Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg
Esther, the hero of the Purim story, is a fascinating study in contrasts. If we examine the beginning chapters of the Megilah she appears passive and even somewhat apathetic. Yet suddenly in the second half of the Megilah, she takes on an entirely different persona. Esther assertively directs Mordechai to gather the Jews and have them fast for three days. In fact, the Midrash describes a halachic debate which took place between them. While Mordechai protested that the Jews could not fast on Pesach, Esther argued that if all the Jews would be killed there would be no Pesach. And indeed she won out. The Megilah notes further, “Va’yas Mordechai k’chol asher zivsa Esther…”-Mordechai did all that Esther commanded. This is in striking contrast to the beginning of the Megilah where it says, “Es mamar Mordechai Esther asa,”-Esther followed all of Mordechai’s wishes. The formerly passive Esther creatively comes up with twelve different reasons as enumerated in Mesechta Megilah, for inviting Haman and Achashveirosh to a double feast. Later on in the Purim story, she convinces Achasheivrosh to give her Haman’s house, and then places Mordechai in charge. While at the beginning of the Megilah, Mordechai raised Esther, here Esther elevates Mordechai. After Haman was killed, it is Esther who again approaches the king to have the death sentence on the Jews rescinded. The Megilah continues to emphasize Esther’s active role in writing down the Megilah and establishing Purim as a holiday.
Rav Lichtenstein asks the obvious question, what happened to Esther? How does she suddenly take on the role of an entirely different character? When Mordechai sent Hasach with a message for her to go to the king, she initially refused. Mordechai sent back a message, “Mi yodea im le’s k’zos higat l’malchus”-Who knows whether it was just for a time like this that Hashem selected you to become the queen. Mordechai gave her mussar and she took it to heart and was aroused to action. She resolved to drop her formerly passive behavior and use all her abilities to save Klal Yisrael. This is a lesson for all of us. Every Jew gifted with a unique ability, quality, or special power has a responsibility to use it in a productive way to help the Jewish people. This is what Mordechai told Esther and this is what we need to learn for our own lives, whether in our professional, personal, or general interactions with people. Mordechai’s forthright words catalyzed Esther into action. It transformed her from a passive follower into a valiant hero who played a paramount role in saving the Jewish people.