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11.03.2013 10:54    Comments: 0    Categories: Holidays      Tags: megilat esther  purim  simcha  

THE STORY OF ESTHER - MEGUILLAT ESTHER - A CLOSER LOOK AT ESTHER

Some people spend days on end studying Megillath Esther-the Book of Esther, which we read on the upcoming festival of Purim. I hope with the 20 minutes that we have that I will be able to convey some great messages we learn from the Meguillah.

I want to focus this evening on 3 points:
#1) Why the Megillah is called Megillath Esther, and not Megillath of Mordechai or Achasheverosh? #2) Esther herself and what we can learn from the specific words chosen to describe her in the Megillah:
her character traits, her life, her physical and inner qualities. #3) And lastly, what we can walk away with as Jewish women carrying on the future generations of the people of Israel - our people.
Before I delve into these 3 points, I would like, with your permission, to summarize the story of the Megillah, which you will have the opportunity to hear this Saturday night AND Sunday morning
. This will hopefully give you some context and understanding of its relevance nowadays as you hear it being narrated.
Here goes:
The story takes place shortly after the destruction of the first Temple (Bet Hamikdash) of Jerusalem. In the 3
rd year of his reign, after having banished his Queen Vashti for not appearing at the royal banquet, the King of Persia, Achashverosh, hosted a 180-day feast, to which the Jews attended even though they were commanded not to by Mordechai, a descendant of one of the sons of Jacob, Binyamin, and a leadership figure for the Jewish nation at the time. In an effort to find himself a new queen, Achashverosh ordered for an elaborate beauty contest that welcomed AND forced all the maidens of Persia to assemble and pamper themselves for months, so he could select a most suitable queen. For a whole year, young maidens came from near and far to compete and become the next First Lady of Persia. Esther lived with her uncle (some say he was her cousin), Mordechai, in Shushan, the capital of Persia. She was forced to join the contest because she was particularly beautiful. She possessed a devine chen/grace purposely bestowed to her by the Ribono shel olam/ G-D, and lo and behold, whadayaknow? Achashverosh had a “penchant” for her/was attracted to her, and Esther was selected to be THE queen!

Mordechai, the wise man that he was, instructed her not to reveal her Jewish identity.
Meantime, Achashverosh's new Prime Minister, Haman, was a jealous and greedy fellow. Seeing the Jews in their multitude, he felt threatened and envious. So he maliciously devised a plan and obtained Achashverosh’ consent to kill all the Jews. A royal edict was issued declaring that on the 13th of Adar (the day of Purim
as we celebrate to this day), the Jews in all 127 provinces were to be killed and their property kept as plunder[a]!
Mordechai informed Queen Esther of the plot and asked her to seek mercy from king
Achashverosh[b]. Queen Esther had a choice to make now, to risk revealing her identity and go before the King without being called upon-which was a criminal offense at the time, in order to save her people or to do nothing and ensure her security. With some inner reflection and advice from Mordechai, she agreed, but to help her in her mission, she requested that all the Jews fast for three days and repent for their sins while praying for the heavenly decree against them to be reversed.
Queen Esther, requests to be seen by her King, Achashverosh, so she could make her plea. Achashveroch, swayed by her divine grace agrees to attend
a series of private feasts she had prepared for him and his Minister, Haman harasha-the evil one. After the first feast[c], Haman went home elated and now felt he would be the “second in command” so to speak. With that confidence he is advised by his household and decides to build a gallows on which to hang Mordechai and be done with this Jew once and for all.
Meanwhile Achash
verosh, after having a sleepless night, recalls the great act that Mordechai had done for him earlier in thwarting an assassination attempt on his life. To Haman’s great dismay, Achashverosh then instructs Haman to reward Mordechai the Jew for saving him, the King, from this plotted assassination. His reward? Mordechai is to be escorted to the center of town, on the royal steed, and dressed in royal robes, by none other than Haman himself! OUCH!.
At her second feast, Esther informs the king of Haman's evil plan to kill all the Jews, and which by definition, included HER, a now revealed Jewess.
“WHAT! Someone dares to try and kill my Queen!” explodes Achashverosh, off to the gallows for Haman and his 10 sons
. And Mordechai steps in as the new Prime Minister.
Yay! The Jews all over celebrated Yeshuat Hashem the
divine salvation, with great simcha joy and feast. Esther and Mordechai documented their story and all of the Purim practices to be, for generations thereafter: the reading of the Megillah, the festive meal, and gifts of food and charity to the poor.

