Self-Defense and Revenge


What’s the difference between revenge and self-defense? Under what circumstances would a response to being harmed be considered an act of self-defense or an act of vengeance? The anchor for an exploration of this complex issue is the section of Megillat Esther that describes the letter stamped with the king’s seal which gave the Jews permission to defend themselves against their enemies. A close reading of the text will enable students to debate whether the Jews’ killing of their enemies was a defensive act or an expression of a desire for revenge. In addition to thought provoking discussion prompts that encourage further analysis of the text, this resource includes creative learning activities such as asking the students to explain and justify both positions by creating a conversation between two Jews living at that time.

The learners will:

  1. understand the complexity of distinguishing between acts of self-defense and revenge  

  2. know how the megillah depicts the Jews battle 

  3. be able to evaluate similar dilemmas or scenarios (historical, hypothetical, etc) and explain if it falls into the category of self defense or revenge and why

When you click on the Jewish Education by Design resource link featured above, you will find the following educational building blocks for the creation of a lesson plan:

  1. Essential questions that get to the “heart” of the learning

  2. In depth discussion questions that are designed to elicit conceptual thinking and personal reflections about the featured source/s

  3. Suggested activities that enable the students to both process and apply what was learned in a thought provoking and creative fashion

  4. A further study option/s to related materials on the JEBD site or to external links

Student handout

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