The name Hadassah (Heb. הדסה) was one of the names of Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, and is now given to Jewish girls.
The name is of biblical origin, first cited in the Scroll of Esther (2:7), “And [Mordechai] had raised Hadassah, she is Esther . . .”
The name Hadassah is derived from the Hebrew word hadas (Heb. הדס), a myrtle tree from the Myrtaceae family. The myrtle has a pleasant fragrance. Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Edels, known as Maharsha, explains that since “man is like a tree of the field.” therefore the righteous are called myrtles, likened to a good tree with a pleasant smell.
The Talmud explains why Queen Esther was also called Hadassah:
Why was she called Hadassah? Because the righteous are called myrtles. As it states (Zechariah 1:8), “And he was standing among the myrtles [the righteous prophets Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah].”
The sages in the Midrash take this one step further:
Just as a myrtle has a sweet smell and a bitter taste, so too Esther was good and listened (“sweet”) to the righteous Mordechai, and was adverse (“bitter”) to the wicked Haman.
According to Kabbalah, each of her names corresponds to a different spiritual level.
The name Hadassah represents righteousness. As such, it corresponds to a heavenly sphere representing G‑d’s infinity. The name Esther (Heb. אסתר) is derived from the Hebrew word hester (Heb. הסתר), which means “hiddenness,” and corresponds to a spiritual plane representing hidden G‑dliness.
Interestingly, she is referred to by both names—seemingly opposites.
According to Chabad philosophy, calling Queen Esther by both names represents the self-sacrifice she displayed in order to save the Jewish nation. A righteous woman, she brought G‑dliness down into the physical world, where G‑dliness is concealed.
We too can connect transcendent levels of G‑dliness with our world when we choose to do something righteous instead of following our desires.
When choosing a name for one’s child, it’s important to think about what the name represents.
On this note, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, told the president of a local Hadassah, an international Jewish women’s organization:
Hadassah was the name of Queen Esther, who was not afraid to live among non-Jews and to show an example of how a Jew must be proud of his or her inheritance, and to live everyday life in the same direction, with happiness and much success.