=================================================================

Now let’s Fast forward to today:
When carefully reading the Megillah, we notice, that G-d’s name does not actually appear anywhere. Thereby, teaching us that the miracle of Purim was not an open miracle. To many people, it appeared to be a natural sequence of events.

This brings me back to the 3 major points I wanted to highlight as mentioned earlier:

There is an important lesson to be learned here. The Meam Loez, brings down, that the Jews had committed grave sins and were not deserving of G-d’s mercy. They bowed down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idols, and eventhough they were instructed not to go, they participated and enjoyed themselves at Achaseverosh’s non-kosher feast where the vessels from the destroyed first Jewish Temple were being used for public display. Although, they were in exile because of their sins, they were now sinning even more!

So, the question is - why didn’t G-D perform great miracles for the Jewish People during the Purim story? Our People in Egypt were also mired in idol worship and at the lowest spiritual level and G-D performed open miracles for us then? As a solution, we learn that If G-d had performed an obvious miracle for the Jews, they would have thought the He had forgiven[d] them-without any effort on their part. They would not have improved their ways, and would have deserved to be destroyed.

G-d therefore made the miracle appear to be the result of a palace intrigue. It was not obvious that it was caused by divine intervention. G-d sometimes in a sense “hides” behind events to inspire us to do Teshuva repentance, to work on our personal development and recognize that nothing happens without His doing.

Therefore, G-d’s name is not mentioned in the Megillah. It is hidden, seter- concealed.

 

 

Similarly, with the name of the Megillah, Megillat Esther, not the Megillah of Hadassah (eventhough Hadassah was Esther’s Hebrew name). The name “Esther” originates from the root word (Seter), meaning “hidden” or “concealed” because the story is about a miracle that was concealed under the guise of political events..

====================== The one very surprising incident in the Megillah is Esther’s marriage to King Achashverosh. Esther was one of the greatest Jewish righteous women, what we call a Tzadikah - she was one of the seven prophetesses[e]. The fact that she would marry a gentile was not something anyone would expect nor something that she would want for herself. No one could understand it - until it was finally revealed that this marriage had been decreed by Divine Providence so Esther would have the zechut/merit to save the Jews from Haman’s evil plot. The book is therefore named after Esther.

Her courage, self-sacrifice and complete dveikut bond with G-d and reliance on Him to help her is what we celebrate and remember from her. Furthermore, it was Esther who advised the Jews to repent by fasting three days and three nights. This act of repentance saved the Jews from destruction. The Megillah was therefore named after Esther[f]. -------------------------------------------

In chapter 2: verse 7, of the Megillah, it reads:
Vayehi Omen et Hadassah He Esther Bat Dodo Ki Eyn Lah Av Vaem, Vehanaarah Yefat Toar Vetovat Marhe Ouvemot Aviha Veima Lekacha Mordechai Lo Levat.
He had raised his cousin, Hadassah, also known as Esther, for she had no father or mother. The young girl was beautiful and good-looking, and when her father and mother died, Mordechai took her in as a daughter.
Mordehai raised Esther from infancy, teaching her the ways of Hashem.
Mordechai took her into his house to give her a proper Jewish upbringing. Esther’s true name was Hadassah, Hebrew for myrtle. She was given this name because she had a deep olive complexion, like a myrtle; and just as a myrtle has pleasing fragrance, she had a winning personality.

-Most trees have foliage during the rainy season, but lose it during the dry season. The myrtle, however, is an evergreen, retaining its foliage all year round. Esther similarly remained virtuous and religious no matter where she was-she was the same in Achasheverosh’s palace as she was in Mordechai’s house.

