Opinion

A Purim Who's Who for 2017: Recasting the Jewish Holiday With Trump, Bannon and the Rest

This year's Purim casting is a bit sticky, imperfect and Oedipal, but some of the alignments are too perfect to ignore.

Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon
Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon AP Photo/Evan Vucci, AP Photo/Mark Tenally, AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski, Dreamstime

This year’s Purim’s Who’s Who is a bit sticky, imperfect and Oedipal, but some of the alignments are too perfect to ignore:

1. Ahasuerus obviously is Donald Trump, impulsive and imperious, distracted and dictatorial, famous for delegating his authority to evil counselors, having the annals of his own exploits read to him to help him fall asleep, and for making snap decisions about the lives and deaths of his subjects.

Ahasuerus controlled provinces from India to Ethiopia, and presumably has office towers and resorts in each one, and was famous for revelries that convened the empire’s glitterati and scribal paparazzi.

Our tale begins with a six-month blow-out at Mar-a-Lago which destroys the monarch’s marriage, but sets events in motion that will bring him a new bride and doom his most vulnerable subjects. In the nick of time, the machinations of his evil advisors are thwarted, and a civil war ensues.

2. Haman is Steve Bannon. (Haman is the chief villain among the culpable, the embodiment of evil, whispering unceasingly into the ear of the preoccupied potentate.

Haman is mortified when Mordecai the Jew refused to recognize Haman’s innate superiority, and in revenge, sentences not just the man who insulted him but entire peoples – Jews, Mexicans, Muslims, transgenders – to death. In a last- minute Hollywood ending, Haman and his brood are hung in Mordecai’s place.

3. Vashti is Melania (Ivana and Marla Maples used to be the candidates. The harem is too vast to name.)

4. Zeresh (Haman’s Wife) is Putin (and what a lovely couple they make, spending their quality time reading Democratic Party emails) Zeresh translates her husband’s hatred into concrete plans of humiliation and subjugation, advising her husband to hang Mordecai the Jew from an especially tall gallows so the populace will witness the fate of those who dare insult the master race.

 5. Haman’s sons are Steve Miller and the new Cabinet Secretaries. These are unnamed supporting characters in the original, but their presence – and the punishment they suffer – warns us that Haman cutting off the head of the snake alone is never sufficient. Ultimately, they suffer the fate their parents had intended for the Jews – hanging from the highest gallows for all to see. 

6. Esther is Ivanka. She is the nice Jewish lovely positioned to save her people – or the planet – if she dares risks the wrath of the tyrant. In the original, she changes her name from Hadassah to Esther, to sound less Jewish and distance herself from the Madoff debacle.

In today’s version, she is born in the palace, and changes her religion. If the Esther of 2017 fails to act, it will fall to the CIA, the FBI, or Elizabeth Warren to expose the plots of Haman and Zeresh, I mean, Bannon and Putin, and save the empire.

7. Jared Kushner is Mordecai. Mordecai is the ultimate court Jew, ingratiating himself at the palace, gathering information for insider trading, manipulating multiple plots from behind the scenes, the quiet man of influence. Mordecai is true to his faith, and refuses to bend his knee before Haman, because Jews bow to none but God. 

But like all court Jews, Mordecai is vulnerable to the whims of the tyrant, and can be elevated or crushed in a moment. In the original, Mordecai has two schemes working; he has placed his niece in the King’s bed to have intimate access to absolute power, and he has exposed a plot to kill the sovereign, presumably earning the King’s gratitude.

Mordecai waits patiently to call in his favor, but thanks to the monarch’s all-night night media obsession, Ahasuerus decides to reward Mordecai for saving his skin all on his own. In our version, Mordecai has himself has married the princess (from a previous marriage), and has been deputized to save the Jews and Palestinians from themselves. 

8. Bigthan and Teresh are the would-be assassins, plotting to rid the world of Ahasuerus, exposed by Mordecai and sentenced to death in a middle-of-the-night tweet by the irritated monarch. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are doing their work in broad daylight.

9. God is God. God is never mentioned in the Scroll of Esther and is content to let the mortals wreak havoc without his interference. Perhaps roused to action by the three days of fasting, quiet form of public protest, he allows the good guys to win. It is for this reason the story is considered to be a legend, and not necessarily historical. Some say the Biblical account is true, but based on alternative facts.

10. There is no question that the Republican Congressional Leadership are playing the role of the Eunuchs, men who are no longer men, paid to see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing.

Happy Purim! May you celebrate until you can no longer distinguish between Bibi and Bougie, Obama and Paul Ryan, earth without global warming and the planet we live on.

Don Futterman is the Program Director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation which works to strengthen civil society and promote peace and democracy in Israel. He can be heard weekly on TLV1’s The Promised Podcast.