A Modern Esther Tribute for Purim and Women’s History Month, by Rabbi David Evan Markus

Hebrew English

Purim affirms Esther’s stand against official silencing, abuse of power, misogyny and anti-Semitism. At first an outsider, Queen Esther used her insider power to reveal and thwart official hatred that threatened Jewish life and safety. We celebrate one woman’s courageous cunning to right grievous wrongs within corrupt systems. The archetype of heroic woman standing against hatred continues to call out every society still wrestling with official misogyny, power abuses and silencing. For every official silencing and every threat to equality and freedom, may we all live the lesson of Esther and all who stand in her shoes: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Esther 3:12-14


12 וּמְדִינָה֙ כִּכְתָבָ֔הּ וְעַ֥ם וָעָ֖ם כִּלְשׁוֹנ֑וֹ בְּשֵׁ֨ם הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹשׁ֙ נִכְתָּ֔ב וְנֶחְתָּ֖ם בְּטַבַּ֥עַת הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃
The following o֜rders [of Ham֔an] were iss֖ued in the na֥me of King Achashver֑osh, and s֖ealed with ֥the king’s sig֦net.

13 וְנִשְׁל֨וֹחַ סְפָרִ֜ים בְּיַ֣ד הָרָצִים֮ אֶל־כָּל־מְדִינ֣וֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ֒ לְהַשְׁמִ֡יד לַהֲרֹ֣ג וּלְאַבֵּ֣ד אֶת־כָּל־הַ֠יְּהוּדִים מִנַּ֨עַר וְעַד־זָקֵ֨ן טַ֤ף וְנָשִׁים֙ בְּי֣וֹם אֶחָ֔ד בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁ֥ה עָשָׂ֛ר לְחֹ֥דֶשׁ שְׁנֵים־עָשָׂ֖ר הוּא־חֹ֣דֶשׁ אֲדָ֑ר וּשְׁלָלָ֖ם לָבֽוֹז׃ 14 פַּתְשֶׁ֣גֶן הַכְּתָ֗ב לְהִנָּ֤תֵֽן דָּת֙ בְּכָל־מְדִינָ֣ה וּמְדִינָ֔ה גָּל֖וּי לְכָל־הָֽעַמִּ֑ים לִהְי֥וֹת עֲתִדִ֖ים לַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃
Co֣uriers disp֗atched written instr֧uctions to all the king’s pr֛ovinces to de֤stroy, m֜assacre and ext֣erminate all the J֔ews, yo֖ung and ol֥d, chil֖dren and wo֑men, on a ֜single d֨ay – the thirteenth d֧ay of the twelfth m֛onth, the m֖onth of Ad֥ar – and pl֖under their possessions.׃ The t֣ext of the doc֕ument was that a l֡aw be procl֧aimed in each prov֛ince, publicly displ֤ayed to all pe֜oples in their o֣wn langu֔ages, so that th֖ey might be re֥ady for that day.׃

Esther 4:10-14


10 וַתֹּ֤אמֶר אֶסְתֵּר֙ לַהֲתָ֔ךְ וַתְּצַוֵּ֖הוּ אֶֽל־מָרְדֳּכָֽי׃ 11 כָּל־עַבְדֵ֣י הַמֶּ֡לֶךְ וְעַם־מְדִינ֨וֹת הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ יֽוֹדְעִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר כָּל־אִ֣ישׁ וְאִשָּׁ֡ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר יָבֽוֹא־אֶל־הַמֶּלֶךְ֩ אֶל־הֶחָצֵ֨ר הַפְּנִימִ֜ית אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹֽא־יִקָּרֵ֗א אַחַ֤ת דָּתוֹ֙ לְהָמִ֔ית לְ֠בַד מֵאֲשֶׁ֨ר יֽוֹשִׁיט־ל֥וֹ הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ אֶת־שַׁרְבִ֥יט הַזָּהָ֖ב וְחָיָ֑ה וַאֲנִ֗י לֹ֤א נִקְרֵ֙אתי֙ לָב֣וֹא אֶל־הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ זֶ֖ה שְׁלוֹשִׁ֥ים יֽוֹם׃ 12 וַיַּגִּ֣ידוּ לְמָרְדֳּכָ֔י אֵ֖ת דִּבְרֵ֥י אֶסְתֵּֽר׃ {פ}
From the ki֜ng’s c֨astle, Esth֣er told the eun֣uch Hath֗ach to t֖ell her uncl֥e M֑ordechai: All the king’s serv֤ants, and the pe֜ople of the k֣ing’s provi֔nces, kn֖ow that who֥ever, m֖ale or fem֑ale, comes to the k֣ing’s co֗urt with֤out being call֜ed, the l֤aw p֜uts that pers֣on to de֔ath unl֖ess the ki֥ng hold o֖uts the golden scepter.׃ ֧I have not been c֛alled to ֖the king ֥for th֖irty days.׃

