Purim: Esther’s Bravery

Julia Gratz
Julia Gratz (Sarah Gratz)

By Julia Gratz

In the Purim story, Esther’s self-confidence and bravery are what saves her people. She becomes queen, finds out about Haman’s evil plan to kill her people and bids all of her people to fast on her behalf, in order for her to go visit the king uninvited and ask him to repeal Haman’s decree.

In the Book of Esther, God is not mentioned. I think that God’s absence in the Purim story forces Esther to be more brave and take charge. At one point in the story, Mordecai convinces Esther to go speak to King Achashverosh and tell him to not let Haman kill all of the Jews. Walking into the throne room uninvited is a big feat, and it forces Esther to speak up for herself, and for all of the Jewish people so that they will not be killed and completely wiped out. Rashi’s commentary on this section is, “And who knows whether the king will desire you next year, which is the time of the massacre.” This means that Esther needs to act now, even though the massacre is scheduled for next year.

There is a famous quote from Pirkei Avot that says, “If not now, when?” This applies to Esther; it also applies to us.

Esther’s need to act is prompted by the hidden nature of God. God is not mentioned in the Megillah at all, so it is like God is “concealed” or “hiding.” In Hebrew, this is called “hester panim,” which is referring to the “concealed face of God.” Many things relate to this theme of concealing and revealing on Purim. For example, Esther also had to hide her real name. Mordecai told Esther to go by the name “Esther,” which means “hidden.” Her real Hebrew name is “Hadassah,” which means “myrtle tree.” Myrtle trees are often associated with peace, so maybe Esther was destined to bring peace to Persia. Even now, Esther can be thought of as a symbol for inspiring peace for future generations to come. This is essential because according to tradition there will be an enemy of the Jews in every generation.

Haman, who is a descendant of Amalek, one of the most famous enemies of the Israelites, makes a plan to kill all of the Jews. His plot is disrupted when Esther stands up for herself and all of the Jewish people and tells the king what Haman’s truly wicked and evil plans are.

Amalek was a tribe of people who wanted to kill the children of Israel during the 40 years that they wandered in the desert. I believe that scholars chose the verses about Amalek to be read on the morning of Purim to remind us that just as Haman was the Amalek in his generation, in every generation there will be evil people like Amalek, Pharaoh and Haman. It is our job, like it was Esther’s, to stay strong and fight for what’s right.

Julia Gratz is a seventh grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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