In the Jewish social media circles, primarily Twitter and Instagram, the question of whether or not Queen Esther was a victim has been a hot topic.
For those unfamiliar, the story of Queen Esther, in a very condensed form, goes like this: Esther was born in Persia with the name Hadassah. The king of Persia, King Achasverosh, was looking for a new wife, so all of the eligible women of Persia were sent to the king’s harem where they were prepared to meet and woo the king. Hadassah wins the king’s favor and she becomes queen of Persia.
She changes her name to Esther, which means “hidden” in Persian, in order to hide her Judaism. The king’s adviser, Haman, decided that Persia needed to be rid of the Jews once and for all and convinced Achasverosh of this as well. He decreed that every Jew in Persia should be killed. Queen Esther strategized a way to have the king change his mind and because of her a second decree was made, allowing the Jews to defend themselves.
We celebrate the story of Queen Esther with the holiday of Purim, a holiday of triangle-shaped cookies, costumes and elaborate parties. We wear costumes because Esther disguised herself, and we do so in order to remember her bravery. Esther is the hero of the story and of the Jewish people, so why are people calling her a victim?
There is an argument being made that the heroine of the Purim story is a victim because she was forced into a marriage and at the end of the story she is still in this marriage. Forced marriages are a difficult subject, but we also should not look at the story of Purim through a modern lens. In the 21st century a forced marriage seems absurd and barbaric, but in the 5th century a forced or arranged marriage was the norm.
To call her a victim would be to call every woman at the time a victim. Which, again, may be true in the eyes of the 21st century, but this is a vastly different time. Now, many people have the privilege of marrying for love, but that was not something available to our distant and not-so-distant ancestors. Are they victims simply because of the time that they lived in? No, and Queen Esther is a prime example of that.
The story of Esther teaches us many things, but one of the most important lessons is that of resilience. Esther was a Jewish orphan and was raised by her family member Mordechai, but despite her background she became queen of one of the most powerful nations at the time. She was forced into her marriage, but so was every woman at the time. And, because it was to a king, she was able to use her position as queen to save the Jewish people from genocide.
Queen Esther is not a victim, she is a hero with a semi-tragic past. But all heroes, the real-life ones and the ones we see on TV, come from difficult backgrounds. That’s part of what makes their stories so compelling and their ability to be heroes so inspiring. To call Esther a victim would be to reduce her as being a product of her circumstances and to ignore how she became a savior of the Jewish people.
Hadass Galili is a senior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Hadass by tweeting her at @HadassGalili.