Ask any child under 7 who the most famous queen in the world is and the answer is clear—Queen Elsa, from Disney’s “Frozen,” of course. With over a billion dollars in sales, a kingdom to rule, an unstoppable power ballad, and some fierce freezing powers, this queen has been embraced by children and their parents like no other. So it should have come as no surprise to me when last year, so many young girls in my synagogue came clad in Elsa costumes for our Purim celebration.
At first, I was not a fan. Queen Elsa instead of Queen Esther?! The thought did not sit well with me. What can I say, I’m a rabbi and a lover of Jewish tradition. How could I stomach a Disney princess overshadowing a Jewish icon? After all, Esther is one of the great heroines of the Jews. Under imminent threat to her life and the life of the Jewish people, she persuaded her Persian husband, King Ahasuerus, to allow us to live. Can you really tell me a giant castle made of ice is more compelling than that?
Then, I decided to breathe. I had to turn the volume down on my “Jews are quickly disappearing into assimilation” panic button and remember that I am part of a community of people who wholeheartedly believe in simultaneously embracing the secular and the sacred. In other words, I realized, if you can’t beat ‘em (and you can’t, Elsa is unstoppable), join ‘em.
So here are the top five ways Queen Elsa’s wild popularity actually overlaps with Queen Esther’s historic bravery. Maybe we can use one to highlight the other.
1. Outsiders rule. Elsa emits ice from her fingers. As cool as this sounds, her power causes her to be considered a “monster,” or as we might say more colloquially, a freak. She is so concerned about her “otherness” that she flees to the North Mountain, abandoning her kingdom.
Esther is also an outsider. As a Jew she is a member of a group that is considered unacceptable to marry and acceptable to murder en masse (yes, that’s implied in the Megillah). Both outsiders end up on the inside, ruling their respective kingdoms with their otherness fully revealed. As I watch the girls in my congregation come of age, this transition from ostracized other to ruling royal should surely be emphasized.
2. Help helps. Elsa and Esther don’t achieve their success alone. In both cases, family support is essential to their growth. Elsa has the help of her sister Anna, and Esther has the help of her cousin, Mordechai. Without these two essential family members, Elsa would be a pillar of ice and Esther would have likely gotten her head put on a pillar. (No joke—that’s what happened to Haman.)
3. Put your people before your personhood. Both women have an interest in the betterment of their people, not just themselves. It has been well documented that our society has become increasingly individualized (insert skinny non-fat decaf latte reference here). Esther risks her life for the greater group, and Elsa exiles herself from her own kingdom out of fear she might hurt one of her subjects.
As Purim rolls around, I hope we can all take a break from our narrow worlds and get inspired by our queens. After all, would you rather be alone on North Mountain or ice skating with Olaf in the Kingdom of Arendelle? Doing what’s best for the group rather than yourself is what Purim is all about.
4. Women in public power rule. These queens are powerful, public, and proud. ‘Nuff said.
5. Let it go. You knew it was coming. Purim is about letting your hair down. (Yes, that was an intentional Elsa reference.) We’re actually commanded to get wild, silly, and celebrate being free on many levels.
If ever there was a time to embrace such an unlikely Venn diagram of life as Queen Elsa and Queen Esther, the time is Purim. This year as Purim rolls around, I’m planning to embrace the revelry, no matter what form it comes in, and I hope you will too.