Today is Taanit Esther, the Fast of Esther commemorating the fast that Queen Esther asked all the Jews to keep for her sake so that she would succeed in annulling Haman’s evil decree.
But Esther didn’t only teach us about praying and fasting – she also taught us about being happy.
At the beginning of the Book of Esther, Achashverosh holds a banquet that is all look-at-me glamour and show: alcohol, gold, money, and showing off his property and luxurious belongings to his many guests. And who, in his view, was one of his belongings, his property? His wife, Vashti. She was also a show piece to put on display for his guests.
And to this very day, sadly, this kind of objectification is part of modern culture.
In contrast with this mistaken and empty view of happiness, at the end of the Book of Esther, Queen Esther brings the Jewish people to a state of “light and happiness and joy and honor.” And how does Esther express that joy? After Achashverosh’s egotistical and wasteful feast, she teaches us to be truly happy, through the mitzvot of Purim which we still observe today: a family meal inside our homes – not on public display, delivery of mishloach manot food packages to strengthen ties of friendship within our communities, as well as gifts to the poor, taking care of our fellow Jews in need.
And this is how we can achieve happiness.
Esther switched Achashverosh’s happiness equation onto its head. Happiness doesn’t come from self-promotion and accumulating more and more expensive stuff. But rather from stepping outside of ourselves and noticing those around us.
Instead of thinking that the more we get, the happier we’ll be, Esther teaches us that the more we give – the happier we’ll be. Happy Purim!
Translated by JewishMOM.com