Contact Us

Esther: Hidden Beauty

Esther: Hidden Beauty


Reserved. Modest. Quiet. Humble. Self-controlled. Hidden. These adjectives probably don’t conjure up images of a heroine. They don’t seem to describe the type of person who would put her life on the line for others, be a public figure, a political entity, and a person of control and power. But they are.

These are the very words that describe Queen Esther, a woman whose body, mind, soul and actions affected reality and changed the world.

While she had the help and support of Mordechai in fighting the decree that was aimed at destroying the Jewish people, it was Esther who was able to implement the plan, and who had the foresight and insight to know how it had to be done. And it was she who insisted that the story of Purim be written It was what the king didn’t see that attracted him to her down and read, year after year, for she knew that its relevance to the Jewish people will always be pertinent. This is why the Megillah, the “Scroll of Esther” that became part of the Torah and from which we read during the holiday of Purim, is called after her.

Esther was taken as the queen against her will. She was chosen for her exceptional beauty, and yet it was actually what the king didn’t see that attracted him to her. The former queen, Vashti, was a woman who garnered her attention by displaying her undressed body at royal gatherings. While her body itself was attractive, that was her only positive quality. When she was unable to flaunt her figure due to a horrific skin rash and boils, she had nothing to show for herself; in her refusal to display her body, she lost not only her position as queen, but her life as well.

While Esther was supposedly chosen as queen because of her external beauty, the commentators note that it was miraculous that she was found to be attractive, as her physical appearance actually was quite unflattering. The Talmud1 tells us that Esther was actually of a greenish complexion, but that she had a “thread of grace” that was upon her. We are taught that when the internal is elevated and beautiful, it will show through to the external, so that she can be seen as nothing other than beautiful. This is one of the main themes throughout the text of Eishet Chayil, “A Woman of Valor” from Proverbs, which teaches us: “Grace and beauty are false; it is the woman who has awe for her Creator that is blessed.”2

We even see that Esther went to great lengths to hide her physicality, as she did not want the king to be attracted to her. And had she not had a holy reason and need to be in the palace, then most likely she would have been seen only from the outside, in which case she never even would have been chosen. But being that she most definitely had a job to do, one in which G‑d chose her as the conduit to fulfill this mission, her internal aspect was seen; and that being the case, no other woman could possibly have competed with her.

So from the beginning of Esther’s involvement with the king, it is clear that he was attracted to a depth within her, and it is through this that she is ultimately able to maneuver what needs to be done to save her people. While Esther is in the king’s palace, however, she is not allowed to reveal to anyone that she is Jewish.

Under Jewish law, if one’s life is in danger, there are allowances for being able to break Jewish law. Yet Esther ensured that she keep not only the spirit of the law in her circumstances, but the letter of the law as well. She managed to create a schedule so that she would always have different maids on Shabbat, so that no one would become aware that When the internal is elevated and beautiful it will show through to the external during this time period she was doing anything different. Through her desire to maintain her Jewishness, she discovered a way to do what she needed to do. In this she beautifully fulfills the Torah principle that “nothing can stand in the way of will.”3

This is also how Esther was able to approach the king directly, even though he hadn’t called for her. She knew that she was taking a risk, she knew that he could have had her killed for her lack of obedience; but she knew that it was necessary, and she knew that G‑d would protect her. But even though Esther needed to act on her own, she never felt that she was a one-woman show. She knew that she was given a mission and was chosen as a vessel, but that it was not something in which she could feel that she therefore didn’t need the help of anyone else. Not only did she confer throughout with Mordechai for advice and direction, but before she approached the king, she asked that the entire Jewish people fast and pray for her success.

As a queen, she understood the true meaning that the only way to rule is not when you control others, but when you represent them. She could take such a life-threatening risk only if she was acting as the body for the will and desire of the entire Jewish people. If she were to merely act alone—for her own motives and desires, and thinking that she needed no help from others—it is questionable whether she would have been successful.

And so, when she did enter the king’s chambers, she was accepted, and not only was she accepted, but she was granted the ability to ask for anything that she wanted, up to half of his kingdom.

