Monday, February 25, 2013

What Purim's Esther and Shiloh's Chana Had in Common

Well, simply put:

Both Biblical feminists (were they.) Esther and Chana (Hannah) had to save the day, more exactly, save the Jewish People!

Basically, if you look at a timeline of Jewish History, like this one I found on you'll see that Chana's prayer at the Mishkan Tabernacle in Shiloh ends the period of Judges, because it is Shmuel (Samuel) the son she had prayed for who anoints the first two Kings, Saul and David.  And Esther appears in Persia after Persia conquers the Jewish Kingdoms including Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.

We needed Chana to break the cycle of anarchy which had existed from Joshua's death until her son Samuel was entrusted by G-d to anoint Saul as King of the Jewish People.  Chana's prayers for a child weren't for her personal maternal fulfillment.  Neither he husband Elkanah nor the Kohen HaGadol, Chief Priest Eli understood what she wanted to do.  Elkanah advised her to accept her barrenness with joy, since her life wasn't endangered by pregnancies and childbirth, a common killer of women at that time.  And Eli HaKohen thought her mode of prayer to be suspicious and unconventional.  Chana was a trail-blazer, because davka her mode of prayer, silently mouthing the words to G-d who hears what's in our hearts, has been adopted by Chaza"l, our Sages, as the proper way to pray.  After her son Shmuel had been weaned she brought him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh to learn Judaism from the Priests, but she made a point of visiting him every year with new clothes and took the opportunity, no doubt, to teach him what she considered his role to be.

Centuries later when corruption and sin became much too common among the later kings of both branches of the divided Jewish People, Yehuda and Yisrael, the Jewish People were conquered.  The Persian king Achashverosh ruled, and somehow the secretly Jewish Esther aka Hadassa was chosen as his queen.

Yes, it must have had seemed very strange and very dangerous to her and her cousin/uncle/husband Mordechai The Jew.  Think about it.  Mordechai was very public in his Jewish identity and somehow Esther, from his family, was able to hide her Judaism...

Once Esther was secure in  King Achashverosh's palace, Mordechai discovered that Haman had gotten permission to destroy all of the Jewish people in the Kingdom.  Only Esther could get this reversed; though Mordechai had no idea how she would do it.  It all fell on Esther.  She managed to activate a solution by inviting Achashverosh and Haman to a feast.  G-d had Haman trip over her.  Then Achashverosh got angry at him and accused him of treason.  Esther revealed her Jewish identity and the king decreed that the Jewish People could defend themselves....

Now wahh would the Jewish People do or how would Jewish History have played out if there hadn't been Jewish women like Chana and Esther?


Yocheved Golani said...

We also saved Am Yisrael by convincing the men to be fathers. Yocheved and Miriam convinced Amram. Unnamed women convinced their husbands. Moshe Rabeinu used their cosmetic mirrors for the bet hamikdash! Women will guide the Am with increased authroity aftter biat Mashiakh. Read The Moon's Lost Light by Devorah Heschelis

in the vanguard said...

You say,
"Mordechai was very public in his Jewish identity and somehow Esther, from his family, was able to hide her Judaism..."

Well back then "public" didn't mean what it does today, where broadcast media or publications could make everyone aware of anything. Besides that, the people close to the king cae from 127 countries, and they certainly would know nothing of Esther. Besides that, she was extremely modest, to be sure.

As for the fact that women in Jewish history make an impression, you've only touched the tip of this iceberg:

Batya said...

Yocheved, thanks, though the Miriam-Yocheved story is Midrash. I don't see why this marriage in Shmot wasn't just a normal, accepted 2nd or 3rd marriage...

Van, he was known as Mordechai HaYehudi, and you can't get more public than that.