“Am I normal? Please, tell me that I am normal.”

I couldn’t. Because what she described to me wasn’t normal.

No, it’s not normal to feel alone and anxious for years on end. It’s not normal that fears take over your body. It’s not normal to be in a constant state of worrying about not being normal. In short, it’s not normal.

I explained. “Let’s say that I hit my hand“Am I normal? Please, tell me that I am normal.” hard on the door. The hand now throbs with pain. It’s normal to feel the pain, right? But it’s NOT normal to constantly have a throbbing hand, either.”

Meaning, it’s normal to feel anxious, nervous, worried and alone when going through certain difficult situations or challenging times. It’s normal to feel grief at the loss of a loved one or at the end of a relationship. It’s normal to have feelings of anxiety throughout this long harrowing pandemic.

But a constant state of grief, depression, anxiety or pain isn’t normal. Telling ourselves that it is can create a situation where we are frozen, immobile. When we are stuck in our circumstances to the extent that we don’t want to examine it, work on it, get help for it or even accept what it really is, then we don’t allow ourselves to ever heal. We can then never come to peace with it because we live with throbbing pain, believing that throbbing pain is normal.

Well, it’s not.

This brought me to thinking about something that I never understood. In the reading of the Megillah on Purim, Mordechai sends a messenger to Queen Esther that the time has come for her to reveal her identity as a Jew and save the Jewish people from annihilation. She tells him that she cannot, explaining that if she were to go to the king without being summoned, she could be killed.

Mordechai responds to her, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and rescue will arise for the Jews from elsewhere, and you and your father’s household will perish.”1

This is what I didn’t understand. Esther is telling Mordechai that she might be killed for doing what he tells her. He responds that if she doesn’t go to the king—doesn’t try, doesn’t do something— then surely, she will perish. Not only her, but her father’s entire household. But wasn’t it the opposite? To go to the king would be death; if she stayed away, she could keep on living as she was.

But, wait a minute. How was Esther living? She was literally a prisoner in the palace. She lived in constant fear. The sages describe how much courage this brave woman had each day, to wake up in the morning and do whichever mitzvot she could—connect to G‑d and to her soul in any way possible. Living like this, day after day, did Esther perhaps become accustomed to her hopeless, imprisoned state? Maybe, in a way, she got used to it? Had she accepted that this was her fate and nothing could change it?

I think about Esther, and about all us in our personal and worldlyWe complain, without doing anything to chance struggles, our sorrows and challenges. I think about how we get used to suffering, we complain about it without doing anything to change it, and we believe that this is our destiny.

G‑d has so many ways of bringing about salvation. He has so many ways of making the impossible possible. But there is one thing that G‑d asks from us to make it happen: not to be complacent, not to just wait for something to happen. The sages teach us that G‑d says: “Open for Me an opening the size of a pinhole [an opening to desire, to repentance, to reflection, to closeness] and I will open for you [salvation, acceptance, forgiveness, closeness] a door.”2

Perhaps Mordechai was telling his dear Esther, “Esther, this is all for a reason, and now is the time to act, not just for others, but yes, even for yourself!” Do something, because if we continue in a way that is “not normal” and accept this as normal, then there is no hope. But if we realize that we just need to try, take some action, make some movement, no matter how big or small, in a positive direction, then change has to happen. Because we have opened a door for G‑d to make it happen.

And she did. Queen Esther prayed with all her heart. She took a leadership role. She took a chance. She went to the king (as well as the King of all Kings), and he extended his scepter. Not only did she not die, but she was instrumental in saving her nation. Not only did she not perish, but her memory and her valiant actions are still preserved and celebrated more than 2,000 years later.