Dvar Torah for Purim


Based on Rabbi Nachman’s Stories: The Master of Prayer

There was once a land of great wealth. All its inhabitants were rich. This land had very strange and unusual customs, since everything was dependent on wealth. A person’s status and rank were determined solely on the basis of his wealth....  Each level of income had a banner associated with it.... If one had x amount of money, he was considered an ordinary human being. If he had less he would be considered a bird or a beast. He could even be considered a harmful animal.... Sometime later the people of this land agreed that if one had enough money he could achieve the rank of “star.” After that, they agreed that with enough money one could be an “angel.” Finally, they agreed to confer the rank of “god,” for if God had granted someone such fantastic wealth then that person himself must be a god.

Rabbi Nachman’s Stories, pp. 283–288


The Jews were in jeopardy and Queen Esther had come up with her plan to save them. The first part of the plan entailed approaching Achashverosh of her own volition (5:1). This was absolutely necessary, for there was no other way that the king could be invited to the party she was planning. Nonetheless, Queen Esther knew she was putting her life on the line. The law was that no one, even the queen, could appear in the throne room without the king’s permission. If one did, he might be allowed in, if he found favor in the king’s eyes. On the other hand, if he didn’t, he would be put to death.

In preparation for entering the king’s presence Queen Esther dressed herself in “royal attire.” Our Sages tell us that this statement means not only that Queen Esther put on particular articles of clothing, but that she enclothed herself with “the holy spirit” (Megillah 14b) and assumed the royal bearing of her ancestors (Bereishis Rabbah 56:1). However, the sole passageway leading to the throne room was lined end–to–end with idols. When she reached it she felt the holy spirit leave her. She cried out: “My God! My God! Why have You abandoned me?” (Megillah 15b). And with that she proceeded.

Now, the stories and episodes of life are life, of course, but they are also parables, masks, if you will, for many lessons. This is true for such exciting and exotic newsworthy events like entering the presence of royalty, and for the hum-drum stuff, like going down to the grocery for a loaf of bread. (In fact, Megillat Esther means not only “The Scroll of Esther,” but also “the revelation of the concealed.”)

There are times in life when each of us knows that to save the Jewish people for whom s/he is responsible, even if only oneself, s/he must approach the King. There are many influences that are menaces to the spirituality of one’s self, spouse, children, community. When faced with these threats one cannot rely on the King to resolve them. After all, He was the one Who allowed the threat to materialize (3:10–11)! And if He wanted to take care of the problem Himself, why did He create you?

So your inner Queen Esther heeds the call. She carefully considers a plan that will sway the King and remove the danger (ibid.). When the time comes to approach the King you don your “royal attire,” you drop the banner of materialism and unearth spirituality that you didn’t know you had. If you feel hesitant or unworthy, you recall your Jewish ancestry and assume your true rank, not the one others would assign to you.

But there’s only one way to get to the King. The passageway that leads to Him is your life. And it is lined end–to–end with “idols.” Some of these are the newsmakers, people who are somehow imbued with an aura of influence that they haven’t earned, like sports stars or movie stars. Some of them are financial “masters of the universe” or “gods” of medicine or some other discipline. Others are the “angels,” benign or otherwise, who populate our lives. We forget that they are God’s messengers, not independent forces. (The Hebrew word for angel is malakh, which also means messenger.)

So, when we are confronted with all these idols the holy spirit leaves. After all, by acknowledging their seeming-power we are rejecting His. But never totally, never finally, never fully. When it dawns on Queen Esther that she must run this gauntlet she opens her mouth and utters an absolutely honest prayer: My God, My God! Why have You abandoned me?! Don’t abandon me, because You, You are my God and none else.

And with that, “she found favor in [the King’s] eyes and He motioned her in” (5:2). She entered, the Jews were spared and the rest is history—and current events.

agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!