| Fundamentals |

The Road to Redemption 

             The Megillah presents a road map to our redemption



first glance, Megillas Esther appears to be a whimsical story of palace intrigue and political maneuvering with a colorful cast of characters. However, there is much more here than meets the eye.

As is well known, Hashem’s name is not mentioned in the Megillah, for it is up to us to discover His involvement in the story and by extension within our lives. Rav Avraham Rivlin shlita, in Hastarim B’Esther, points to a less frequently discussed omission. Despite their centrality to Judaism, Eretz Yisrael and the Beis Hamikdash are also not directly mentioned in the Megillah. (Yerushalayim is mentioned, but only as a reference point.) The Jews had been in Persia following the exile, and Rav Rivlin suggests that these holy places were beginning to fade from Jewish consciousness, which was representative of their veering away from the Torah.

The Megillah provides subtle allusions to these holy places beginning with the opening perek. Achashveirosh throws a lavish six-month long party that features luxurious decor, and then hosts another weeklong celebration for the residents of Shushan, many of whom are Jews. The change of trop to that of the trop of Megillas Eichah when describing the table settings is to tune our ear to the tragic irony of the Jewish attendance at this party, as it alludes to the golah from Yerushalayim. According to Chazal, the words v’keilim mikeilim shonim, vessels that were varied (Esther 1:7), hints to Achashveirosh using the plundered vessels from the Beis Hamikdash (Megillah 12a). Achashveirosh was celebrating the 70-year deadline of the Jewish exile, which, according to his miscalculations, had come and gone. The Jews had still not rebuilt the Beis Hamikdash and this was cause for celebration. Incredibly, the Jews of Shushan participate in the party showcasing and celebrating their exile and the fall of their own Beis Hamikdash!

Chazal have pointed to many examples throughout the Megillah of Achashveirosh’s obsession with preventing the Jews from rebuilding the Beis Hamikdash. He cleverly created an atmosphere of intoxicating comfort and luxury to lure the collective Jewish psyche from Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdash. Many easily fell into this trap. The Ben Ish Chai (Esther 4:16) states that for many, their disengagement from the Jewish capital was so strong that they actually forgot Yerushalayim and were not pained by the Churban. The trop of Eichah used when describing the vessels at the party gives voice to the city bereft of its inhabitants as well as its holy artifacts. Recall the words of Eichah (1:7) “Yerushalayim remembers the days of her affliction; all the treasures that were in the days of old.” Thus, we ask: Do the Jews of Shushan recall as well?

The Jewish community’s seeming apathy about their state of exile is contrasted with Mordechai’s anguish over his community’s indifference. The Megillah’s introduction of Mordechai is the only instance in the entire Megillah where Yerushalayim is mentioned — as a reference to his place of origin. “A Jewish man lived in Shushan, the capital, and his name was Mordechai, son of Yair, son of Shimi, son of Kish, a Benjaminite. [Here, the trop changes to that of Eichah.] He had been exiled from Yerushalayim in the group of exiles that was carried into exile along with King Yechonyah of Yehudah, which had been driven into exile by King Nevuchadnetzar of Babylon (Esther 2:5-6).” Rav Rivlin points out that the root word gimmel, lamed, hei (galah, exile) is used four times within one pasuk.

Mordechai, who was unsuccessful in his attempts to dissuade his compatriots from attending the royal party, but who later succeeded in bringing about a spiritual awakening in the nation, is not described as Mordechai the leader, Mordechai the learned, or even Mordechai the tzaddik (although his greatness is hinted to by the use of the word “ish”). He is referred to as Mordechai the exiled, who was pained at the eviction of his people from their land. Rav Rivlin suggests that Mordechai’s deep connection to Eretz Yisrael and his mourning over the galus is the very aspect that contributes to his essence as a righteous leader.

Mordechai personified the idea of “Im eshkachech Yerushalayim, tishkach yemini — if I forget thee, Yerushalayim, let my right hand be forgotten (Tehillim 137:5).” Could the word “yemini,perhaps be an allusion to Mordechai, who is identified as an Ish Yemini? If I forget thee, Yerushalayim, then my essence as Yemini is forgotten as well. Shevet Binyamin has a particular connection to Eretz Yisrael. Binyamin was the only one of the shevatim to be born in Eretz Yisrael. In addition, the Beis Hamikdash straddles the portion of Yehudah and Binyamin, with the Kodesh Hakodoshim within the portion of Binyamin.


Esther’s Zechus

As the story continues and the Jews are faced with a royal decree of annihilation, Esther dares to enter the king’s chamber unannounced, an act punishable by death, to influence policy. Esther declares, “V’ka’asher avadati, avadati — if I am to perish, then I will perish (Esther 4:16).” Again, the haunting notes of Eichah are used, reminding us of the potential disaster for Esther personally and the Jewish nation collectively. Those notes shift our focus back to Yerushalayim once again.

“Vayehi bayom hashlishi vatilbash Esther malchus, v’taamod bachatzar beis hamelech hapnimis — On the third day, Esther donned royal clothing and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace (Esther 5:1).” The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah) makes an association between Esther’s “third day” and the “third day” of Avraham Avinu’s journey to the Akeidah. “She wore the royal clothing of her ancestor’s household. By what merit [did Esther succeed in her mission on the third day]? ...Rabbi Levi said: It was due to the merit of the third day of Avraham our Patriarch, as it is stated: ‘On the third day, Avraham lifted his eyes and saw the place from a distance.’ ”

Avraham sees “the place from a distance” on his third day as he is about to engage in a monumental act of sacrifice. Perhaps Esther as well envisions that place Avraham saw from afar, Har HaMoriah, the site of the Akeidah and of the future Beis Hamikdash. Drawing on the strength of her Forefather Avraham, Esther engages in her personal “Akeidah.”

Rashi tells us that Esther’s outer royal clothing is a reflection of her inner world, where she receives ruach hakodesh. Rav Rivlin points to the Zohar that places Esther figuratively within the Beis Hamikdash itself. Physically, she is in the palace of Achashveirosh, but spiritually and emotionally, she transports herself to the holiest of places. The Makom Hamikdash is the nerve center of the nation and it is that energy she reflects as she prays for personal and national salvation.


Toward Redemption

At the end of the Megillah, the decree of annihilation was averted, but the Jews remained in exile. However, their focus shifts toward Yerushalayim. The events of the Megillah are part of the final stages that lead to the building of the second Beis Hamikdash. It’s the joy of moving closer to geulah that is at the heart of the Purim celebration.

The Megillah is a roadmap to redemption. We discover Hashem within our lives as well as our connection to the mekomos hakedoshim that Hashem has gifted us. We may be in our G-d-given land, or we may be physically distant, yet the collective Jewish heart should constantly identify with and yearn for Eretz Yisrael, Yerushalayim, and the future Beis Hamikdash.

May we be zocheh to experience those holy places fully rebuilt in our time.


Mrs. Aviva Orlian lives in Monsey, NY and has been delivering women’s shiurim for the past 25 years. She is also a practicing speech-language pathologist.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 886)

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