Title: Purim and the Persian Empire: A Historical, Archaeological &
Author: Yehuda Landy
Feldheim’s motto, “Torah Literature of Quality,” is well-suited to Purim and the Persian Empire: A Historical, Archaeological & Geographical Perspective. Written by Yeshivat Itri graduate Rabbi Yehuda Landy, this magnum opus is wonderfully prepared, informative and valuable to a wide range of readers. Landy teaches at Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim and is a certified tour guide in Israel. His credentials served his research efforts well.
Full-color photographs of statues, glass objects d’art and tools used on a daily basis brick, royal seals among other treasures appear in the 144-page hardcover. Handsome lintels and cornices from royal residences, the pathway leading from the women’s dwelling to the royal palace, ancient maps, building plans and other artworks depicted in this text exemplify what is recorded in Sefer Ezra, Megillat Esther and Gemara.
There’s more to savor. Vivid blues, golds and white in the glazed bricks of the Babylonian Ishtar Gate are as striking as the aerial view of reconstructed remains from King Achashveirosh’s palace, photographs of Daniel’s tomb and that of undamaged, breathtakingly beautiful jewelry from a Shushan woman’s royal grave. They give life to our mental images of what Esther and Mordechai heard, touched and saw in those precarious times.
Rabbi Landy’s meticulous research appears in the prose surrounding the illustrations of his groundbreaking book. Succinct explanations of Persian life alongside supportive excerpts from Yalkut Shimoni, Midrash Abba Gurion and other sources support and illuminate passages of Megillat Esther appearing on successive pages.
The author makes the momentous unfolding of Jewish history more vibrant by focusing on Esther 3:1. Landy notes on page 73 that “Archaeology has yet to yield any clues regarding the name Haman The name Hamedasa, however, does appear as the name of an officer in Xerxes’ court inscribed in Aramaic on green stone utensils found in the Persepolis treasury His earliest appearance is from the seventh year of the king’s reign, approximately the time that Haman was promoted to his top position.”
Page 78 puts a bit of perspective on Esther’s palace life in Megillat Esther 4: ” in Bava Basra 4a, Hasach was none other than Daniel. At first, Hasach is mentioned in the Megilla as the one delivering messages between Esther and Mordechai, but his name does not appear at the end of their dialogue. Targum Sheini explains that Haman became aware of this venue of communication and killed Hasach.
Based on these two sources, we can conclude that Daniel ended his life in Shushan. The tradition identifying the tomb of Daniel in Shushan can be traced back for nearly a millennium. As mentioned above, Binyamin of Tudela and the Kaftor vaFerach referred to the tomb of Daniel and identified the nearby village of Shush as the Biblical Shushan.”
Pages 82 and 83 hold riveting accounts about Achashveirosh’s golden scepter plus the 50-cubit gallows that Haman ordered to be built in full view from his private property and that of the palace. A few words from a book reviewer cannot do justice to Landy’s masterful presentation about the personalities that summoned up those items. It would be a shame to spoil reader reactions by revealing here Rabbi Landy’s explanation as to why Achashveirosh raised taxes, lowered them, and then raised taxes again and how all that pertains to personal circumstances, world political history and to MegilLat Esther.
Mordechai’s role in Megillat Esther is studied from historical and Judaic perspectives, too. One slice of his examined life concerns the wool and linen robe he received and wore in reward for preventing Achashveirosh’s assassination. On the surface, he seems to have worn shaatnez.
Citing the Brisker Rav, Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus, Rashi (Niddah 61b) and Megillat Esther 15, Landy clarifies the confusing passage with: 1) a supportive photo of a Persepolis relief showing the Persian king dressed in royal garments and with 2) a halachic hair-splitter. Mordechai wore a “[woolen] purple tunic with white [linen] woven in the center” woven, but not spun, together.
The cloak thus did not violate the wearing of shaatnez mi d’rabbanan. Mordechai was permitted to wear the garment for the sake of peace with the king. Landy’s prose continues to explain Mordechai’s headdress in a colorful and informative look at the importance of royal appearance. Supportive photographs illustrate the attention paid to royal appearances.
The bibliography at the end of the book illustrates the meticulous research that Landy invested in his ground-breaking book. Printed on paper stock strong enough to support the clear type, excellent photographs and vivid pace of the information unfolding upon page after page, the book is a treasure. The extraordinarily insightful, well-designed and easy-to-read format of Purim and the Persian Empire suits many needs.
Archaeologists, students in Batei Yakov and yeshivot, high school, kollel and university students can benefit from this academically competitive text. Academics will appreciate the scientific information presented in clear, lively language that holds attention spans. Halachic authorities will find satisfaction in the secular historical records that verify Jewish teachings about Purim. The entireMegillat Esther appears in side-by-side English and Hebrew at the back of the book, richer for the education of its readers and ready for fulfilling the requirement for public readings.
Purim and the Persian Empire: A Historical, Archaeological & Geographical Perspective is a model for future publications of a simultaneously high academic and spiritual stature. The entire Jewish world would do well to add this book to community, personal and school bookshelves.
Yocheved Golani is the author of E-book “It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge” (www.booklocker.com/books/4244.html).