This week would be Purim, if it were not a leap year in the Hebrew calendar, and we would have read the Megilla. In the Megilla of Esther, Mordechai overhears Bigthan And Terresh plotting secretly against the king. Mordechai reports the plot to Queen Esther who then brings the threat to Ahashuerus’ attention. Ultimately this helps put Esther and Mordechai into a positive power relationship with Ahashuerus.
But the big puzzle is why did Mordechai help save Ahashuerus from this plot. After all, the rabbis teach that Ahashuerus was a bigger hater of Jews than his prime minister, Haman. When Haman broaches his desire to wipe out the Jews and completely fund the whole project from his private treasury — read his stores of graft and bribery — Ahashuerus generously refuses to accept Haman’s money. Instead he graciously agrees to finance the whole project from the royal treasury. Ahashuerus and Haman have the legal documents drawn and sent out to the Empire to get the project moving immediately and then the two good buddies sit down to drink and party.
So why would Mordechai help such a tyrant? Aside from the fact that the king is holding Esther and many other women of the Persian Empire against their wills in his harem, it would seem that if you get rid of Ahashuerus Esther might have a chance of getting free.
Mordechai, however, wisely sees the big picture. If there were a successful assassination that would mean that for a period of time there would be chaos. Such chaos could very easily spin out of control, producing the kind of disorder where countless people are hurt. Even as the rabbis teach in the Pirkei Avot (3:2):
“Pray for the peace and harmony of the government; for if not for the fear of the government people would swallow each other alive.”
Historically, in these situations, Jews always receive the brunt of such unfettered violence. Besides, what guarantee is there that a successor would be friendlier to the Jews? Ahashuerus is a known entity and there is some possibility of an alliance with him; of course, the rest of the Megilla demonstrates that with God’s help and guidance Mordechai and Esther are able to persuade Aahshuerus about the loyalty of the Jews in his empire. Equally as significant, the loyalty of the Jewish people is a function of their dedication and commitment to their Jewish heritage.
As I write these words, the world watches the events in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. What will happen in weeks to come when you read these words, and what ramifications of these events will unfold as the years progress? God only knows. But certainly we all hope and pray that the pursuit of peace and security of all people in the region not be threatened by the potential destabilization of any government.
As the rabbis in the Talmud advocate, I extend a prayer that the leadership of this great country, in which we live freely as Jews, be guided by God’s providence to make the decisions that will promote the best results for the people of Egypt, the Middle East and the nations of the world.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)