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The Queen You Thought You Knew Hardcover – March 1, 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


In his lectures and in his writings, Rabbi David Fohrman accomplishes something very unique. He combines elements of surprise and ingenuity with the authentic ring of truth. He did this with his first book, The Beast that Crouches at the Door and he has done it once more here, with the The Queen You Thought You Knew . Rabbi Fohrman s latest offering provides a stirring and creative new look at the story of Queen Esther. It is sure to enrich, enliven and refresh the reader's experience of Purim. --Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President, Orthodox Union

IN looking at a Biblical text, David Fohrman asks questions that no one else ever asked, and because of that he gives fresh and arresting answers.

Fohrman has already distinguished himself with his first book, The Beast That Crouches at the Door, an original look at the narratives of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel. Now he turns his attention to the Scroll of Esther, the Megillah, just in time for Purim oh, and one of the first questions he asks is, why call it Purim?

Purim stems from the Hebrew word pur, which means lot, and refers to the lots cast by Haman to determine the date he would kill all the Jews of Persia. Why remember a book of biblical salvation by the genocidal terminology of the Hitler of the day?

Fohrman writes:

Imagine it was 1948 and Israel had just proclaimed its statehood and managed to ward off several invading Arab armies. The question comes up: People will want to celebrate this moment year after year; what should we name the day? Someone in the back of the room raises his hand and says:

Let s call it: Tokarev Day.

Why Tokarev Day, everyone asks.

Well, he continues, when the Arabs tried to kill us all, their weapon of choice was Russian made self-loading Tokarev rifles. Thank G-d we were saved. So let s call it Tokarev Day!

And then everyone applauds and decides that this is a wonderful name for the new holiday.

That s roughly what seems to have taken place concerning Purim. Why name the day after the instrument of choice used by our enemy? It s not his holiday, it s ours!

IN The Queen You Thought You Knew (HFBS and OU Press), Fohrman is skilled at linking the micro to the macro. He takes a very close look at the biblical text, picking up on unnoticed sequences, scrutinizing hitherto unseen grammatical and syntactical oddities.

But he does not produce a book of picky points and scholarly obscurities. He builds on small, careful questions to produce a book of large panoramas. From small puzzles he extracts links to large stretches of biblical history. The Queen You Thought You Knew is a book of uncommon range and insight.

It is also a very fun book. Fohrman s style is direct and engaging (per Tokarev Day). Indeed, his style conveys the feeling of inevitability. The reader finds himself saying, I just knew he was going to say that. I knew where he was going with this. To read Fohrman is akin to listening to a powerful symphony with that driving sense of inevitability.

Of course, Fohrman s reader doesn t really have a clue where Fohrman is going, he just thinks he does. That s part of author Fohrman s genius; he convinces you, the reader, that the two of you are co-authors. Fohrman s subtext is a conspirational link between author and reader. For that reason the book is hard to put down how can you put down your own book?

Who said Bible study couldn t be fun?

HERE'S just a small sampling of 3 questions (besides the curious name of the holiday) that Fohrman raises:

1. After Haman is hung and his sons are killed after the enemy is defeated and dispatched why does the Megillah drag on another three chapters? Aren t they anti-climactic?

2. After Haman decreed his genocidal plan, Esther seems to hesitate before approaching her husband, Ahasuerus, to change his mind. Esther s Uncle Mordechai tells niece Esther that if she will not seek relief from the King, salvation will come from another source.

Well, if the Jews can be rescued from some other source, why does Mordechai urge Esther to see the King? If she s not really needed because salvation is available elsewhere why the pressure on Esther?

(to read the rest of the review, visit the Intermountain Jewish News website and search for "The Queen You Thought You Knew") --Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, Editor in Chief, Intermountain Jewish News

About the Author

Rabbi David Fohrman lectures internationally on Biblical themes. He heads the Curriculum Initiative of the Areivim Philanthropic Group, and directs the Hoffberger Institute for Text Study. He currently resides in Woodmere, NY with his wife and children, where he also serves as resident scholar at the Young Israel of Woodmere. Rabbi Fohrman's first book, The Beast that Crouches at the Door, was a finalist for the 2007 National Jewish Book Award. In earlier years, Rabbi Fohrman served as a senior editor and writer for ArtScroll's Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud, and taught Biblical themes at the Johns Hopkins University. His recorded lectures are available at rabbifohrman.com.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 162 pages
  • Publisher: HFBS Publishing in conjunction with OU Press; First edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983269017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983269014
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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If you know the holiday of Purim, and are familiar with the megillah reading the story of Queen Esther, wicked Haman and King Achashveirosh. You've probably heard it so many times that the story is well-worn into your psyche and it's contours are familiar and comfortable.

