Code name Esther

One of my favorite religion stories this week was this New York Times tale of intrigue and computer coding. I know I'm always calling for more and/or better coverage of the role religion plays in everyday life. But this was just too exciting:

Deep inside the computer worm that some specialists suspect is aimed at slowing Iran's race for a nuclear weapon lies what could be a fleeting reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them.

That use of the word "Myrtus" -- which can be read as an allusion to Esther -- to name a file inside the code is one of several murky clues that have emerged as computer experts try to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue Stuxnet program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment.

Esther is also known as Hadassah, see, and that means "Myrtle." And "guava" appears in the code, too -- also part of the myrtle family. So if you know the Book of Esther, this is just a fascinating read. But that's the problem. Here's how the story from Esther is told later in the article:

The Book of Esther tells the story of a Persian plot against the Jews, who attacked their enemies pre-emptively.

Except that it doesn't. I don't want to quote from the entire Book of Esther, although I'm tempted to quote from my children's Arch Book version. Here's how it goes:

Esther, who has no parents and is being taken care of by her cousin Mordechai, is chosen as a new queen for King Ahasuerus. Mordechai discovers a plot to assassinate Ahasuerus, thereby foiling it. But Ahasuerus' right-hand man Haman doesn't like Mordechai because he won't bow down to him. Haman plots to kill all Jews in the empire and Ahasuerus grants this, not quite realizing what he's getting into or that Esther and Mordechai are Jews. A date is chosen. Mordechai finds out but Esther can't go directly to the king so she hatches an elaborate plan involving multiple feasts. Ahasuerus finds out that Mordechai was the one who foiled the plot against his life. He finds great favor with Mordechai, obviously. So at a banquet soon after, Esther reveals that she is Jewish and that Haman is trying to exterminate her people. Haman is killed and while the decree against the Jews isn't rescinded, they're allowed to defend themselves. And they do, killing many attackers and Haman's sons. They don't plunder their opponents and Mordechai is given a prominent position in the King's court. From that position, he institutes an annual commemoration of the delivery of the Jews.

And that's how you get the celebration of Purim.

Anyway, that's not a pre-emptive attack. That's simply being permitted to respond to aggression.

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