International Agunah Day was set to be on Ta’anit Esther. Much has been said about the reason behind it being decided that the issue of agunot would be remembered on this specific day and most of the focus has been on the parallels between chained women and Esther herself.
I think that that the whole story brought down in the Megillah has a lot of parallels to the plight of an agunah and teaches us some important lessons.
So lets open the Megillah and take a closer look.
Achasvarosh himself was a mighty ruler who treated his wife as his own personal slave. When he wanted to show her off, he called for her and when she displeased him, he disposed of her. Any one stood up to him? He then picked a new wife, based on her looks, he didn’t care about her at all. Just how she looked in relation to him.. The Megilla points out that she was easy prey as she didn’t come from a large family and was taken without a choice to the palace. She was swept away easily Esther herself came from a “broken home,” only an uncle caring for her and in the tribe comprised of families, she stuck out. How easy it was for her to be taken with no protest from her community.
Haman was the bad guy, a very charismatic person, who was quite narcissistic and wanted all to bow down to his will. When he didn’t get his own way, he condemned the person who had the audacity to defy him and besmirched him. Mordechai was a well-known figure, who even the Megillah acknowledges was beloved by most of his fellow men. Once Haman told his tale, people got swept away by his version and no one stood up to defend the person who until then, was thought to be a good person. Haman has the ear of the king, has charisma and so must be the aggrieved party. How many agunot found themselves in the same position as Mordechai? You must be a terrible person or have done some awful things for him to not want to give you a get.
Mordechi is sitting in sackcloth’s, at the gate of the city, do people rush to help him? To find out why he is suffering? No, the only person to go to his aid is Esther, a family member. Mordechi was a Judge ( attested to be the fact he was sitting at the gate of the city). Why does no one else go to help him? They are all afraid of rocking the boat. Some one is behaving irrationally, lets avoid him. When the edict to kill all of the Jews comes out – that is the first time we hear any mention of “supporting players“ – once they realize the tide has turned, they all come out to help overturn the plot but until then, they kept quiet.
When does the tide turn? Esther realized she could not stay quiet any longer. When Esther realizes she can make a difference, the spark inside her ignites. What does she do first? Looks up and leaves her fate in the hands of Hashem. Although she now believes in herself, she realizes she needs help from above and from below – prayer and help from the
community. Yes, the story happened behind closed doors and people on the outside kept quiet.
The story turned around when everyone realized that this story is about so much more then one lone queen, it effects all that surround. As Esther so eloquently put it, my request frees me and my nation. Injustice does not hurt just one, it hurts the nation. Agunot kept quiet for years prior to being an aguna, in their palace, with every outside either looking in and seeing only the splendor or seeing something is indeed rotten in the palace but ignoring it until they realized it affects their survival as well.
What do we learn from the Megilah?
One – what you see and perceive is not always the truth.
Two – Freedom comes when we all band together and fight injustice.
Three – Esther does not know why she was the one chosen to be put in the palace, Mordechai points out to her that – who knows, maybe this is why you were chosen. We don’t know what Hashem has in mind when we are in abusive situations, both prior to Aginut and when going through the years of Aginut but we do know that there is a plan and that plan takes courage on the part of the female in the middle of the story but can’t take place without the nation who rallied around her.
There are many more parallels that can be made, every one going through hardship can find what to identify with in a story about individuals and the nation, good and evil, threat of inhalation or freedom.
International Agunot Day is the day before Purim, we all need to remember that after hardship, when working together, this story had a happy ending and all were freed. Look behind the mask, see what is really going on and lend a hand so all can have a happy Purim, free from chains others put on them.