Michael Laitman
Founder and president of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute

Lessons in Unity from the Book of Esther for Today’s Divided World

Anyone following the news might be wondering whether the world has gone mad. Society seems to have become more divided than ever, antisemitism is soaring, and morbid headlines have become commonplace.

Knowing there is a disease, however, is half of its cure. But in an age of fake news, fabricated views influence public opinion more than reality. In the Book of Esther, this chaotic state is expressed by the phrase, “the city of Shushan is perplexed.”

Echoing ancient struggles, contemporary society finds itself grappling with competing ideologies. However, the endless finger-pointing is futile, and we would be much wiser to seek the root cause of our turmoil: the unabated human egoistic nature that tears away at our societal fabric.

Egoistic desires, which make us want to enjoy at the expense of others, drive actions that lead to discord and strife. In the language of the Book of Esther, this egoistic force is the cursed Haman, which serves to break apart our network of connections. Yet, amid this chaos, there exists a path to unity, which the figure of Mordecai represents. By rising above conflicts and embracing collective well-being, we can rise above the divisive egoistic forces.

Haman is the egoistic force that separates us from each other. It is the force that makes us adhere to our own opinion over anyone else’s, and which urges us to fight for it to control and prevail.

Opposite Haman stands Mordecai, a seemingly one-sided and weak figure, but one who holds the method of positive human connection that can bring about a harmonious and peaceful life for all. Mordecai recognizes the confusion that grips the Shushan residents. He understands that as long as the human network of connections is based on egoism, and as long as the people are enslaved to Haman, a slight fluctuation is enough to collapse the flimsy house of cards that humanity has built.

Mordecai decides to act and calls for everyone to apply a single rule: to rise above their divisiveness, to not become swept up into Haman’s deceptive temptations, and to construct a united society above all divisions. The method of connection that Mordecai advocates is in fact the same method that has always united the Jewish people, as it is written, “as one man with one heart.”

Haman, however, does not give up easily to Mordecai. He orders the elimination of all Jews and forbids their following Mordecai’s path of unification. Why? It is because Mordecai’s approach counters Haman’s. Since the first formation of the Jews as the people of Israel under Abraham, it has been the same tendency that has united them—“love your neighbor as yourself”—and even if it is dormant, their unifying potential can be awakened.

Haman wants to eradicate what the Jews stand for: the attitude of true happiness as stemming only from positive connections, where love dwells in the human network. When King Ahasuerus authorizes Haman to eliminate the Jews, Mordecai turns to Esther and asks for her help. Esther replies to him, “Go and gather all the Jews.”

She requests Mordecai to gather the Jews, that they fast together for three days, and then she can appeal to the king on their behalf. For three days, the Jews strive to rise above the ego, but doing so is beyond individual human strength. In the end, however, their power of unity manages to save them from death.

We can see how the Book of Esther plays out in today’s world. It is enough to look at Jews around the world to learn a lesson. Predatory competition in many fields of life accompanies Haman’s approach of desiring excessive self-benefit at the expense of others. Seemingly, it seems like a winning recipe, to find one’s happiness by achieving personal gains in money, honor and power. Mordecai’s approach—the motion for positive human connection and the love of others—is viewed as an ineffective approach, even naïve, for our times.

So far, it seems as if Haman is ahead. Jews, whether in Israel or in the diaspora, flourish in various corporeal fields, whether in finance, business, sports, the media, politics, science, technology and medicine, to name a few. Instead of developing love beyond the corporeal desires, we find ourselves excelling in Haman’s climate of the survival of the fittest individual thriving in the world. In such a culture, there seems to be no place to discuss connection and love for others in a way that is not just lip service, because it seems as if such values no longer fit the big egoistic desires we have today.

We Jews, however, whether or not we know it, hold the method of connection that can lead humanity to a harmonious and peaceful life. It is a method based on building bonds of love between people. If we remain isolated, each one in their own personal cell of self-interest, we will never gain access to the true goodness and abundance that surrounds us. With such a dependence on Jews, who currently have no awareness of their potential, does humanity have any hope for a good new life? The answer is yes, and in the language of the Book of Esther, this hope presents itself as Queen Esther.

Esther takes her place in the story little by little, quietly and secretly. She represents the new desire for positive connection and love that the Jews need to develop among themselves. At the moment, Esther, as her name suggests (“Esther” in Hebrew comes from the word for concealment, “Hastara”), is in hiding. Unity seems irrelevant in today’s overblown egoistic world. Whether in humanity at large or among Jews in particular, no one today thinks of loving others as oneself as a practical method for success.

However, no one has the potential to raise their heads to perform the pioneering unifying role in the world other than us, the Jews. It was through us that the principles of positive human connection, mutual guarantee and love of others, i.e., a love that spans different peoples and cultures, entered the world. That is why we are those who should serve as an example and model for their implementation today.

If we fail to fulfill our role in the human puzzle, the world will continue turning against us. We will be blamed for myriad crimes and shortcomings, often without any apparent logical reasons, but common to all accusations is an innate call for us to wake up and act. Waves of antisemitism the likes of which have been unseen since the 1930s, calls for an international boycott of Israel, the deterioration of the attitude of Europe and the United States toward us, have but one purpose: to hasten Jewish unity, thereby making us realize our unifying role in the world, and advancing humanity to its next more unified state of development.

While today’s cultural climate makes unity seem like a distant and naïve phenomenon, there is indeed still a place for Esther’s famous command to Mordecai, that the solution to our dire situation is to unite above our divisive drives. Although it seems impossible today that anyone would wish to concede themselves for the sake of others, we need to decide together that we prefer connection, unification, consideration and mutual guarantee over division, hatred and predatory competition.

Moreover, it is not enough that we wake up to ideas of unity only in times of trouble. We need to learn and implement the ways to positive connection in our day-to-day lives as well. Despite the many seeming legitimate differences and disputes in opinion, we must learn to develop bonds of love. We need to wake up to the feeling of ourselves as living in a single family, and appreciate how our differences enrich and enliven our connection, similar to how different kinds and colors of flowers enliven a bouquet, or different kinds of vegetables and spices mixed together make a salad richer and tastier. We need to learn how the strongest opinion is the one where we rise above our individual differences in a common unity. We should not cancel our differences in opinion, but connect above them.

As a nation that should stand for unity and love, to serve as “a light unto the nations,” if we form a common desire for such unification, we will provide the world with an example of a model society. None of us can do it alone, but together it is possible. Purim is the name of this situation before us. If we hang the ego that separates us on the tree, which is represented by hanging Haman and his ten sons in the Purim story, and ride the importance of unity and the love of others over our selfish desires, which is represented by Mordecai riding the horse through Shushan at the story’s end, we will be able to realize our role as a conduit of unity and love above differences, enabling humanity with such an exalted ability.

About the Author
Michael Laitman is a PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah. MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics. Founder and president of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute. Author of over 40 books on spiritual, social and global transformation. His new book, The Jewish Choice: Unity or Anti-Semitism, is available on Amazon:
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