Extract from an article in Issue 24, March 16, 2009 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. Purim is celebrated this year on March 10 "There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment." - Cardinal de Retz Quoted by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson This is the Book of Esther in a nutshell. All of its power and value are encapsulated in the decisive moment when the plot changes because of the action of a particular character. That moment comes when Mordechai challenges Esther and says to her: "Who knows if you have been put here for this moment?" (Esther 4:14) Only when she is confronted by the darkness of the unknown that hovers constantly over each of the decisions we mortals make, does Esther makes the decision to act. She is no longer just a lucky girl who got to marry a millionaire; she is a heroine who must risk her life to save her people. On the surface, the Book of Esther seems to be a tale of mortals in the palace, struggling to make the right decisions, without divine guidance. It is the only book in the Bible not to mention the name of God overtly. However, in the same verse, 4:14, the rabbis find allusion to God in the statement that "salvation and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place." Since Hamakom, the place, is a name of God, this can be seen as a reference to God's involvement. Yet the beauty of the book is precisely this: Human beings act on their own, without recourse to divine guidance. Though Esther prays and fasts to give her strength to act, the text never tells us if or how her prayers merit a response. Women in the Bible often operate without direct divine guidance. Tamar, in Genesis 38, and Ruth are like Esther, female characters who act and create a plot for themselves and ultimately for the Jewish people, without overt guidance from on high. Neither speaks to God, both have plans and follow through. The ability of a human to make a plan and carry it through for positive effect is the strength and value of the mere 10 chapters of this odd book. For Esther, unlike most of us, is imbued with a mission and a sense of purpose that transform her. Most of us spend our lives thinking, did I make the right decision? Esther does not waver and worry "who knows" whether she is acting appropriately or not. Once she begins to act, she remains with her plan, getting the king ready to hear her request, inviting him and his trusted adviser to banquets, and, finally, making her dramatic plea for her life and the lives of her people. She tells Ahasuerus that "had we been sold merely to be servants and maidservants I would have been silent," (7:4) and that the threat of annihilation has compelled her to speak and act. Mordechai's warning to her, "Who knows if you have been put here for this moment?" (4:14) had been prefaced with the admonition that "if you keep absolutely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come from another place." (4:14) These are the only two verses, in this chatty book of royal intrigue, palace parties and castle dÃ©cor, that mention silence. It is Esther's move from silence into language that makes a difference in the outcome. Beth Kissileff is visiting assistant professor of Jewish Studies at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. She has written a forthcoming novel, "Questioning Return" and is at work on an anthology of academic writings on Genesis. Extract from an article in Issue 24, March 16, 2009 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.