Purim Esther’s Secret

Nov 17, 2014

Rabbi Yitzchak Lerner

In Perek 2, Pasuk 18 of Megillat Esther, we learn that after choosing Esther to be his queen, Achashverosh prepared a great feast in her honor and “he granted a relief in taxes and sent gifts according to the state of the king.” Pasuk 20 follows to tell us that Esther, heeding the advice of Mordechai, did not reveal her birthplace or ethnicity to the king.

Why did Achashverosh send gifts to the people of the kingdom? The Gemara (Megilla, Daf 13a) tells us that Achashverosh’s intent was to persuade his subjects to inform him of Esther’s origins.

That the people did not succumb to his enticements is essential to the Purim story. Imagine how great Achashverosh’s anger and surprise must have been when Esther finally revealed that she was one of the people Haman wished to kill!! It is the element of surprise which exacerbated the king’s anger.

I would like to try to explore a possible deeper insight to why Achashverosh never found out from where his queen came. When Esther was first brought to the King and didn’t reveal her heritage, didn’t all the Jews of Shushan know who she was? Did they not recognize her face? Everyone must have remembered her from the neighborhood. She was the nice, Jewish girl who was the niece (wife) of the leader of the generation. Yet not even one Jew revealed her secret.

In Shemot Perek 2, Pasuk 14, we find a very different story. On the day after he killed the Egyptian, Moshe encountered two Jews fighting. When Moshe tried to intervene, one of the Jews responded, “Who placed you to be the minister and judge upon us? You are the one who killed the Egyptian.” Upon hearing these words, Moshe became concerned because “now the matter is known.” Known to whom? Pashut pshat indicates that it became known to the Egyptians that Moshe killed one of their own. Rashi, citing the Medrash, offers a different interpretation.

According to Rashi, Moshe’s statement, “now the matter is known,” refers to the Jews, and provides an answer to a question that had been plaguing Moshe for many years: What had the Jews done to warrant enslavement at the hands of the Egyptians? Once Moshe realized that at this point only the Jews knew about the episode with the Egyptian and that it was through them that Pharaoh learned of it, “the matter” (why we had such hard times) became clear to him. How can there be redemption when there is no Achdut among the Jewish people?

The Medrash tells us that prior to leaving Egypt, we were on the 49th level of Tumah. After working on ourselves, crying out to G-d, and engaging in genuine Teshuva, we merited to be redeemed and finally received our holy Torah. Just before the receiving of the Torah, Shemot Perek 19, Pasuk 2 says “Vayachanu bamidbar vayichan sham Yisrael – And they camped in the desert and Israel camped there.” The Pasuk begins in the plural with the word Vayichanu and ends in the singular -Vayichan. Noting this, Rashi comments, “Ke’ish echad b’lev echad,” the Jews were like one man with one heart. At the time of Matan Torah, there was genuine Achdut among Klal Yisrael.

Returning to the Megilla, we clearly see that there was a similar level of Achdut amongst the Jewish people. Though numerous gifts and pleasures were thrown at the subjects of Achashverosh, when Mordechai, the leader of the Jews, said that Esther’s secret should not be revealed, no one revealed it. That is Achdut. It is also one of the possible reasons why we merited redemption in those days. The power of unity of the Jewish people has no limits.

With this message, we should all work on creating a more unified Jewish People, which will undoubtedly bring about our own redemption speedily in our times. Purim Sameach.

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