Online Torah

Back to Shiurim List

What Lies Beneath the Surface?

By: Michael Unterberg

Megillat Esther reveals as much as it conceals, hiding deep meaning behind the mask of a fun story. Even the name of the holiday is mysterious. Is Haman’s lottery for picking the date for genocide really so important?

Perhaps some explanation lies at a turning point in the megillah.

In chapter 4, Mordechai asks Esther to go to Ahashverosh to get the decree changed. Esther demures, explaining that entering the chamber without being summoned is punishable by death, and she has not been summoned in 30 days. Is she worried that she has lost favor with the king? Or does she think her turn will come up soon and she’ll be summoned in the near future, which would remove the danger.

Mordechai does not want her to wait, although there are 11 months till the decree will take place. Perhaps he is worried about mounting antisemitism between the arrival of the decree and the actual implementation. Regardless, if he wants Esther to rush in, he should tell her that the fate of the Jews is resting on her shoulders. But he says the opposite!

4:14 - “...if you keep silent at this moment, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows if you have attained a royal position for just such a crisis.”

Why would he tell her that if she does nothing the Jews will be saved?! Won’t this demotivate her from risking her life?

Maybe his message is the key to understanding the holiday. G-d has a plan for the Jewish people that we can rely on. We know that we may face dark times, but He won’t let us be destroyed. But what method will He use to save us? Perhaps that is left by Him to our free will. Individuals get to choose if they want to be the hero of the story, and actively make His will become reality. Of course, we can stand by and watch without participating. Or, we can even, like Haman, try to thwart His will, although this will only advance His agenda further anyway.

Yes, you can stand on the sidelines, Mordechai tells Esther. But why would you do that?? He put you in the position where you could execute the plan! Go go go! It's a deeply Zionist message. A very basic idea in Religious Zionism. Whatever you think ratzon Hashem is - do it. Be part of the team that makes it so. Be the protagonist the story of His grand design.

Of course, the story is driven by both the protagonist and the antagonist. From this meta-perspective, there is no difference between Haman and Mordechai. Hashem leaves the cast of the play random, a “Pur”, a lottery. We choose our role with our free will.

This idea is expressed well in the words of Joseph Trumpeldor. "We need people ready to serve at all cost[s]... Is there a wheel lacking? I am that wheel. Nails, screws, a block? Take me. Must the land be dug? I will dig it. Are soldiers needed? I will enlist. Policemen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, water carriers? If you please, I am ready to do it all. I am not a person, I am the pure embodiment of service, prepared for everything. I have no ties. I only know one command: Build."

May we take our places in G-d’s story with courage and faith, and may that speedily bring more light and joy to the Jews, and redemption to the world.

Purim sameach!


Midreshet HaRova

Location: 50 Chabad Street, Old City, Jerusalem

Mailing Address: P. O. Box 1109, Jerusalem 9101001, Israel

Telephone: 972-2-626-5970    Fax: 972-2-628-4690    Email:

© 2020 All rights reserved.  Design by Studio Bat Amit, Development by Coda