Believing Jews perceive divine intervention in the establishment of the State of Israel. Many enthusiastically cite the assertion of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (in his essay entitled “Kol Dodi Dofeik”) that a political miracle occurred when the United Nations voted on November 29, 1947, to establish a Jewish State in part of Eretz Yisrael, and a military miracle occurred in the course of the War of Independence when the vastly outnumbered and outgunned Israelis managed to win despite fighting six invading Arab armies.
Some challenge this point of view, arguing that the state was brought about by the brilliant strategy and tenacity of the Jews of the land of Israel and elsewhere. We seek in the coming issues to demonstrate that although there were clearly brilliant and brave actions which helped make the State of Israel a reality, it is unreasonable to argue that these factors alone are responsible for the creation of the State of Israel.
As an introduction to our essay, we analyze a fundamental point regarding Megillat Esther. We attempt to demonstrate that despite Esther’s brilliant strategy which she executed perfectly, rescuing the Jews from Haman and his genocidal decree could not have occurred without Hashem’s subtle tilting of events. Megillat Esther, as usual, is the expected source for an approach to understanding Hashem’s involvement with the world in the post-prophetic age. Megillat Esther teaches how to perceive God’s involvement even when violations of the laws of nature do not occur. It teaches how to detect the hand of God subtlety working together with brilliant and dedicated human activities.
Esther finally acquiesces to Mordechai’s order that she appear before Achashveirosh to plead on behalf of her people. After three days of fasting and preparing, Esther appears before Achashveirosh and invites him and Haman to a party. Why doesn’t Esther do as she is told and plead on behalf of the Jews? Why does she make a party? Moreover, at the party, when Achashveirosh asks her what she wants, Esther responds that she wants a second party. Esther’s behavior seems inexplicable. Is she simply scared and delaying the inevitable?
Esther Is Not Scared
Esther Is definitely not scared. Indeed, if we read the Pesukim carefully, we notice that the party was prepared before the appearance before the king (5:4). Clearly, Esther has a plan. Part of the plan involves inviting Achashveirosh to the party. In this way, Esther assumes control of the situation and brings Achashveirosh to her “turf.” She also may be subtly habituating Achashveirosh to doing her bidding. Most intriguing, though, is her request to invite Haman to this party. If she wishes to make Mordechai’s request, why does she invite Haman – two is company, three is a crowd.
Why does Esther invite Haman?
The Gemara (Megillah 15b) offers no less than twelve solutions to this problem, and we shall present eight of them. Interestingly, the Gemara concludes that Eliyahu HaHavi was asked by Rabbah bar Avuha which explanation is correct. He responded that each suggestion is correct. In other words, Esther’s inviting Haman had many and varied objectives.
Esther has five targets in mind when she invites Haman to her people: Hashem, the Jewish People, Achashveirosh, the ministers other than Haman, and Haman. The invitation is a form of a plea to Hashem to make a miracle to save our people. She displays to Hashem (as explained by Rashi ad. loc. s.v. Yargish) the utter desperation of the situation which forces her to ingratiate herself to the despicable Haman.
Esther’s message to the Jewish People is that they must intensify their Tefillot to Hashem. Despite the dreadful decree, Bnei Yisrael are not desperately disturbed, since they think that their well-connected “sister” in the palace will manage to save the day. When Bnei Yisrael find out, though, that Esther invited Haman to her party, the Jews think that Esther has become an ally of Haman and abandoned her Jewish identity to spare herself from the decree.
This leaves the Jews thinking that only Hashem can save them from annihilation. This attitude leads them to intensify their Tefillot to Hashem; these Tefillot turn out to be quite effective. Indeed, the finest Tefillot come from recognition of our total dependence on Hashem, such as when we state “VaAnachnu Lo Neida Mah Na’aseh Ki Eilecha Eineinu,” “We do not know what to do because our eyes are cast to you.”
Esther also has in mind Achashveirosh in her plan. Her goal is to stir feelings of jealousy and suspicion of Haman in the eyes of Achashveirosh. It could be that at the party Esther deliberately lavishes much attention on Haman in order to make Achashveirosh think that she is interested in Haman. It is evident from Megillat Esther that Achashveirosh is a very suspicious individual. Indeed, he has good reason to worry about plots, as is evident from the Bigtan and Teresh conspiracy (2:21-23).
This is especially compelling if we accept the Da’at Mikra’s identification of Achashveirosh as Xerxes, who in the seventh year of his rule suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Greeks. If so, many were angry at Achashveirosh and he had to zealously guard against rebellions, since the time was ripe for one.
Esther seeks to make Achashveirosh think that Haman is plotting against him and that Esther is a partner in this plot. Of course, Esther is playing an exceedingly dangerous game and places her life at great risk as Achashveirosh will likely kill Esther along with Haman if she succeeds in her scheme. This is yet another example of the sacrifice that Esther was willing to make for her people.
In addition, Esther recognizes Achashveirosh as a “flip-flop” who acts impulsively and easily changes his mind. She invites Haman so that if she succeeds in convincing Achashveirosh to kill Haman, he will be present for execution before Achashveirosh changes his mind. She also wants Haman to be available for immediate execution so that he will not have an opportunity to organize a rebellion. Persia was ripe for rebellion, given the recent great defeat at the hands of the Greeks.
