In the Little Shtetl of Vaysechvoos: The Short Straw
Vaysechvoos is not the kind of place that would have a theater. And though theaters existed somewhere else in the world, it was doubtful that many people in Vaysechvoos had ever heard of them. But plays they knew about. At least one drama was presented each year, though hardly in a manner elaborate enough to be called a pageant. Still, it was done faithfully, and everyone anticipated it with joy.
A few weeks before Purim, the rabbi would pick a few people to play the parts in the Purimspiel, and without much by way of costumes or props, they did some superb acting.
There were not too many special events in Vaysechvoos to which the people could look forward, but Purim was such a time. A noisy time, a happy time, it was a time of expression, a time to enjoy the foolishness and drama of life.
However, the season before the rabbi made his selections . . . well those could be very hard weeks–hard on the rabbi, his family and the many hopeful mothers who would nominate their daughters for the coveted role of Esther.
She’s just like Queen Esther, my Malkah is!” said the tanner’s wife to the rabbi of Vaysechvoos. “She’s beautiful, clever, bold, and she’s not so much Jewish on the outside. Some even say that she looks like a gentile, but in her heart she is very, very Jewish.”
“A fine daughter you have,” mumbled the rabbi. “She’s a good girl.”
Taking his comments as encouragement, the mother went on, “So then, rabbi, you’ll consider her and you might even appoint my Malkah for the role of Esther, yes?”
“Well, I’ll certainly give her proper consideration as well as all the other fine young women. And thank you for bringing over the luchen kugel. My family will enjoy it very much!”
And so it went. Almost everyone who had a daughter who was young, and sometimes even not so young, would remind the rabbi of how that daughter of Vaysechvoos would be perfect for the role of the Persian queen.
The rabbi wanted to be fair to all, yet there could only be one Queen Esther. He shared his concern with the rebbetzin, while she was busy putting away the many jars of preserves and other delicacies that had been generously provided in the previous few days. After all, who could refuse the gift without offending the giver?
“My dear husband, I can see your problem,” said the rebbetzin as she finished stocking the storage shelf. “I have a solution! Why don’t you, in the spirit of Purim, have the young girls draw lots?” The rabbi smiled at the wisdom of his wife.
And so it happened. All the prospective Esthers assembled at the rabbi’s home. In his hand he held enough straws for each to take one.
“Only one is shorter than the others,” explained the rabbi. ” Whoever draws the short straw, she will be Esther.”
And wouldn’t you know it? To everyone’s amazement and to no one’s surprise, it was the rabbi’s daughter–who just happened to be named Hadassah–who selected the winning straw and was Queen Esther . . . again!
Director of Communications, Missionary
Susan Perlman is one of the co-founders of Jews for Jesus. Susan is the associate executive director of Jews for Jesus and also director of communications for the organization. She also serves as the editor in chief of ISSUES, their evangelistic publication for Jewish seekers. She left a career track in New York City to help launch Jews for Jesus in San Francisco in the early 1970s. See more here.