Having entered the month of Adar, famous for the holiday of Purim and the heroics of Queen Esther, it is fitting to speak of the very first Jewish heroine: Sarah (c. 1803-1677 BCE). According to the Talmud, Sarah was among the four most beautiful women that ever lived (as was Esther). She was the first matriarch of Israel, and in many ways the first Jewish woman; a wise teacher and a great prophetess who “made souls” (see Genesis 12). A woman of great strength, she survived two abductions over the course of her travels across the Middle East, from present-day Iraq, to Syria, Israel and Egypt. Miraculously, she became pregnant at age 90. Sarah reached such a level of holiness that her tent shone with the Divine Presence. Sarah (שרה) is not to be confused with a lesser-known Biblical character: Serah (שרח). With her expert musical skills, Serah (also spelled Serach, or Serakh) soothed and saved her grandfather Jacob from devastation. Legend has it that for this she was blessed with immortality, living to the times of the Exodus and helping Moses in some of his endeavours. In fact, many believe she was the very person who identified Moses as the redeemer of Israel! Having never died, it is said Serah owns a palace in the afterlife where she teaches the Word of God to the masses.
Words of the Week
We, all of Israel, are emissaries of God, each of us has Divine Providence decreed for us. None of us is free from this sacred task placed on our shoulders… – Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch (1880-1950)
Queen Esther (c. 4th Century B.C.E), the daughter of Avichayil, she was originally named Hadassah (meaning “myrtle”), and was given the Persian name Esther (which has multiple meanings, including “morning star”, “moon”, “goddess” and “hidden”). The first official Miss Universe, she was selected for her beauty from thousands of candidates across the whole known world. King Ahashverosh was enchanted by her instantly, and promptly made her his queen. A humble orphan girl raised by her cousin (or uncle) Mordechai, she used her wits to overturn the genocidal decree of Haman. Taking both a religious and militaristic approach, Esther organized three days of fasting and repentance, while mobilizing the Jews to defeat Haman’s evil forces. Ultimately, she saved the Jewish nation from total extinction. She is one of the 7 known prophetesses of Israel.
Chag Purim Sameach!
Words of the Week
The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won more of his grace and favour than all the other girls, so that he set the royal crown upon her head and made her Queen… – Scroll of Esther 2:17
Dvorah (c.1107-1067 BCE) Also known as “Deborah”, she was the fourth Judge and Leader of Israel after Moses. A One-Woman Supreme
A Date Palm. Deborah Would Have Sat Under Something Similar
Court, she would sit under a palm tree all day and judge the toughest legal issues of the day. At the time, Israel was overrun by a Canaanite megalomaniac named Yavin, and his general Sisra. Dvorah inspired a rebellion and led the battle towards a miraculous victory, freeing the Jews from oppression. She subsequently composed a beautiful poem – “the Song of Dvorah” – which we sing to this day (see Judges, chapter 5). A woman of incredible power, she is one of the Seven Prophetesses of Israel, led the nation for 40 years, and according to esoteric sources, could even communicate with beings from another planet! It is fitting that her name is Dvorah, meaning “bee”, whose honey is sweet but whose sting is painful.
Happy Adar and Shabbat Shalom!
Words of the Week
Said Rabbi Joshua ben Levi: When a person walks along the way, a troop of angels march before him and announce: “Make way for the image of the Holy One, Blessed Be He.” – Midrash Rabbah, Devarim 4