The Book of Esther, also known in Hebrew as “the Scroll”, is a book in the third section of the Jewish Tanakh and in the Christian Old Testament. (123rf.com Stock Photo)

The Book of Esther, also known in Hebrew as “the Scroll”, is a book in the third section of the Jewish Tanakh and in the Christian Old Testament. (123rf.com Stock Photo)

Lessons we (should have) learned from the book of Esther

  • By CHAVA LEE
  • Saturday, March 10, 2018 11:58am
  • Neighbors

History and faith can teach us many things if we are willing to listen and learn.

If we are brave enough to have them, discussions of these topics can be messy. The lessons learned are not always pretty and the consequences of actions taken (or not taken) have been severe. The Book of Esther is no different. It tells the story of a young Jewish woman who, against seemingly impossible odds, becomes queen of Persia and thwarts genocide of the Jewish people. It reads a bit like a made-for-TV movie filled with kidnapping, sexual subjugation, slavery, debasement, murder, xenophobia, and plenty of palace intrigue.

The Book of Esther, and Purim the holiday it commemorates, is a reminder that concerned people, making shrewd and courageous decisions, can and do make a difference. Esther was driven by a need to save the lives of her fellow Jews. Fortunately we are blessed with shining examples such as Martin Luther King, Elizabeth Peratrovitch, Candy Leightner and now David Hogg who have also taken a stand for humanity. The circumstances that led to their activism may have been different, but the process was the same. They stood up. They spoke out. They said “no more.” And along with these brave leaders were others who were willing to stand with them in spirit and solidarity.

America seems to be rapidly sliding back into a past from which we should be moving away. We have fed the flames of intolerance, bigotry and hatred and allowed it to roar through our communities and cast a deathly pall over our population. In recent months crosses have been burned in the yards of American citizens, Nazi’s have marched openly in our streets. Anti-Semitism and hate crimes are reaching all-time highs. In the first 45 days of 2018 there have been 18 mass murders in the United States. Tragically, many of the dead have been the children we brought into a world that has failed to protect them. And all the praying our leaders are asking us to do does not seem to stop these senseless killings. It is a sad commentary that our children find themselves in the horrendous position of reminding adults of the legacy we are leaving them. They want to know why we have forsaken them. Who is listening to their pleas? Where is the outcry from the faithful? Why are the voices from the pulpits so silent? Where is our outrage that we have not learned the hard fought lessons people have died for over the millennium? When will we recognize that history rewards those who work to enhance equality for all and vilifies those who only seek to apply justice to the selected few?

Sometimes the weight of the needs of humanity can be overwhelming: Immigrants fleeing death and the destruction of their homes and communities; victims of genocide; children gunned down in school; Americans seemingly forgotten and left without resources after major climatic events. Still in the face of all of this, it is too easy to be complacent as we mourn for people we do not know and whose existence does not touch us specifically. At some point in each of our lives we reach a cross road where we need to choose which path to follow. It may not be as dangerous as Esther’s. It may not be the result of the tragedy faced recently in Florida. But there will be choices to be made. Will we choose a path of darkness, despair and destruction? Will we follow the rhetoric of hate and divisiveness? Or will we follow a path set forward by the scriptures that justice and mercy and goodness are not to be held in a vacuum but practiced in our daily lives. Right now we have the freedom to make those choices. That may not be the case in the future. History attests to that and, sadly, many Americans have already paid the high price of living that reality.

As the Jewish community celebrates Purim and the great victory Esther achieved, I am reminded that one battle may have been won, but the war rages on. If we learn from Esther we will choose to fight injustice by standing up for a more just and safe world for all human beings.


• Chava Lee is Board President of Congregation Sukkat Shalom.“Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.


More in Neighbors

Jackie Renninger Park, which is scheduled to receive structural and safety improvements. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Neighbors briefs

See design ideas for Jackie Renninger Park at June 24 public meeting… Continue reading

Students from Juneau Community Charter School listen to a story at the Skagway Public Library. (Photo provided by Clint Sullivan)
Neighbors: Letters of thanks

Thanks to the community of Skagway The K/1 class of Juneau Community… Continue reading

Donna Leigh is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Courtesy photo)
Living and Growing: Small things

Have you ever had a small pebble in your shoe? Very irritating,… Continue reading

Matushka Olga Michael, a Yup’ik woman from Kwethluk. (Photo provided by Maxim Gibson)
Living and Growing: A new Alaskan saint

“God is wonderful in His saints: the God of Israel is He… Continue reading

Dining out in Croatia. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Almond cake from a trip to Croatia

I should have probably titled this week’s column: “Eating For Pleasure.” My… Continue reading

Nick Hanson of the NBC show “American Ninja Warrior” kicks off the blanket toss at the 2020 Traditional Games in Juneau. (Lyndsey Brollini / Sealaska Heritage Institute)
Neighbors: Celebration begins Wednesday with mix of traditional and new events

Nearly 1,600 dancers from 36 dance groups scheduled to participate in four-day gathering.

“Curiosities of Alaska” by Junnie Chup, which won first place in Kindred Post’s 2024 statewide postcard art contest. (Photo courtesy of Kindred Post)
Neighbors briefs

Kindred Post announces 2024 statewide postcard art contest winners Kindred Post on… Continue reading

Tanya Renee Ahtowena Rorem at age 17. (Photo provided by Laura Rorem)
Living and Growing: ‘My name is Ahtowena’

My precocious two-year old broke loose from my grip and took off… Continue reading

The Pinkas Synagogue, the second-oldest building in Prague. (World Monuments Fund photo)
Living and Growing: Connecting to family ancestors through names of strangers on a wall in Prague

“Prague never lets you go…this dear little mother has sharp claws.” —… Continue reading

Individual eggplant parmesan rounds ready to serve. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Individual eggplant parmesan rounds

These flavorful eggplant parmesans are a great side dish, especially served with… Continue reading

An aspiring knight relies on duct tape for his medieval battle gear during the Master’s Faire on July 16, 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Gimme A Smile: Duct tape — an Alaskan’s best friend

Duct tape is an Alaskan tradition. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix… Continue reading