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Vashti: From Disobedient Wife to Religious Feminist Role Model

Haaretz (Israeli newspaper, 3/21/08) notes a trend growing among the orthodox religious: an appreciation for Vashti’s courageous action in the Purim story.

Queen Esther is the religious girl’s superhero. There is no prettier Purim costume than a pale blue dress tinged with gold. But it isn’t just because of Esther’s glamorous dress that she outnumbers Vashti at the Purim parade. Esther is the undisputed heroine of Jewish mythology. She represents the ultimate observant woman; her beauty and righteousness is hailed in Jewish literature.

In contrast, Vashti, who did not obey her husband King Ahasuerus, was excluded from the scroll and from Jewish history. However, despite the ridicule heaped on her, for the past several years the religious feminist movement has adopted the intriguing figure as a role model for women. Read on.

Of course. Jewish feminist groups in the liberal communities have been holding Vashti up as a role model for 30 plus years. We can only hope that such awareness in the orthodox Jewish community will lead, in time, to female orthodox rabbis, a solution to the agunah (chained women) problem, greater disuse of head-coverings and wigs by orthodox women, and a dissolution of the use of mechitzah (the barrier separating men and women during prayer).

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