Esther

One of the most glaring omissions from the Book of Esther is, of course, G-d. G-d isn’t mentioned anywhere in the entire megillah. Not even once. And yet, it’s the story of how an entire people are delivered from the hands of a genocidal maniac hellbent on their complete annihilation.
In almost every story of the Bible where the Jews are almost destroyed, G-d comes along and… well, you know the rest. Jews are slaves in Egypt, G-d saves them. Jews get attacked from behind, G-d saves them.
When the Jews are saved in the Book of Esther, it is no miracle (though some might disagree with me). Instead, after Haman convinces the King to let him wipe out the Jews, it is Esther – an extraordinary woman – who calls on her people to fast for her for three days and nights. In her own words:
Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Shushan, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidservants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish. [Esther 4:16]
It doesn’t say pray, it says fast. This was an act of solidarity requested by Esther who, as Queen, was about to stand up for her people and speak truth to power.
And she does, knowing she could be put to death for confronting the King in the way she is planning. When the time comes she tells her husband, the King, of Haman’s evil plot – right in front of Haman himself. Shocked, he orders Haman to be hanged and tells Esther that she and her people should feel empowered to stand up and defend themselves should anyone attack them based on his prior decree. I know I am paraphrasing a bit, but that is the story in short.

The example of Esther, for me, is that it is up to us to take a stand against the powers of destruction and hatred – even (and especially) when they are coming from people in positions of power. It is up to each of us to stand strong, even when faced with the possibility that we may experience humiliation, violence, and heaven-forfend, even death for doing so.

As for the fast of Esther, I think in a modern context it could mean giving up some of our own comfort and privilege in exchange for lifting our fellow humans out from the depths. And they are calling us, even as I type, to stand with and for them.

We cannot wait for divine intervention to stop the murder and mass incarceration of Blacks by racist police and a racist justice system. We cannot wait for divine intervention to stop the objectification of and violence against women in our society. We cannot wait for divine intervention to stop the bullying and murder of transgender people. And the list goes on.

Perhaps, like Esther, we are the divine intervention needed in our world today. The very lives of many people are depending upon each of us to step out of our comfort zone and take a stand in solidarity on the front lines. In Genesis 1:27 it says we are made b’tzelem El-him, in the image of G-d. So let’s own it and start creating that better world we keep praying for right now, even if it means illegally standing up to the king.

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