Behind the Scenes in the Megillah
“because of what they experienced, and what has happened to them, the Jews confirmed and undertook upon themselves and their posterity, and UPON ALL WHO MIGHT JOIN THEM, to observe these two days, without fail, in the manner prescribed, at the proper time each year. Consequently THESE DAYS SHOULD BE REMEMBERED AND CELEBRATED BY EVERY SINGLE GENERATION, family, province and city; AND THESE DAYS OF PURIM SHOULD NEVER CEASE among the Jews, nor shall their remembrance perish from their descendants.” (Esther 9; 27-28)
I’ve read many commentaries, had some wonderful teachings come across my palate this year while preparing for the Feast of Purim, and as enlightening as all those have been…I suppose the most honor would be rendered to share with you the little rays of light which struck me tonight while engaging of the Mitzvah of hearing the Megillah Esther.
Did the king behead Vashti? Wasn’t she at the very least killed? Even banished? Interestingly the text doesn’t really say much about the fate of the former queen Vashti aside from this:
“Vashti shall never again appear before King Ahasuerus; and let the King confer her royal estate upon another who is better than she.” (1;19)
This afternoon while we swept, mopped and set the table for the Festive Meal my daughter asked, “Was Haman upset that Mordechi didn’t bow down to him because he thought the other Jews would see that he didn’t show him honor and that this would make them brave, that they might do that too?”
It struck me that this could possibly have been a very valid fear of the proud Haman. What an insult it was to him that Mordechai wouldn’t bow down, that he was not afraid of his station or power or the consequence of his failure to appear prostrate before him, even though..
“All the King’s servants at the King’s gate would bow down and prostrate themselves before Haman, for this is what the King had commanded concerning him.” (3;2)
The ego of Haman when Mordechai won’t bow the ego of the King when Vashti refuses to parade herself before a drunken assembly.
Their reactions to these refusals are parallel:
“But Queen Vashti refused to come at the King’s commandment conveyed by the chamberlains; the King therefore became very incensed and his anger burned in him.” (1;12)
“When Haman, himself, saw that Mordechai did not bow down and prostrate himself before him, then Haman was filled with rage.” (3;5)
It is anger but what is interesting is that the King and Haman alike are both fueled and instigated by some outside force. While obsessive and pride filled men…there are counselors near to them, egging on this encouragement of the ego. Who? It’s the Kings servants at the King’s gate who question Mordechai “day after day” until finally they bring Haman there…a man whose substance is surely known, to see for “himself”. It is those “closest to him” who declare before the King…
“this deed of the Queen will come to the attention of all women, making their husbands contemptible in their eyes…” (1;17)
So Haman may have feared that one Jew standing up instead of becoming abject would be the example that would strike the attention of all the people, making him contemptible in their eyes as well…
what comes next? A decree, and letters sent out by couriers and perplexity. The queen once in a state of relative security…the people although exiled, alive and making their way in exile in reasonable constancy. This Hebrew word is very rare and is found only three places in the bible.
“The King and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was bewildered.”
Bewildered-נבוכה- buwk ( book) – from a primitive root; to involve (literally or figuratively).
Why? What is the reason for this so called, bewilderment?
” Letters were sent by courier to all the King’s provinces, to destroy, to slay, and to exterminate all Jews, young and old, children and women, in a single day…and to plunder their possessions.” (3; 13)
HaShem had clearly seen from an ancient path, the very descendants of Haman, the Agagite…from the family of Amalek and what devastation this spirit and line would pose when facing His people.
Deuteronomy 25:17-19 “Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. “Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.”
So we have ego’s at work, an ancient grudge so to speak, and honor one feel’s is due, honor not being paid…honor which seem’s to be the achilles heel which nourishes the factors allowing irrationality to spiral out of control…and once again…someone, behind the scenes, kindling all these elements and fueling them into a blaze. This time it is Zeresh, Haman’s wife.
” Let a gallows be made, and have them hand Mordechai on it. Then, in good spirits, accompany the King to the banquet.” This suggestion pleased Haman, and he had the gallows erected. (5;14)
So as I went through all the connections in my mind, so many to the current events of today with the Prime
Minister of Israel (Benjamin Netanyahu) having just been here in the US for an address in Congress. Tackling the issue of a Persian (Iranian) madman who have sought and declared that Israel is a cancer which should be exterminated and wiped off the map. A man working behind the political and diplomatic stage…building the gallows for us all in the form of nuclear weapons. Netanyahu, a type of Esther pleading his case before the ‘power’ of the world arena…a man who is not shy about his faith in HaShem does not even mention G-d once. Esther is the book where G-d’s name is not mentioned once. But as we see, His work is ever present, active and functioning all throughout.
