You really are amazing, you woman of the world juggling house, kids, career, husband and the rest of the universe and still managing to look beautiful and fresh.
You really think you are so powerful when with one decision of yours or one change of mood, the whole household atmosphere can change like magic. If you are happy, everyone is happy, if you are nervous, the day will just collapse for all. You are the pillar of their world for those around you who you love and cherish; your decisions are what makes life tick by.
Woman, you are incredible, when you finally go to bed at night last after you have locked all doors, cleaned the kitchen, prepared all lunches for the next day, laid out clothes for kids, flushed all toilets and shut all lights in the house, finally you get to switch on your light, the small light in your brain and start with your million thoughts, dreams, worries and prayers until you fall into a deep sleep exhausted from your own self.
We really are a piece of art, created in the image of God.
This reminds me of Purim, which we just finished, where the protagonist of this day is a woman: Esther.
That is when I realize how small we all are compared to this giant in our history.
Hadassah was her real name, but she had to keep it hidden to protect her life, for she lived in the golden cage she was taken to, the palace of Achashverosh.
Maybe because I was named in her honor, every time Purim comes around I am fascinated by her story. This year, though, Esther came to life for me, as if I had seen her as if I had touched her with my hands, caressed her tears.
We grew up thinking we all wanted to be Esthers chosen for our beauty over all the other women, crowned by the king and living in a palace for the rest of our lives. I chuckle as I see myself in a queen costume as a child, as I make my way through traffic running to my work meeting after I prepared the pasta sauce for supper and ironed my husband’s shirt.
I am so unbelievable, look at me multitask. Hadassah, who do you think you are?
Suddenly I am back in Shushan, where we were just a few days ago, and Esther, far from being the Cinderella we all had dreamt of, was busy saving the whole nation. A woman whose destiny had been written. She was to sacrifice her life, her identity to be able to live free like a Jew, and her love for Mordechai, in order to save all of us.
Us, yes also us – sitting now in traffic in Jerusalem.
Esther lived with a man she never loved – a powerful, dangerous, vulgar man. She played her part with brains and beauty as only a woman can. She trapped Haman at a party she threw at her palace despite being seen by the Jews as a traitor by that time.
How could she, the talk of the town, how could Esther sit and feast with our enemy while we tremble in fear knowing our end is near? Esther had offered herself to her king under the direction of Mordechai, who told her to go to the king even if she hadn’t been called by him.
She could risk death.
Esther was not scared of dying, the only thing that made her sad was losing Mordechai forever by giving herself to Achashverosh. From that moment on when her king stretches the scepter to her and lets her in, Esther will live only for the Jewish nation, for all else she has lost.
She morphs into the perfect queen, throwing parties with the enemy, serving wine and entertaining while her only aim is to destroy Haman and save her brothers and sisters. It will take time for all to see the full picture of the incredible life of Esther, her plan slowly carried out and put together piece by piece like a puzzle, her only protection from failing, her incredible faith in Hashem.
Just when we thought all was lost and the evil forces had won, it all turns around in our favor. Haman gets hung with his 10 sons, and Mordechai becomes a minister of the king. Do you understand the pain of this woman living side by side with the man she loved and being forced to stay with the king?
I DRIFT from this thought as the news on the TV shows the Golden Globes ceremony in Hollywood. I see all these beautiful women taking the stage with their stunning couture gowns, blowing kisses, thanking God and declaring power to the women.
With Esther in my mind right now they look like clowns to me.
Women in Hollywood have to show some skin before they get taken seriously, only to finally prove they have talent, and to those who manage to get to the peak of their career and receive an award, we see them standing all glammed up on a sparkly stage – and suddenly they turn into gurus and feel the need to start educating the world about politics and women’s rights.
No. Not from you.
I thank God every day for having given me so many amazing women figures to idolize and learn from in my own history. If I just open a Chumash, a megillah or the book of Prophets, it’s bursting with women leaders, fighters and queens.
I look at the world around me getting more and more confused as to the role of the man and of the woman, those lines getting ever more blurred each day.
I hear speeches of feminists declaring war on all – men, God, universe – and pushing for equality. The moment you scream for equality means you feel below something, someone.
The more I live in Israel the more I see how women here are integrated into all sectors of society, from politics to hi-tech, banking, science – I might say even slightly more feared than men! Women fighters in the army, in the police, in the air force. Women in show business and in journalism.
Many of the most powerful pens here in Israel are held by women.
This reminds me of the final struggle of Esther. With Haman’s death, the horrible decree was still pending on the Jewish nation and even after her begging her husband the king to cancel it, he explains to her with all the love he has for her he cannot do it, but he can order another decree to be issued that the Jews can defend themselves.
In those days, when the Jews faced war, that same day would be turned into a day of fasting and prayer, where all the Jews would fast except for the soldiers who had to fight, for they needed to be strong and ready.
In this case of Purim, Haman’s decree was against Jews of all ages from babies to old men. No one was to be left alive. This was a departure from a normal scenario of war. Everyone here was at risk – every single Jew was to be killed on the 13th of Adar. This made it impossible for anyone to fast, for everyone had to be strong and focused for a possible attack on them. Women had to protect their children. Men had to protect the women and soldiers had to protect the cities.
One only person was not at risk to be killed, for she lived in the palace and was loved by the king: Esther. No one would dare come to the palace and try to murder her, that’s why she was the only one who could fast.
The fast we do before Purim is called Fast of Esther because only she had to fast, locked in her golden palace, praying for her adored brothers and sisters all over the empire.
And when the day was over and the Jews celebrated victory with relief, Esther stood by the windows smiling with tears, for her life would continue next to Achashverosh.
Don’t come and talk to me about women’s rights, world. I am so proud to be a woman in my country, as a Jew, with awe-inspiring figures in my heritage who teach me and inspire me more every day how each of us women can change the world –not only diapers or hair color.
The writer is from Italy, lives in Jerusalem and heads HadassahChen Productions. A director and performer, she also heads the Keren Navah Ruth Foundation in memory of her daughter, to assist families with sick children. [email protected]