-A myrtle has a pleasant fragrance, but a bitter taste. Esther was likewise pleasant to Mordechai but bitter to Haman.

-The myrtle appears to be without fragrance, its perfume is only evident when its leaves are bruised and crushed. Superficially, Esther seemed to have done wrong in marrying a gentile king and living in his immoral, non-kosher palace. But upon closer examination one sees that everything Esther did was completely virtuous and justified for the benefit of the Nation of Israel. -In fact, she said she was a vegetarian (this way she avoided all non-kosher meats fish and poultry), as soon as she was taken to the palace. She also asked to have 7 different maidservants. This way, she kept a record of the weekly calendar. The maidservant on the seventh day never saw her on any other day. The maidservant of the seventh day therefore did not suspect Esther of being a Jew, for not doing work or different tasks on Shabbat[g].
The Torah introduces Esther, as Mordechai’s cousin. Even when she was queen of the Persian Empire, she considered herself simply Mordec
hai’s cousin and ward.

As an orphan the lessons of humility and modesty had become part of her nature, and even when she was queen, she retained these beautiful traits.

-------------------------------------------------------
In the same chapter: 2, verse 9:
Vatitav Hanaarah Beenav Vatissah Chessed Lefanav, Vayevahel Et Tameroukeha Veet Manoteha Latet La, Veet Sheva Hanearot Hareouot Latet Lah Mibet Hamelech. Vayeshaneha veet Naaroteha Letov Bet Hanashim.

The girl pleased him, and she gained favor in his presence. He rushed her cosmetics, as well as the portions which were to be given to her and the seven suitable girls who were given to her from the king’s house. He favored her and her girls with the best of the harem..
Some girls are very attractive, but make a poor impression up close. Personality and looks do not always match. Esther however, gained favor even when she was in Hagai’s presence
, the chief in command of all the maidens in the contest for the title of Queen.
When it was her turn to go to the King, she did not ask for any makeup, jewelry, perfumes. She literally went with whatever Hagai put on her. Mordechai had raised her to have good traits. She neither boasted of her beauty nor wanted to be queen. She said to herself “ I am the daughter of Avichail -because he was a master of a host of good deeds. I was also raised in the house of the great Mordechai, how can I willingly go and be intimate with a gentile? With this in mind, she spurned the beautiful gowns that were offered her, as well as the costly makeup and perfumes that she was given. She would take nothing that would encourage the King in any way.
The very fact that she did not seek anything made her admired by all who saw her. Her good personality shone through, no matter what she wore.

This is an important lesson, Esther did not depend on her beauty, but she was able to save an entire nation through it. Vashti, the King’s first wife, on the other hand, did depend on her beauty, but it could not even save her from death.

Normally, personalities that are attractive to some are displeasing to others.

Esther, however, was attractive to everyone who saw her. The fact that she was quite unhappy with her situation dimmed neither her beauty nor her personality.
Esther was able to attain this because she had a deep inner love for all humanity. If every man was created in G-d’s image, she must love every man as she loved her G-d. Even when she became queen, she was humble. she treated even the lowest commoner like a long-lost member of her family. She would ask about each one’s welfare and sympathize with his troubles. This in itself made everyone comfortable with her and treat her as a fellow citizen.

in Verse 17: it says: Vayehav hamelech Et Esther Mikol Hanashim Vatisa Chen Vachessed Lefanav Mikol Habetoulot Vassem Keter Malchut Berosha Vayamlicheha Tachat Vashti.
The kIng loved Esther more than all the other women, and she pleased and attracted him more than all the other girls. He placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen in Vashti’s place.
The king knew quite well that Esther would give anything in the world to be rid of him. He knew she had refused to make herself up or beautify herself before coming to him. And when he asked her about her origin, she changed the subject, obviously not wanting to answer him. The expected result of all this would be that the king would hate Esther. But despite everything, he fell very deeply in love with her.

