Rachel Shamosh 9H1 Connecting the Dots

What could a Greek Goddess and a harsh Jewish leader possibly have in common? The answer to this question is more than one would expect. Both Hera Queen of Mount Olympus and Herod the Great ruler of Judea were extremely jealous, paranoid and temperamental individuals. The two also share in common that their rash behavior often resulted in suffering and sometimes the death of many innocent beings. Herod is considered one of the most accomplished, but also destructive Jewish leaders in history. On the one hand, Herod put Judea on the map as a super power nation at the time by building up the capital of Jerusalem and constructing some of the ancient world’s most magnificent cities and structures, such as Caesarea and Herod’s Temple to name a couple. On the other hand, Herod had a very cruel way of securing his power, and that was to seek and destroy. If Herod saw someone as even a slight threat to his ruler-ship, he would find that person and brutally kill him or her immediately. His paranoia that someone would snatch his throne away led him to executing his own family members. The family murders he committed included killing his father-in-law, Hyrcanus, mother-in-law, Alexandra and wife, Miriam. He

also managed to get rid of all descendants of the Hasmonean Dynasty, ending Judea’s era of Torah and foreign and domestic peace for good. One could argue that Herod single-handedly led the Jewish people to the one of their most devastating tragedies in history: the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash on account of the Romans in 70 AD. While Herod’s fear stemmed from political paranoia, Hera’s fear lied more in her personal worries. Hera is known as the beautiful and jealous wife of Zeus. Though the two were madly in love, Hera always had to keep an eye on Zeus who often had affairs with other women, mortal and non-mortal. In the event that Hera found Zeus caught in the act, she went to extreme measures to punish the women who were guilty of having an affair with him. We see this play out in the case of Io, a mortal woman who Zeus secretly wooed. As a story goes, when Hera was looking upon earth one day, she spotted a cloud and assumed it was her husband Zeus and rushed down to confirm the fact. When she arrived, she saw Zeus with a cow. In reality, the cow was Io who he was wooing and he cleverly transformed her into a cow when he saw his jealous wife approaching. From Zeus’ previous affairs, Hera deduced that the cow standing before her was not really a cow at all, but rather one of his mistresses. She therefore asked Zeus if she could have the cow and Zeus, afraid of his wife’s reactions, said yes. Furthermore, Hera was always plotting against the nymphs who she also suspected were tempting Zeus.

What I learned from comparing Herod and Hera is that every single one of your actions has a consequence that may or may not affect other people. Nevertheless, one should never make hasty decisions and should think matters through before taking action. Looking at the world through the lens of the Greeks has helped me evaluate and confirm my own belief system. By taking a step back and seeing what the Greeks valued and how they worshipped their gods, it did not make much sense to me. I cannot say it added any new layer to my identity, but rather strengthened by Jewish faith that was always there.