Queen Esther – The Unhappiest Queen of Them All
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus — he was the Ahasuerus who reigned from Hodu to Cush, one hundred twenty-seven provinces. (Esther 1:1)
The Medrash asks homiletically “what brought Esther to rule over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces? And the Medrash answers ‘it is appropriate for Esther who was the granddaughter of [our Matriarch] Sarah who lived for one hundred and twenty-seven years to rule over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces” The obvious question is, our mother Sarah had many granddaughters; what was so special about Esther that she should merit this?!
It would seem that indeed Esther was the quintessential granddaughter of Sarah Imeinu. Esther inherited the [same] character traits that made Sarah so special. She was able to withstand the greatest test that a woman can experience, the test of exceptional beauty, by which a great king who ruled over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces desired her as his queen and she…was not at all pleased; on the contrary she felt that she was the most unfortunate of women, she considered herself hopeless – ‘and if I perish, I perish’. (Esther 4:16). And she remained in the palace, loyal to her people and to her God. She had no satisfaction whatsoever; not from the king and not from any luxuries that come with royalty. She did not taste of the king’s bread, she subsisted entirely on beans. This poor orphan that was raised by her esteemed uncle, Mordechai, and she was loyal only to him! She preferred the spirituality of Mordechai’s house over the lavishness of the king’s palace.
And from whom did she learn this noble attribute? From Sarah Imeinu whom was the most beautiful woman ever in creation (next to Chava (Eve), the mother of all life) and when she came to Egypt with her husband because of a famine in Canaan and she was seized by the officers of Pharaoh who praised her beauty before him, she rebuffed the chance to become the Queen of Egypt, the greatest world power at that time. Instead she stayed up the entire night in fervent prayer to Hashem to release her from this “prison”. Hashem heeded her prayers and caused a terrible plague to descend upon Pharaoh and his household – ‘And Hashem plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.’ Sarah wanted to return to her humble and modest husband. She favored the life of soul and spirit with Avraham rather than the opulent life of a queen!
With all this in consideration we can see clearly the personality of Sarah in Esther! And to this end we can certainly identify Esther as the model granddaughter of the esteemed Sarah, Matriarch of the Jewish people!
Esther had no choice but to remain in the Persian king’s palace in order to bring about the salvation of her people at this time of [Hashem’s] concealment. This only serves to magnify her test and her nobility. Esther’s life in the palace was one of never-ending violation but she withstood the ordeal for the benefit of her people and her heritage. The Jews at that time were unworthy of open miracles and when heaven sought a Jewish daughter who would maintain her devotion to Hashem and to her people to the point of martyrdom, even as the queen who ruled over one hundred and twenty provinces, they found Esther, the venerated granddaughter of Sarah Imeinu and elected her for this noble mission; for not every Jewish girl is deemed worthy of such a tremendous responsibility!