Purim & Hishtadlus: Taking the Initiative

Purim 5781/2021

In the Megillah we find a key phrase which states  “כִּ֣י אִם־הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי֮ בָּעֵ֣ת הַזֹּאת֒ רֶ֣וַח וְהַצָּלָ֞ה יַעֲמ֤וֹד לַיְּהוּדִים֙ מִמָּק֣וֹם אַחֵ֔ר”  Mordechai encourages Esther to plead her case before King Achashveirosh. “For if you shall remain silent at this time, the Jews will find salvation through another source.” There is no doubt in Mordechai’s mind that G-d will come to the rescue of the Jewish People one way or another. Despite the bleak situation in which he and his nation find themselves, defeat is unthinkable. In the end, thanks to  the intervention of Esther, the schemes of Haman were foiled, and the Jews achieved the ultimate victory.

    How could Mordechai be so sure? After all, in his own time, he had witnessed the destruction of the Temple and the exile of his people first to Babylonia, then to Media, and ultimately to Persia. Why was he so certain that G-d would somehow come to their rescue now?

    The answer is simple: G-d made a covenant with the Jewish nation beginning with Abraham at the “Brit bein Habetarim.” The Jewish people will survive!  We will succeed in ultimately returning to our land. The only question is, through which means? Should we take an active role, as Mordechai encourages Esther to do, or is it better to wait on the sidelines hoping for a miracle? Perhaps the latter is an appropriate action at times, as we have seen in certain episodes of the past; more often than not, however, we must make our own Hishtadlus: we must take our own initiative to save ourselves, with God’s abundant help.

    In Numbers 11:23 we read, “Hayad Hashem Tiktzor?” “Is the Power of G-d limited?” G-d can (and continually does) make miracles for us, whether we are aware of them or not. But that doesn’t mean that we may simply rely on miracles. (אין סומכין על הנס).  

The message of Purim is simple and straightforward. We must always have faith in Hashem; we must never lose hope. The outcome is certain, the final chapter is clear. Purim is not only a celebration of past events, but rather we rejoice and regale each other as if our future redemption is already here. As long as we continually stay the course, and each of us contributes our own Hishtadlus, our initiative. When we support Torah, perform Mitzvos, give Tzedakah, and live lives filled with Yiddishkeit, we will achieve the ultimate victory!