History says that women are supposed to be meek, mild, subservient and if she has a brain or ambition, she has to hide it. Women who are up front about their needs, their intelligence or openly exhibit ambition are often shamed for speaking out.
This past week was the Jewish holiday of Purim.
The heroine of Purim is Esther. Living in ancient Persia, Esther is an orphan taken in and raised by her cousin Mordechai. She expects to live the life of an ordinary Jewish girl: marry the young man chosen for her, bring children into the world and continue with a lifestyle that Jewish women have been living with for an untold number of years.
But fate has something else entirely different in mind for this young lady.
Inside the palace, King Ahasuerus (thought to be Xerxes I by historians), is entertaining. Deep into his cups, he orders that his wife, Queen Vashti be brought to the revelers, revealing her beauty to them (meaning coming in wearing just her birthday suit). Vashti refuses and is banished. Not wanting to be alone (not that he truly was alone, the King had a harem full of women), the King orders his ministers to find a new bride from among the eligible women of Persia. Esther is chosen to be one of the potential brides, but is warned by Mordechai to hide her identity.
When King Ahasuerus finally chooses a new wife, Esther is crowned Queen. But there is a plot afoot that could endanger the lives of Esther and the Jews of Persia. One of the King’s advisers, Haman, wants to rid the kingdom of her Jews. Esther is at a crossroads. She could say nothing and live, while watching her family and her people be massacred, or she could reveal her true identity, put herself in danger and potentially save her people.
Esther makes the bold and dangerous decision to reveal her identity, knowing that she could go to the gallows. In the end, Esther saves her people and Haman and his ilk are punished.
Among the heroines of the bible, Esther for me, stands out. She is strong, smart and true enough to herself, even to the point of knowing that her fate could be that of Vashti’s. She is a heroine for the ages, a woman who is willing to speak out in a time when women were not supposed to speak out.
To those who celebrated, Happy Purim.