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Levine Lectures on Joseph, Daniel, Mordechai and Esther

Michelle LevineDr. Michelle Levine, associate professor of Bible at Stern College for Women, presented lectures for the holiday of Purim.

For the first lecture, “Joseph, Daniel, Mordechai and Esther: Heroes in Exile, Role Models for Our Times,” delivered at Congregation Ohab Zedek of Belle Harbor, New York, she presented a comparative analysis of biblical figures who served as exemplary role models as Jews whose faith and identity were challenged while living in exile and how they staunchly remained steadfast in their religious beliefs and values despite the trials and tribulations that they endured. “As we are celebrating the holiday of Purim, I wanted to position the story of Mordechai and Esther within a broader framework, juxtaposing their experiences to those of Joseph and Daniel, whose experiences served as a precedent to emulate by Jews in later exilic periods. Certainly, we Jews who continue to live in a state of exile can draw many important lessons from these heroes in exile and can find inspiration and inner strength to continue to uphold our Jewish identity within the constraints that are often put upon us living throughout the world.”

For the second lecture, “Concealing and Revealing: The Symbolic Role of Clothing in Megillat Esther,” given at the Young Israel of Forest Hills, New York, she presented a thematic analysis of the symbolic role played by clothing throughout the story of Megillat Esther, as a means of conveying important motifs to the reader, particularly with regard to the issue of identity in this biblical book. “Clothing represents a means of identifying the biblical figures’ motivations and mindset,” said Dr. Levine, “but at the same time, it might be concealing the true persona that lies underneath. Changes of clothing also serve to mark pivotal turning points in the Megillah story, indicating transformations in stature and status among the biblical figures. Reading the Megillah with an eye to focusing on the symbolism of the clothing that is extensively mentioned throughout this biblical book provides a window into decoding and extrapolating its main motif of how the story achieves a ‘turn over’—nahafokh hu—from impending doom to jubilation and victory over our enemies.”