Esther: The original ‘Queen’s Gambit’

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What is a gambit?  And did Queen Esther take one?  After watching the most recent binge-worthy Netflix series, “The Queen’s Gambit,” I investigated the meaning of the word “gambit” and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, a gambit is 1) “a device, action, or opening remark, typically one entailing a degree of risk, that is calculated to gain an advantage , or 2) (in chess) an opening in which a player makes a sacrifice, typically of a pawn, for the sake of some compensating advantage.

So is a gambit a good thing or a bad thing?  A gambit is only as good as the result it produces–it is a risk.  For Queen Esther, her faith carried her through the incredible gambit she took when she approached King Achashverosh without being summoned.   Interestingly, when pardoned by the king for approaching unsummoned, her request was only to invite him and Haman to dinner.  Perhaps realizing the danger and risk involved in announcing her true intentions, she decided to create an atmosphere of congeniality and comfort for the king before making her request.

Esther’s preparation for her gambit is something we can learn from.  It is never easy to take a bold move especially when it could come at the cost of your life.  She prepares through fasting, prayer, and reaching out to the Jewish community for their prayers and support.  Another gambit taker comes to mind- Nachshon Ben Aminadav.  Nachson, according to Midrash, walked into the sea during the Exodus as the Egyptians pressed closer.  He also, like Esther, risked his life for the redemption of the Israelite people.  He also, took a gambit– and opening action entailing risk.   While Esther had the luxury of waiting a few days to pray and fast before her gambit, Nachson had to act immediately.

As Adar approaches, my prayer is that we are able to be guided by G-d to see our own unique purposes.  And that once we see the actions we need to take, that we too will be willing to be inspired by faith and take a gambit.

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About the Author
Leah Richman is a rabbi and mother of two daughters living the vegetarian Jewish life in Boca Raton, FL. She has worked in congregations and Jewish Federations, and currently works at Liumi West Retreat, teaches online, blogs at Like Water For Torah, and is available for personal spiritual direction.
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