"Haman and Mordecai"

by Sholem Aleichem, translated by Saul Hankin

Today, Sholem Aleichem (Sholem Rabinovitsh, 1859-1916) is best known as the author of stories about Tevye the dairyman, the inspiration for the musical Fiddler on the Roof. He began working on “Haman and Mordecai” in 1905 and revised it the year of his death. The story follows the real Haman and Mordecai, who arrive in a shtetl the day before Purim and go unrecognized by the Jews there. In his biography The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem, Jeremy Dauber describes this story as a satire of Jewish ignorance: “the Jews don’t know enough to recognize their biblical characters.” He also identifies Mordecai, who is a servant of Haman in the story, as “the eternal, wandering Jew, constantly in Diasporic subservience to his enemies.” Dauber included “Haman and Mordecai” in his article “If You Read Just Ten Stories by Sholem Aleichem . . .” At the time, it was the only one of the stories on the list not available in English translation.

Saul Hankin

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