13 וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מָרְדֳּכַ֖י לְהָשִׁ֣יב אֶל־אֶסְתֵּ֑ר אַל־תְּדַמִּ֣י בְנַפְשֵׁ֔ךְ לְהִמָּלֵ֥ט בֵּית־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ מִכָּל־הַיְּהוּדִֽים׃ 14 כִּ֣י אִם־הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי֮ בָּעֵ֣ת הַזֹּאת֒ רֶ֣וַח וְהַצָּלָ֞ה יַעֲמ֤וֹד לַיְּהוּדִים֙ מִמָּק֣וֹם אַחֵ֔ר וְאַ֥תְּ וּבֵית־אָבִ֖יךְ תֹּאבֵ֑דוּ וּמִ֣י יוֹדֵ֔עַ אִם־לְעֵ֣ת כָּזֹ֔את הִגַּ֖עַתְּ לַמַּלְכֽוּת׃
When M֜ordechai h֨eard Esther’s w֗ords, h֖e se֥nt th֖is r֑eply: Do not th֤ink you can esc֜ape with your lif֔e in the p֖alace mor֥e than ֖all the Jews. If yo֜u stay sile֨nt now, may֤be relief a֣nd deliv֔erance may ֖come to Je֥ws in an֣other pl֑ace, but y֖ou and your father’s h֥ouse will ֖be destroyed.׃ W֣ho kn֞ows: m֧aybe you c֛ame into ֖your powe֥r just for this moment.׃

Congressional Record: Feb. 7, 2017, S.852-S.855

[In 2֩017, the U.֤S. Sen֜ate deb֧ated Presid֤ent Donald Tr֜ump’s n֣ominati֔on of Sen֧ator Jefferson S֛essions t֖o b֥e Attorn֖ey General.׃ D֤uring the deb֜ate, Senator Elizab֡eth Warren of Massachus֤etts read this 19֣86 lett֔er from Cor֖etta Scott Ki֥ng, wid֖ow of Dr. Martin Luther King ֑Jr., about S֛essions, whom President Ronald Re֖agan had nomin֥ated for a judgeship.]׃

Mr. Cha֤irman and me֜mbers of t֣he Com֔mittee: Thank y֧ou for allowing ֛me this opp֤ortunity to expr֜ess my strong oppo֔sition to the nomin֥ation of Jefferson Ses֑sions for a fede֖ral district judges֥hip for the Sout֖hern District of Alabama.׃ My longst֜anding com֨mitment, which I sh֗ared with my hus֤band, M֜artin, to prot֤ect and enh֜ance the rig֣hts of Black Ameri֔cans, righ֣ts which incl֞ude equal ac֧cess to the democratic pr֛ocess, co֖mpels me to t֥estify today.׃ Civil rights lea֤ders, incl֜uding my h֜usband…, have fo֣ught long and h֔ard to achi֧eve free and unf֛ettered ac֖cess to th֥e ballot box.׃ M֜r. Ses֨sions has us֗ed the awesome po֤wer of his office to ch֧ill the free ex֛ercise of the v֞ote by bl֤ack citiz֜ens in the dist֔rict he now s֖eeks to ser֥ve as a fe֖deral judge.׃ This simply ca֩nnot b֖e allow֥ed to happ֑en.׃ Mr. Ses֤sions’ condu֜ct as U.֣S. Attor֔ney, from his politi֜cally-moti֨vated vo֣ting fr֗aud prose֗cutions to his indiffer֤ence toward criminal viol֜ations of ci֣vil righ֔ts laws, indic֞ates that he la֧cks the tempe֛rament, fair֖ness and judg֥ment to be a ֖federal judge….׃

