and dress in costumes, kind of like Halloween but sans gore. I've been several times to a local synagogue in my neighborhood; it's now become my favorite holiday. There's nothing like it. Whenever Haman's name is mentioned, everyone makes so much noise with their noise makers, you can't hear his name.

What happened in the palaces in Persia, was a miracle according to the rabbis. That was the take home message of Yoram Hazony and was new thinking to me. What's great about this book is how Hazony recreates the Palace atmosphere in Susa, analyzing the dynamics of the principal characters' psyches and relationships in this book. Of course, one can't avoid the subject of anti-semitism in discussing this true story, a very ancient movement which probably dates to Genesis 3:15 when the Messiah is first mentioned in the bible.

For christians, I've been taught that this book had almost been removed from the canon because G-d's name is never mentioned among other reasons. Also, Queen Esther is not in direct line of ancestry to Jesus, and was a jew who never returned to Eretz Israel, remaining in the diaspora (lands other than Eretz Israel). I'm so glad the church fathers kept it. There are many, many lessons to learn from this story which Hazony thoroughly covers. I tell you, this book's a keeper!

I love this book! The climax of the story occurs in the biblical account in Esther 4:15 which Hazony covers in the chapter "The Decision". As Hazony explains, Esther has always been obedient never asking for more, never asking for special treatment, but at the news that Haman was going to order all the jews killed, some sort of switch is flipped in her character. "It is when she understands that such a choice is before her that the greatness of the queen is revealed...'Go assemble all the Jews present in Susa and fast for me. Do not eat nor drink for three days, night and day, and I and my maids will fast as well. Then I will go in to the king, though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.'" Esther 4:16-17.

I got this title for the review from an artifact that I read about in my local newspaper. A young student at Bar-Ilan University in Jerusalem dug through some rubble tossed out of the temple mount which was left at a dump site. The only article I can remember from all his finds is a coin with this inscription which to me expresses the jews' heartfelt messianic hopes of redemption and victory.
Wisdom Going Forth From Jerusalem  Nov 28, 2006
This book is must reading for anyone intereted in the political process as well anyone interested in the Bible. Author Yoram Hazony demonstrates not only excellent research skills and a good understanding of history but also a logical, clear-thinking mind combined with a healthy dose of common sense (which, as Voltaire once said, is not all that common).

Having also read Mr. Hazony's other book, The Jewish State, I can only conclude the State of Israel is fortunate to have people with his degree of wisdom. In fact, I believe he would make an excellent prime minister.
A Must Read for Anyone Interested in the Esther Tale  Jul 14, 2003
After studying the Book of Esther in so many different educational settings, I had never learned so much about the story as I did from this book. I especially admire Hazony's logical analysis of the sequence of events through a careful study of the language and subtlety of the text. He brings the world and milieu of ancient Persia to life, while at the same time making the story as interesting as a modern tale of power, greed, and heroism. Aside from that, Hazony proves to be not only an excellent writer and scholar, but a truly wise thinker as well. The lessons he takes from the story are ones that I would hope inspire our leaders today.

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