In Those Days, at This Time

When Mordechai Hatzaddik, upon the urging of Esther, declared a three-day fast, the date set for the annihilation of the Jews was eleven months away. What was the rush to declare a fast that called for abstaining from food and drink on the first day of Pesach? Among the explanations given is that precisely because it was Pesach — a time when the Ribbono shel Olam redeemed our ancestors from Egypt and our nation merited great miracles — it was an opportune time to plead for a miracle.

Individually and collectively, our people are in desperate need of miracles.

So many families are approaching this Purim with anguished hearts and minds filled with fear and worry. In Jewish homes throughout the globe, countless tears are being shed and fervent prayers uttered over personal tribulations. All are aware of long lists of heartbreaking challenges that members of our community are facing, and we are cognizant of the fact that in many situations, the details of the torment being suffered is known only to Hashem and immediate family members.

Collectively, Torah Jewry in Eretz Yisrael is facing a very real and ominous threat, one that is tragically misunderstood and erroneously downplayed in some quarters.

As we prepare to celebrate the miracle of Purim, this is a very opportune time to plead for miracles and yeshuos for both individuals and the global Torah community.

The story of Megillas Esther, as elucidated by Chazal, gives us eternal guidance that is applicable to every generation.

We can only imagine the arguments presented by some of the Jews who decided to disobey the call of Mordechai Hatzaddik and attend the feast of Achashverosh. They presumably saw Mordechai as an extremist, one who was out of touch with reality. They found his ruling to be too strict, and were convinced that they knew better. After all, the king had assured the Jews that the food would be kosher, so why risk antagonizing him unnecessarily?

Tragically, while the righteous Jews of Shushan listened to Mordechai’s call and chose to leave the city in advance of the feast, some 18,500 Jews did go, and this, Chazal inform us, was the reason for the terrible decree against the Jews.

Subservience to Gedolim has always been a most challenging test, yet deferring to the views of our spiritual leaders is a fundamental part of Torah hashkafah, and as the story of Purim illustrates, a crucial element of our survival as a people.

The story of Purim also teaches us how to behave in a time of crisis. Every aspect of the way Mordechai and Esther reacted to the pending disaster demonstrated recognition that although it was necessary to undertake the requisite hishtadlus in the temporal realm, their primary focus was to appeal the Heavenly decree through fasting and tefillah.

Esther, fearing her brethren would say “we have a sister in the palace” and so would divert their attention from praying for mercy, purposefully invited Haman to a feast so that they should erroneously assume that even Esther had abandoned them. They responded by relying solely on Hashem — and merited salvation.

We are reminded never to give up hope of salvation — no matter how dire the circumstances.

The Midrash describes how Esther approached Achashverosh’s throne without being summoned. The king initially refused to look her way; it was an angel that twisted his head in her direction. Achashverosh looked at Esther and became enraged, and Esther saw the fury in his eyes and became weak with fright. Soldiers were already moving in her direction, prepared to execute her. It seemed certain that her mission, the only apparent hope of her people, was doomed. Then, at the last moment, Hashem saw and had compassion on His people and, as the Midrash related, “turned to the pain of the orphan who placed her trust in Him.”

Against his will, the king was forced to extend his golden scepter, and miraculously, it extended itself to reach Esther. Her life was saved, and she would go on to serve as the messenger from Hashem to save her people.

May Hashem perform for us miracles and wonders, as he performed for us in those days, at this time.