Bl֤acks still fall far sh֜ort of hav֣ing equal particip֔ation i֥n the ele֥ctoral pro֑cess.׃ Parti֧cularly in the S֛outh, effo֜rts conti֨nue to be m֗ade to d֤eny Bl֜acks ac֣cess to the p֔olls, even where Bl֧acks cons֛titute t֖he majo֥rity of ֖the voters.׃ It has be֣en a lo֣ng, up֣hill struggle to ke֧ep al֛ive the vi֖tal legislat֥ion th֖at prot֑ects the m֖ost fundam֥ental r֖ight to vote.׃ A p֛erson who has ex֤hibited so much ho֜stility to the enfor֣cement of those l֔aws –

The Pr֖esiding Off֥icer [of the S֑enate in֖terrupt֥ed, saying]:׃ The Sen֞ator i֜s remi֨nded that it i֧s a viola֛tion of Rule X֤IX of the Standing Rul֜es of the Se֔nate to i֖mpute to another Sen֥ator or to o֖ther S֑enators any c֧onduct or m֛otive unw֖orthy or unbec֥oming a Senator.׃

[Sen֣ator] Warren [s֩aid]: I d֖on’t thi֥nk I quite understand.׃ I am re֤ading a l֜etter from Core֣tta Scott Ki֔ng to the Judi֧ciary Com֛mittee from 19֖86 that was ad֥mitted into the record.׃ I am si֤mply r֜eading w֣hat she wr֔ote about what th֜e nominati֨on of Jeff Sessi֗ons to be a F֖ederal court j֥udge m֑eant and what it would ֖mean in hi֥story for her….׃

The Pr֜esiding Offi֨cer [interr֗upted and c֖alled o֥n the majo֣rity le֔ader, Se֖nator Mc֥Connell, w֖ho said]:׃ The Se֞nator [fr֣om Massach֗usetts has imp֧ugned the m֛otives and co֖nduct of our coll֥eague fr֣om Alab֑ama, as w֖arned b֥y the Chair.׃ S֜enator W֨arren s֗aid S֤enator S֜essions has us֣ed the awesome po֔wer of h֖is offi֥ce to c֖hill the free e֑xercise o֖f the vot֥e by Bl֖ack citizens.׃ I c֧all the S֛enator to o֖rder under the provi֥sions of R֖ule XIX.׃

The Presiding Offi֗cer [cal֤led on] the S֜enator fro֣m Massach֔usetts, M֖s. War֥ren, [who s֑aid]: Mr. Pre֞sident, I am surpr֧ised that the wo֛rds of Coretta Scott Ki֖ng are not suit֥able for de֑bate in the U֖nited Sta֥tes Senate.׃ I ask le֧ave of the S֛enate to con֥tinue my remarks.׃

The Pr֖esiding Offi֥cer [a֑sked]: ֖Is ther֥e objection?׃

[Senator] McConn֞ell [said]: I obj֡ect.

The Presiding Offi֜cer [s֗aid]: Obj֧ection is h֛eard. The sen֖ator [from Massach֥usetts] will t֖ake her seat.׃ [He called ֤on] the Sen֜ate maj֣ority le֔ader, M֖r. Mc֥Connell, [wh֖o s֑aid]: Here i֜s what trans֨pired. Se֤nator War֜ren was gi֣ving a lengthy spe֔ech. She had app֖eared to vio֥late the ru֑le. She wa֥s wa֑rned. ׀ She ֖was give֥n an explan֑ation. ׀ Ne֖verthele֥ss, s֖he persisted.׃

The source images for “A Modern Esther Tribute” were first posted at Bayit: Your Jewish Home, here.

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