Finding your inner Esther

Esther was one of the strongest Jewish women in history, and we can learn from her humility, fear fighting, faith, and transformation.

EVERY WOMAN can be a queen.’  (photo credit: PIXABAY)
EVERY WOMAN can be a queen.’
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
The Purim story is a celebration of the power of women and their ability to rise to the occasion.
A quick recap: It’s the fourth century BCE. The Jews are living under the rule of the Persian king Ahasuerus. After divorcing his first wife, the king goes in search of a new bride. He holds a beauty pageant and selects Esther, who becomes Queen of Persia.
At the same time, the king appoints antisemitic Haman as prime minister. He declares a mass genocide against the Jews to take place on the 13th of the Hebrew month of Adar. Esther is aware of the decree, but at first feels helpless to make change.
“Do not think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews by being in the king’s palace,” Esther’s uncle Mordechai tells her. “For if you will remain silent at this time, relief and salvation will come to the Jews from another source, and you and the house of your father will be lost. And who knows whether you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther devises a plan. With the prayers of the Jewish people behind her, she approaches the king and convinces him to not only undo Haman’s decree, but to eliminate him and his offspring and instead elevate the Jewish people.
“And the Jews in Shushan were oh so happy,” the Book of Esther tells us.
Esther was one of the strongest Jewish women in history.
Here are four lessons we can learn from the queen:
The commentaries explain that Esther lost her parents at a young age and she was therefore raised by her uncle Mordechai. When the king called for all the beautiful women of the empire to be brought before him, Mordechai encouraged her to go, because Esther “had a lovely figure and was beautiful” (2:7).
But she understood that her good looks might not be enough and so she befriended Hegai, the man in charge of the women in the harem, who knew the king well. She sought his advice for how to approach the king and adorned herself with “nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested” (2:15).
Even as queen, Esther did not forget her uncle who raised her. She was in regular contact with him, and it was from Mordechai that she learned of the prime minister’s plan to destroy the Jews.
Esther had a choice: She was queen and could have chosen to save herself and turn her back on her people. Instead, in an act of true humility, she recognized the needs of her people over her own needs. She also understood that while she had done her part to achieve the stature of queen, she was crowned by God as much as by Ahasuerus, and therefore the choice of how to act was not her choice alone.
Fight fear
We learn in the Megillah that “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned, the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives.”
It had been 30 days since the king called for his wife. Esther knew she was putting her life at risk by approaching Ahasuerus. “If I perish, I perish,” she tells Mordechai. She calls the Jewish people together to fast and pray for her success and then, she musters up her inner strength and steps into her role as the savior of the Jewish people.
God picked Esther... and Esther picked God right back.
When we read the Book of Esther, we understand that God had a plan. In the moment, Esther could not see this plan. Instead, she exercised faith and took action.
The Talmud says that Esther prayed before entering the king’s chamber.
Haman is considered to be the epitome of evil. On Purim, children shake noisemakers and shout “Boo!” to block out the sound of his name. But Esther does not fight Haman directly; she knew that he was too deceitful. Instead, she tricked him. She invited him and the king to two parties, welcoming Haman’s presence into her life so she could better understand him. She used what she learned to turn the situation around against Haman and to be good.
We can transform the challenges in our lives, too, and turn them into tools for success. Use anger to fight injustice. Turn pain into empathy. Find blessings in disappointment.
Women can do everything that men can do. But women are not men, and they should not be men. They should be strong women.
Every woman can be a queen. Esther is inside all of us.
The writer is news editor and head of online content and strategy for The Jerusalem Post.