May the spirit of Queen Esther inspire us all to give more of ourselves to our families, to our communities and to the world.
I had read an article about Stephanie Decker, an Indiana mom who lost her legs protecting her children from the tornado that ravaged her community and completely demolished her home. Stephanie describes how she and her children went down into their basement to ride out the storm when wind, like she had never seen before, began to break glass and literally move her house.
Stephanie made a split-second decision that saved the lives of her two small children. She tied them up in a blanket and threw her own body on top of them in order to protect them from falling debris. Everything from furniture to steel beams landed on her, breaking seven of her ribs, severing her legs, and almost claiming her life. Stephanie knew that she was in danger of dying. She prayed to survive and to be able to see her children grow up. Miraculously, someone found her, applied a tourniquet, and her life was spared. Because of Stephanie’s self sacrifice, her children walked away totally unscathed.
This is one of those unique stories that gets to your core – you know, the kind that makes you so sad and yet so inspired at the same time. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. My mind is also on the holiday of Purim, which we will celebrate in just a few days. The holiday is already in full swing here in Israel with kids parading around in costumes and singing the holiday songs. So the words that kept coming to me as I read this story were the words of Queen Esther; “…and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).
Those words were uttered at the most critical juncture of the Purim story. Mordechai, Esther’s cousin who had raised her, has just told the queen that she must approach King Achashverosh and ask him to intervene on behalf of the Jews. The villain of the story, Haman, had gotten permission from the king to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the earth (sound familiar?). Unbeknownst to the King, his queen belonged to the Jewish nation. She was in a unique position to save the day. But she was afraid.
It was well known that anyone who approached the king without an appointment would be punished by death. Queen Esther had not been called to the king for a month. She understood that the price for approaching the King on behalf of her people could very well be her life. And that’s when she utters those legendary words. “And if I perish, I perish.” If I die, so be it. I will do everything I can to protect the lives of the innocent men, women, and children of my people.
I am so sad that this mom from Indiana has lost her legs. And I am so inspired by her act of self-sacrifice. At first I wasn’t sure why. After all, who wouldn’t give their life for the sake of their children? I hope to God that none of us will ever have to be put into that situation, but God forbid if we were, would we not all do the same?
After thinking about it for awhile, this is what I came up with. The story of Stephanie Decker inspires me because it is a real life demonstration of the awesome power of love. We all say that we love our children. We really do mean it. However, this woman has demonstrated the depth, breadth, and infinite power of love.
It has me asking this: What else is possible?
If she could give up her legs and even her life for her children, what could I do for my family? Is there any sacrifice too great? Are late nights and early mornings too much to ask? And if I could learn to love my neighbor like myself, what could I do for my community? What could I do for my country? What could I do for the world?
Bad situations often bring out the best in people. So it was with this mom and so it was with Queen Esther. As humanity continues its journey through turbulent and murky waters, we all have a choice to make. Will we become hardened to the pain of others and turn inward in a quest for self preservation? Or will we chose to love and look after each other? I pray to God that humanity as a whole will chose love.
May we celebrate Queen Esther by holding our loved ones near and by giving more of ourselves to our families, our communities, and the world.
By: Yonit Rothchild