This coming Wednesday evening, Feb. 28, we will begin Purim with the reading of the Megillah.
In Chapter 4, as the story begins to turn to Haman’s plot to destroy the entire Jewish people, a dialogue begins between Mordechai and Esther on how to deal with the extremely dangerous situation that the Jewish people find themselves in. Mordechai sends a dire message to Esther in an effort to get her to go to King Achashverosh, although such a move without the invitation of the King could easily cost Esther her life, as the King has decreed that anyone who appears without an invitation risks being killed.
Here is the quote from the Megillah: “And Mordechai said to relay to Esther, ‘Do not think that you will escape [the fate of] all the Jews by being in the king’s palace. For if you will remain silent at this time, relief and salavation will come to the Jews from another source, and you and the house of your father will be lost. And who knows if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position.’ ”
If we break down this message, essentially Mordechai is giving Esther three reasons to risk her life and go to the King immediately:
>> You will have the honor of the Jewish People’s salvation coming through you and your actions.
>> If you don’t do this, you’ll be destroyed even if the rest of the Jewish people are saved.
>> Perhaps this mission is the very reason you were born and brought to greatness.
Now, one would think that if Mordechai is trying to convince Esther, his arguments should increase in strength with each added reason. Why does it seem as if the last reason (this mission might be the reason for your existence) seems to be the weakest of the three?
I would like to answer this question with a story that happened in the 1970s with a man named Abe Saks, who was a coach for the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. One night in 1973, he found himself glued to his television screen watching a series called “Religious America,” which focused on the spiritual lives of different Americans.
That week, the television displayed scenes of Lubavitch life in Crown Heights, Brooklyn: prayers with the Lubavitcher Rebbe; a Chassidic wedding; and the circumcision of an 8-day-old boy. Abe was transfixed. Most of all, he was captivated by the images of the Rebbe himself.
On an impulse, as soon as the show was over Abe caught a train and headed to the address he had seen on the screen, 770 Eastern Parkway, the central synagogue of Lubavitch. He was obviously unable to meet the Rebbe, as that required an advance appointment. However, after doing a bit of quick research, he found out when the Rebbe would walk from his office to the shul each day.
He resolved that he would stop the Rebbe on that short walk and introduce himself. Sure enough, he returned at the appointed time and stood in the Rebbe’s way and blurted out, “Rebbe I am a coach!”
The Rebbe was already a world Jewish leader at the time with countless Chabad Centers around the world, meeting regularly with world leaders, conducting public addresses that would attract thousands of people, etc. One could have easily excused the Rebbe if he would just smile and move on. However, that is not what happened; he turned to Abe and said “You are a coach? I need a coach!” And this began a relationship between Abe and the Rebbe that lasted until Abe’s passing in the mid-1980s.
Following the Rebbe’s directive, when groups of college students came to Crown Heights for an “Encounter” weekend, Abe would, “coach” the students in Judaism. Having been coached himself, he was now able to coach others. And a basketball coach also became a Judaism coach.
The Rebbe’s message to him is that there was a way to use his talents and skills to benefit his brothers and sisters.
This is perhaps what Mordechai is telling Esther as the most powerful message.
There does not need to be a splitting of the sea or manna from heaven to bring G-d’s salvation to you and to the world, just the miracle of you realizing your mission and acting on it. PJC
Rabbi Mendel Rosenblum is the spiritual leader of Chabad of the South Hills. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.