Question of the Week:
I have always felt an affinity to Queen Esther from the Purim story. Just like me, she married a non-Jew. And because of it she saved the Jewish people. Isn't the message that intermarriage can be good for the Jews?
Esther is a tragic hero. Unlike the common misconception, she was not happy to be queen. She was dragged away from her family and people, against her will, and forced to marry a grotesque and uncouth tyrant, the king of Persia, Achashverosh.
This was no romantic courtship. Having executed his previous queen for not obeying his wishes, Achashverosh ordered that every woman in the kingdom present herself before him. Esther, a sweet Jewish girl, was deemed the most beautiful candidate, and so she was taken to the king's palace. She had no choice. To resist meant death.
When an evil decree was made to annihilate the Jewish nation throughout the kingdom, Esther used her position to beg for the salvation of her people. She succeeded, and from there we have the festival of Purim. But there was no happy ending for her. The Jews celebrated their victory in the streets, but Esther was stuck in the palace. She remained chained to her despotic husband till the end.
Esther is not a model of intermarriage. She had no choice. But if you would like to take a lesson from Esther's life, perhaps it is this: Being married to a non-Jew in no way diminishes your responsibility to your people. Esther's marital situation was never used as an excuse for her to weaken her ties to Judaism. She kept kosher, she kept Shabbos, and she remained a loyal Jew her entire life.
A Jew, no matter how far they think they have strayed, remains a Jew. All the tasks and obligations expected of a Jew apply to you. The fact that you don't observe one law - the law forbidding intermarriage - does not exempt you from observing all the others. And it does not take away your essential identity. You are a Jew and always will be.
Intermarriage almost always leads to a weakening of Jewish connection, and that is never good for the Jews. But Esther was good for the Jews, because despite her circumstances, she never gave up her Jewishness, and did her part for her people. You can too.
Good Shabbos and Happy Purim,