So I considered what is being illuminated here after all? What theme? Let’s go on…
The King being informed about the Gallows. Esther, has been hiding her true identity all this time, after the decree of “destroy, slay and exterminate” the Jews was sent forth she arranges the series of banquets where she appeals to Haman’s self-worth, and hopes to entreat the King in such a way as to reverse his hand in the evil meant for her people. After revealing herself to the King and advancing her case against Haman we find another instance of someone, behind the scenes in the opportune place and time to make something known, bring something to light:
“Then Harbondah, one of the chaimberlains in attendance of the King, said, “Furthermore, the fifty-cubit-high gallows which Haman made for Mordechai- who spoke good for the King- is standing in Haman’s house.” And the King said, “Hang him on it.” (7;9)
Esther’s voice behind the scenes of course is Morchechai, reminding her of her responsibility and of the truth which remains for all those who hold fast to the God of Jacob, the Maker of heaven and earth:
” Do not imagine that you will be able to escape in the King’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from some other place, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position!” (4;13-14)
All this time we have seen these voices and players working in the background, they are manipulating their accomplice and it seems to be their own desires which are being filled, most often for a horrific reality which is shaped by their wicked counsel. Even that of the Chamberlain Harbondah ends in the hanging of Haman and his ten sons, while measure for measure it is still the extinguishing of beings created in the image of G-d expiring and that is not something we should ever celebrate.
Mordechai is the good counselor behind the scenes whose voice is a stark and patient, just and loving influence over Esther. He reminds her who she is and will always be, behind the Mask of Esther she is Hadassah and she will never forget her abandonment of her people if that is the choice she makes…he also imparts to her the remembrance of HaShem…His promise to His people is lasting and can not be annulled by the swiftest of riders or most powerful enveloping decrees, Mordechai knows that suffering is only for a time and the G-d will redeem His people if not now, then in another generation. Mordechai also reminds her of His sovereignty and placing her life in the position to make this choice. To be queen for her people or to hide in her royal robes and watch them be plundered.
The other thing that truly struck me is the urgency. It is an urgency I feel in my bones…for such a time as THIS. Esther, with the signet ring of the King, writes out the decree’s that will allow the Jewish people to defend themselves. As the enemies of Israel close in on her and all her neighbors seek to destroy her, while Jew’s in Paris are spit on as they walk down the street and some Churches in America are aligning themselves with the Boycott of Israeli goods and even the outward opposition of them building in Jerusalem, slaughters in Synagogues and shootings in newspapers deli’s, vehicular terror and mass beheading’s – I believe it will be our turn to swiftly ride out with the truth about the face of evil, the just place Israel and the Jewish people…warring the spirit of Haman, Amalek, the Evil one and to do so imperatively. That we should be the voice of reason and good counsel in such a time as THIS.
“He sent letters by couriers on horseback, riders of swift mules bred of mares, to the effect that the King had permitted the Jews of every single city to organize and defend themselves…The couriers, riders of swift mules, went forth in urgent haste by order of the King, and the edict was distributed…” (8;10-11, 14)
Our work behind the scenes may go unnoticed by man, undocumented in the scrolls of history, but if we do choose to remain silent and stagnant…our deeds will certainly not go unpunished.
There is no better way to end this than the beautiful prayers for after the Megillah is read.
I pray that you will be strengthened and blessed in all the work that you do, that each one of us will stand up for what is right and listen to the voice of HaShem Whose Spirit is our Good Counsel. That the wicked and evil forces meant to destroy us ALL are abated, conquered and demolished forever.
Blessed are You Lord our God King of the universe,
God who takes up our grievance,
judges our claim,
avenges our wrong;
Who brings just retribution upon all the enemies of our SOUL and exacts vengeance for us from our foes.
Blessed are You,Lord our God, Who exacts vengeance for HIs people Israel from all their foes,
The God Who brings Salvation.
Who balked the counsel of the nations and annuled the designs of the cunning,
when a wicked man stood up against us, a wantonly evil branch of Amalek’s offspring.
Haughty with his wealth he dug himself a grave, and his very greatness snared him in a trap.
Fancying a trap, he became entrapped; attempting to destroy, he was swiftly destroyed.
Haman showed his forebears’ enmity, and aroused his brotherly hate [of Esau] on the children.
He would not remember Saul’s compassion, that through his pity on Agag the foe was born.
The wicked one conspired to cut away the righteous, but the impure was trapped in the pure one’s hands.
Kindness overcame their father’s error, and the wicked one piled sin on sins.
In his heart he hid his cunning thoughts, and devoted himself to evildoing.
He stretched out his hand against God’s holy ones, he spent his silver to destroy their memory.
When Mordechai saw the wrath commence, and Haman’s decrees be issued in Shushan,
He put on sackcloth and bound himslef in mourning, decreed a fast and sat on ashes:
“Who would arise to atone for error, to gain forgiveness for our ancestors’ sins?”
A blossom blossomed from a lulav branch- behold! Hadassah stood up to arouse the sleeping.
Her servants hastened Haman, to serve him wine of serpents poison.
He stood tall through his wealth and toppled through his evil- he built gallows on which he was hung.
The earth’s inhabitants opened their mouths, for Haman’s lot became our Purim.
The righteous man was saved from the wicked’s hand; the foe was substituted for him.
They undertook to establish Purim, to rejoice in every single year.
You noted the prayer of Mordechai and Esther; Haman and his sons You hung on the gallows.
The rose of Jacob was cheerful and glad, when hey jointly saw Mordechai robed in royal blue.
You have been their eternal salvation, and their hope throughout generations.
To make known that all who hope in You will not be shamed;
nor ever be humiliated those taking refuge in You.