One of the things that particularly impressed the king was the fact that Esther had not asked for anything. The king realized that she had an unselfish, generous personality. This was the one quality he had hoped to find in a wife.

Esther won the king’s affection and favor more than all the other girls. Some had great external beauty, while others had deep internal beauty, but Esther was the only one to have both.

The king then personally placed the queen’s crown on Esther’s head. Because of his great love for Esther, he would not entrust this task even to his highest ministers.

He did not even attempt to investigate Esther’s background. It was as if Vashti’s place had been waiting for Esther all this time.

================================================================== At the end of the Meguilla it says” Layehudim hayta orah vesimcha vesasson vikar-

the Jews had happiness light and joy.

What is light?

Our sages teach us that light is a reference to Torah. What really brings true happiness is our connection to the endless light, the light of Torah. That really brings true happiness.

I would like to end with one more thought: That is There’ s something very special on Purim. There are 4 mitzvoth –

1-reading the Meghilla - book of Esther 2-Having a festive meal - Seudat Purim 3-mishloach manot -giving food packages to friends and family 4-matanot laevoyim -gifts to the poor.

Why on Purim specifically, are we commanded and reminded to give presents to friends and family and the poor specifically? No other Holiday, does it say to send food to the poor. on this Holiday, we are being inclusive of everyone. Why is it specifically on Purim? We're taught that during the time after destruction of the First Holy Temple, on Purim, this is the second time when we accepted the Torah. We re-accepted the Torah. “Kiblu Vekiymu” What was the difference between the time we accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai and on Purim?

You see, on Purim, we saw all the events of the Meguilla not as happenstance, but all events orchestrated by Hashem G-d. We saw the divine providence working in our favor. We repented and saw G-d’s salvation. We saw how Esther was first miraculously chosen, against all odds, among thousands of girls, as the Queen, to help later save her people, after Haman’s evil decree.

It is up to us to say thank you Hashem, G-d. Its only because of you Hashem, it’s up to us to see Him all the time. You could say things just happen. No, that is the story of Purim. The lots were reversed in our favor, because G-d willed it so. We can see G-d protecting us and caring for us for generations upon generations. Everything that happens is from G-d.

When we received the Torah - and the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai, the mountain was placed over our heads. But on Purim, we willingly and happily accepted and reaffirmed our commitment to Hashem, G-d and his commandments, in a time of joy, when our decree was overturned for the good and we were saved. We didn’t forget about Hashem and the Torah - the commandments. We full heartedly accepted and kept all the Mitzvoth- commandments. “Kiblu Vekiymu” We were all united in our acceptance.

This is the only way, through unity, we care for our fellow men and women, for those that are less fortunate than us. This is the condition for receiving the Torah, when we act like One. That’s why we show we care we're united and we are one people that is one basic condition of receiving the Torah. That is why we are reminded to bring food to the poor and less fortunate on Purim. - Matanot Laevyonim.

And we know that through Gemillut Chassadim - kindness and unity, we will deserve to witness the future Geulah. It is only through constantly working on this trait – kindness to one another for no other reason than we are One people.

==================================================================

 

The sages teach that we were redeemed for the first time from Egypt, in the merit of righteous virtuous jewish women, who did not give up having children even while being enslaved to Pharoah and did not serve idols, and in the future, it will also be in the merit of Jewish women that the final redemption will come about as well, Bezrat Hashem, with God’s help, very soon.

We, as women, are the leaders of the future jewish generation. With each and everyone’s special talents and gifts, no matter what the background or circumstances, we have the power to bring about salvation and joy to our family and friends and to our people as a whole.

Again, here was the leader of the Jews, Mordechai, but the miracle of Purim happened through Esther- a woman.

It is through us, that the future Geulah redemption will happen. It is up to us to cultivate the inner charme, the chen, the wonderful character traits, that we all have within ourselves, that may be hidden _like Esther), and use all those special gifts that Hashem gave to each and everyone of us, for the benefit of Our people Israel.
Thank you again for inviting m
e. I wish you all a very happy Purim!

 
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