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Behind the Mask of ‘Perfection’

Behind the Mask of ‘Perfection’

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A friend cried to me about her situation. She feels that she is surrounded by people to whom money comes so easily. She’s surrounded by women to whom child-rearing comes so easily. She’s surrounded by carefree women who have nothing better to do all day except for laugh and drink coffee, and yet their homes are impeccably clean, and they always look elegant andIs life so much easier for everyone else? beautiful. “Why am I the only one struggling? Why am I the only one who feels like she’s falling apart? Rivki works full-time, and has energy to cook and host guests. Ruthie has four children under the age of 5, and is always so put together and calm, when I feel like I’m always stressed out and drowning. Why does everything look so much easier for everyone else?”

Is life so much easier for everyone else?

In my little office, women come in and out morning and night sharing their problems with me. What those four walls hear! I’m telling you that if my four walls could talk, they wouldn’t talk, they would cry. Health problems, mental problems, financial problems. Problems with relationships and the lack of them. The one who dresses impeccably is falling apart on the inside. The one who lives in the fancy home has two children who are very sick. The one who just gave birth to her fourth child had three miscarriages before giving birth to this baby. The one with the great job is trying to build herself up enough to leave an abusive marriage. Problems, real problems. Problems that almost no one knows about except for the women themselves—and my four walls.

So I sympathize with my overwhelmed friend, who at this moment definitely needs more help to ease her struggling. But is she the only one caught up in a challenge? Is life really that much easier for everyone else?


It’s Purim night. We sit in synagogue, and I look at all the beautiful women around me dressed in their holiday clothes, the children sitting next to their mothers dressed up in their costumes.

Each woman has a story. Each family has a story.

The Megillat Esther reading begins, and I focus my attention to the reading. King Ahasuerus throws a huge party. He orders his wife, Vashti, to appear, and she refuses. In a drunken rage, he then orders her to be killed. The king’s advisers suggest running a type of beauty pageant of all the kingdoms maidens, and that the “girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” (Esther 2:4)

Esther was taken to the King Ahasuerus into his palace. The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won more of his grace and favor than all the other girls; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen in place of Vashti.” (Esther 2:18)

No one knows Esther’s background, what nation she belongs to, nor her religion.

Esther, Queen Esther, from the outside looks like she has it so easy. She has beauty, grace, incredible wealth and such power! She’s the queen! Does anyone, except for her cousin Mordechai, know her suffering? Do they know that she’s being held against her will? Do they understand that she’s lonely, isolated from her people, forced to observe her religion in hiding? But she has it so easy! Does she? Or does she not?

In synagogue, I sit and follow along with the reading. My heart pounds quickly as the story continues. The evil Haman, the king’s top adviser, plots to annihilate all the Jews. He writes a decree sealing it with the king’s signet ring.

Mordechai, the great sage and leader of the Jews, sends a message to Esther, telling her that she must go to the king. Esther hesitates. She tells him that she can’t. Esther, Queen Esther, to whom everything looks so easy, understands that nothing that looks easy is really so simple or easy. Mordechai has faith and believes in G‑d. He knows that the salvation will come, yet he demands of Esther that she should be the messenger who helps bring it about. She confronts her mission and responsibility head on, responding: “Go, assemble all the Jews to be found in Shushan, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day; I, with my maids, will fast also. Then, I will go in to the King . . . ” (Esther 4:16)

Why the fast? Why the prayers? Why three whole days of it? Wouldn’t one have been enough?

I continue listening. Esther then puts on her finest royal clothes. The sages explain that even then she stood and prayed in the inner court of the king’s palace. Esther finds favor in the king’s eyes; she has her chance to request of him for anything. What does she do? She asks him to comeQueen Esther, from the outside, looks like she has it so easy to a party. And then, another party. What is going on here? You hear the story, and you think that it should be so simple. One, two, three . . . and salvation will come. But no. Esther shows us that it’s a process—a process that is full of help from G‑d, combined with a lot of prayer, reflection, hard work, patience and timing. Not until the second party does Esther reveal the truth about her background, and pleads for the salvation of her people: the Jewish nation.

I sit in synagogue, and see all these beautiful women and their children. I think of Esther, Queen Esther, and I know that everyone in the room is wearing a mask. It’s a mask of: “My life looks easy, but if you only knew . . . ” What made Esther, Queen Esther, our heroine and savior? It was a process, and it wasn’t easy. Her greatness came forth after all those long and lonely years being held captive in the palace, when she stayed loyal to her people and her faith. It came forth after days of praying and fasting. It came forth after dressing in her finest and preparing.

It was a process, a difficult process that only now, after such hard work, looks so easy to the outsider.

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Vivienne March 12, 2017

A wonderful article –Purim message for reflection and to realize as the old adage states: “Never judge a book by its cover.”
You just don’t know what another is going through, or experiencing unless you walk in their path. Reply

Tequila Rooks March 11, 2017

WoW! Tears are coming down my eyes as I read this story and reflect on how imperfect I feel but to most I look like I have it together! I struggle with low self-esteem, insecurities and often feel alone. Yes, I'm a wife to a wonderful God sent man. I am a mother of two beautiful children. I am a grad student who by the way is the first to have graduated from both high school and have attained college degrees. It certainly has not been easy, but I'm pressing through! Thank you for this encouraging life of Esther and her story! Reply

Elisheva Porter Ranch March 8, 2017

Elena,

This is exactly what I needed to read. I am grateful for my life and the process.

Thank you for sharing your gift of writing and inspiring. Reply

Racheli Florida March 7, 2017

I so relate... WOW. Thank you for your beautifully written, touching and very relatable article. I will take this Purim message with me... thanks a lot :) Be well. Reply

jim dallas March 7, 2017

thanks for a fine retelling! plenty new in the modern comparisons, life is for us all, a demanding process! Reply

M. Diane Flushing March 5, 2017

Ditto for Sefira! Sefira, your artwork knocks me out!

(i wonder if Sefira ever gets a chance to read the posts to know how much we love and comment on her art. i hope no one is taking it for granted.) Reply

M. Diane Flushing March 5, 2017

Dear Elana i love your writing
every
single
time.

Happy Purim. Reply

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