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Shabbat Parashat Tzav 5779

Parashat Hashavua: Confident of his Predictions or Not?

Harav Yosef Carmel

In the story of Megillat Esther (as learned with the classical midrashim), there seems to be no more confident a person than Mordechai as far as relying on his understanding of what Hashem wanted and with what He would help. He knew that it was a mistake to take part in Achashverosh’s party. He knew that it was  correct not to bow down to Haman and that it was not necessary to even avoid him. Yet, in the ostensibly most obvious of all observations, he seems to “punt.” When he asked Esther to intercede to save the people and she was hesitant, he said: “Do not imagine … to run to the palace … if you will be silent … salvation will come to the Jews from a different place … and who knows if for a time such as this you made to kingdom” (Esther 4:13-14). So he knew the Jews would be saved somehow, but even though he was confident that Esther should risk her life now, it was only a possibility that she had become queen for this reason!? Considering the gemara knew (Megilla 13b), as do all Jewish schoolchildren, that Hashem prepared the remedy (Esther’s position) before the affliction (Haman’s decree), why did Mordechai, of all people, not know? Could there be a more profound reason than this for Esther to have been thrust into this position, despite Mordechai’s and Esther’s attempts to keep her out of it?

Rashi actually understands the key words in a different manner. Mordechai was pointing out to Esther that she should not rely on her ability to have sway with Achashverosh closer to the time of the planned anti-Jew attacks later in the year. One can suggest a simple answer based on good middot. Perhaps to doubt that simply Esther was the most worthy, from a Persian perspective, to be chosen queen, was insulting to her. However, there are both technical and philosophic reasons to reject this approach, and so we will present another one.

Mordechai had strong beliefs and faith that Hashem would protect those who would do the right thing, even when the prospects looked bleak. What could otherwise be a reckless act became a necessary one when there was a principle to stand up for or a kiddush Hashem to be made. Thus, the Jews must not capitulate religiously or culturally to Haman, or to Achashverosh, for that matter. When the option was an operative one, they must seize the opportunity to act nobly with confidence that Hashem would make sure that things would work out, in whatever manner they would. The proper action for a person to take should be treated as a surety; Hashem will make sure it will work. The specific means through which Divine Providence would prevail was Hashem’s secret to which man was not necessarily privy. Thus, Esther must act according to the significant power she had, which gave her a better natural chance than anyone else. Why was it that Esther was in such a position, while undoubtedly a fascinating philosophical question, did not impact on what she needed to do. Therefore, Mordechai mentioned the possibility that her rise to the throne was for this purpose to give Esther motivation and strength to act. However, there was no need to turn it into a definite statement with philosophical implications.

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