Myrtle Tree

by Edward Traub

I recently wrote in letter form the story of our daughter Hadassah’s birth and how she got her name as she was the Star Student in her 2nd grade class.  I won’t share all the details, but I have continued to meditate not only on my daughter’s life but also the story of Hadassah in light of the Advent season and the coming celebration of the Incarnation.  Below are my brief thoughts about it from that letter edited a bit for this post:

Hadassah was Esther’s Hebrew name.  In the book bearing her Persion name it says, “He (Modecai) was bringing up Hadassah…”  That’s the only place where her Hebrew name is mentioned.  Now most folks know that Esther means “star” but not as many know that Hadassah means “myrtle tree.”  Which kinda sounds funny when you first hear it doesn’t it?  So when the name came to us, my wife and I wanted to learn more about what it meant and so I discovered that the hadas or myrtle is used all over the place in Jewish communities to this day.  It is used commonly in weddings, during the festival of booths, and mentioned in many other stories in the Bible.  In a nutshell, “Hadassah” symbolizes redemption, restoration, healing. 

But I’ve always been curious as to the infrequency of Esther’s Hebrew name.  Why did the woman in the story of Esther have two names?  Well, stars are great things…I like them a lot.  In fact, most of us would rather be a star.  But for some reason the author wanted to make sure we knew (through this stark infrequency) that redemption came from a God who is near to us, not far out in outer space (although God is there, too).  That’s a comforting thought.

A simple concept that we do well to consider during Advent.  The God of our redemption is near.  Come thou long expected one…