The royal palace hummed along as usual with its busy pace of important business. The constant audiences for ambassadors, ministers and private petitioners, moved like clockwork in the home and offices of the king who ruled over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces. Butlers, soldiers, eunuchs, and slaves rushed to fulfill their responsibilities, well-aware that they dare not frustrate the volatile Achashveirosh. The Queen and her closest handmaidens listened to and observed the regular sounds of the palace, but unlike other days, the noise was not reassuring, but threatening. Three days of fasting. Three days of all the Jews in Shushan fasting for Esther. Three days to consider how she would approach Achashveirosh in his inner court. Esther would have to cut through the lines of people waiting to see the King, many of whom had certainly waited more than a day for the one chance to be summoned to a royal audience. Esther would have to just walk right into the courtyard facing the King's throne. She knew her husband well enough to realize that he was already agitated by his busy schedule, and the lines of desperate citizens, fawning noblemen, and persnickety ambassadors of hostile countries. Esther would have to step into the courtyard, and catch Achashveirosh's attention in just the right way, so he would extend his scepter allowing her to live despite her audacious risk.
Esther had one question: Should she immediately bow when she faced the King on his throne, submissive, as Achashveirosh liked his women, or, should she stand tall and proud, confident and royal? Achashveirosh's first view would determine whether he would extend his scepter. Esther needed more than to survive; she had to persuade the King to retract the horrible decree against the Jews. She knew that all was riding on her husband's first view of Esther before him, unsummoned, breaking all the rules.
Esther also knew that the Jews fasting for her believed that their fasts and prayers would assure her success. They were fasting and praying as humble petitioners before God; so Esther decided:
"Esther donned her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the King's palace, facing the King's house, while the King sat on his throne facing the chamber's entrance. When the King noticed Esther standing in the court, she won his favor. The King extended to Esther the gold scepter that was in his hand, and Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter."
Esther never bowed. She stood as a magnificent Queen until Achashveirosh noticed her standing; he extended the royal scepter and Esther approached, without bowing, and lightly touched the tip of the scepter, and remained standing.
Esther realized that while all her coreligionists were fasting as supplicants, she had to fast and pray as a great Queen. She stood before the King as if to say, "I am ready to be Queen. I will no longer be the girl who won the Miss Achashveirosh contest." She touched his scepter to signal that she was ready to function as his Queen.
Achashveirosh looked at Esther and saw his reflection as a King in her bearing. She did not reflect the neediness of all the other supplicants. Esther reflected Achashveirosh as a true King. She won his heart, and, as they say, the rest is history!
Esther's decision to stand as a Queen rather than a humble supplicant was her Purim lesson: We will not survive exile if we do not know how to stand with dignity before the world, with a royal bearing as we stand before God in prayer. Humility is necessary; the humility of substance. We can choose to reflect the beauty and greatness of the world instead of remaining the eternal victim who reflects only ugliness. Why stand before God as an abused nation emanating weakness when we can reflect God's glory by acting as royalty, sending royal gifts, Mishloach Manot, caring for the needy, Matanot la-Evyonim, and partaking in a royal feast, the Purim Seudah.
Purim is our chance to stand as did Esther and touch the King's scepter, emanating beauty and confidence, elegance and majesty.
Please join me in raising a goblet and toasting the royalty Esther taught us to be.
Shabbat Shalom, Purim Sameiach,
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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