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Past Weekly Shabbat Message
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Jewish Heritage
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Rabbi Dovid Saks
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(Torah Portion Ki Sisa) Celebrate!

For more than a month there has been a flurry of news regarding the controversy over Prime Minister Bibi Natanyahu’s speech to congress. What effect his speech will have, is up to the jury and time to decide.

On Purim we will all listen to the Megilla of Esther relating the story of Haman’s decree of the extinction of the Jewish nation, and the drama, fear, and the salvation from it.

Mordechai was a member of King Achashvairosh’s parliament, and although he was informed of Haman’s decree with the king’s seal of approval, did not initially go to parliament to seek to condemn or have it reversed. Rather, the Megilla relates that Mordechai donned sackcloth and gave out a bitter cry.

Esther got word that Mordechai was distressed and sent a fresh set of clothing for him, but he refused.

Commentators wonder why Esther sent Mordechai new clothing, since after all, there was obviously something urgent that caused him to don sackcloth and call out bitterly in public. He surely felt this was the correct way to express himself, and not because he lacked suitable clothing.

They explain as follows: Due to Mordechai’s position in the government, he was usually present at the palace’s gates. However, his attire of sackcloth precluded him from appearing in that area, since it was not appropriate as the Megilla relates. Esther’s message was that if there is a distressing matter, you have to appear in the palace in suitable garments to seek a diplomatic solution.

Mordechai, knowing that there was no room for negotiations since once the decree of the king was signed it could never be rescinded and refused the offer of clothing. Mordechai’s only recourse was to cry out to G-d for assistance. This explanation is based on a simple reading of the Megilla.

Commentators explain this event on a deeper level.

One of the features of the Megilla of Esther is that in all its ten chapters the name of G-d is not openly expressed.

The reason given for this is that the Purim events occurred after the destruction of the first Temple during the period the Jews were exiled from Israel. G-d’s open miracles, which were evident during the days of the Temple, were now guarded and shielded. So that, yes, G-d was obviously present in the story – if you just scratch the surface you see His stunning orchestration and involvement in the events.

In fact there are hints to G-d’s name imbedded in the Megilla. When the title king precedes Achashvairosh’s name, it refers to Achashvairosh. However, when the title king appears alone, it can be understood as a reference to the King of all Kings – the Almighty.

With this said, let’s go back to the exchange between Mordechai and Esther. Mordechai donned sackcloth and could not come before the gates of the king, means that because he was not appropriately dressed he could not approach the King of all Kings in ordinary prayer. Esther realizing that there was an immediate pressing need regarding the fate of the Jewish people and understanding the power of Mordechai’s prayers, sent him a set of distinguished clothing so that Mordechai could appear appropriately before the Gates of the Almighty and effectively beseech for His nation.

Mordechai turned down Esther’s offer and continued crying out bitterly in his sackcloth –his expression was not one of uttering expressed prayers which require appropriate dress. Rather, they were expressions of anguish coming from the depths of his soul and being. This pierced the Heavens and aroused the senses of the people to call out for G-d’s mercy as well.

After this was achieved, Mordechai was able to instruct Esther to proceed and beseech King Achashvairosh. Her fasting and praying along with the rest of the Jews enabled her to be effective and have Haman eliminated four days after the decree was sent out!

The power of prayer is so powerful that we each have the ability to nobly stand before the Gates of the King and beseech Him, especially when we are attired with a joyful and happy spirit.

Our Sages tell us Purim is an auspicious time for prayers, for it is the happiest and most joyful day of the year and it is a time when our prayers soar to the Heavens before the King of All Kings unobstructed - All we need to do is beseech Him.

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!

Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family