Purim: I Never Asked to be Queen
Purim is coming up this week, so let’s review the main actors to give us a background to the holiday.
King Achashverosh – King of Persia in the hunt for a new woman after he rids himself of his wife, Vashti for refusing to appear with not much more than her crown in his attempt to show off her beauty in front of his buds – who probably had imbibed a few too many Buds themselves.
Mordechai – The Jewish leader who stubbornly refuses to bow to Haman and thereby sets in motion a series of events that eventually caused Haman to draw a lottery – pur in Hebrew, hence the name Purim. The lottery was to set a date for a planned genocide against the Jews.
Haman – Booo! Real bad man who is having major inferiority issues. Wants to wipe out an entire people because one of ’em dunn’t give him respec’. He tells his wife and friends that he has wealth, children and power but that it’s all worthless as long as that Jew, Mordechai refuses to get on his knees and bow to him.
Esther – our reluctant heroine. The poor girl didn’t even want to take part in the Persian version of America’s Next Top Model that King A. created to find himself a new wife. When her turn arrives to meet the king, she is the only one who is not interested in the M*A*C goodie bag to make herself up. All the others get as much Botox as they want and a shopping spree at the Bal Harbour Shoppes. Esther tells them, “No thanks.” She wins the contest anyway.
So how did Esther do it? How does she, of all these lovely ladies, suddenly become the new “It Girl” and get thrust into the limelight and palace? Was she so stunningly beautiful that even without any make-over she still looked way better than all the other contestants? Was she a Kim Kardashian without the whiny voice and vapid personality?
The Megillah reveals her secret by mentioning that the king loved her more than any of the women for “she had grace and kindness over all the others.” Apparently it was not just her good looks but this “grace and kindness” that did the trick in securing her victory.
And herein lies the secret to real beauty. There is no denying that pure physical beauty has a certain power and magnetism that makes heads turn. But this alone is not enough to make one an extremely attractive person that can capture the heart and imagination of a king upon first sight. Indeed we have all met very good-looking people who quickly become very ugly as soon as they open their mouth.
The Talmud relates that anyone who met Esther thought that she was from that person’s nation. If you were from the USA, you thought she was American; if from the UK, you thought she was a Brit. Slovak, Fin, African, it made no difference – you thought Esther was your landsman. This is difficult to understand in light of the simple fact that people from different countries each have their own unique look, language, customs and nuances.
How was Esther able to pull this off? Was she such a chameleon?
Esther was one of those rare people who have the unique talent of allowing others to feel as if she is one of them. She did this by instantly connecting with and relating to whomever she met. She knew how to listen, see another’s needs, quickly intuit a person’s hot-button, and concentrate on the other – and not herself. By giving another this total and undivided attention, every person who came in contact with Esther felt she knew and understood them so well that she must have come from their locale.
In Hebrew the word for charm is חן chain. Its root is from the word, chinum which means gratis. People will like you freely, for no apparent reason at all, if you make them, and not yourself, the focus during your interaction with them. This is the “grace and kindness” that King A., and everyone else, immediately felt when being in Esther’s presence.
But it was more than that. Esther’s reluctance to be the Queen was a crucial factor in winning over the King. She did not want, nay did not need, to be Queen because she knew it was not necessary to have that title and position. She exuded tremendous confidence in herself from her self-awareness of her true royalty that came with her talents, morals, integrity and leadership. To Esther, it was completely unnecessary to have any official recognition or title. She was not the least bit interested in formally being declared a Queen because she already knew she was one.
In complete contrast to Esther was Haman who wanted so badly to be like a king. The problem was that he didn’t have any of the charm and grace of an Esther; a crucial quality for a King to relate to his many different subjects. Knowing deep down of his personal failings, Haman’s insecurity was so great that even though he had managed to amass tremendous power and position, it became meaningless if but one person would not recognize it.
It only took one individual’s refusal to bow to Haman to shatter his fragile ego and expose the fact that all the love and obedience shown to him was forced and false because it came through deception, lies and favours. Such is the frailty of the ego of a person who knows that all his success, admiration and wealth are a sham.
So I cry, I pray, and I beg
Love me love me
Say that you love me
Fool me fool me
Go on and fool me
Love me love me
Pretend that you love me
The irony is that those whose egos are so sensitive and in constant need for validation never really get the respect they so crave. However, those who are secure and happy in their knowledge of themselves, who need no accolades, who have enough love and confidence of self that they can easily share it with others – those people always end up becoming honoured Kings and Queens in the eyes of family, friends and anyone who might have the good fortune to be in their circle. As the Talmud so aptly puts it, One who runs after honour, honour flees from him. But one who flees from honour, honour runs after him. Haman ran for honour but ended up on the gallows. Esther ran from it and ended up a Queen.