Tag Archives: King Ahasuerus

Purim, Queen Esther, and the Fight to be True to Yourself

We live in a culture and a world that values conformity over originality. To be different, to be an outsider is not ideal.

The story of Purim and Queen Esther is about being an outsider.

Esther is an orphaned young woman growing up in ancient Babylonia. Jewish by birth and by practice, she is drafted to be one of the young women presented to the King Ahasuerus as a future bride. Chosen by the King to be his Queen, Esther must hide her identity. When her people are in danger, Esther must make a choice: continue to hide her true self or put herself in danger to save her people.

There are very few stories in the Bible in which a woman is not only front and center, but she is the heroine. The fate of the Jews rests on her shoulders. She knows that remaining silent would save her life. But she also knows that deep down inside, she cannot stand by and watch those she loves being slaughtered simply because of their faith.

My personal takeaway from the story of Purim and the courage of Queen Esther is that being yourself in the face of conformity is the hardest thing anyone of us can do. But, if we are willing to take the risk, the results may just outweigh the fear.

Happy Purim!

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Purim And International Women’s Day

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.

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Purim

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.

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