Thursday, March 13, 2014

Today, We Enter

Flashback a couple hundred years... imagine the scene... a trembling queen... a king with intelligence below average... a wise man... a wicked plot... an enemy...
If you haven't guess, I am talking about Purim.
There are so many themes and concepts that emerge when speaking about Purim... the re-acceptance of Torah... the destruction of Amalek... the necessity for believing in G-d... I am sure you have heard a few... and maybe you have heard this one before, but in trying to make the Torah relevant to my life, I will share with you my thoughts.
In reading the story of Purim, hearing the many retold versions of Mordechai and Esther and most explanations, Achashverosh isn't really portrayed as a smart man. He drinks a lot. He has a hard time thinking for himself. In a moment of rash decision, he executes his wife. He blindly gives over his power to a man with questionable motives. Overall, he is generally seen as a "silly", shikkur and shoddy king.
Esther, the righteous niece/wife/cousin of Mordechai, comes from a rich lineage, a prestigious dynasty of Jewish royalty in their own rite. She becomes queen and by way of Mordechai's harsh rebuke is placed in the devastatingly tricky position of being the sole redeemer of the Jewish people, sentenced to genocide by Haman.
And so, she fasts. She prays to Hashem to save her; Hashem who is hidden throughout the text of this story. She knows that going to Achashverosh uninvited is reason for beheading. She is literally putting her life on the line for her noble and necessary cause of saving the Jewish people.
She prays "Keili Keili..." as she enters the royal chambers of Achashverosh and as she does so, she passes idols on her way "Lama Azavtani??". Her spiritual cleansing and connection that she attained through fasting and prayer vanishes. The protection she had built for herself falls away. And she enters.
Achashverosh raises his scepter and grandly offers up to half his kingdom to the fearful queen!
Fast forward in the text. Esther invites Achashverosh and Haman to a party. Then to a second party. She reveals Haman's plot. Haman is killed. The Jews are saved an can fight back against the genocide incited against them. We sing, dance, drink and eat in celebration. Hooray!
But you knew all this. So why am I telling you this?
I think that we all face an Achashverosh in our life. A situation that feels so formidable and daunting that we are so afraid and just want to get out. We pray. We find it hard to eat. We approach the situation and feel as if Hashem has forsaken us. And then, we look back following the situation and see that the "enemy" or situation we faced wasn't quite so frightening... it really was like approaching a drunk dumb king and... we were never alone. We had the strength we needed all along. G-d was always right there.
I'll admit, it is easy to say "oh, it wasn't so bad" after the fact. But what if we went into every difficulty and thought... "this isn't so bad. Nothing is more powerful than G-d... so any force I face is simply a less threatening version of anything I think because G-d can change things in a moment!"
Just some food for thought...

On a personal note, there was a year in my life where every day literally felt like I was walking into Achashverosh's chamber. I davened and prayed for redemption, for a scepter to be raised towards me in kindness. In took a year for that to happen. Looking back, it was a year of growth. I needed it. I needed to realize that the only One I can rely on G-d, especially when those I am closest to, or trusted the most have forsaken me. Even in my darkest moments, I retained the knowledge and belief that G-d would always do right by me, whether it was the way I thought it would be done or not.

I truly feel that at one point or another, we are all like Esther. We are facing danger. The enemy is all around. And at that moment, the only place to look is up, to G-d.

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