The name “Esther” itself is an indication as to how she led her life and fulfilled her role. The root of Esther in Hebrew is hester, meaning “hidden.” Often we think that when someone is hiding something, it is out of a situation of embarrassment or discomfort. The modern-day concept is “if you got it, flaunt it.” Show the world what you have to offer, be out there, be public, the more the better. It just isn’t so exciting to be the heroine behind the scenes. But one’s motives then need to be carefully examined.

The only way to rule is not when you control others, but when you represent them

If one’s desire is to show to everyone else what you have to offer, what you are capable of, then yes, it better be out there and public. But if one’s desire is to use one’s capabilities for a higher purpose—to achieve a greater good not just for one’s ego—then the best way to do this is to begin in private, in a hidden way, so that the goal can be accomplished.

Ironically, Vashti represents in many ways the way we view the modern-day woman. She is confident, attractive, outgoing, fearless and bold. She has no problem showing off her undressed body to a room full of people, to tease them, taunt them and amuse them. However, her goal is purely self-oriented. She cares for nothing other than her ego. This is why, as soon as her body doesn’t look good, isn’t attractive for a public viewing, only then does she hide.

Esther remains hidden throughout, but for the purpose of being able to be seen. And when she is able to be revealed, she is not seen as a mere body for others to use and abuse, but as a heroine—as one who represents what is holy, and as one who thinks not only for herself but for her people. As the Talmud teaches us: “A blessing rests only on something that is hidden from the eye.”4

While it may be real exciting to be in the newspapers and magazines showing off what you accomplished, the greatest accomplishments are kept secret. The most important innovations and creations—be they in medicine, technology, science or the military—are “Top Secret,” “Strictly Confidential” and under the tightest of wraps.

While Vashti may have made the cover of every magazine, it was Esther who was behind the scenes being the woman who was really changing the world. Esther epitomized the statement, Kol k’vudah bat melech penimah, “The true honor of the princess is within.”5 The word for “within,” penimah, is the same as pnimiyut, one’s internal, one’s spiritual makeup. This is Esther. Through understanding the true meaning of being hidden, she revealed an everlasting message to the Jewish people for all time to come.

Megillah 13a.
Zohar II:162b.
Taanit 5b.
Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1000 characters remaining
Ana Manduley Arlington VA August 29, 2017

I am Cuban American. My mother's name is Candelaria Esther However, she always went by Esther. Also, in reverence to my mother's mother, Esther. My daughter's middle name is Esther. Her full name is Nilofar Esther. I love the name Esther. She is a personal hero! So happy that you also carry the name Esther. Thanks for such a beautiful piece! Thank You. Ana Maria Reply

Anonymous Temple,tx August 2, 2017

The Bible says she was fair and beautiful and looked around for other comments in Talmud etc and didn't find it not being so. Don't downplay the story from God's word still a beautiful story (inner) beauty lasts a lifetime no matter your exterior Reply

Anonymous toronto September 7, 2016

Rationality There is no rationality that Esther has to be a Jew to get an interest free loan from a Jew. Esther's family also has given her an interest free loan and they never made any requirement on her to conform to their religion.It looks like a trap that someone wants her to fall in. Reply

Blessed34 Beaumont August 3, 2016

I was approached after church here lately. A woman came up to me and stated, "I WAS CONVICTED WHEN I SAW YOU." She sat by me the entire serve. Then after she gave me this note...It basically said that you are a hidden treasure; and that I was Ester. As I read this article, I was like could this be me. Is this who God has really called me to be. Reply

Anonymous toronto June 27, 2016

Ahasuerus If Achasuerus was King from Hodu to Cush. Then the next legal ruler is Esther.But she belongs to a particular family, religion , culture and tradition and they are no hindrance to her claim. Reply

Tina New York, NY April 29, 2016

Beautifully written I love reading your work. It flows and is done superbly. Reply

Esther affum boateng ghana March 9, 2016

im blessed to be called esther,i love this has really inspired me today and the description also fits me.i have really enjoyed myself knowing the real meaning of my name and me.... a queen...a star....hidden....modest.....and so on....i thank GOD Reply

