Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A deeply conceited male in some way becomes the ruler of a big and rich empire. He appears primarily concerned with his own individual wealth and power, so all around him the nation goes to the pet dogs. Half the federal government is busy pleasing the temperamental employer; the other half is taken with dreams of overthrowing his program. All over you look, you see nothing but sickening groupthink, with decency and guts nowhere to be found.

Other Than, that is, in one impressive young woman: Esther.

The Scriptural book that bears her name is constantly an enjoyment to read, but this year her tale should resonate a lot more with tired Americans in search of a drop of hope in an otherwise grim year.

If it’s been a while because you’ve had the satisfaction of Esther’s company, here’s a summary of her achievements: Tapped to participate in a kingdom-wide search for a new queen, she outshines all other prospects not just with her charm and luster but with her humbleness, requesting no expensive gifts. She wins, of course, and when she finds out that Haman, the king’s wicked advisor, has condemned all the Jews to death, she risks her own life to speak out on behalf of her individuals. Being brilliant, she develops a plan so inspired that soon Haman hangs on the exact same tree he ‘d gotten ready for Esther’s cousin, Mordecai.

There are lots of factors to cheer for such a strong and resourceful heroine, however, check out in our existing political and cultural climate, Esther’s story packs a particular poignancy. She reminds us that even when a society seems to have succumbed to intolerance, even as people permit their partisan affiliations and ideological hatreds to cloud their judgment and veil their mankind, even as government seems all-around unskilled to stop the descent into violence, all it takes is one decent and committed person to save the day.

Were we to take heart and discover comfort in Esther’s bravery, we would not be the first Americans to do so. Strolling into a hall loaded to the gills with a hostile rabble on September 7, 1853– during a females’s rights gathering crashed by many disruptors that history has actually called it the “Mob Convention”– Sojourner Truth evoked the Biblical heroine who motivated her to withstand her hissing, racist critics.

” There was a king in the Scriptures,” Reality stated, “and then it was the kings of the earth would kill a female if she entered their existence; however Queen Esther appear, for she was oppressed, and felt there was a fantastic incorrect, and she stated ‘I will pass away or I will bring my grievance before the king.'”

Rembrandt Esther
‘ Assuerus, Haman and Esther’ by Rembrandt van Rijn,1660 From the Pushkin Museum of Art, Moscow.
Art Media/Print Collector/Getty

Sojourner Fact won not just the evening’s argument, however, more importantly, her historical mission for justice and equality.

It’s little wonder, then, that Esther’s story resonated with Abraham Lincoln. 9 days before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln was approached by a pastor from Chicago called William Weston Patton, accompanied by a group of other clergymen. Patton, pointing out Mordecai’s call to Esther to run the risk of whatever to ensure the survival of her individuals, told the president:

” Who knoweth whether thou art concerned the kingdom for such a time as this?” And your memorialists think that in divine providence you have been called to the presidency to speak the word of justice and authority which will free the bondman and save the nation.

Lincoln listened, finding courage of his own and, like Esther, abolished a fantastic evil.

Adoration for Esther has extended into the modern age and across the political aisle. In the last few years, both Hillary Clinton and Mike Pence have expressed their esteem for her story.

And so, as government agencies, big businesses and cultural institutions struggle to chart a path forward for a nervous and discontent republic, Americans can go back to the Bible for solace, as they have given that our nation’s earliest days. In Esther they will find the story of a common believer thrust into extraordinary circumstances, daring to safeguard divergent points of view and defy the powerful and harmful. Faithful to her individuals and committed to conserving her society from its own depredations, her courageous choices continue to advise us to find strength and redemptive possibility in the least anticipated of locations.

Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern is the Senior Advisor to the Provost and Senior Program Officer of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Idea at Yeshiva University. He is the editor of Esther in America(Maggid Books), the first full-length treatment of the scriptural story’s effect on United States history and culture.

The views revealed in this article are the writer’s own.


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