Be prepared to have your comfortable lullaby shattered. Rabbi Fohrman book analyzes the story with fresh eyes and with truly magnificent writing that carries you effortlessly from chapter to chapter, drops bombshell after bombshell.

I know when I was first introduced to these questions, it made my entire reading and listening to the Megilah take an entire new life. How was I missing all these (now obvious) questions? They are right there on the page in original Hebrew - no manipulations - and begging for the questions to be asked.

And the answers? One word for them. Satisfying.

Answers that are connected down to the core, using the original words, drawing meaning carefully through reasoned analysis and connected to tradition.

Purim will never be the same.
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Rabbi Fohrman has done a fantastic job taking a seemingly simple biblical story and challenging us to understand it on a more sophisticated level. But he does more than just challenge - he provides insight and answers. And after understanding his answers, they became the only way to actually understand the story (how did we ever understand the story before?) and clearly identify the lessons we should learn from them. Rabbi Fohrman inspires us to study the Bible more rigorously which leads to greater understanding, satisfaction and desire to study further.
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Rabbi Fohrman's genius, shown now in this book, is in clarifying key questions about a Biblical text---the questions we have, or would have if we really paid attention---and then creating a narrative and set of answers to put everything in context, convincingly and elegantly. This book has been released just in time for us to read it and gain its insights before Purim.
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The book of Esther has always been intriguing, partly for the details that are included, and partly for the ones that are not. To those who only read in English, like myself, much information is not seen. This more thorough uncovering, not only of words, but also of events, is thrilling.

Rabbi Fohrman brings out many important thoughts that are applicable to our culture. A few are: * A wicked person is a prisoner of his own emotions. * Silence equals assent. * It is always a good time to repay an old debt. * The reconciliation of a family does not depend on how much time has passed. *

This book is a treasure for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of the Holy Scriptures and the principles contained therein. I will be eagerly awaiting Rabbi Fohrman's next book!
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By B on November 8, 2011
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Growing up, I was never particularly interested in "Esther". Maybe it was "guy thing", and I was more interested in Moses, Samson, Gideon, Abraham, snakes with apples, big towers, and floods, but Esther just wasn't on my radar. I'll pretend not to mention several new movies about Esther that managed to further diminish my interest in the book: visually striking, but without any real substance. Then I came across this book, first through the Exodus lectures on Itunes, then through more reading and the free mp3 lectures. I now consider this book one of my desert island books, along with this author's other book, "The Beast that Crouches at the Door." This author's weaving of biblical themes, Hebrew intertextuality, and the ancient commentaries is masterful because he makes it accessible and relevant to modern readers. By presenting "obvious" questions (usually critical thematic problems), he then begins presenting layer upon layer of evidence from the text that carries the reader/listener on a very real journey of discovery. This often involves the reader in those "ah ha" moments, those revelations that you grasp just a paragraph before he unpacks the meaning, and so often this has left me with chills and, especially, a firm appreciation of this method for making the Bible so relevant. But, beyond that, with this book on Esther, I have a new appreciation for a book the Bible that never captured my attention. The author lays out the story of Esther as a complex web of intrigue, mixed motivation, and subtle strategy, that even I, who thought of myself as a reasonably intelligent reader, never suspected lay there just waiting to be explored. Pick up this book. You'll love the book of Esther, and appreciate the Bible all the more if you do.
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Rabbi Fohrman is clearly a sage. His method of developing an idea and backing it up with hard evidence is both entertaining and enlightening. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Fohrman challenges his Jewish audience to view the material in new ways based on his very unique and beneficial methods of looking for parallelism (asking the questions, "Where have we heard this before?" and comparing and contrasting with other ideas and themes elsewhere in the Bible).

As always, Rabbi Fohrman leaves us asking many questions. Clearly, many of them are the right ones. He seems to be less than comfortable wrapping things up into tight little packages however. He offers more questions than answers. Perhaps this is the right approach. The wrapping up into tight little packages may have been the cause of our misunderstanding and underestimating the value of the text in the past. The book of Esther deserves far more credit than we have given it.

Rabbi Fohrman's book on Esther is far from exhaustive. He ends specifically stating that we must continue asking questions and that a subsequent book on Esther should follow. Rabbi Fohrman clearly gets to the heart of the book, describing the challenges and requirements of oaths and annulments and the need for unity within God's people as we move forward. What he fails to do in this book is grapple with the purpose of the book. Though it is never stated it is clear the book is a treatise on God's requirements to his people and in contrast, the requirements of the people to God. Why does the book of Esther exist in the first place? It isn't a history. It's a theological book. Also, he misses some other themes that build support for his theory. There is no discussion of the genealogies of Haman and Mordecai.
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