When my 6-year-old daughter auditioned for this year’s Purim shpiel at our synagogue, she knew one thing. She wanted to play Esther.
Why? Well, it’s obvious. Esther is the hero. She’s the lead female role. She’s a Queen. She’s brave. She saves the Jews. And, she was one of two possible female parts initially available, the other being Queen Vashti.
This was her first year partaking in the Purim shpiel and she is especially excited because this year’s show is based on the music from “Hamilton,” a favorite in our household. Of course, the show is entitled “Jewmilton.”
I doubt that any of the other girls auditioning wanted anything other than the part of Esther. The older girls, who had been in past productions at the synagogue, explained to my daughter that she would not get the part, as she was young and this was “only her first time” in the production.
Nevertheless, she persisted. But, as predicted, she did not get the role even though the musical director was impressed with her. Instead, the role went to a much older girl.
I was touched by the support and love displayed by the other girls towards my daughter that day, including the one who had just landed the role of Esther. “This doesn’t mean you can’t star in a Broadway show when you are older,” they told her. “Don’t give up on your dreams,” someone added. “You can be Esther in the future,” one said.
While my daughter was distraught over this experience, and had a teary subway ride home, this gave me an opportunity to talk to her about perseverance, patience, and the importance of supporting roles. She seemed to hear me but continued insisting that she was, in fact, Esther.
So, with this in mind, I began thinking about all our daughters (and sons!) who may be inspired by Esther’s story and who may want to emulate her in their lives. Indeed, there are more ways to be Esther other than portraying her on stage.
1. Believe in Yourself
As I told my daughter when she was auditioning and after she did not get the part, keep believing in yourself. If there is something you love or a talent you possess, just like all of us, you still must keep working at it until you achieve your dreams. To borrow from the character of Aaron Burr in Hamilton, often one must be willing to “wait for it.” At the same time, as Hamilton teaches us, when you are given an opportunity to step up, do not “throw away your shot.” And, just like Esther, you must never stop thinking that you are powerful—that you can shape your life and the world around you.
2. Believe in Women Leaders
Another significant way to honor Esther is to honor all the women leaders we know and to learn about the ones we don’t. Whether we are thinking about mothers, artists, scientists, teachers, rabbis or government figures, there are so many women leaders to learn from, many of whose stories may have been forgotten. As just one example, think about the women scientists featured in Hidden Figures. Resist the lessons some teach that there is something wrong or questionable about ambitious or assertive women. Don’t fear women with power; look up to them.
3. Stand Up for the Jewish People
Right now, especially with the new wave of anti-Semitism here in the United States and continued demonization of Israel, it is not enough to be for one’s individual self or for women generally. Being Esther means standing up for the Jewish people and telling and retelling our stories. For children, this means taking pride in our holidays and biblical stories. But, learn the stories of and speak out for Holocaust survivors, Jews expelled from countries around the world, those who formed the modern nation of Israel, and who have lost their lives because they were Jewish. Speak out against hate and intolerance and violence directed towards the Jewish people and our homeland. Send messages of love to other Jews.
If I get my daughter to do these things, she can rightly claim that she got the role of Esther after all.