By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
Throughout my childhood, my father regaled me with stories of the intense piety of his maternal grandmother – my great-grandmother – Esther Malkah. The seemingly mystical quality of our family forebear was enhanced by the fact that Esther Malkah shared her name (meaning “Queen Esther”) with the heroine of the Biblical Book of Esther (the “Megillah”)… and that her Yahrzeit was observed on Ta’anit Esther: the fast on the Eve of Purim, recalling the original Esther’s preparation to take lifesaving action on behalf of the Jewish People.
When our Esther Malkah reached age 60 (in 1912 already a prodigious age), she acknowledged her mortality by sewing her own Tachrichin – her own burial shrouds. Living to be 95, she was constrained to air out her handmade Tachrichin every Spring… for 35 years!
The Hebrew word Tachrich (Tachrichin is the plural) is used in the Bible only once (Esther 8:15), referring to the royal robe worn by Mordechai when – in the wake of Queen Esther’s efforts – he ascended to his position as chief minister to King Achashverosh. Applying this Biblical term to burial garb suggests that each of us is destined to assume a lofty role as faithful, personal servant in the Court of the Divine King.
We wisely acknowledge our own mortality and prepare accordingly.
Like Esther Malkah.
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)