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“If I Perish”

In an article for Tetzaveh (Zachor), 5773, Rabbi Cherki sees the story of Purim as a transfer of authority from Israel to the other nations for the era of the exile.

The Book of Esther (the Megillah) can be viewed in many different ways. The simplest way is to look at it as the story of the transfer of the authority of the nation of Israel and the Shechina (the Divine presence of G-d) from Israel to the nations of the world, through the character of Esther. The text of the Megillah can leave one perplexed. Two good Jews, Mordecai and Esther, put in hard work, but in the end it is written, “For Mordecai the Jew, the viceroy of King Ahasuerus and a great man among the Jews…” [10:3]. Where is Esther? Why has she disappeared from the Megillah?

This idea stands out especially when we take into account Mordecai’s fate. Esther remained with Ahasuerus. From one point of view the story of the Megillah is a personal tragedy for Esther – even though the Megillah is named for her. She disappears from sight completely. Mordecai warned her, “If you are silent now, salvation for the Jews will come from a different place, and you and your father’s house will be lost.” [4:14]. But then what happened in the end? Esther went to the King, begged for the Jews, and they were indeed saved. Not from some other place but as a direct result of her efforts. And in spite of all this, she was lost. As Esther had said, “If I perish, I will perish” [4:16].

It is written, “And Esther put on royal clothing, and she stood in the inner courtyard of the palace” [5:1]. The sages explain, “She put on the royal kingdom of her father’s house.” Her father’s house is the house of King Saul, as is noted earlier in the Megillah. This implies that she took hold of the Kingdom of Yisrael and handed it over to Ahasuerus! This was the price of salvation from the hands of Haman.

This can be seen explicitly in the Talmud: “Rabba Bar Ofran started to discuss this passage from this point…” [Megillah 10a]. In order to explain the Book of Esther, Rabba viewed it as a fulfillment of a verse in the book of Jeremiah, which contains the basic idea of the entire Megillah: “I will put My throne in Eilam, and I will cause king and ministers to be lost from there – this is the word of G-d” [49:38]. Eilam is Persia, and its capital was Shushan. As is written, “I was in the capital Shushan, in the country of Eilam” [Daniel 8:2]. “‘The king’ refers to Vashti, and the ‘ministers’ are Haman and his ten sons.” [Megillah, ibid]. The Maharal explains, “Thus, this was also the reason behind the story of the Megillah. When Israel went into exile and they were under the control of Persia G-d was with them, so that it could be said that His throne was in Eilam, just as before, when the Kingdom of Israel existed, the Divine throne was in Jerusalem. Now we can say that His throne was in Eilam, where Bnei Yisrael lived.

The Holy One, Blessed be He, was in Shushan, the Capital, together with Ahasuerus. The Divine Shechina was imprisoned among the other nations of the world. A truly shocking situation!

This point of view clarifies for us why the joy of Purim is achieved through an excess of intoxicating drinks. The purpose of the drinking is to hide a great secret – that salvation from trouble during a time of exile takes place through hidden actions of the Shechina from within the depths of darkness. This teaches us that the authority of G-d extends to everything in the world.

Source: “AS SHABBAT APPROACHES” – a biweekly column in Shabbat B’Shabbato, Tetzaveh (Zacor) 5773, Volume 1463. (Zomet Institute) See: www.zomet.org.il/eng

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About Rabbi Oury Cherki

Rabbi Oury Cherki
Rav Oury Cherki was born in Algeria in 1959 and grew up in France, and he made Aliyah in 1972. He studied at Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, which was founded by Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. He performed his military service in the artillery branch of the IDF. He studied with Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rav Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi (Manitou), Rav Shlomo Binyamin and Achlag. Rav Cherki heads the Israeli department of Machon Meir, and he is the Director of Brit Olam - the Noahide World Center.He teaches in many places throughout Israel. Rav Cherki is the spiritual leader of the "Beth Yehuda" community in Kiryat Moshe (Jerusalem). He has written many books on Jewish thought and philosophy.

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