How To Nullify A Decree
The holiday of Purim celebrates the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish
people from a threat of annihilation: the evil plan fomented by Haman
and signed by King Achashveirosh, to "annihilate, kill and destroy all
the Jews," [ 1 ] Heaven forbid.
Both Mordechai, the leader of the Jewish people at that time, and his
relative, Queen Esther, played a central role in nullifying the
dastardly decree. The manner in which they did so is most instructive.
At that time, Mordechai was part of Achashveirosh's court, serving as a
close advisor to the king. [ 2 ]
Moreover, he had recently saved the king's life. [ 3 ] Esther was, of course, Achashveirosh's wife, a
woman the king found "gracious and charming." [ 4 ] Given that the two were so well connected, it
might seem that the first thing to be done to save the Jews would be to
use these connections to try and annul the decree.
Yet, as soon as the decree became known, Mordechai "garbed himself in
sackcloth and ashes and went out to the midst of the city [of Shushan],"
[ 5 ] calling on all Jews to
repent. [ 6 ] Only after doing so
did he instruct Esther to "go to the king, to supplicate him and beseech
him regarding her people." [ 7 ]
Esther conducted herself in a similar fashion. Before seeking an
audience with the king, she conveyed the following message to Mordechai:
[ 8 ] "Go and assemble all the
Jews... fast on my behalf. Do not eat or drink for three days."
Moreover, she said: "I too... shall fast in like manner."
Now, Esther desperately needed to be found appealing to the king,
especially so since her visit would be unauthorized, [ 9 ] and thus fraught with personal danger. [ 10 ] She had not been called into the
king's presence for 30 days. [ 11 ]
So why did she decide to fast for three days - an act that would cause
her to appear much less physically appealing?
The answer is that both Mordechai and Esther realized that the decree
regarding the Jews was the result of improper Jewish behavior. [ 12 ] Since it is abundantly clear
that one cannot nullify an end result (the decree) without first
nullifying the cause (the erroneous Jewish conduct), their first act was
to call Jews to repentance and fasting.
Once the spiritual cause of the decree had been ameliorated through
repentance, and because G-d desires that one act through natural means,
[ 13 ] the two only then went to
Achashveirosh in an attempt to abolish the decree.
Because the appeal to Achashveirosh was thus merely the natural vessel
for the true salvation which came from above, it is understandable that
Mordechai and Esther were not overly concerned by physical appearance or
human diplomatic skill.
The lesson is obvious: There are those who think that during times of
distress, G-d forbid, natural remedies should be the first course of
The story of Purim teaches us that natural means are only a secondary
step; the first step must be to strengthen our bond with G-d by studying
His Torah and performing His mitzvos. Then, and only then, should we
turn to natural means to extricate ourselves from our difficulties.
When we act in this manner, we can be secure in the knowledge that
whatever natural garment we employ will act to convey the supernatural
miracle which is ultimately responsible for getting us out of trouble.
Just as this is so regarding Israel as a whole, so too is it in regard
to individual Jews. Every Jew must know [ 14 ] that he is bound up with G-d, who totally
transcends nature. While G-d's blessing must be clothed in the natural
vessel of human action ("all that you do"), [ 15 ] human activity is, after all, no more than a
garment. The main emphasis must not be on the garment, [ 16 ] but on stimulating G-d's abundant blessings
through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvos.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, pp. 191-193
- Back to text Esther 3:13.
- Back to text See Esther 2:19; Megillah 13a.
- Back to text Esther ibid., verse 21ff.
- Back to text Ibid., 2:17.
- Back to text Ibid., 4:3.
- Back to text Targum Sheini ibid., verse 1.
- Back to text Esther ibid., verse 8.
- Back to text Ibid., verse 17.
- Back to text Ibid., verse 16.
- Back to text Ibid., verse 11.
- Back to text Ibid.
- Back to text See Rambam, Hilchos Taanios 1:2-3.
- Back to text See Devarim 15:18.
- Back to text See Derech Mitzvosecha p. 107ff.; Maamar titled VeYadaata HaYom 5657, et al.
- Back to text Devarim ibid.
- Back to text See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 184 and places cited there.