This past weekend, the Thornhill Jewish community had the privilege of hearing from Charlie Harary, who spoke at the NCSY/Torah High dinner Friday night, and then again at the Aish Thornhill Community Shul Shabbat morning. Just wanted to send you a little bit of inspiration, an idea he shared. It goes something like this: Every Jewish hero, when they’re first mentioned in the Tanach, you know they’re destined for greatness. Avraham- Hashem tells speaks to him and tells him to go for himself to a land He will show him. Yitzchak- After decades of not having kids, Avraham and Sarah have a child. HaKadosh Baruch Hu tells Avraham to sacrifice Yitzchak. In the end, Yitzchak is saved at the last second, and g-d reiterates his promise that the Jewish people will be a great nation through Yitzchak. Yaakov- He’s the righteous brother, sitting in his tent studying with Yitzchak. Yosef- He’s Yaakov’s favourite, and gets sold into slavery. Moshe- His family evades Pharaoh’s evil decree, puts him in a basket in the Nile, and he’s saved and taken in by Pharaoh’s daughter. The pattern’s pretty consistent. When it comes, to Esther however, that’s where we veer from the path. When the Megillah first details Esther’s character, we are told that her parents died, so she was raised by her uncle Mordechai, and whatever Mordechai told her to do, she did. Doesn’t quite sound like the Wonder Woman that saves our people that she becomes. So what changed?
Mordechai says to Esther, “יד כִּי אִם-הַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי, בָּעֵת הַזֹּאת–רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר, וְאַתְּ וּבֵית-אָבִיךְ תֹּאבֵדוּ; וּמִי יוֹדֵעַ–אִם-לְעֵת כָּזֹאת, הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת.” “If you keep silent at this time, in this crisis, relief and salvation will come to the Jews from another source, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, if it was for this moment that you were crowned the queen.” Besides the obvious implications of such a powerful message, one thing, in particular, jumps out. Esther lost both her parents. Mordechai saying that her father’s lineage will die, isn’t that a pretty low blow? Not at all, if you think a little deeper. On the simple level, if Esther says nothing, the Jews will be saved in some other way, Esther will stay married to the king, assimilate, and her family will be lost forever. But, when we dig a little deeper, it’s even more impactful.
Mordechai and Esther come from the tribe of Binyamin. They’re direct descendants of Rachel Immeinu. Mama Rachel, the quintessential Jewish mother, a true Jewish hero. Rachel was raised by men of deceit. Her father cheated and fooled whoever came his way. Rachel’s mother passed away when she was but a small child. Somehow, she still managed to grow into a refined and charming woman. After working for seven years to marry her, Yaakov was “tricked” into marrying Leah. The Midrash tells us that in a selfless act of love, Rachel taught her sister the private signals that she and her betrothed, Yakkov had arranged. Jacob, of course, eventually discovered the deception. As great as this act of sacrifice was, Rachel would perform yet a greater one. Years later, Rachel gave birth to her second son, Binyamin. It was a difficult childbirth, one that Rachel sacrificed her life for. Our matriarchs were buried in a hallowed cave in the hills of Hebron, Me’arat Hamachpela alongside their husbands As Jacob’s primary, and most beloved wife, it was within her rights to be buried beside her husband in place of Leah, but that didn’t happen.
Mordechai was “being Esther’s mirror”. When he said that her father’s house would perish, Mordechai was essentially saying, “Do you know who you are? Do you know where you come from? You have it in you”. At that moment, Esther realized the greatness she had inside of her, and at that moment was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice and give up her life for the sake of saving the Jewish people. Esther was not a meek and passive individual as she was perceived to be. Mordechai knew that she had it in her all along. All he had to do was show her.