Contributed by: R. Yaacob Savdie
We make hundreds of them each day- from minor details such as what to eat, wear to life altering decisions. What should we prioritize when we are faced with life's difficult decisions? The story of Purim is replete with examples of individuals whose system of values enabled them to make decisions that helped Am Yisrael survive one of its toughest moments. The decisions of the heroes of the story, Mordechai & Esther, serve as a paradigm for all Jews who live throughout periods of galut.
"Now when Mordecai knew all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry; and he came even before the king's gate; for none might enter within the king's gate clothed with sackcloth." (Esther 4:1-2)
Mordechai's behavior here seems irrational. Mordechai's intention in coming to the king's gate was to notify Esther of the impending doom facing Am Yisrael (on account of Haman's new decree). Mordechai was well aware that nobody wearing sackcloth would be allowed access through the gate. Why then did he put on sackcloth before he went to the gate?!
R' Eliezer Ashkenazi offers an amazing insight. When Mordechai heard of Haman's evil decree, he decided to battle on two fronts; the heavenly & the worldly. He would seek heavenly assistance and devise a plan to defeat Haman using Esther's intervention. The decision to be made was which should come first. Which was of a higher priority? Mordechai decided that it was more important to seek heavenly assistance first. Therefore, Mordechai preceded his visit to the gate with sackcloth, fasting and prayer, "continuing with the profession of his forefathers" (Yosef Lekah on the Megillah).
Mordechai was following the model set by Yaakob Abinu. As Yaakob was preparing to meet Esav (an ancestor of Haman) he prepared on various fronts. Yaakob's first priority was to pray to Hashem to save him from the hands of Esav. Only then did he prepare the gift for Esav.
As the story unfolds Esther is faced with a similarly difficult decision. Esther has accepted to see Ahashverosh in three days " a potentially life threatening experience. She commands Mordechai to gather all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for three days. She hoped that the merit of Am Yisrael's fasting and repenting would stand to help her find favor in the eyes' of Ahashverosh. In this case, the decision to be made was if she should also fast. Perhaps she should refrain from fasting because she wouldn't look pleasing to Ahashverosh, and he might have her killed.
Esther chose to continue in the paths of our ancestors and said: "I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16) Esther prioritized heavenly assistance and put her full faith in Hashem. This selfless act began the chain of events that ultimately led to the miraculous salvation from the hands of Haman Harasha.
Each and every day we are faced with choices.
In business- Should we follow the Halacha and conduct ourselves with ethics and morals or do whatever it takes to make a dollar?
In our homes: Should we toil and sacrifice to ensure our children are getting the right values or focus our energies on other pursuits?
In religious worship & study- Should waking up, praying, & devoting time to Torah study be our first priority or should we do them when we get a chance?
The decisions made in the Megillah by Mordechai & Esther should be our guide. The path set out by Yaakob Abinu our model. Matters of heaven must come first!
Only then will we merit seeing the ultimate and final redemption bimhera beyamenu Amen!