Drinking Parties in the Book of Esther

The 60th episode of The Jewish Drinking Show features a discussion on the drinking parties in the book of Esther, featuring first-time guest Professor Joshua Joel Spoelstra.

Guest Bio
Professor Spoelstra is a professor of World Religions at Piedmont College, the Pastor at Downtown Community Fellowship in Clemson, SC, and whose dissertation was “Life-preservation in Genesis and Exodus: an exegetical study of the Tebāh” at Stellenbosch University. Pertinent to our conversation, he published “The function of the ‘משתה יין’ in the Book of Esther” in 2014 in the 27th volume of Old Testament Essays.



Tentative Outline for Episode

I.                     Welcome – Drew: “Welcome to the 60th episode of The Jewish Drinking Show and I am your host, Rabbi Drew Kaplan

II.                   Introduction
A.      Introduction to guest
1.       Drew: “I want to welcome first-time guest, Professor Joshua Joel Spoelstra, to the show. Welcome, Prof. Spoelstra.”
2.       Joshua: “Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m excited to chat about this topic.”
3.       Drew: “For those less familiar with Prof. Spoelstra, he is a professor of World Religions at Piedmont College, the Pastor at Downtown Community Fellowship in Clemson, SC, and whose dissertation was Life preservation in Genesis and Exodus: an exegetical study of the Tebāh at Stellenbosch University in South Africa
4.       Drew: “He also wrote an article published in 2014 entitled ‘The Function of the משתה יין in the Book of Esther’, which brings us to our topic of this episode. This is the 2nd out of 3 episodes this month on Purim. You can also free to check out last spring’s set of three episodes on Purim.”
B.      Introduction to topic
1.       Drew: “We are discussing the term משתה in the book of Esther. What’s initially interesting about this term is that it disproportionately appears in this book with regards to the Bible, as it occurs 20 times in this book, nearly half of the 46 times it appears in the entirety of the Bible, with the next highest amount being Genesis with 5 appearances, so it seems significant to discuss. But more than just quantitatively-speaking, it also has a qualitative effect on the story.
2.       Drew: “Prof. Spoelstra, before we get into the significance of this term and how it affects the story, how has it been translated? And how should we approach understanding it?”
3.       Prof. Spoelstra answers
III.                 Body of topic
A.      The book starts off with a huge משתה followed by a smaller משתה 
1.       King Ahashverosh throws a huge drinking party for 180 days to show off his wealth (1.1-4)
2.       Immediately followed by a week-long drinking party for those who happen to be in Shushan (1.5).
3.       Shortly thereafter, Queen Vashti throws a drinking-event for women (1.9).
B.      Following these three drinking events at the outset of the book (setting the tone for the reader that there is a lot of drinking in this story?), there are then three drinking parties associated with Esther
1.       The first of these is in honor of Esther’s becoming queen and is called Esther’s drinking event (2.18).
2.       The subsequent two are drinking events that Esther makes for Haman and for King Ahashverosh (5.5-8 and 7.1-8)—- משתה יין
3.       These seem to turn the tide – peripety
C.      8.17 celebrating the king’s decree that they would not be persecuted and allowed to defend themselves
D.      Drew: “At this point in time, I want to give viewers/listeners a sneak peek at next week’s episode on Medieval Rabbis’ legal opinions on Purim-drinking featuring Rabbi David Fried.”… “I hope you enjoyed that sneak peak and now back to our discussion with Prof. Spoelstra.”
E.       The final two are drinking celebrations by the Jews
1.       one on Adar 14 by the Jews beyond Shushan (9.17)
2.       and one on Adar 15 by those Jews in Shushan (9.18) for having been survived their potential genocide.
F.       Finally, in addition to these described drinking events, there are also prescriptions for future drinking celebrations for Jews to commemorate what had occurred and how they had survived (9.19 and 9.22)
G.      What else?
IV.                Wrapping-up
A.      Drew: “Prof. Spoelstra, is there anything you are working on or would otherwise like to share with our listeners/viewers?”
B.      Prof. Spoelstra answers
C.      Drew engages in responsive banter
D.      Drew: “Prof. Spoelstra, thank you so much for this discussion on this term and its significance to the book of Esther!”
E.       Prof. Spoelstra: “It’s been my pleasure; thank you so much for inviting me.”

F.       לחיים!

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