The Queen’s Act
The Queen’s Act
Yaron Gilat and Malka Shein*
On Wednesday, March 20th and on Thursday, March 21st of this year, Jews all over the world celebrated the holiday of Purim (פּוּרִים), a Hebrew word which means “lots” or “destinies”. This holiday commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, the chief advisor of King Ahasuerus (commonly identified as Xerxes I), who was planning to kill all of the Jews in the Persian Empire. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther. In the book, Esther is described as a Jewish queen of the king. Her uncle Mordecai tells her of this evil plan and asks her to reveal to the king that she is Jewish and to ask him to repeal the order. Esther hesitates, saying that she could be put to death if she goes to the king without being summoned. Mordecai urges her to try. She goes to the king. But before she goes she is quoted saying to Mordechai: “Go and gather all the Jews who are in Shushan and fast for my sake, do not eat and do not drink for three days, night and day. My maids and I shall also fast in the same way. Then I shall go to the king, though it is unlawful, and if I perish, I perish”.
Esther went to the king, he listened and the decree was annulled. In her deed, Esther exemplifies an ethical decision which led to an act.  Indeed, the time to understand precedes a moment of certainty regarding action, followed by verification: “Fast for my sake.”  But furthermore, she demonstrates how any act worthy of its name is linked to a wager and to death. Not only a chance of losing one’s life, but also a symbolic death, an inherent unconscious agreement to “die” while acting, to leave something of oneself behind, a residue. “If I perish, I perish.” It was a matter of urgency. Urgency compressed to a moment of conclusion. Genocide was about to ensue.
Whether Purim does or does not actually have a historical basis, it is a historical fact that in many years to come after the tale in the Book of Esther, no king willing to listen will be there to talk to, and the urgent warnings about another impending genocide will be left almost unnoticed. And today, do we listen to the urgent pleas of peoples on the verge of disaster?
* Members of “Matvim,” a team in the clinical section “Reshet Lacanianit” in Tel Aviv, which organizes special teachers/participants evening meetings.
1 Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Routledge, London, 1992.
2 Lacan, J., “Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty”, Écrits, W.W. Norton, New York/London, 2006.