I hope you had a nice and joyful Purim! This week we heard beautiful tips and words of inspiration from Patty Zrihen Makeup Artist. (In case you missed it, you can read the post here.) As a follow up to that post, I wanted to share with you a few “beauty tips” that we learn from our Purim heroine, Queen Esther.
When evil Haman threatened to annihilate the entire Jewish people, Queen Esther risked her life by appearing before king Achashverosh to appeal the case on behalf of her people. Esther had not been summoned by the king for thirty days, and appearing without invitation could hasten a fatal end.
Esther fasted for three days before going before king Achashversoh. Now, I don’t know about you, but the last thing I look like after a fast, is worthy of going before a king. And yet, Esther fasted for three days!
Let us go back and see what led our heroine into such a predicament.
Eccentric king Achashversoh, in his drunken stupor, calls for his queen Vashti to appear at his party wearing nothing but her crown. (You heard that right! Quite the racy story!) Vashti refused. Why? Did she feel it was undignified? Did she feel insulted? Not quite. Vashti was no angel. What the king requested from her was not unusual in the lives of these ostentatious, vulgar personalities. The unusual thing was that by the hand of G-d, Vashti was covered with horrendous pimples, and felt herself unfit to be seen in public. Yes, she found herself… ugly.
Vashti personified vanity. She defined her self image and worth by her physical qualities, and lived no different than a human mannequin. So much so, that Vashti preferred to be caught dead, than be caught unappealing. Both, ironically, were her fate.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against physical beauty. Of course, we should look and feel beautiful! However, there’s a very fine line between looking attractive and living our lives looking to attract others. When beauty is viewed as the goal, it becomes something quite fleeting and distracts us from the truth; as in the case of Vashti. And what is that truth, you say? The truth is that we are two dimensional beings, with body and soul. We possess a beautiful soul, a part of G-d above, that needs to be nourished, so that it can shine through the human body.
Those who pursue a life with this truth- working on themselves, refining themselves internally- are rewarded with a beauty that no cream can offer- a beauty that shines inside out.
Such was the case with our heroine, Esther. She didn’t request any beauty treatments, as had the other pageant contestants. Yet, the Megilla tells us, that when she came before the king, she was beautiful in the eyes of all who saw her. So much so, that the king chose her above all the other maidens. Her beauty is defined by our Sages as one based on the grace and elegance she personified. Esther was a woman with a healthy self esteem, a woman that valued herself above and beyond her physical appearance. Her mirror was not her guiding compass in life. Rather, she was guided by her intent to help others, and to live a life imbued with meaning. Her inner beauty radiated outwards. She had achieved harmony between her inner and outer selves.
Now we understand why Esther fasted for three days before presenting her case to the king, instead of submitting herself to a 72 hour beauty regimen. At this critical point in her life, and that of her people, Esther clearly understood that her mission’s success did not depend on how much she nourished her external self, but rather, on intense internal work.
With a broken heart from teshuva (repentance) on behalf of herself and her people, swollen eyes from crying, and a greenish complexion from fasting, she went before the king. Surprisingly, he welcomed her gladly. Did Esther think that her future was in the hands of this king? No. Given her inner sensibility and refinement, she understood that her people’s salvation was in the hands of the King of Kings, H”, and His acceptance of her and the Jewish people’s repentance.
Thus, we learn from Esther…
- In order to have beautiful lips, the right shade of lip gloss is not enough; rather, we must use them to say kind and beautiful words.
- To have attractive eyes, mascara might be effective; but let us also look at others and the world with a positive eye.
- To have a slim figure, let’s share our food with those who are in need. And to have good posture, let us walk with the confidence that we are walking with G-d.
May the joy of Purim and Adar permeate the rest of your year. Have a Shabbat Shalom!