Jewish Wisdom

An Introduction to Queen Esther

This month, as we prepare to celebrate the holiday of Purim, we’re diving into the full story of Megillah Esther (the Scroll of Esther). In short: Queen Esther saves the Jewish people, and does so using some potent sexuality.

This is a fascinating story — both for what it says and for what it leaves out. Here is the essence:

  1. Esther is orphaned and lives with her uncle Mordechai. She is also, as it happens, the most beautiful virgin in the entire kingdom of Persia. “Shapely and beautiful,” according to Esther 2:7!
  2. Through a royal beauty contest, the party-loving King Achasuerus chooses her as the next Queen of Persia. (Yes, his name is the hardest to pronounce in all of Jewish history.)
  3. Uncle Mordechai tells Esther to hide her Jewish identity. This turns out to be a wise choice, because the King’s top advisor, Haman, creates a plot to exterminate the Jewish people.
  4. Esther is terrified to intervene, but Mordechai gives his niece the nudge she needs. “Perhaps you have attained your royal position for just such a time as this!” (Esther 4:14). He inspires her to take action, save her people, and tap her full potential.
  5. She prepares herself — body, mind, and soul — to fulfill her destiny.
  6. Esther hosts a lavish feast for her husband and Haman, revealing her identity and Haman’s evil plan at the perfect moment.
  7. The king, disgusted at his advisor’s treachery, sends Haman to be impaled on the stake. (The same stake, in fact, that Haman had erected as a plan to kill Mordechai.)

If you can, take some time to read Esther’s entire story. On the surface, it’s epic and even comical, but a deeper look reveals many hidden things. And that’s the whole point of the Purim tradition.

First of all, Megillah Esther is the only book in the Hebrew canon that makes no reference to the Divine. Megillah Esther also makes no reference to Esther’s intelligence, courage, or drive. Even so, all of these shine brightly from between the lines.

Traditionally, at the annual reading of the Megillah on Purim, we make noise to shout out the name of treacherous Haman. But a new tradition is taking hold: waving flags each time Esther’s name is spoken. We love this way of highlighting Esther’s grace and bravery — her divine chutzpah. May she inspire us all.

An Introduction to Queen Esther

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