Thursday, 24 March 2011

Esther – Good to be me. Standing up for my beliefs. KS 1 &2

There was once a king. A very powerful king. The most powerful king in all the world. His name was Xerxes (also known as Ahasuerus) and he was the king of Persia. He could do whatever he wanted. One day he decided he wanted a wife, so he sent out an order that all the young women in the land were to come to the palace so he could choose the one he wanted. They all came and paraded in front of him, but it didn’t take him long to choose. The most beautiful woman by far was a woman called Esther. So the king married her and she became queen.

The king didn’t know much about Esther, and in particular he didn’t know that Esther wasn’t Persian, like him. Her family had been brought to Persia as prisoners, many years before, when the army conquered their land and destroyed their city of Jerusalem. Esther’s parents had died, but she had been brought up by her uncle Mordecai, who loved her very much. Mordecai worked at the palace too, as an advisor to the king, but the king had never really noticed him. When Mordecai knew Esther had been chosen he said to her, “whatever you do, don’t tell the king that you are Jewish – or that I am. He might think that we would plot against him. Just keep quiet.” So that is what Esther did.

The king had another advisor, much more powerful than Mordecai though. A man called Haman. He was the king’s right hand man, the one who was always there, whispering in his ear, telling him what he should do. Haman was almost as powerful as the king, and one day the king decided to send out an order that in future, everyone should bow down to Haman and give him respect when they saw him. Now, when the king sent out an order you had to obey it. And everyone did obey, except for Mordecai. He passed by everyone bowed; but Mordecai wouldn’t. “Bow down before me” shouted Haman. “I can’t do that,” said Mordecai. I will only bow down to God, not to people. That is what my faith tells me to do.”
Haman was furious, but he couldn’t make Mordecai do what he wanted. He was so angry he decided that he must get rid of Mordecai.

So he thought up a plan, a very cruel plan. He went to the king. “O king, O wise king. I have come to tell you of some people who are living in your land, people from another country, who won’t do what you tell them. They are a danger to you, and one day they will rise up and attack you.”
“Really!” said the king, “Thank goodness you have told me about them. We must do something to get rid of them” “Quite right, your majesty” said Haman, not telling the king, of course, that Mordecai and Esther were Jewish too. “You must send out an order that they must all be killed.” So that is what the king did. The king set a date, and in every town and village notices went up to say that the Jewish people were to be killed on that date. They were all terrified.
And within the palace Mordecai was terrified too.

He went to Queen Esther and told her what was going to happen. “You are the only one who can help” he told her, “the only one the king will listen to. You must go to him and plead for your people, tell him that you and I are Jewish too, so he can see what he is about to do.”
Esther thought about it. How could she tell the king? What if he was angry with her for challenging him? What if he decided that if she was Jewish she must die too? She was very, very scared. But Mordecai told her that no one else had the power she had, and if she didn’t help, no one else could.

So Esther decided to speak to the king. She invited him to a special feast, to put him in a good mood, and told him that she wanted to ask him for something.
When he arrived and saw his beautiful wife he said to her, “tell me what you want and I will give it to you!”
So Esther, trembling with fear, reminded him of the order he had sent out that all the Jewish people should be killed. “Yes, so what?” said the king. And Esther told him that she was Jewish too, and that his orders would mean that she would be killed as well, along with Mordecai, the king’s loyal servant.
“But how could this have happened? Why did no one tell me?” Esther explained how Haman was trying to trick the king into getting rid of Mordecai. The king was furious with Haman and sent out another order. Instead of the Jewish people being rounded up and killed, Haman was to be arrested. And he was, and the king had him executed the very next day.

And all the Jewish people were spared, and they all rejoiced, and so did the king, who was very glad that he had not lost his beautiful, brave wife. And to this day, Jews celebrate Esther’s courage with a special festival called Purim once a year, when they hear that story again, and the children dress up and act it out. They boo and hiss when they hear about Haman and they cheer for queen Esther. As it happens the festival of Purim was last weekend, so we are telling this story at just the right moment.

I think it is a good story because it helps us to remember that it is sometimes very difficult to do the right thing. It can be hard to be brave, but perhaps if we don’t help someone, no one else might, if we don’t stand up for what is right, no one else will.

Pray: For people all over the world who have to stand up to leaders who treat them unfairly. For everyone who is working to make the world a fairer place, and that we will have the courage to do what is right, like Esther did.
Photos of Purim celebrations can be found very easily on Google images.

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