This post is dedicated to Naama, my wonderful wife, Eshet Chayil, whose beauty shines all around and radiates from the inside.
Everyone is talking Pesach this and Haggadah that, I am still thinking about Purim and the teachings from Megillat Esther. There is certainly enough wisdom to be learned from Purim and Megillat Esther, for if that were all we had, Dayeinu! (That would suffice)!
Just the act of cleaning for Pesach reminds me of Purim, for chametz, (levenning) is commonly likened to the ego, due to the air bubbles that are formed in the fermentation process. The antagonists of the story of Esther are fully inflated with ego. Actually, unlike the story of Passover, in the Book of Esther, there is no tyranny, only ego! I suppose, in order to fight tyranny in the world, the evil Pharoahs; we must first eradicate the ego, the evil Hamans.
Well, to nurture any relationship, if not eradication, we must at least address, if not work on the ego.
While reading the Megillat Esther this past Purim, the verse that describes the beauty of queen Esther caught my attention, Esther 2:7,
… and the girl, (Esther) was attractive and beautiful.
The Hebrew wording for “attractive and beautiful” calls for some interpretation. Of course my translation of, “attractive and beautiful” is in itself an interpretation, which in my opinion, is a missinterpretation.
The first time that the term “tov” is mentioned in the Torah is in Genesis 1:4,
and God saw the light, and it was good…
While reading the Megillah this past Purim, the interpretation of “tovat mareh” that resonated with me is, ‘…and the girl was beautiful and her ‘goodness’ was apparent.’
This interpretation is highlighted by the verse, Esther 2:9, “…and the girl, (Esther) found favor, (goodness) in the King’s eyes and aroused loving kindness within him.”
Also, in Esther 2:15,
and Esther aroused grace in the eyes of all who gazed upon her
Also, Esther 2:17,
and the King loved Esther more than all the women and she aroused grace and loving kindness within him more than anyone.
In light of these verses, my conclusion is that the beauty of Esther is not merely an attractive, visual beauty, but also a qualitative, inner beauty, a grace and loving kindness that was emitted from within her character and disposition.
This surely shines a positive light on King Acheshverosh because it is this quality of goodness within Esther that he falls in love with and this is a good thing.
The Men of the Great Assembly, (including Esther), who compiled the Megillat Esther, used the Torah as a paradigm. They borrowed the term, “yaffat toar v’tovat mareh” from the Torah. The only time this exact term appears is in Genesis 28:17,
…and Rachel was beautiful and her ‘goodness’ was apparent.
For 2 reasons, this description is not merely referring to Rachel’s physical beauty:
1) Jacob already met Rachel at the well prior to this narration. This meeting was emotionally charged as he just met Rachel for the first time, a family encounter and clearly not one of attraction.
2) This description of Rachel’s beauty does not stem from the viewpoint of Jacob, rather, it is pure textual narration and is therefore a more objective description. This is a description of her physical characteristics as well as her character, disposition and human quality.
Time and again, I am perplexed by the second to last verse of Proverbs, (31:30) the beautiful acrostic of “Eshet Chayil, “grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman who fears The Lord shall be praised.”
I suppose that grace turns deceitful and beauty becomes vanity when these nouns become adjectives; when they become disassociated from values and split from quality unlike Esther, our queen and Rachel, our mother.
I suppose that the verse in the famed Eshet Chayil Proverb is referring to the archetype woman whose value of “yirat Hashem”, “awe of God” is so developed that her values of beauty and of grace, only in its comparison, is likened to deceit and vanity.
Now, just to connect all this to current affairs: It is quite astounding that Obama, who represents a total historic change by being the first black president, visited Israel last week. He spoke some beautiful words in Hebrew and cited some Talmudic wisdom in praise of our Israeli president. He affirmed his stance in aligning with Israel in the fight against tyranny and support of human rights. We are living in quite amazing times! Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the day when the US will have its first female president.
May we all see beauty and grace in our loved ones, in all people.. and in all of creation.