The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Madonna reinvents, this time her name

London, June 18: What’s in a name' Not that much, it seems, as Madonna — mistress of the makeover — has announced she is trading her iconic moniker for Esther.

Esther' Yes — and she’s doing it as a testament to her belief in Kabbalah, a mystic sect of Judaism, based mostly on medieval, ethical texts and numerology. Except that she interprets this Jewish devotion as rather “punk-rock”.

“Call me Esther,” she proclaims this week, à la Moby-Dick, in an American television interview. This goes well with her world tour titled “Re-Invention”.

However, the dancers in mini-skirt burkas in her Madison Square Garden show last night don’t say nice Jewish girl to me.

Kabbalah, the celebrity fad, has little to do with either the Judaism that I know or the Kosher Kabbalah (meaning tradition in Hebrew) of rigorous study, which includes mastering Aramaic. Rather, this is like any other New Age nonsense.

Madonna and her husband, Guy, are invited to embrace precepts such as “discovering (one’s) inner light” and “fulfilment in every aspect of your life: relationships, business, health and more”. It’s not exactly spiritual revelation, nor biblical exegesis.

Madge will spread the word to the little ones in her next venture, Yakov and the Seven Thieves, a children’s book published next week which evokes precepts of the Kabbalah. Guy (perhaps soon to be Eliahu') is said to be penning an even more mystical children’s tome about the faith.

Still, Madonna says Kabbalah has changed her life and so she wants to be called Esther. At least she’s making it hip to be Jewish.

It might sound like a chamber-maid’s name now, but the Bible devotes a whole book to the beautiful Queen Esther and her heroism. She’s one of the great female characters of all time. This would fit Madonna’s sense of self: so far, so good.

By some Rabbinical interpretations, Esther is Persian for “star” (aha!) and, by others, the name is a Babylonian goddess (even better). Though Esther was the most beautiful of all maidens, she was no spring chicken: 40, rabbis estimate. This, too, suits the 45-year-old Madonna. However, Queen Esther strictly followed Jewish law, keeping Kosher and being modest. (Modest')

There are more glamourous Jewish names — Mayah, perhaps, or even Rebecca, but Esther has true diva quality.

So what if the welly and Barbour-wearing English shooter doesn’t quite sit with the Jewish-American princess, as long as she manages to popularise the story of Esther, and make the name trendy in the process, so much the better.

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