Halpern, Dr. Stuart, editor. “Esther in America”, Maggid, 2020.
The Impact of the Scroll of Esther
“The Scroll of Esther” or Megillat Esther has been an inspiration throughout history. It has had great impact on this country. Rabbis and ethicists, abolitionists and artists, preachers and presidents, have understood and used the text to speak to an issue that was taking place. “It has offered solace to immigrants, forged solidarity, impacted politics” and individuals have realized that deliverance and salvation comes from our own actions and how we relate to what is going on both personally and nationally. Today, once again, America finds itself having to deal with the limits of power, gender issues, bigotry and antisemitism and the implosion of our republic. The scroll of Esther, shows us how to find the strength and the will to deal with such issues but it is up to us to open our eyes and our minds to it.
“Esther in America” looks at the inspiration that has been gained from the scroll from as far back as the story of Sojourner Truth and Puritan society when women took the initiative to find a way from the problems that they were forced to deal with. We later see the Feminist Esther as we relook at the story of Vashti as a women who dared to say no to a man who was above her. Women in Persia were silenced until both Vashti and Esther exercised their mouths to stand up to the powers that were.
Moving to the Diaspora, we see the expansion of the role of women who dared, like Esther, and stand up for themselves. We look at pop culture and see how the example of a strong woman influenced women to be who they were. We see their roles in presidential politics as first ladies and influences on their husbands and male peers and we look at today’s morality and see how the classic story of Purim has influenced the world today. The Biblical text has become a way to look at courage and ingenuity as far back as the Revolutionary War and still serves as such today. What we really see is that we must use what we have for good and that we all have the ability to do as Esther did and speak out and act. The Megillah has left its impression on the history of this country.