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Esther, One of the Greatest Women of All Time

One of the highlights of Purim and indeed of the entire year is the study of Megillas Esther.  The very first question that confronts us about the megillah is, Why is it called Megillas Esther?  At the very least, we should call it Megillas Mordechai v’Esther since Mordechai also played a pivotal role in the miracle.  Or, perhaps it should have been called Megillas Purim.

In general, we shy away from putting our women in the limelight for the Torah always emphasizes the great principle of “Kol kevudah bas melech penima – The dignity and honor of the Jewish ‘princess’ is within.”  The Jewish woman of valor shines in the privacy of her home and through the glory of her modesty.  So, why did the sages choose to put Esther up in neon lights by calling the megillah Megillas Esther? 

The most elementary reason is because it was due to Esther’s petition that the megillah was written.  For the Gemora relates that Esther went to the Anshei Kneses HaGedolah and requested “Kivauni l’doros – Affix me for all generations.”  Esther, inspired by ruach hakodesh, divine inspiration, knew that there were lessons in the megillah that were timeless in nature and were necessary for the development of our nation throughout the ages.  And how time has proven this to be correct!  Except for the Hagaddah shel Pesach and, of course, the Torah itself, no other work of scripture has as many commentaries as does the Megillas Esther.  Its lessons such as the ugliness of pride as seen through the behavior of Haman, the dangers of showing off one’s wealth as can be seen from Achashveirosh’s feast and consequent execution of Vashti, the effectiveness of fasting and prayer, the importance of achdus, and many others that are applicable for every generation.

Esther also wanted to clear her name so that no one should suspect this Beis Yakov woman of desiring to be the First Lady of the Persian Empire.  Thus, the megillah in its encrypted way, lets us know that v’tilakach Esther, each time she was taken to the king, it was against her will.  Similarly, the megillah informs us that when she went in for her interview with the king, “lo bikeish davar, she did not ask for any enhancements,” for she was dreading an appointment as queen.

Another obvious reason for the megillah being called Megillas Esther is the fact that it was Esther who made it clear that the episode of Purim was truly miraculous.  Everything else could be explained away as natural causes.  Haman, the Amaleiki hating the Jews, Mordechai the Head of the Sanhedrin who spoke 70 languages thus enabling him to overhear Bigsan and Seresh’s plot against Achashveirosh when they spoke in the rare language of Tarshish, therefore putting Mordechai on Achashveirosh’s list of favored people, the effectiveness of the fasting and prayers of Klal Yisroel to overturn the decree for, after all, even the gentile city of Ninveh was able to abort their destruction when they did sincere repentance.  All of these events are eminently natural.  But that Esther, a pious modest Jewish woman, unschooled in the promiscuous licentious ways of the Persian Court, should beat out all of the other women of the realm for the Number One spot in the empire is truly miraculous.  Add to that the fact that Esther had to be dragged into the king and yet he was nevertheless enamored with her.  This, we recall, is the very same king who had executed Vashti for not coming in, in an obscene way, and so it is altogether unbelievable.

Plus, there was another astounding miracle associated with Esther.  The Gemora informs us “Shel’kol echad v’echad nidmasa lo k’umoso – To every individual she appeared like his own nationality.  Thus to Achashveirosh, she appeared like a native Persian, while to Haman she looked like a truer-blooded Amalikite.  (This, says the Chasam Sofer, Zt”l, Zy”a, is the reason why Haman never suspected Esther.)  Since it is from Esther that it was clear that the entire saga of Purim was miraculous, we call it Megillas Esther. 

To be continued:

Please send stories about Miriam Libby Weiss to rmmwsi@aol.com. Please learn, give tzedaka, and daven l’iluy nishmas of Miriam Liba bas Aharon.

Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles. Start the cycle of Mishna Yomis with Rabbi Weiss by dialing 718.906.6471. Or you can listen to his daily Shiur on Orchos Chaim l’HaRosh by dialing 718.906.6400, then going to selection 4 for Mussar, and then to selection 4. Both are FREE services.

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