When Esther, the courageous queen, was charged by her uncle/cousin/adoptive father/husband to act to save her people, she first turned to the community for help, asking them to fast to support her efforts to save them. Fortified by their backing, she risked her life on their behalf, even exposing her Jewishness, hidden until then.
Today our halakhic way of life is degraded by having the agunah disgrace exposed to the scrutiny of the secular public, both Jewish and non-Jewish. The Epstein/Friedman agunah situation is in the public eye as no other case has been, thanks to new media capabilities and instant publicity. Like the Jews of Shushan, the community has done all it can to help. But unlike Esther, the rabbis who have the power to free not only Tamar but every agunah as well, remain in hiding. Despite the outpouring of community support, they are unwilling to risk possible censure by their peers, by acting to remove male power over women in marriage. They lack Esther’s courage.
The foolish King of the Purim story feared that if Vashti’s defiance were known, every husband’s power to be master of his household, his wife, would be weakened. So he issued a decree that every man should be “sorer” in his house. We laugh at that. Yet our rabbis have enshrined that edict by allowing every Jewish husband to be “sorer b’veito” to have power over his wife.
Esther provided leadership. If only the rabbis would act as boldly and implement one of the various halakhic solutions and free agunot, to bring about La Y’hudim Ha-y’tah Orah V’Simchah V’Sason Vi- kar, Kein Tihyeh Lanu.