“And the maiden [Esther] pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily provided her with her ointments, along with her appointed rations, and with the seven maids, which were designated to be given to her out of the king’s house…” (Esther 2:9).
About this passage, the Talmudic sage Raba notes that Esther employed seven different maidens rather than one, so that “she could count the days of the week through them” (Megilla 13a).
Living in the palace, away from her home and community, Esther privately kept track of her own calendar, in order to maintain the secrecy of her heritage. In addition to using an alternating staff of maids to help her maintain her schedule, she assigned a specific maid to each particular day of the week, so that the Shabbat maid only served on Shabbat and therefore noticed no difference in Esther’s behavior on Shabbat compared to the rest of the days of the week.
This interesting Midrash about Esther underscores the importance of Shabbat in Jewish life. In fact, so important is Shabbat that in the Jewish calendar, the names of the days of the week are identified by their proximity to, or distance from, Shabbat: Day One, Day Two….Day Six, Shabbat.
Tonight, the Jews of North America celebrate Shabbat Across America and Canada, and in less than seven “maidens,” the entire Jewish world will celebrate the holiday of Purim.
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