VASHTI: Defined By Her Refusal

Vashti – she was, you know, the queen who was thrown out – because she said no.
What do we know of her?
Not much.
Little is written about her, more is speculated.
She was queen before Esther.
The king requested her presence at the end of his 7-day banquet. 1Esther, chapter 1
Why? To show of her beauty.
She refused.
Why? Because he said: Come naked! 2Biblical Women in the Midrash: A Sourcebook, Naomi Mara Hyman, p.156 citing Babylonian Talmud 12b.

What is said about her?
Our sages differed: Vashti is called wicked. Vashti is called wise. 3“Vashti: Midrash and Aggadah,” Tamar Kadari.
Those who deem her wicked say she was cruel to other women.
Asking her to come naked herself was a punishment.
Horrified when she was struck with leprosy & given a tail 4Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 12a-b – she refused to emerge!

Those who deem her wise say she was thoughtful, unlike her husband,
considering the consequences of appearing nude before his fellow leaders –
assuring him that none of the outcomes of such a situation were good.

But, Ahashuerus would not listen. 5Esther Rabbah 3.14
He insisted she come forward in her crown, only her crown. 6“Vashti: Midrash and Aggadah,” Tamar Kadari.

Whatever the reason or situation, Vashti said NO.
Angry Ahashuerus removed her from the throne!
Indeed Ahashuerus was angry, as scripture records.

Vashti’s feelings?
We don’t know.
We can & should speculate –put ourselves in her place.
What did it take for HER to stand up in HIS world & say NO?
Was she frustrated? Demeaned?
Uncomfortable at the thought of parading before the men?
Insecure with her appearance?
Was she tired of doing what the king wanted?
How do we define Vashti today?
A symbol of civil disobedience or insolence?
A personal statement of dignity & modesty?
A political statement of conscientious objection? 7Out of the Garden, Celina Spiegel & Christina Buchmann, 192.

Put yourself in Vashti’s shoes …
She was there, she refused…
She took a risk…and she was out, out of the palace!
Vashti — we know her name, at least, unlike women with brief roles in TaNaKh.
Vashti – defined by her refusal alone, not by her emotions or reasons, nor by her soul.
Vashti boldly said NO.
She resisted the (male) authority before her.
What would Vashti say, here, today?
Be judged for more than beauty.
Stand your ground.
Resist the parade that compromises your soul.
Risk being tossed out of the palace if your integrity is challenged.
Vashti — hear her voice.
We may not risk the palace per se– but we can bring our principles to the fore.
Voice what matters loud & clear.
Be uncomfortable.
Stand your ground!
“Risk the palace!” Vashti calls on Purim.
Will we listen?


Notes   [ + ]

1. Esther, chapter 1
2. Biblical Women in the Midrash: A Sourcebook, Naomi Mara Hyman, p.156 citing Babylonian Talmud 12b.
3. “Vashti: Midrash and Aggadah,” Tamar Kadari.
4. Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 12a-b
5. Esther Rabbah 3.14
6. “Vashti: Midrash and Aggadah,” Tamar Kadari.
7. Out of the Garden, Celina Spiegel & Christina Buchmann, 192.