Tory AZ February 17, 2016

Couldn't have said it better myself Love the description. Beautifully done. Learned much more from this than I originally knew. Reply

Anonymous February 6, 2016

I know that this may sound stupid, but I am a Christian and not a Jew,so I'm not sure how strict the beliefs are for women in Judaism. My question is this; when you say "hidden", do you mean modesty in clothing and manners, or do you mean "hidden" as in staying at home?
I really enjoyed this article, and thought there was much to be gleaned from it! Reply

Taylor December 3, 2015

I just LOVED this article! So timely, an elderly woman named Ms. Estherline used to babysit me while I was younger. She was so serene and spiritually rich and I just looked up the meaning of her name today only to come across this! She is quite like this woman and you're right... a heroine behind the scenes. The true definition of spiritual strength and wisdom ;) Reply

Anonymous 02459 November 1, 2015

So fashion and jewelry = who cares So then the hub about fashion and jewelry for a Jewish woman goes down the drain? I, personally, would hope so, but from this article, would that make the claim for it? Reply

Anonymous Port-Harcourt October 25, 2015

I love the name Esther,i think my wife name will be Esther Reply

omoagbametala London, England September 3, 2015

Thank you sara. This is a beautiful article Reply

Debra Portland, Oregon August 24, 2014

The name "Esther" This morning, behind me in church, was a family from India. They had two teenage daughters, one a little more physically attractive than the other. I was inspired after service to ask the young girl with the more plain features how I might pray for her this week. She was very shy. So, I asked her her name. She whispered, "Esther". I said, "I will pray for you this week, Esther. Look for God to do wonderful things in your life this week." I have total faith in the Lord--that He alone inspired the conversation, and will answer the prayer. I came home and looked online for the meaning of the name Esther. I think this young lady I met this morning perhaps fits her name: hidden, reserved, quiet, modest. I certainly am blessed that I found this article and that you, Sarah Esther, wrote it so well. Esther is a good role model, no matter how old we are. I am a Grandma and I appreciate learning about the ancient Esther and her faithfulness to the Lord. Reply

Esther agbai Kaduna June 15, 2014

Courageous esther Esther was courageous and never looked back in saving her people Reply

Michele Francis USA February 12, 2013

Esther: Hidden Beauty Awesome! Esther was an excellent example of a daughter of Torah. We can all see her in ourselves, The timing of her preparation was"SPOT-ON." Esther didn't have to compete, she just needed to be complete. "If G-d is for us, who can be against us? Beautiful!! One of my favorites, Reply

vera italy February 12, 2013

beautifully written and really interesting btw ester is the name i've chosen for my now 4 yr old daughter, when her older brothers tell her anything unkind or laugh at her, she says "hey, don't you know i am a queen" :) Reply

Grace January 17, 2013

Beautiful Wow, just this week I felt I needed to separate 3 days to simply get closer to G-d and not even text my friends, to remind myself that my dependence is in G-d not people or myself, funny thing is my middle name is also Esther and something was pushing me to look up my middle name and then I find this, it's amazing how Esther was reserved for the right purpose till her time came to literally change the world and just today my sister and I were also talking about how we feel like G-d has kept us hidden and almost working for his kingdom in secret. I am just amazed of how much the Lord has been talking to me just because I separated a little time only for him. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, it has blessed me so much! Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma May 25, 2012

taking "parts" I just came to this again, being high over seeing a play I directed and co-wrote come to the stage, to great applause and delight. Our cast of children were magnificent.

At the very last minute, in fact, the day before we were going on stage with our play, a little girl named ACACIA came up to me in the school playground to ask if she could have a part in this play.

I was really floored, because I had just written on line about the Burning Bush, as in Moses, and it is believed to be an Acacia!

So of course I said, YES, and she was amazingly adaptable and able to fit right in, becoming one of the "villagers" in our play that is about having a HEART.

I do believe there is something deep happening, and I am seeing it, and recording this, and that this has everything to do with Purim, the interechangeability of parts, and Shakespeare's all the world's a stage.

And G_d is ever, "in the wings" Reply

Raj Pun Pokhara, Nepal May 24, 2012

I am impressed by the writer and GOD given insights. Reply

Related Topics