Posts tagged " Feast of Esther "

Esther and Sarah vs. Viruses and Villains

March 9th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

In our  constant struggle to build successful lives, it is all too easy to be pulled down by hardship, dark recollections, terrifying fears, and sad thoughts. Dealing with the hysteria, as well as the reality, surrounding the coronavirus is only one example of the negativity that abounds. Nonetheless, we can confidently focus on moving forward by treating each day as its own opportunity to achieve success and happiness.

Tonight and tomorrow we celebrate Purim on which we read the Book of Esther. Like all “stories” in the Bible that we first meet as children, we often neglect to elevate our study of Esther to a more mature level. The book opens:

And it was in the days of Ahasuerosh, he was Ahasuerosh who reigned from Hodu to Kush, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces.
(Esther 1:1)

The number 127 occurs only one other time in all of Scripture—at the end of Sarah’s life.

And Sarah was a hundred and twenty-seven years old…
(Genesis 23:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom links the two occurrences. In Scripture, numbers have great meaning. If a number only appears twice, we need to note the connection between the two occasions.

Imagine seven pennies lined up in a row upon a table. You spin each penny until they are all laying either heads or tails.

After the first spin, the arrangement of coins on the table might look like this (H=heads; T=tails):

H H T H T T H

After the second spin, the line of coins will probably look different. Some will fall the same way as the first time, while others will fall differently.

How many different ways can the seven coins fall?

Each coin can fall in one of two possibilities, heads or tails. The total number of possible arrangements is:

2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 = 128

Now, let’s forget coins and instead think of the seven days of the week.  Each 24-hour day comprises night and day, which represent darkness and light.

You will surely agree that seven coins each of which is made up of two parts, heads and tails, is the same, mathematically speaking, as seven days each made up of two parts, night and day.

So the first possible arrangement of seven days would be:

night night night night night night night

and the 128th arrangement would be:

day day day day day day day

Based on Biblical language, darkness or night is almost universally recognized as a metaphor for tough times while the bright light of day depicts brightness and optimism.  This means that there are 128 ways for my week to turn out.  Number 1 is seven dark and dismal days in a row and number 128 is a rapturous sequence of seven wonderful days.

We omit number one because any sequence of seven days must include a Sabbath.  Any week that includes a Sabbath cannot, by definition, be entirely bad.  This leaves us with 127 potential ways for a week to turn out.

Ancient Jewish wisdom links Sarah and Esther through the number 127.  Both women’s lives contained intense disappointment, pain and fear, yet both stayed hopeful. Both women were captive in an alien king’s palace and both had one son who played a major role in the future of the Jewish people. Both remained true to their destiny.

The secret we learn is that every day offers us a choice to liberate ourselves from negative emotional anchors of yesterday. Like Sarah and Esther, we will have painful and difficult times, yet we must choose not to see those times as the only model for our future. Each week gives us 127 new opportunities for optimism, joy and the fulfillment of our life mission.  We take whatever available steps we can to deflect tomorrow’s possible dangers or to protect ourselves from them as best we can.  Thereafter, we live today with gratitude and optimism.

On occasion, God lifts the curtain of history (His story) and gives us thrilling instances where the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies play out. Starting in Genesis and moving through the book of Judges and the Scroll of Esther, our generation has seen prophecies come to life that our ancestors could only accept on faith. In honor of Purim, we invite you to dig deeply into Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam that explores these amazing verses and delves into paths of history that are continuing today as Persia (Iran) and others once again threaten to wipe out the children of Sarah and Esther. Be sure to check out the special offer on this astounding CD teaching.

Rabbi Lapin DownloadSALE

Updated from Feb. 2018

Glamour Girls – originally published on February 24, 2010

March 13th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

The Purim holiday, as described in the Book of Esther, is only a few days away. A truly joyous day, Purim festivities include a strong tradition of dressing up in costumes. For very young girls Purim has routinely been the day when they can glop on lipstick, blush and eye shadow, don their mother’s discarded dresses and totter in Mommy’s high heels (until they actually need to move around). A crown on the head, preferably bejeweled, completes the sartorial splendor and the miniature Queen Esthers are ready for the day’s activities. 

This masquerade is based on an essential message of the day – things are not as they seem on the surface. The elegant Queen Esther is really the Jewish girl Hadassah; the man who saves King Achashverosh from a plot against his life is Hadassah’s relative Mordechai; a day prepared for the slaughter of the Jewish people turns into a day of victory. It is not a coincidence that the name Esther means hidden while the Hebrew name for Scroll, Megila, means reveal.  Thus the real name for the Book of Esther or The Scroll of Esther is “Revealing the Hidden.” 

Something that is uniquely hidden in this scroll is mention of God.  Esther is the only book in the Jewish Bible or Tanach which contains no overt mention of God.  His name and His presence are hidden, though easily discerned by those who look. 

But, I admit that as a little girl, I was less interested in the theological implications and more enamored with the parentally authorized make-up. While teens and adults dress up as well, sometimes in incredibly clever concoctions, the allure of pretending to be grown-up and gorgeous presents an irresistible tug for the just post-toddler set.

Which is why I was distressed to read that some shoe manufacturers are marketing shoes with heels aimed at the early elementary crowd. While Matthew Dairman, a spokesman for the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, sees heels on five year old feet as a physical problem — which it certainly is — surely there is a less visible issue as well. Purim masquerades are only fun because they are masquerades –limited to a finite time and place and easily recognized as a caricature. 

Little girls see Queen Esther through a haze of fantasy; a sort of Cinderella. As they grow and mature they realize that the orphaned Esther was forcibly taken from her home and community, married to a man who didn’t by any means measure up to Prince Charming standards and saved her people only through a sacrifice of her own chances for a fulfilling and happy life. Not quite the “happily ever after” fairy tale. But internal growth and maturity can be stunted if external growth and maturity is accelerated. If our society moves in the direction where heels and cosmetics become a standard part of six-year-olds’ repertoire (even for “only special occasions”), I can’t help thinking that the chances of producing authentic heroines like Queen Esther unfortunately diminish.  

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