Mordechai’s Message: BaEit HaZot by Ezra Hagler


Throughout Tanach, Jewish leaders have been reluctant to take action. Moshe argues at the burning bush for seven days, Shaul hides himself when Shmuel tries to appoint him king, and Gid’on protests that he is unfit to lead. At first glance, it seems that in the fourth Perek of Megillat Esther another savior of the Jews, Esther, continues this trend of refusing at first to help and needing someone else to tell them that they are needed. After Haman sends out his decree of genocide against the Jews, Mordechai tells Esther to use her position as queen to try and convince King Achashveirosh to revoke the decree. Esther disagrees, quoting the law that one who goes to the king without an invitation can be killed. Mordechai then famously answers, “Ki Im Hachareish Tacharishi BaEit HaZot, Revach VeHatzalah Ya’amod LaYehudim MiMakom Acheir, VeAt UVeit Avich Toveidu, UMi Yodei’a Im LeEit KaZot Higa’at LaMalchut,” “For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then relief and deliverance will arise to the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish; and who knows whether you have come to royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). We assume that Mordechai convinces her to go to Achashveirosh, as she asks for the Jews to fast for three days and then she will go to Achashveirosh, which is what happens and the rest is history.

I would like to interpret this argument in a slightly different manner. Instead of Esther totally refusing to do anything at first, I think she agreed wholeheartedly with Mordechai that she should try and influence Achashveirosh. However, the point of contention between them is when and how she should do so. Esther says that she will wait until she is next called by Achashveirosh and then will broach the impending genocide with him. Mordechai is not telling her that she has to do something; rather, he is telling her that she has to do something now. Rather than be passive and wait for Achashveirosh to initiate, she has to be active and go to him. She can’t assume that since Haman’s decree won’t be in effect for almost a year she has time to wait. Mordechai is telling her that even if she thinks she has time- if she waits- it could lead to a disaster. We see that Mordechai is right because the day after Esther goes to the king, Haman builds gallows to hang Mordechai, and if Esther had waited another few days, he might have succeeded.

 There are two phrases in these Pesukim that seem superfluous but actually might support this reading. First, Esther says, “VaAni Lo Nikreiti Lavo El HaMelech Zeh Sheloshim Yom,” that she has not been called to the king in 30 days (4:11). One way of explaining this added line is that she is saying that this shows that she has lost Achashveirosh’s favor, so if she went to him now, she would be probably be killed. However, according to the alternate explanation given above, one could look at this phrase in the opposite light. Rather than saying that Achashveirosh no longer likes her, she could be saying that he is overdue to summon her and she is sure that he will soon call. Later Mordechai says, “Ki Im Hachareish Tacharishi BaEit HaZot,” “For if you altogether hold your peace at this time (4:14), specifically adding “at this time.” This also supports the idea that he wasn’t just telling her that she needed to do something; rather, he was telling her that she needed to do something immediately.

This could also explain why Esther asked for the three days of fasting. Not only was she asking them to Daven for her, but she was also saying that she wants to wait three more days for Achashveirosh to call her, but if he doesn’t send for her in the next three days, she will take action.

According to this reading of Perek 4, Mordechai is teaching Esther a very important lesson: Don’t fear taking initiative. The Gemara in Sukkah (29b) says that one of the four things that are punished by confiscation of property is throwing one’s yoke onto his neighbor’s shoulders. In a similar vein, the Mishnah in Avot (2:6) teaches that in a place without men, you must be the man. The lesson that Chazal are teaching is the same lesson that Mordechai teaches Esther. You can’t put the responsibilities on someone else- you have to step up and take the initiative. When there is something wrong, if it’s as big a genocide or as small as a fight with a friend, it’s not enough to be willing to do something if someone else starts. You yourself have to take the initiative and try to fix the problem.

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