Every year, Jews all around the world come together to hear the reading of the Megillah of Esther. Children and parents alike dress up in costumes and listen to the amazing story of how Queen Esther saved the Jews of Shushan from an evil plot by a mean man named Haman (booooo). The story is filled with drama, humor, plot twists, fascinating characters, and plenty of opportunities to shake your grogger (noisemaker)! But even more amazing than the plot points and events that take place in the Purim story is the secret, hidden story, woven throughout the Megillah of Esther.
To understand what I’m talking about, we need look no further than the name of the book itself. Esther (אסתר) shares the same root as the word “hester” (הסתר), which means “hidden.” What a fitting name for a woman who hid her Jewish identity from the king! The word Megillah comes from the root “megaleh,” which means “reveal”. So, “Megillah of Esther” literally means “the revelation of the hidden.” On the surface, it may seem as though Esther’s secret Jewish identity, which was revealed to the king at the end of the story, would be a good enough reason to name the book the “Revelation of the Hidden.” But, I think there’s a second, and even deeper, lesson waiting to be revealed.
Queen Esther was not born into royalty. In fact, she was born an ordinary Jewish girl by the name of Hadassah. The Megillah is filled with various names and titles for Esther, but those are mere distractions from her true identity. On the surface, it may seem amazing that this ordinary Jewish girl became the queen of one of the largest empires in world history. But, she was only able to become queen, and save the Jews, because with every step of her journey she discovered a little bit more of the courage and potential that was always inside of her. The real point of the story is to show us that an ordinary kid can grow up to be an extraordinary person. It is a story about radical self-actualization. And, to drive home this point even further, we must look at the next hidden element within the Purim story – G-d!
The Megillah of Esther is one of the only books in the Bible to not explicitly mention G-d. Unlike most biblical stories where the divine directly interacts with humans, here, salvation from evil Haman’s plot is the work of human agency, ingenuity, and courage. G-d’s hiddenness within the story teaches us that we need to take action and stand up for ourselves, rather than let G-d do the work for us.
Purim teaches us that you do not need to be born into greatness to accomplish extraordinary things! Nor do you need to wait for a sign from up above to take action. A single act of courage may impact the lives of a few people nearby, or end up changing the course of world history. But, no matter the outcome, it all begins with an ordinary person who is willing to discover their hidden potential.
At Schechter, we are in the business of revealing the hidden. We encourage every child to try new things and to hone in on the skills they want to get better at. Our campers learn to navigate social situations, independent of their parents. They act courageously, which for some kids means jumping off the “leap of faith” on the challenge course, and for others means sleeping away from home for the first time. Each time a camper acts with courage, fosters a friendship, tries their hand at a new skill, challenges an accepted idea, refines a talent, expands their comfort zone, builds confidence… a little more of the hidden is revealed. Our campers routinely leave camp knowing that they are capable of far more than they thought they were when they arrived. In essence, Camp is a place where one’s potential is revealed.
We’d like to wish everyone a Happy Purim and remind you that no matter which superhero you dress up as, there’s another superhero hiding underneath!
!חג פורים שמח
Camp Solomon Schechter