Another side to Esther’s strategy is to inflate the ego of Haman. Mishlei (16:18) teaches that haughtiness precedes one’s fall, meaning that when people become overconfident they “let down their guard” and are vulnerable to a big fall. Esther invites Haman (and none of the other royal advisors) to inflate his ego. Serving a meal to an enemy is a shrewd tactic to build the enemy’s trust, which can later be exploited to his disadvantage.
It is evident from the Megillah that Haman’s ego is quite delicate and easily bruised (by Mordechai not bowing to him) or inflated (by Esther’s invitation). Thus, his emotions can be readily manipulated.
Finally, Esther seeks to stir jealousy of Haman among the other advisors of Achashveirosh, as they would be upset that Haman was invited and they were not. Achashveirosh’s court, like many other royal courts throughout history, was filled with intrigue and jealousy with each advisor struggling to advance himself at the expense of others. Esther deftly plays on this courtly intrigue.
Hashem Executes the Plan
We may ask, though, why did Esther invite Achashveirosh to a second party instead of simply making her plea at the first party? The answer is that Esther planted seeds of redemption with the invitation and the first party. The seeds had not yet blossomed at that point so she needed to wait and continue with her scheme by inviting Achashveirosh to a second party, explains Ibn Ezra.
The Tefillot were obviously effective, as Hashem helps Esther’s plan proceed exactly as planned. Achashveirosh becomes quite jealous and suspicious as evident by his inability to sleep (6:1). He wonders why nobody emerges to warn him of the impending plot and he searches his records to see if in the past someone foiled a plot and was not rewarded, thereby discouraging individuals from coming forward and sounding a warning. When he indeed discovers that Mordechai was not rewarded for saving him from Bigtan and Teresh, Achashveirosh begins to think of an appropriate reward.
Haman is elated at his being the only minister invited by Esther (5:12) and he lets his guard down. He is emboldened to try to kill Mordechai immediately, something he feared beforehand. He carelessly visits Achashveirosh’s palace at night (6:4), deepening Achashveirosh’s suspicion of Haman, as Haman seems to be lurking in his courtyard at night in order to kill him. Haman does not exercise caution when Achashveirosh tests him by asking him how he should pay tribute to the one he wishes to honor. Haman’s response that he should dress him in the king’s clothes, have him ride the king’s horse and have the crown placed on his head, serves to confirm Achashveirosh’s suspicion of Haman’s hunger for power.
The Second Party
Esther does not ask for a third party as all is in place for her opportunity to make the plea for her people. Achashveirosh is suspicious and Haman’s ego is inflated and subsequently dealt a severe blow when Haman is forced to honor Mordechai in a very public manner (6:11) and when Haman’s wife’s gives Haman painfully discouraging words (6:13). Esther makes her plea and points at Haman, labeling him an evil man (7:4-6). Achashveirosh steps outside for a moment and returns just as Haman falls on Esther’s bed, which deepens Achashveirosh’s suspicion of Haman (7:8).
Finally, a minister named Charvonah, motivated by jealousy of Haman and eagerness to advance his standing in the court, shows Achashveirosh the fifty cubit high pole upon which Haman wishes to hang Mordechai (7:9), which clinches the decision to execute Haman. He is readily available for immediate hanging before Achashveirosh changes his mind and Haman has an opportunity to organize a rebellion.
The Purim miracle is a prime example of the delicate interplay between human effort (Hishtadlut) and divine intervention (Hashgachah Peratit). Esther’s inviting Haman to the parties was a stroke of genius that set the stage for our deliverance from the evil decree. Nonetheless, without Hashgachah Pratit facilitating Esther’s rise to queen, Mordechai saving Achashveirosh from Bigtan and Teresh, Haman entering the courtyard to ask for permission to hang Mordechai just at the time when Achashveirosh was reminded of Mordechai foiling the plot, and Haman falling on Esther’s bed just as Achashveirosh reentered the palace, the Jews would not have been saved.
Despite the brilliance of Esther’s plan and her talent and dedication in perfectly executing it, it would not have worked without Hashem tilting these events. Too many things had to work perfectly in order for the Jews to be rescued from Haman. The discerning reader of Megillat Esther readily recognizes Hashem’s involvement and recites the blessing of SheAsah Nissim LaAvoteinu (Who made miracles for our ancestors) before he reads the Megillah on Purim.
In the coming two issues we seek to similarly demonstrate that in addition to the brilliant and dedicated efforts of those involved, too much had to work out perfectly both in order for the United Nations to vote to establish a Jewish State in part of Eretz Yisrael and for Israel to survive the first four weeks of fighting in its War of Independence. Thus, it is it eminently reasonable to assert, as Rav Soloveitchik did, that Hashem’s subtle hand was very involved in Israel’s establishment.
 Achashveirosh does not kill Haman out of love for the Jews, Mordechai or even Esther. Indeed, he does not cancel the decree to slaughter the Jews at this point. Rather, he acts out of pure self-interest, as he perceives Haman as an imminent threat that must be eliminated with haste (see Megillah 16a). Achashveirosh thinks that Haman wants to kill Mordechai due to the latter’s loyalty to the king. Achashveirosh saves Mordechai since he serves his interest.