Esther’s Mussar Humility Lesson

Esther's Mussar Humility Lesson
Purim Street Party by State of Israel via Flickr CC

Esther’s Mussar Humility Lesson: The story of Purim is a great lesson on the soul trait of Humility. As you may recall, the mantra for Humility written by Alan Morinis is “No more than my place; not less than my space.” It is a great reminder that Mussar humility is the perfect balance between arrogance and self-effacement. Purim teaches that sometimes we are thrust into a situation where we have an opportunity for greatness. And we are thus called upon to occupy a greater space.

As a quick reminder, in the Purim story, a Jewish woman named Esther wins a beauty contest to become Queen. Then, an evil advisor to the King arranges to have the Jewish people annihilated. Esther’s uncle Mordechei asks her to go to the King to prevent this calamity.

At the time, however, to approach the king uninvited was an offense punishable by death. Esther could have been dissuaded by the risk; nevertheless she persisted. Now remember, Esther is Queen by virtue of a beauty contest. She could have fallen prey to the Imposter Syndrome, and decided that she was unworthy of the task at hand. The Megillah (5:1) describes what happens next.

“Esther donned [garments of] royalty and stood in the inner courtyard of the palace, facing the palace. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the palace facing the palace entrance.” Notice how it reads if we eliminate the [garments of].*

Esther donned royalty.”

What does that mean to don royalty? This is Esther’s Mussar Humility lesson. She went before the King not as a trophy wife, but in a regal persona. She occupied her space, and did not get hung up on the vagaries of the selection process. She had a right to be there, and made the most of her opportunity.

Have you ever been faced with a situation where you were called upon to do something outside your comfort zone? Do you ever get worried that you aren’t sure what to do, or that you really don’t belong and let yourself get paralyzed? Take inspiration from Esther, and just do it.

Thankfully few of us will have to step up the way that Esther did, where failure means genocide. At the same time, we live in extraordinary times, with political turmoil at home, and war abroad. Do you feel called on to speak out? But we should not simply read this story an an invitation for civic action. Who among us has not been faced with a trying situation at work, in our marriage, with a friend, or with the challenge of growing into full adulthood? How best can we step up, to do right by the people in our lives?

You are heartily invited to stop for a moment and consider how Esther’s Mussar Humility lesson applies to you. Read the following and then close your eyes.

Think of the people in your life. What challenges do they face? What is one small step you can take to support your friends, family and community in a new way? How can you occupy your space to take responsibility, and try to be part of the solution. Or, perhaps you need to occupy less space. As a parent of teens, I know well the challenge of letting them make their own mistakes.

Please comment below or send me an email to capture your intention.

Want to learn more about Mussar Humility? Click here for a free sneak peak at the Humility lesson from the American Mussar cycle.

*The brackets indicate an interpretive translation as opposed to a literal translation.

Originally published at American Mussar.