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A Major Player

By Rabbi Label Lam

Why did Esther invite Haman, of all people to dine with her and King Achashverosh at the party? Here she had one silver bullet to save the entire Jewish People. She had risked her life to approach the king. The entire Jewish Nation had been fasting on her behalf for three days. Then she invited Haman the wicked oppressor of the Jews as the chaperone to her party? Would you or I have done such a thing?

Amongst the many reasons the Talmud tells us she had in mind is so “the Jewish People should not say that we have a daughter in the house of the king and their minds will become diverted from seeking mercy!” What does this mean?

We learn about the original battle with Amalek that when Moshe’s hands were raised that they were effective in their war efforts. However, when Moshe’s hands were down, then the battle with Amalek began to fail. The Mishne in Rosh HaShana asks if we are to believe that the hands of Moshe were the determining factor in success or failure? No! When Moshe’s hands were raised, though, the eyes of the Jewish People were vaulted to the heavens and their swords became disproportionately more powerful. When his hands were down then each was left to the limited power their sword alone and they began to falter.

Esther was concerned lest the people who had fasted so long on her behalf rely upon her. When they would get word that she had successfully reached the King, they might become prematurely jubilant. She understood that she had only been able to pass that giant hurdle because she was representing the fervent hopes of an entire nation. As an individual and under normal circumstances she should have been rejected entirely if not executed. Now she appeared in a weakened state after having fasted for three days herself. For sure she must have been having a bad a hair day and still she outshone all the wannobees. Miraculously she found grace in the eyes of the King.

This could only have happened in the merit of all that prayer. The greatest danger now would be if she would be abandoned, to be alone without her people’s prayer. She would be as ineffective as one of those swords with the hands of Moshe down. What would prop up the hands of Moshe now?

She therefore sought to portray herself as having betrayed them in the end. When they would perceive that she was consulting with Haman they would assume that she’s cutting a deal to save herself. Then the desperation of their outcry would grant the final burst of heavenly energy necessary to vanquish the beast.

The Chovos Levavos states in his introduction to the Gates of Trust a three part principle that may help crystallize the dynamic at play here. 1) It is impossible for a person to be free from worry unless he or she relies on HASHEM because 2) Someone who does not rely on HASHEM is by definition relying on something or someone else and 3) HASHEM leaves the person in the hands of that on which they are relying.

What does it mean to rely on something? Didn’t the Jewish people use real swords versus Amalek? Didn’t they send Esther to do their bidding? Perhaps we can draw a standard from the laws of prayer where we are told that one should not lean on anything when praying, not even a lectern. What is considered leaning on something? One should estimate if that thing would suddenly be removed, would he become destabilized?

Esther understood that if they would lean upon her too heavily then, since we are left in the hands of whatever we trust, she was fearful not to spare her reputation but rather her nation. A sword alone is just a sword, and even the most articulate lobbyist may be just another solo voice ignored. However, with the prayers of a nation blowing wind in her sails, a delicate agent may yet become a major player.

Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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