A very beautiful Jewish woman was called upon to change the king’s mind about committing genocide against the Jews in a country that had long allowed us to prosper and flourish. We use noisemakers to drown out the name of this evil advisor and eat special cookies designed specifically to make fun of his weird ears. (Ancient Persia didn’t have Twitter, but it did have bakeries.)
We dress up as the brave, beautiful queen and the unfit, risible king. We get a bit sauced as we recount the story of how we were all nearly murdered – but for the courageous voice of one young woman.
This woman, our Queen Esther, looked into the eye of certain death and didn’t blink. She told the king, “I’m a Jew. If you kill them, you have to kill me, too.”
Each year we celebrate our triumph, but we don’t really spend much time contemplating the mind-boggling bravery of Queen Esther. She saved us. And all she used was her voice.
In January, I had the honor and privilege of adding my feet to Women’s March in Los Angeles. The day before, rain was coming down in sheets – and the day after the march was equally wet.
But there was not a cloud in the sky when 750,000 of us took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles to declare, unequivocally that civil rights are not negotiable. That women are not objects. That our bodies are our own. That black lives matter. And that Christianity is a religion, not a litmus test of how “American” someone is.
Esther had to face the king alone, but the the Women’s March was nearly 4-million strong and could be found on every continent (yep, even Antarctica).
Can you imagine what 750,000 people would have looked like to an ancient Persian king? I don’t know much about ancient Persian military forces, but I’m guessing we could have overwhelmed their army with nothing more than our witty little placards.
But we did not overwhelm Los Angeles. On every bumper-to-bumper standstill street we spilled out onto, we were met with cheers from drivers. Motorcyclists cranked up their radios, creating mini dance parties around their bikes. It was a celebration.
In many ways it was a lot like Purim. Colorful costumes, pointy-eared mockery (though ours were in hat, not cookie, form), singing, reveling and booing at the name of those who would threaten the security of others.
The march changed the way I see political involvement. It changed the way I see my role as an active citizen. And it changed the way I see Purim.
This Purim, I won’t just celebrate the triumph of the Jews over Haman. Triumphs are for future historians to find. People die along the path toward freedom, never knowing whether justice will eventually prevail. Instead, I’ll celebrate the march. The one-step-at-a-time approach to weeding out evil where it creeps.
I will celebrate the way Queen Esther went to the king even though approaching him uninvited could have gotten her killed. I will celebrate the way she cleverly got Achashverosh to see that his right-hand man was a murderous bigot. I will celebrate the strength it takes to declare who you are.
And I will celebrate the way a woman can change the course of history, bending its arch toward righteousness, using nothing but her un-quavering voice.
Mayrav Saar is based in Los Angeles.