Esther, Mordechai, Laura Shaw Frank discussed on People of the Pod
Now it's time for our closing segment Shabbat table talk and joining me today is my guest host this week, Laura Shaw Frank, AJC's director of contemporary Jewish life, Laura. We just celebrated international women's day. It is still women's history month, and next week is purum. It seems appropriate to celebrate a woman who saved the Jewish people. But I know very little about this holiday beyond the hamantaschen and heavy drinking and costumes. Can you give us a little purum primer? Absolutely. I actually love purum so much. Particularly because of what you said, this strong Jewish woman advocate. Well, I feel like inspires all of us to do our work every day. So what I want to focus on actually is the transformation of Esther into being a Jewish advocate. So the story of purim just very, very quickly is that it takes place in ancient Persia, terrible person who is in close cahoots with the king, king at hush pharaohs named haman, decides that he is going to annihilate the Jews. He's like the first anti semite on its amazing. The language of the Miguel actually says, you know, there's this people that doesn't fit in, they're dragging down our nation, which is such an anti semitic kind of thing to say, amazing for such an ancient text. And he decides he's going to annihilate the entire Jewish people. Lucky for the Jews, Queen Esther had been married to Ashford after he evicted his first wife. We won't get into the feminist issues there. We'll leave that aside. But after he evicted his first wife for refusing to dance at some party he made. So she now has the seat of power. And despite that fact, she's really, really scared to use it. When she becomes a queen mordechai, her uncle tells her, don't tell anyone who you are. Don't tell anyone that you're Jewish. And so she keeps it a secret. She listens to him. She's very obedient. And then, when haman's plot comes to light and mordechai discovers what's going on, he sends her a letter, and he says, you need to save the Jews. And she responds and she says, I can't do anything. You know, I can't go talk to the king. I haven't been invited to do that. Chop my head off. And mordechai says these incredible words to her. He says, don't think that if you don't intervene, the Jews won't be saved. Don't think that you and your family will be safe. Maybe it is for this moment that you have ascended the throne. And in that moment, Esther wakes up. It's incredible. You have to read it. She wakes up in the next verse, she's no longer scared. She says, okay, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go into the king and hopefully he won't kill me. And you're going to fast and you're going to pray and you're going to gather the Jewish people to support me and we're going to take this on and we're going to do it. And she goes from being an obedient scared young girl into a powerful Jewish woman advocate. And she goes into the king and she comes up with a strategy and I won't go into all the details because we'll be here all day, but she saves the Jewish people. Wow, that's so interesting. I can really relate these days to Esther's story. I've been thinking a lot about transformation about just the previous chapter of my life as a single professional woman without children without a husband and really making that transformation in my own life. And Esther's really a good example of how both marriage and her Judaism empowered her, which I think are two factors I'm really thinking about and motherhood, of course. Three factors that I've been thinking about lately in terms of my own transformation. So thank you. You have just personalized purum, wonderfully for me. I'm so glad I look forward to hearing those verses each year because it's amazing to watch someone find her voice because that's what you see. She finds her voice and she's able to stand up as an independent brave, strategic thinker for the first time in her life. Even after being warned to keep it quiet, keep her Judaism quiet at first. Again, something I can relate to. Yeah. It's actually an incredible thing. Something that makes me think about is we talk on purim about the concept of everything being turned upside down. In Hebrew, that we turn things upside down. And everything on program is turned upside down, like the death of the Jews becomes victory for the Jews, a day that could have been tragic, becomes joyous and frivolous even. And indeed, I think that nah have folk who really happens with Esther. She goes from being passive obedient and nervous to being not afraid to take risks, brave, and strategic. And all it took was kind of this wake-up call from her uncle, who reminds her who helps her find that spark within her. And it makes me think also of the mentors that we have in our lives and how a good mentor can really help us access the strength that we have within us that we may not even know that we have. Very nice, very nice. Well, in this upside down world that we are living in right now, Laura. I wish you a Shabbat shalom and thank you, you too, Shabbat shalom, and if you missed last week's episode, be sure to listen to AJC's CEO David Harris as he takes on Vladimir Putin's ludicrous notification claims justifying Russia's invasion of Ukraine and points to how Putin's behavior is reminiscent of 1938 Germany. Thank you for listening. This episode is brought to you by AJC, our producer is atara lacquer. Our sound engineer is TK Broderick. You can subscribe to people of the pod on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or Google podcasts, or learn more at AJC dot org slash people of the pod. 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