Post-Purim Reflections: A Dvar Torah Comic

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Learning from Esther

Harav Aharon Lichtenstein

Adapted by Yitzchak Barth

Translated by Dov Karoll

Many have noted that the megilla we read on Purim is named neither for Mordekhai nor for Achashverosh, but rather for Queen Esther. It seems that the megilla is not called "Megillat Esther" because Esther wrote it, but rather because Esther is the main character in the megilla, and the story of the Jews' salvation is, to a great extent, parallel to the story of her personal development...

(יג) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מָרְדֳּכַ֖י לְהָשִׁ֣יב אֶל־אֶסְתֵּ֑ר אַל־תְּדַמִּ֣י בְנַפְשֵׁ֔ךְ לְהִמָּלֵ֥ט בֵּית־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ מִכָּל־הַיְּהוּדִֽים׃ (יד) כִּ֣י אִם־הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי֮ בָּעֵ֣ת הַזֹּאת֒ רֶ֣וַח וְהַצָּלָ֞ה יַעֲמ֤וֹד לַיְּהוּדִים֙ מִמָּק֣וֹם אַחֵ֔ר וְאַ֥תְּ וּבֵית־אָבִ֖יךְ תֹּאבֵ֑דוּ וּמִ֣י יוֹדֵ֔עַ אִם־לְעֵ֣ת כָּזֹ֔את הִגַּ֖עַתְּ לַמַּלְכֽוּת׃ (טו) וַתֹּ֥אמֶר אֶסְתֵּ֖ר לְהָשִׁ֥יב אֶֽל־מָרְדֳּכָֽי׃ (טז) לֵךְ֩ כְּנ֨וֹס אֶת־כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִ֜ים הַֽנִּמְצְאִ֣ים בְּשׁוּשָׁ֗ן וְצ֣וּמוּ עָ֠לַי וְאַל־תֹּאכְל֨וּ וְאַל־תִּשְׁתּ֜וּ שְׁלֹ֤שֶׁת יָמִים֙ לַ֣יְלָה וָי֔וֹם גַּם־אֲנִ֥י וְנַעֲרֹתַ֖י אָצ֣וּם כֵּ֑ן וּבְכֵ֞ן אָב֤וֹא אֶל־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹֽא־כַדָּ֔ת וְכַאֲשֶׁ֥ר אָבַ֖דְתִּי אָבָֽדְתִּי׃ (יז) וַֽיַּעֲבֹ֖ר מָרְדֳּכָ֑י וַיַּ֕עַשׂ כְּכֹ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־צִוְּתָ֥ה עָלָ֖יו אֶסְתֵּֽר׃ (ס)
(13) Mordecai had this message delivered to Esther: “Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. (14) On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.” (15) Then Esther sent back this answer to Mordecai: (16) “Go, assemble all the Jews who live in Shushan, and fast in my behalf; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens will observe the same fast. Then I shall go to the king, though it is contrary to the law; and if I am to perish, I shall perish!” (17) So Mordecai went about [the city] and did just as Esther had commanded him.

... אבל בסוף ראה האמת כי הכל הוא מחפץ אסתר והמלך עושה מה שהוא רצון אסתר...

...but in the end he saw the truth, that it all came from Esther's will, and the king was doing whatever was Esther's desire…

וּמָה צְנִיעוּת הָיְתָה בְּשָׁאוּל דִּכְתִיב וְאֶת דְּבַר הַמְּלוּכָה לֹא הִגִּיד לוֹ אֲשֶׁר אָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל זָכָה וְיָצָאת מִמֶּנּוּ אֶסְתֵּר וְאָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר כְּשֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא פּוֹסֵק גְּדוּלָּה לְאָדָם פּוֹסֵק לְבָנָיו וְלִבְנֵי בָנָיו עַד סוֹף כׇּל הַדּוֹרוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַיּוֹשִׁיבֵם לָנֶצַח וַיִּגְבָּהוּ (וְגוֹ׳) וְאִם הֵגִיס דַּעְתּוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַשְׁפִּילוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְאִם אֲסוּרִים בַּזִּקִּים וְגוֹ׳

And what was the modesty shown by Saul? As it is written: “But of the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel spoke, he did not tell him” (I Samuel 10:16). Saul expressed his modesty by not revealing Samuel’s promise that he would be king, and thereby merited that Esther would descend from him. Similarly, Rabbi Elazar said: When the Holy One, Blessed be He, assigns greatness to a person, He assigns it to his sons and to his son’s sons for all generations, as it is stated: “He withdraws not his eyes from the righteous; but with kings upon the throne He establishes them forever, and they are exalted” (Job 36:7). And if he becomes arrogant due to this, the Holy One, Blessed be He, lowers him in order to humble him, as it is stated in the next verse: “And if they are bound in chains, and are held in cords of affliction, then He declares unto them their work, and their transgressions, that they have behaved proudly” (Job 36:8–9).

(Bonus Source)

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל וּמֶ֛ה קֽוֹל־הַצֹּ֥אן הַזֶּ֖ה בְּאָזְנָ֑י וְק֣וֹל הַבָּקָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י שֹׁמֵֽעַ׃
“Then what,” demanded Samuel, “is this bleating of sheep in my ears, and the lowing of oxen that I hear?”
דְּלָא קַטְלֵיהּ דָּוִד לְשִׁמְעִי דְּאִתְיְלִיד מִינֵּיהּ מָרְדֳּכַי דְּמִיקַּנֵּי בֵּיהּ הָמָן וּמָה שִׁילֵּם לִי יְמִינִי דְּלָא קַטְלֵיהּ שָׁאוּל לַאֲגָג דְּאִתְיְלִיד מִינֵּיהּ הָמָן דִּמְצַעַר לְיִשְׂרָאֵל
the responsibility of Judah, as David did not kill Shimei, although he was liable to the death penalty. The grave consequences of this failure included that Mordecai was born from him, and it was he against whom Haman was jealous, leading Haman to issue a decree against all of the Jewish people. And how a Benjamite has repaid me is referring to the fact that Saul, who was from the tribe of Benjamin, did not kill the Amalekite king Agag immediately, from whom Haman was later born, and he caused suffering to the Jewish people.

... אך הנה אמרו הנה המצאה גדולה לשתשמע התפלה היא להתפלל איש בעד רעהו כמשז"ל כי המתפלל על חבירו והוא צריך לאותו דבר הוא נענה תחלה הנה תשועתי בבואי אל המלך אשר לא כדת ותשועתכם לאשר שתית' אשר לא כדת באים כאחד שהיא בבואי לפני המלך שצריך למצוא חן להחיותני ולהחיות אתכם ולא יצדק בזה להיות אחד מב' הכתות נענה תחלה על כן צומו עלי ואני עליכם באופן נהיה נענים...

...But behold here they said there's a great inspiration for [the claim that] a prayer that is answered is a prayer one says for his fellow, as it is said/written by [the sages] of blessed memory, one who prays on behalf of his friend and he needs the same thing, he will [ie the one who prayed for his friend] will be answered first. Thus, my salvation will be in my coming before the king in a manner that is not done, and your salvation - for that drinking in a manner that is not done [ie at Ach.'s party] - are coming as one, that is when I come before the king and I need to find favor for him to let me live and for me to help you live, and it would not be right that one of the groups would be answered first. Therefore, you should fast on my behalf, and I will fast on your behalf in a manner such that we will both be answered...