What Is Esther's Story?

Queen Esther's Gambit


Rabbi David Fohrman

Rabbi David Fohrman

Founder and Lead Scholar

What is the great spiritual message of Purim?

God always works behind the scenes. No matter how random things are, God’s guiding hand can be found. These are the ideas that typically come up in discussions about the meaning of the Megillah. But in this video, the first of the course, Rabbi Fohrman raises an exciting possibility: that there may be another meaning hidden in the Purim story, one which focuses not on how God acts in the world - but on how we act.


Transcript

Purim is an astounding holiday, and when I say it's 'astounding,' I mean it's astounding that we made it into a holiday! If you take a look at the Megillah, the Megillah seems to chronicle a victory that was, for lack of a better word, political.

Mordecai and Esther managed, through deft political maneuvering, to save Jews, who would have been threatened with a national holocaust. Now, that's a great thing! But you kind of have to ask yourself, "What are we supposed to take out of that? Is there anything spiritual, is there anything meaningful, that you and I, two millennia later, are supposed to take out of that?" It doesn't seem like we are actually learning anything in terms of how to be better human beings, and we normally associate religion with that – with trying to figure out how is it we're supposed to live our lives.

What Is the Spiritual Meaning of Queen Esther's Story?

Now, there is a kind of conventional answer to this; at least, an answer that I often heard growing up, and that is that one of the messages of Purim is that God works behind the scenes. And that is really where the spiritual meaning of Purim lies. 

Mordechai just happens to overhear the plot of the two assassins against the King and he happens to not be rewarded right away, and his reward is delayed until later. And then one night, the King happens to be unable to fall asleep, and asks for the book to be opened, and the book just happens to be opened to the right place to read about Mordechai's long-forgotten deeds, and who should knock at the door just at that moment? And it just happens to be Haman, asking for permission to hang Mordecai on the gallows! And all of these coincidences kind of conspire together to eventually come to create this great salvation for the Jews, and it's really God working behind the scenes. And maybe that's the spiritual message of Purim.

And while I do have some sympathy for that, I come back to this question, "What does it mean for us?"

What Should Esther's Story Mean to Us Today?

You see, that's not so much what it means for us; it's what it means for God. You could argue that there is theological meaning to Purim, in the sense that we learn something about how God operates. But that's very philosophical, that's very abstract. Is Purim just about how God runs the world, or is it about how I am supposed to run my life? What I want to suggest to you, in this series of videos, is that it's really about how we are supposed to remember.  I want to try to show you how that's so in the coming videos. I will see you when we come back.


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