Holy and Secular
“She is insane, simply insane,” one of the young maidservants said. “She has simply gone mad. You know very well that I would have no problem fasting for three days for her, if it would be any help at all. But in this case, no fasting will help.” “You are so right,” her companion answered. “Even if we pray for a whole year, it will not help. The king will have her beheaded even before she has a chance to open her mouth.”
The two young women stopped talking when the door of the room opened quickly and the queen entered. “I heard everything you said. If you don’t believe, do not bother to fast or to pray. I do not need any favors. I will fast and pray, and I will enter the king’s chamber. And if I will be lost, I will be lost.”
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“He must be insane,” one of the students said. “He is sending his niece on a suicide mission. No prayer can help Esther when she enters the inner courtyard. This anti-Semite will seal her fate without batting an eyelash. It is a pity to lose such an innocent young girl.”
The Beit Midrash was suddenly quiet. Mordechai had appeared, dressed in sackcloth and ashes. He quickly stepped up to the podium. Nobody dared to talk to him. Mordechai had never felt as alone as he felt now, the weight of responsibility that he felt was almost too heavy to bear. When he reached the podium, Mordechai slowly looked at all the people in the Beit Midrash, and he turned to them with emotion. “My friends, our sages have taught us that even if a sharp sword is stretched over somebody’s neck he should not despair of mercy. Nobody can guarantee us that our prayers will be answered. But we must not despair. The great Almighty, who has saved our nation in the past from so many enemies, can perform a miracle for us too. Just be careful not to despair, not to despair.”
Mordechai started to leave the podium and then he stopped and stood for a moment, deep in thought. After a pause, he turned around and returned to the podium. “I have one thing to add, which might sound strange. Even if our prayers are not answered tonight by the Almighty, they will not be in vain. Our prayers have great value, even if the evil decree remains. When we are in distress and we turn to G-d, we become closer to Him. When we pray because of our problems, we feel a close attachment to the Creator. Even if the prayer is not accepted, it will bring us closer to Our Father in Heaven. Whenever we have serious problems we will continue to pray, and even if they continue we will let them pass while we remain closely attached to the Almighty. Under no other circumstances will we feel as closely attached to G-d as at the present time.”
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We have written the above words for Mordechai (perhaps he said something like that, perhaps not). We will close this article with the words of Rabbi A. Lichtenstein in connection with another matter. “What does a baby think when it is in its mother’s arms? Does he turn to her because he believes that she will keep him safe from all possible harm? No, he turns to her because he wants to be close to her. The baby is not thinking about future plans or expecting the fulfillment of future visions… The fact that he is together with her gives him life, keeps him fresh, toughens him, and makes him strong. It is as a matter of course that he follows her wherever she goes… Wherever she turns, he follows, holding on to her dress with his small fingers.” [“The Trait of Faith”].
It is important to pray in times of danger, because G-d may well answer our prayers. However, it is also just as important for another reason – that the prayers bring us closer to Our Father in Heaven. In this way we achieve protection and spiritual refuge from the cold and cruel world that surrounds us.
Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il).
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.