The Gemara tells us that in the future all
the Yamim Tovim will be nullified except for Purim (Mishlei
Rabbah 9). The Gemara says that although the final redemption will
be even more miraculous than the Exodus from Egypt (Berachos 12b), the
miracle of Purim -- which basically revolved around the personalities of Mordechai and Esther -- will never be forgotten. It was the unique courage and boldness of Mordechai and Esther together that make them the stars of the beautiful story we read in the Megillah. Since all of us are going through hard times today and there isnt a person who isnt
struggling, a little insight into the characteristics of Mordechai and Esther might be a great help to us in our times of tribulation.
The very names Mordechai and Esther are
symbolic for our times. The name Mordechai in Aramaic consists of two words: mera dachya, a spice that diffuses fragrance only after it has been processed. As for Esthers name, we are told, And he [Mordechai] had reared Hadassah, she is Esther (Esther 2:7).
Why are two names mentioned? Was her real
name Esther, with Hadassah being some kind of nickname, or vice versa?
She actually had both names, and both have deep meaning. Hadassah
stems from the word hadas, myrtle. Esther was similar to the
hadas in that she had a deep olive-green complexion. We also know that
the leaves of this plant have a very sweet fragrance that can only be released when the leaves are bruised and crushed. As a matter of fact, some people use the crushed leaves for besamim during Havdalah. Just like the
hadas, which is only fragrant when it is bruised and crushed, so too was Esthers potential brought out to its fullest by her hard life.
The name Esther is related to the word hester, meaning
hidden. When we look deeper into the Megillah, we see something remarkable. For nine years, until Hamans downfall, Esther guarded the
secret of her ancestry. She never told anyone that she was a Jewess. Examining her situation, we know that as the wife of Achashverosh she was constantly pressured to reveal the truth. Yet she withstood this pressure. Why?
The Midrash explains that Mordechai realized there was something unique in Esthers becoming the queen (Esther Rabbah 6:6). He knew that she was a righteous woman and that it had to be Divine providence that she became the wife of the non-Jewish king, Achashverosh. Mordechai realized that Hashem had something in store for the Jewish people and that Esther would be instrumental in saving them. Mordechai was aware of the impending calamity that would befall the Jews and foresaw that Esther would be the one through whom they would be saved. Had she revealed her ancestry, she would have defeated this purpose. She therefore carefully guarded her secret until the proper time. The Ibn Ezra explains that if Esther hadnt kept her secret, she would not
have been able to observe her religion (Esther 2:10). Since Achashverosh
did not know she was a Jewess, she was able to observe her religion in secrecy.
Other reasons are given, but in all cases, there was a sound reason for Esther doing this outstanding act of guarding her secret for nine years. This is due to a character trait that Queen Esther inherited from Rachel, who likewise did not reveal or give any indication to Yaakov that she was not the person he was marrying, and so he married Leah first. Esther inherited this quality of silence and discretion, which Rachel had shown under such tremendous pressure. We know Rachels great merit in this act, for we
know how much Yaakov loved her. It was an exceptionally courageous act befitting one of our Imahos, and this character trait was bequeathed to
This incredible silence is the outstanding virtue that made Esther
queen. She boldly and courageously kept her secret while under terrific pressure from a king and an entire nation. Esther did not dare reveal anything, for she knew that her silence was necessary for the salvation of the Jewish people. She knew that there would come a time when she would have to tell, and that there was a hashgachah pratis in store for her. Mordechai guided her, as the verse says: ... and he had reared, imen, Hadassah. The word imen is from the word uman, a skilled
professional or expert. Mordechai was not just a tutor to Esther; he raised and reared her skillfully, so that she would understand and appreciate what hashgachah pratis had in store.
If we are faced with a terrible situation that is hard for us to
take, we still must realize that the salvation will come and that hashgachah has something in store for us. We must remember that it is
only a passing situation; a new time will come, a happier time, bringing a sunnier day.
Queen Esther guarded her secret for nine years, waiting for the
day when she would be able to declare proudly and courageously that she was a Jewess. It was then that everyone recognized the greatness of the Jew. Had she revealed this secret beforehand, everything would have been a waste and she would not have been instrumental in bringing salvation to the Jewish people.
