Esther and Mordechai

66”X59” oil on canvas 2002

The Book of Esther is one of the last books of the Hebrew Scriptures, and it is the only book in which God is not mentioned. The story of Esther was recorded at a time in Jewish history after the Jews had been exiled to Babylon which was subsequently conquered by Persia.

When Esther became an unwilling Queen to King Ahasuerus of Persia, Mordechai, her uncle and guardian, stationed himself at the King’s gate to keep informed of her welfare. As the King’s minister Haman passed by, Mordechai the Jew refused to bow down to him. Enraged, Haman sought vengeance and demanded that all the Jews in the kingdom be slaughtered.

In the lower painting, Mordechai stands at the King’s gate, in sackcloth and ashes, bitterly crying the news of this first attempted genocide of the Jews. When Esther is told that she must plead before the King for the lives of her people, she insists that to approach the King without being summoned would mean death. Mordechai tells her:

 

 

”Do not imagine that you will be able to escape in the King’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews”. Esther’s poignant response is, “Then I will go in to the King…and If I perish, I perish”.

 

 

In a series of extraordinary coincidences, Haman is punished with death, and the Jews are saved. When the story is complete, God’s hand is recognized in the events of the narrative, and the significance of the Book of Esther is revealed.

The upper lunette shows a landscape of abandoned shoes, a metaphor representing subsequent genocides. Those who are led to death no longer need shoes, and we are left with these empty reminders of their lives.

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