In Those Days, at This Time: Holiness and History in the Jewish Calendar

By Eliezer Segal | Go to book overview

Esther and the Essenes*

One of the many riddles that have been posed by the Dead Sea Scrolls is the apparent absence of any complete or partial copy of the Book of Esther. The thousands of fragments in that ancient library include the oldest known texts of the Hebrew Bible, some of them (like a scroll of Isaiah) in relatively complete form, but most of them in tiny shreds and crumbs.

Only Esther is missing.

As long as a large proportion of the scrolls remained unclassified and unpublished, it was possible to argue that the anomaly was only temporary, and that Esther fragments would eventually surface among newly identified texts. However, in recent years, as the pace of publication has accelerated, the situation has not changed, and we are no closer than ever to a solution.

Unable to discover actual texts of Esther, the experts scurried to find indirect hints that the book was known and studied by the Essenes, the sect who are widely believed to have written or preserved the Dead

* The Jewish Free Press, Calgary, March 8, 2001, pp. 12–13.

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In Those Days, at This Time: Holiness and History in the Jewish Calendar
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • The Sabbath 1
  • You Have Mail! 3
  • Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 7
  • Dancing with the Demons 9
  • Roman Holiday 15
  • Where to Draw the Line 21
  • Vanity, Emptiness and the Throne of Glory 29
  • Sins in the Balance 35
  • Atoning for Esau 41
  • Sukkot and Simhat Torah 49
  • Prince of Rain 51
  • Come Gather 'Round, People 57
  • The Mysterious Origins of Simhat Torah 63
  • Hanukkah 69
  • Getting a Handel on Hanukkah 71
  • Burning Issue 75
  • The Wicked Hasmonean Priest 79
  • A Megillah for Hanukkah 85
  • Assideans for Everyone 91
  • The Fifteenth of Sh'vat 97
  • Apples and Apocalypse 99
  • It Grows on Trees 105
  • Renewable Resource 109
  • Purim 113
  • Passing through Shushan 115
  • Troubles at Court 121
  • The Purim-Shpiel and the Passion Play 127
  • The Wise King Ahasuerus 133
  • Esther and the Essenes 139
  • Remembering Harbona – for Good or for Bad? 147
  • Passover 153
  • Back to Egypt 155
  • 'In Every Generation …'- The Strange Omission in Rabbi Kalischer's Haggadah 161
  • The Eggs and the Exodus 167
  • Dressing for Success 175
  • Hillel's Perplexing Passover Predicament 181
  • Old King, New King 187
  • Drip before You Sip 193
  • Those Magnificent Men and Their Matzah Machines 199
  • Freshly Baked- A Matzah Mystery 205
  • The 'Omer Season 213
  • Freshly Baked- A Matzah Mystery 215
  • Notes from the Underground 221
  • Just a Little Bit off the Top, Please 227
  • The Case of the Missing 'Omer 233
  • Israeli Independence Day 237
  • Gathering the Dispersed of Israel 239
  • That Old Blue Box 243
  • Shavu'ot 249
  • Honey from the Tablets 251
  • Crowning Achievement 257
  • When Mount Sinai Was Lifted Up 267
  • Renewing the Covenant at Qumran 275
  • Glossary 281
  • Index 313
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