Esther had perfect self-control. The ability to be queen over herself is what made her queen over the world. Self-control stems from the powers of the soul, which all of us possess. The Gemara tells us that a persons greatness or inferiority is recognizable when he gets angry
(Eiruvin 65a). The logical person does not lose control of himself. Its like a pressure cooker that has a little hole on the top to release the pressure. If you didnt have that little hole, the pot would explode.
One should not bottle up his emotions, because that will cause mental anguish. However, although you have to speak, your tone of voice and how you say things make the difference.
Building a home requires self-control and knowing how and when to speak to ones husband and children. We sometimes lose control of
ourselves and out of anger, say things that we later regret. Many times the regret does not rectify the damage that was done.
Raising children is a hard job, full of stress and pressure. Hashem gives a mother such a profound love for her child that she tends to him with selfless dedication, even if she goes for nights without sleep. Nevertheless, physical and mental exhaustion sometimes cause a mother to lose control and give the child a slap. Mothers should learn about the various stages of childhood, puberty, and adolescence that a child goes through. Understanding the childs development will help the mothers realize and
accept that the things he does are normal for a child his age.
A child has little knowledge, and no understanding of what to do with his knowledge. He has to release his feelings, and sometimes he does so in a vicious way, perhaps by breaking or damaging things. It is normal for a child to be wild. The Gemara tells us in reference to education: Befriend him with your right hand and repel him with your left (Sotah 47a).
Just as the right hand is stronger than the left, the befriending should be stronger than the repelling. If the child deserves punishment, give it to him. But for every slap, give him 10 kisses. And far better than slapping is withholding something that the child wants very badly. Actually, it is far better to avoid slapping entirely, because it can create a fear that might only show up later.
Of course, a parent might need to show some anger to a child who
is misbehaving, but the anger should be external only; inwardly, the parent must stay calm and composed. He must not lose his self-control. If he does, he can create fears and a complex in the child that might mar him physically and emotionally for life.
In this way, we will cultivate feelings of love into our childrens minds and hearts. By exercising control, we gain the childs confidence and he will grow up a nurtured individual.
Let us learn the lesson of self-control and silence from the queen
whose name was Hadassah and Esther. Hadassah, the one who suffers, was Esther, the hidden one, who kept silent about her ancestry for nine years in order to redeem the Jewish people.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Q Does a nursing mother have to fast on
A She should not fast unless fasting is usually not a strain for her. A nursing woman is obligated to fast only on Tishah BAv
and Yom Kippur, unless she fasts very well.
Q Can a pregnant woman eat or drink before Kiddush on
A She can drink a cup of coffee or tea before
davening but should not eat solids or most other liquids.
Q Can she eat solids on Shabbos morning before Kiddush
after she says berachos?
A The Chofetz Chaim rules that one is not allowed to eat
before Shacharis. First you have to daven Shacharis and then you can make Kiddush. If the woman is so weak that she cant daven, she
can use the cup of coffee for Kiddush and have a piece of cake.
Q On Shabbos, is it all right to put honey in tea or is
this considered cooking?
A You can put honey in tea if the tea is not boiling hot.
It should be cooled off first.
Q Can you leave laundry on the line over
A Yes, but not in the front of the house because it is not
dignified for Shabbos.
Q On Shabbos, can you clean up a messy room and put
laundry away if leaving things the way they are would disturb your Shabbos?
A Yes, you may, because doing so becomes your oneg
Shabbos. But when putting items or laundry away, you are not allowed
to pick and choose, or sort. You should dump it all into a laundry basket and sort it after Shabbos.
Q On Shabbos day is it permissible to cover the bed with
A If without one the bed looks ugly to you and disturbs
you, it is your oneg Shabbos to cover it and you are allowed to
Q Since talk on Shabbos should be
divrei Torah, what do you do if a guest or a friend
you met on a walk brings up divrei chol?
A Youve touched on a delicate subject. If youre going to stifle your speech, will you enjoy your Shabbos? One could say that the only way to really keep Shabbos is to tie your hands and feet up and tie yourself to a bed. But you dont enjoy your Shabbos that way. To refrain from speaking takes many years. If you enjoy it and dont suffer from it, then refraining is a high level. But to suffer could get to be a transgression if you feel it as pressure and you dont have oneg Shabbos. Limit your speech, but dont stifle yourself.