When Jews hear that Purim is coming up soon, many think of what costumes they’ll wear, alcoholic drinks they’ll consume, or what they’ll put in their mishloach manot baskets. But put down your hamantaschen for a minute and remember that it’s all about how much Queen Esther sacrificed for the Jewish people.
Nowhere to hide
Though being a queen sounds like an amazing life, it held little appeal for Esther. King Ahasuerus had the former Queen Vashti killed when she refused to parade around naked for him and his drunken friends. When he went looking for a new queen, Esther hid away with the help of her cousin Mordechai. But eventually the King found her and forced her to enter a pageant and “try out” to be the new queen.
She lived in the king’s palace for a year, until she was chosen to be his queen — a pretty terrible fate. He wasn’t Jewish, he killed his other wife, and she risked death if she approached him without permission. She had to give herself up physically, and also had to hide the fact that she was Jewish. Esther was cut off from the outside world and used messengers to talk to her cousin Mordechai. (Some teachings say she was already married to Mordechai, making her union with the king infidelity.)
Esther saves the day
In the end, Queen Esther came through for the Jewish people. She fasted for three days and told the Jews to do the same. Then she approached the king, even though she could have been killed for it, and convinced him to reverse his decree to kill the Jews. She gave up her own needs to save her nation.
Queen Esther is celebrated for her bravery and her wisdom. She gets a whole holiday, where we fast to remember what she did and celebrate the miracles she helped bring about.
This Purim, I encourage you, maybe when you’re taking a break from eating hamantaschen or winding up those groggers, to remember Queen Esther for all that she did for our people. Chag Sameach.