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Purim - Book of Esther

03/02/2023 03:43:08 PM


Rabbi Hearshen

One folly of the human condition is that all too often, we fail to see our real power. Many times we look at a situation and falsely believe we’re weak, or worse, powerless. To assert we have no power over the world around us is a sad way to see the world. It’s sad to imagine we don’t have the ability to impact what’s all around us. Each and every one of us has a role and part to play in the narrative of life. Each and every one of us has a sacred obligation to act and speak when we observe something that either doesn’t feel right or is actually wrong. The crazy thing is that even people in positions of power, at times, will assert they are helpless and unable to do anything. What a sad state of affairs when such is the leadership we’re stuck with. What a sad state of affairs when we as people don’t see our power.
The Book of Esther is a deep book filled with much to be gleaned at all levels. At its core is a king who cares more about partying than leading. It’s filled with gluttony and the objectification of women. The Book of Esther is, at its core, a story about one man’s rage at a people because one person (who belonged to that people) refused to feed his ego. The idea of taking the actions of one person and projecting them onto the minority group to which (s)he belongs to is one of the oldest forms of hatred and completely illogical. When Mordecai chose to not bow down to Haman, those were his choices and not the choices of the entire Jewish community of Persia. Haman nevertheless turned his wrath not only on Mordecai, but on the entire Jewish people.
In a truly poetic manner, Mordecai’s cousin, Esther, whom he was responsible for raising, finds herself married to the King and is thus the Queen of Persia. It appears in the text that Esther was oblivious to the impending doom of their entire people. When Mordecai sent Esther word of what was to happen and asked for help, she responded that she couldn’t do anything about it. “All the king’s courtiers and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any person, man or woman, enters the king’s presence in the inner court without having been summoned, there is but one law for him—that he be put to death. Only if the king extends the golden scepter to him may he live. Now I have not been summoned to visit the king for the last thirty days.” (Esther 4:11)
This response seems to be either an excuse or a deeper sign of fear that Esther carried with her as she felt her husband, the King, had all the power in their relationship. She told her cousin she sadly could not do anything to help him in the predicament that he found himself. His response is probably one of the most critical statements for today found in the book. Mordecai had this message delivered to Esther: “Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.” (Esther 4:13 – 14)
Mordecai managed to remind Esther of many facts: these were her people being sentenced to death, that she was in fact a person in a position of power, and that she had an obligation to use her power. This statement that she read in a note he passed to her, caused Esther to awaken and recognize she was obligated to act and this was the role she had been placed in by circumstances beyond her control. With this statement, Esther had an entire change of heart. She gathered up her courage and became the savior of the Jewish people of the Persian Empire. In the words Christopher Robin spoke to Winnie the Pooh: “Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know.” It’s sad when we don’t see what power we each possess. It’s sad when we don’t recognize the impact we can have on our world. We each need to look in the mirror and see we’re so much more than we can even imagine. When we see injustice… when we see a world that doesn't match with how we'd like it to be… when we believe something is wrong… we have the ability to stand up and speak out. We all have the power to change the world and nothing could be further from reality if we were to believe we can’t.

Sat, April 20 2024 12 Nisan 5784