The myrtle is a lovely plant. Evergreen. Fragrant. Humble. You would never know by looking at her that the myrtle harbors a great secret: Once a year, with the first stirrings of spring, the myrtle transmogrifies into a distant star.
Yes, it’s true. She unroots herself, tumbles up through the heavens. Her leaves ignite with tiny sparks that explode into a great, fiery sphere. Her blinding light travels out to the distant edges of infinity. For 24 hours, she reigns as the Queen of Heaven.
What fun it is! Her light somersaults out through the great expanse. She plays laser-tag with her sisters, the Pleiades; tickles Orion until he loses his hunter’s stance. She paints the faces of rocky planets with glitter, weaves miles of tinsel through distant galaxies, dresses the comets in drag-queen flamboyance. The heavenly bodies glow and twirl with delight.
As the Queen of Heaven, she dreams big! She will seduce a vain and powerful king, hang her enemies on the tallest of gallows, slaughter the wicked en masse. She is omnipotent Goddess, her light cascading through history with glee. She screams herself hoarse with joy.
Back on earth, a dark night has fallen. The oppressed, the haughty, the pious — sinners and saints alike — turn their faces upwards towards the heavenly light. They feel the tug of the Queen of Heaven’s audacity and joy; their hearts expand with her light to the edges of infinity. They succumb to hilarity, mock their pieties, embrace the absurd. Fervently, for one night, they shed their petty concerns and worship the glittering stars.
After 24 hours, the giddiness subsides. Weary from her exuberant romp, the myrtle gently floats back to Earth. Content. Re-rooted. More fragrant than ever. A delight, once again, to all who behold her humble beauty.
But the discerning will notice, as spring unleashes its raucous bloom, that the myrtle shimmers with a light she didn’t possess before. Is it just the strengthening glare of the spring sun? Or are there tiny embers still burning within her leaves? Look closely. See if you notice the change.
Note: The name Esther is a cognate of Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess known as the Queen of Heaven. But hidden under this flamboyant mask is her true, more humble name: Hadassah, the myrtle.
Evolve is turning five. We’re celebrating and seeking your support. Help keep this essential resource at your fingertips.
To celebrate five years of this sacred work, we are designating the month before Purim as a time in which we fulfill the line from the Book of Esther, “The Jews had light/ Layehudim hayeta orah.” During this month, we will publish and distribute materials related to light and Purim.
Donors of $250 or more will be invited to five real-time zoom shiurim with Evolve scholars.