The megillah is in the cards

The megillah is in the cards

It’s the luck of the draw that Purim falls on the 14th of Adar (this year, nightfall on Monday March 6) since it celebrates the Jewish victory in a battle whose date was chosen by a senior Persian government official through the casting of lots — known in Akkadian as “pur.” Or so at least the Book of Esther reports.

Theologically, the opaque interaction between apparent luck and the obscured hand of God is central to discussions of the Purim holiday. Nowadays, though, when we think of luck, we tend to think of a game of cards, rather than choosing stones.

So when artist Jacqueline Nicholls and publisher David Zvi Kalman started planning out their illustrated Book of Esther, it’s no surprise that they quickly settled on the theme of playing cards.

And it was luck — bad luck, this time — that the original convening of artists planned by the project sponsor, Beit Venezia: A Home for Jewish Culture of Venice, Italy, was on Purim, 2020 — which was the beginning of Italy’s covid shutdown.

The good luck is that in a world of Zoom, long-distance art collaborations are not difficult. In the end, Nicholls and three fellow artists — Tilla Crowne, Sophie Herxheimer, and Mirta Kupferminc — produced 60 illustrations of the Purim story, which are accompanied by the Hebrew and English text of the Megillah as designed by master Israeli typesetter Raphael Freema. They’re all in the book that Kalman’s Print-O-Craft published.

Kalman’s afterword spells out the many connections not only between Purim and gambling, but between the city of Venice and the now-ubiquitous four-suited 52-card deck of cards we all know.

But the connection is not just metaphorical: alongside the printed book, Print-O-Craft has published a deck of cards based on the illustrations, “so that the story of Esther can be shuffled and reshuffled endlessly.”

You can order both the book and the cards from

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