What does Queen Ester have to do with the High Holidays?

In each of the High Holiday prayer services, we recite the word “u’vchen”, “and so…”

Avudraham points out that the word “u’vchen” was also used by Queen Ester as she prepared to go to go before King Achashverosh in Megillat Ester, 4:15-16:

Then Ester said to reply to Mordechai: “Go assemble all the Jews that are to be found in Shushan, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day: And I, with my maids will fast also, and so (u’vchen) I will go to the king, though it is against the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

As we stand before God, the Supreme king of kings, we begin with the same word that Ester uttered before standing before the human king, Achashverosh.

The Siddur, Magid Tzedek explains that if Ester who had fasted for three days in penitence and prayer in preparation for her appearance before the king was still terribly frightened, then we too should remember the sacrifices that Ester made and tremble in awe in the presence of God.

Rabbi Abraham Besdin adapted Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s teachings in the book Reflections of the Rav. In the section called “The Dual Character of Purim”, the Rav teaches that “Purim is also a day of introspection and prayerful meditation. The Megillah is both a Book of Distress and Petition. The narrative relates two stories, of a people in a terrifying predicament and also their great exhilaration at their sudden deliverance.”

The Rav goes on to say that Taanit Ester which is commemorated the day before Purim through fasting, Slichot and the recitation of the Avinu Malkeinu prayer sets the mood of solemn penitence. It reflects the fear of the Jews on the 13th of Adar as they fought their enemies. Purim day celebrates the victory and the sudden miraculous salvation of the Jewish people.

The Rav concludes: “Perhaps the feature common to both Purim and Yom Kippur is that aspect of Purim which is a call for Divine compassion and intercession, a mood of petition arising from great distress.”

Let us hope and pray that just as God answered the prayers of the Jewish people in the days of Ester, so too will He listen to our Yom Kippur prayers and seal us in the Book of Life.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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