Two-Way Street | The Secret Emails of Mordechai and Esther, Part One

Rabbi Nina Mandel
on March 18, 2024

Subject: [Urgent Message for the Queen] Grave Danger Ahead, ACT NOW!

From: Mordechai
To: Your Highness Queen Esther of Persia

Your Royal Highness, Exalted, Peerless, Beloved Esther, Queen of Persia:

I hope this letter finds you well and enjoying all the luxuries and privileges of the palace. I can hardly believe that one of our own, my kin, has risen to such a place of power and respect. We all delight in your success, albeit in keeping the secret of your true identity.

I regret that I am writing with bad news about our people. One of the palace ministers, Haman, has issued an unthinkable decree that all of us must die. Our slaughter has been presented to the king and approved by him. Our enemies have full permission to destroy us.

Wisest of queens, I am certain that you know what must be done. Evil intent must be thwarted. Haman must be eliminated. Some say you are no longer loyal to your people, that from your throne you are able to overlook our suffering. I have assured them, however, that you will do everything in your power to intervene with the king (after all, you were so clever in becoming queen!) You, of all people, understand that what is facing us is nothing less than our existence.

I humbly anticipate your acceptance of this challenge.

Your honored servant, Mordechai

Imshallah uv’ezrat Hashem — Happy Purim!

Subject: [Confidential] Things Are Not As They Seem

From: Your Highness Queen Esther of Persia
To: Mordechai

My most trusted guardian, confidante, and ally, Mordechai,

My heart is broken by the news you share with me about Haman, and I tremble in fear for the future of our people here in Persia, and abroad. The palace walls have protected me from such grim reports, even as they have provided some of the benefits you imagine. Perhaps when you devised the plan to have me placed here you also imagined that I would have access to the king and influence over his decision-making. I am afraid that is not the case. You may not see this from your vantage point, secretly patrolling the gates, but I regret that it is true.

I will not trouble you with all of the details, but I will share that I found out what actually happened to my predecessor, Queen Vashti. She was not, as you led me to believe, banished for being insolent to the king. Instead, she was executed for refusing to humiliate herself for the pleasure of her husband and the amusement of his friends. You speak so easily of my petitioning the king, but I now know that I can be the next victim of his folly, and some other woman will have to be found to fill his desires.

However, I do vow to intervene on behalf of my people, as best I can. But please, wise Mordechai, help me understand exactly which Haman you fear. Certainly, there is the minister of the king who paid handsomely for the right to kill us. I have seen him about the palace and he is despicable. But I have come to learn that there are others with Haman-like intent, both within these walls and outside of them. There seem to be a number of people who are intent on eliminating their enemies in whatever brutal manner they can justify. Should I not be concerned about them too? Or is it just Haman the Agagite you want to stop?

I await your wise counsel.

Your ever-grateful protegee, Esther

Keep an eye out for the next installment on Wednesday for the conclusion of this story!

Written by Rabbi Nina Mandel, member of the Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet and rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. In addition to her full-time duties as rabbi for Beth El, Rabbi Nina is a lecturer at Susquehanna University teaching classes in Jewish philosophy and culture, Women’s Studies, Diversity Studies, and Jewish film.

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