Saturday night, I officiated Lina and Felipe’s wedding ceremony (in Spanish) in the village of Palomino, in Colombia. Here is an English translation of the remarks I shared with them and their guests in Spanish:
Do you have a favorite scripture? I do. It is one of the most dramatic moments in a story that for all we know probably didn’t happen exactly as described, if it happened at all, but that matters little.
The Book of Esther is a book about a marriage that not unlike the one we celebrate today is a marriage of two individuals of different faiths. The twist in that story is that the groom does not know that.
Esther, a young Jewish girl, marries the most powerful king in the world, the ruler of the Persian Empire, but on the advice of her uncle, Mordechai, she hides her heritage from her husband.
This act, borne of a sense of safety and preservation, was often repeated through history, particularly in Spanish speaking countries. Once Spain was unified under Ferdinand and Isabella and began to spread its rule to the New World, it was not always safe to be open about your faith.
Esther is able to keep her secret for a while, but fate comes knocking. In a plot, once again, reminiscent of the future, the Jews are threatened with annihilation by the second most powerful man in the Persian kingdom. And Mordechai comes to plead with Queen Esther that she intervene.
The problem is that like many if not most of us, Esther is scared to step out of line, especially in that extremely patriarchal society. The rule is that even the queen cannot simply visit the king without an invitation, and the previous queen lost her head for violating the rules. Esther is, naturally, loathe to act.
Mordechai’s response is swift: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows, perhaps, you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
I don’t know about you, but I cannot read that last sentence without getting emotional. Few of us will ever become the Queen of Persia, few of us will be called upon to save our people from annihilation. However, we in our lives, are often presented with such choices. But, and this is what scares me personally, we often have a harder choice than Esther.
I’m not trying to minimize Esther’s situation, but life does not usually present its choices to us in such a black and white fashion, as it does to Esther. It is usually much grayer, much more ambiguous. Still, a choice we must make. Do I do what is convenient and comfortable, or do I do what is much harder because it is the right thing to do?
You, Lina and Felipe, have each been confronted in your private lives with such choices, and though you have made mistakes like all of us, anyone who knows you will testify that you followed Mordechai’s admonition. You have, time after time, resisted the temptations to stay secluded in the palace of comfort. You have answered the call to help others, to look out for others, to live lives of service, again and again.
It is my prayer, that you continue to do this, that you continue to set a great example for your daughters, that you continue to set a great example for all the rest of us. May we all show your courage and the courage of Mordechai and Esther. May you, may everyone here today, may we all answer the calls large and small in our lives with clarity and conviction, “And who knows, perhaps, you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”