Stop Saving Judaismby Rabbi Jacob Rupp March 1, 2019
We were facing complete destruction—our entire nation was to be wiped off the face of the earth in a single day. The plot of Haman was different than the Holocaust, which was a grueling, many-year process that at its zenith was still limited in scope to the Jews of Europe.
The jurisdiction of King Ahasuerus was 142 kingdoms, which was the entire civilized world. So, our destruction would be complete. There was nowhere to run. And it wouldn’t be a long process; every one of us would be slaughtered on a single day.
When faced with the enormity of such a situation, imagine the good fortune, the ultimate trump card, of Queen Esther being Jewish. The Talmud relates that it wasn’t clear if all of the Jews or just Mordechai knew Esther’s Jewish origin, but either way there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel.
Imagine how you would approach Esther if you were him. How much reverence would you show? How much would you beg her? How much glory and honor would you say awaited her if she’d just stand up and risk her life to save her people?
But instead, Mordechai said this to Esther: “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 you fathers house will perish. And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position.”(Megillas Esther 4:13-14)
Shocking. Mordechai had no doubt that the Jews would be saved. But he was sure that if Esther didn’t seize the opportunity to do what she could, her destruction was assured.
Let’s start at the top. If Esther didn’t do her part, the Jews would still be saved. Somehow. The Jews are an eternal people, a promise stated by G-d to Abraham that we are liter- ally indestructible. In Genesis, He is explicit that there would never be the need for a new covenant (another word for covenant is testament), and that we would be his people forever. From Pharaoh to ISIS, the total destruction of the Jewish race is an impossibility.
Not to say people haven’t tried. This one prophecy has been tested more than any others. But as we say on Passover, “In every generation they try to wipe us out and G-d saves us from their hand.” Despite all the pogroms, Holocausts, anti-Semitism, and the statistic impossibility that over the thousands of years we, a tiny people exiled from our homeland, survived the wars, the assimilations, cultural migrations, etc., I’m still here writing this article and you’re still here reading it. And all that was guaranteed thousands of years ago. Go figure.
So, what was Mordechai telling Esther? It’s not up to you to save Judaism or the Jewish people. We don’t need saving. Rather it’s up to you to recognize that if you don’t do your best efforts to put yourself on the line to help your nation, you will lose out, not the nation. It harkens back to a conversation I had with a friend in college. He came to me during those awkward and difficult days when I was the crazy frat guy experimenting with Orthodox Judaism, and like many, threw down the gauntlet of questions that I wouldn’t be able to answer until years later. He told me to convince him not to marry his non-Jewish girlfriend. He had made a careful calculation that even if he didn’t think his kids would be
Jewish, it was worth it because he was only one guy and he didn’t think it was fair to ask him to give up true love to save Judaism.
First of all, never try to convince anyone of anything. It never works. I had enough sense not to try that. But the above quoted passage is what to consider as a response to my friend. Judaism will never die because of anyone’s decisions. And trying to save Judaism by changing it, or broadening what it allows also won’t help, because Judaism was never in danger and so it never had to be altered. But what does happen is that when we don’t see ourselves as having the power and the obligation to strengthen ourselves and live the lives that G-d in the Bible lays out for us, it is us and our descendants who wind up finding ourselves removed from this ancient and holy religion.
And finally, Mordechai shared that maybe this moment was why everything had happened to Esther. She never wanted to be queen. She was snatched from the peace of her home by an evil and disgusting despot and put into a role and life she didn’t want. Think more “Game of Thrones” than Cinderella here. The king was a wicked man and Esther was a holy woman. But Mordechai told her that despite being put in what seemed like a horrific situation, it was this very situation that could be her greatest opportunity. This was her moment. A famous life coach named Tony Robbins sums this up; Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. When you see yourself as a victim, there’s always room to be bitter, even if you are a queen. If you see the things in your life, no matter how hard they are, as potential opportunities to grow or help others, greatness and success are the only outcomes that follow.