Purim and the Empowerment of Esther

Esther was chosen as a bride for King Achashverosh of Shushan without having to declare herself as Jewish. As Queen, she could only have an audience with the King if he requested it.When Haman was given the royal assent to kill the Jews, Esther had to intervene, as her uncle Mordechai explained that she was just as much at risk as the rest of the Jews.

 

In the Meam Loez commentary, Mordechai urged Esther to avoid delay in approaching the King to reverse the decree.  Esther said she would fast for three days, knowing that she risked being killed for approaching the king herself, and she requested that Mordechai ask the Jewish people to fast for three days, to pray and ensure they atoned for their sins. She said “all of you fast for me, and I and my girls will similarly fast, and with that I will go to the king in violation of the law, and if I perish, I perish.” The comment from Manoth Halevi was that Esther was saying that if there was a chance to save her people, her life meant “nothing”. “Let the Jews all act together, and show their unity and mutual love.The king would realise the power of the Jews’ unity and know that they would be able to defend themselves.”The commentary went on to point out that if Esther was going into the king’s chamber, she would have to eat willingly of his non-kosher food, submit to his every request, and be his willing wife. She wanted people to support her in praying that she be forgiven for these sins.

 

The commentary Teshuvot Rivash stated that for three days, Esther rejected her royal clothing and on the third day, she dressed in her finery and it was evident from her face that she was a royal personage. Ruach Hakodesh commented that the three days of fasting, prayer and meditation had brought her into a high state of spiritual enlightenment. The Divine presence was with her as she walked into the king’s chamber. Her face appeared calm and untroubled, and “he stretched forth the golden sceptre that was in his hand”. Manoth Halevi commented that her calm beauty had a soothing effect on his demeanor, and his rage that she had violated the rule subsided.

 

When the king asked her what she wanted, she invited him and Haman to a feast she would prepare.  At that she asked them both to come again the next day for another banquet. And when the king asked again what she wanted she asked that her life and the lives of her people be spared. The commentary in Yad Hamelech was that she was saying, “my people are as innocent as I am, spare them and I too shall be saved”. When the king asked who the perpetrator was she could point the accusing finger at Haman. To compound Haman’s predicament he fell into a compromising position with Esther, begging that she save him while Achashverosh was out of the room.

 

This record illustrates the value of preparation in all ways, before a perilous challenge. The Divine inspiration was a key factor in Esther’s capacity to prevail, and save the Jews. She set a fine example for us today.

 

The Book of Esther Yalkut Me’am Lo’ez.

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