Meanwhile the king
must find a new wife. All the potential beauties of the realm are
assembled at the palace and groomed for the king to choose his queen.
They are preparing for months, some even say for 6 months being rubbed
with oils and perfumes, acquiring gowns and jewelry. Esther is
selected to go to the palace for this “beauty contest”, and
Mordechai reminds her not to tell anyone there that she is Jewish.
Finally it is
Esther’s turn to be called before the king. When Esther is summoned
she is lead through the seven gates to the part of the palace where
the king resides. No one is to pass through those gates without
permission. She is nervous, but unnecessarily. The king is enchanted
by her and for the first time in years he laughs with delight. The
coldness and anger he has felt in his heart is melted and he decides
this young girl will be his new bride.
This story has many
threads that wind together. Uncle Mordechai (who speaks seventy
languages) overhears of a plot to poison the king for sending Vashti
away. He immediately tells the king, the plotters are caught and
killed, and Mordechai’s brave deed is recorded in the Book
There is a new prime minister
appointed, named Haman. He is ruthless and hungry for power and
Mordechai distrusts him. Haman commands that all bow down to him, yet
Mordechai refuses making Haman furious. When he discovers that
Mordechai is a Jew Haman determines that all the Jews should be
killed. He throws dice to find out which would be the best day to
destroy the Jews. On the 13th day of Adar all Jews, young
and old are to be killed and their property seized.
Mordechai sends word
to Esther, “do not imagine that you will be spared, you attained
your royal position for this. You must go to the king to save your
people”. Esther is of course still a young orphaned girl and very
frightened of the responsibility laid on her shoulders. Unable to
proceed, she decides to fast for three days, avoiding her destiny.
Ultimately she is able to rise up past her fear and prepares herself
to visit the king. She bravely passes through all seven gates
wondering to herself if she is to perish for that deed. She pushes the
last gate open to find the king on his throne. He asks ”my dear wife
what is your wish?” Lowering his scepter as a sign for her to speak,
she invites him and Haman to a banquet in her rooms that night.
At the end of the
evening the king again asks, ”My dear wife, what is it you wish?
That night at the banquet she is still too frightened to reveal her
identity and mission. Instead she replies, ”It is my wish that you
and Haman come again tomorrow night for another banquet in my room.
Then I will reveal what you wish to know”.
That night Esther
heard the sounds of the gallows being built for the Jews This was the
sign she was waiting for to compel her to reveal herself. There was no
longer any choice. The king also could not sleep that night. He sent
his servant for The Book of
Records to read him to sleep. He thus discovered Mordechai’s
good deed of saving his life. At dawn he summoned Haman and asked him
‘How should a king reward a man he wishes to honor?” Haman
thinking it for himself, replied that the king hold a great parade
letting the man wear the kings robes and lead him through the streets
on his majesty’s horse. Upon hearing it was for Mordechai, Haman was
At the banquet that
night the king asks Esther, “My dear wife, what is your wish? Even
if it is half my kingdom, it will be yours.” The gates of her heart
are now opened and the words pour out of Esther in a flood. “It is
my wish that you save my life and that of my people for we are to be
killed on the thirteenth day of Adar.” “Who issued such an
order?” Esther points to Haman saying “He used your signet ring to
decree that all the Jews shall be killed. I am a Jew and I too will
The king rose up in
anger towards Haman. Just at that moment Haman tripped and fell on
Queen Esther. The king shouting” Do you dare attack the queen in my
presence?” The guards seized Haman and the king orders his death on
the very gallows meant for the Jews.
Esther was known for
her beauty, kindness, and bravery, but when we examine the story we
see she wasn’t much different from any of us. Her reluctance to go
immediately to the king, and instead fasting for 3 days and holding
two separate banquets shows her real insecurity. Her struggle was to
maintain her identity amid surroundings that are foreign and
dangerous, and she wavered in her ability to do this although
ultimately she prevailed.
Both the stories of
Vashti and Esther are about control. Complete control is empty and
alone as the king may have felt, and as god may have felt before
giving us free will. If others only do for you or care for you because
of your will then love is empty. Our love is only meaningful when we
choose to give it or not. We can control through manipulation and
intimidation, like Haman, but it becomes an extension of our ego and
our desire rather than a connection with another. Intimacy requires
two independent beings choosing to interrelate. The opposite of
control is connection. We can only achieve real connection through
releasing, becoming vulnerable and revealing our true selves. Thus
these stories are really about the loneliness of control and the power
of being true to yourself.