Today is International Women’s Day.Today we honor women, past and present who have paved the way for the success of this generation and future generations.
This weekend is the Jewish holiday of Purim. Jews around the world celebrate Queen Esther’s victory over the murderous Haman.
Esther is one of the strongest women in the bible. An orphan raised by her cousin Mordechai, she expects to live an ordinary life: marry an appropriate young man, raise a family and generally life the life that women have lived for centuries. But fate intervenes. King Ahasuerus is hosting a dinner party for his closest friends. Getting rip-roaring drunk, he commands that his wife, Queen Vashti appear in all of her beauty
in her birthday suit to his guests. Vashti refuses and is banished from court.
But now the King is lonely and in need of female companionship. Many women are brought before the King, but it is Esther who catches his eye and is crowned Queen. But before she steps into the palace gates, she renames herself. Instead of the given name of Hadassah, she is now Esther. Her Jewish identity is now hidden.
One of the King’s minister’s Haman has a thirst for power and is more than willing spill a little blood if necessary to get that power. Offended when Mordechai does not bow to him, Haman sets his sights on the Jews of Shushan. Fearing for the safety of her cousin and her people and despite knowing the danger she could be in, Esther steps forward and reveals her true identity. Mordechai and the Jews of Shushan are safe, thanks to the bravery and courage of their Queen.
Unlike most women in the Bible, Esther is a fully formed character who is not simply designated as the wife of ___________ or the daughter of ________. Her intelligence, courage and strength have been a reminder to women across the centuries that we are far more capable than we think we are. And in today’s society when women are fighting for the same rights that our great-grandmothers were fighting for a century ago, Esther’s story encourages us to keep going. When we are willing to step up to the plate, it is possible to change the world.
We just have to have to courage and be willing to make that difficult step.