The commissioners have exclusive performance and commercial recording rights until 9/30/23.
SDG Music Foundation
My early experiences with the Book of Esther stem from my childhood, when I would take part in Purim celebrations at my local synagogue. The children would dress up in costume and bring our toy ratchets and rattles. The rabbi would chant the text of the book in Hebrew, shouting out “Haman!” whenever the name came up, at which point all of us children would scream and drown out Haman’s name with our noisemakers. Afterward, we would eat hamantaschen (a three-cornered pastry filled with sweets). Clearly, we enjoyed the holiday as a fun spectacle; I doubt I ever wondered about the deeper significance of the story.
Upon revisiting the story as an adult, I find several striking points. First, women had little or no agency over their lives – Biblical times were a man’s world (Queen Vashti’s banishment at the beginning of the Book sets this tone immediately). Second, there is no mention of God, meaning that Esther and Mordecai are the agents of change in the story rather than God, though an argument can be made that God had an indirect role in guiding Mordecai’s and Esther’s actions. Finally, the significance of Esther taking direct action to save the descendants of the House of David can’t be overstated, as God had made an eternal covenant with David to preserve his descendants forever, as well as giving David’s lineage the throne of Israel. Esther not only saved David’s lineage from obliteration, but also preserved God’s promise with the Jewish people.
The question of whether Esther possesses the agency to act is addressed head-on in the biblical story, when Mordecai asks her, “Who knows if you were chosen for such a time as this?” Esther’s weighing of this question is the central dilemma of the story. To add gravitas to this moment, this is the only point that I ask the narrator to sing as Esther ponders the question. Moreover, I find Mordecai’s question can be as applicable to us today as it was to Esther. If Mordecai were to ask each of us if we were chosen for such a time as this, perhaps we might view his query as an invitation to remember that we each possess agency to make changes happen in our lives, to act upon injustices that we see happening around us, and to strive to leave the world a better place than how we found it.
For Such a Time as This was commissioned by SDG Music Foundation, Chicago, IL. Librettist Jerre Dye penned a new narration so that the story is told through Esther’s eyes.