Thursday, February 26, 2015


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tetzaveh/Parshas Zachor
8 Adar 5775/ February 27, 2015

A few weeks ago a friend called me. He was preparing a speech and he wanted to know if I knew any good stories about someone who after enduring a challenging situation made a positive change in his life. In other words, they used a difficult situation as a catalyst for growth and positive accomplishment.
As I thought about it I realized that most chesed organizations are started by individuals who have been in just a situation. After enduring a painful, traumatic, or unnerving ordeal they decided to ‘give back’ to the community by initiating an organization to help others.
As one example, our local incredible Bikur Cholim organization in Rockland County with its many branches was founded by R’ Shimon Lauber after he survived a life-threatening illness.  
But I related to my friend a different story:
There was a righteous woman who was married to a great tzaddik. In fact, her husband was the gadol hador. He was also a high ranking government official and was widely respected for his sagacity and righteousness. Orphaned from both her parents before she was a day old, her eventual marriage to him was a dream come true.
Then one day her life changed drastically. She was ordered to leave her husband to marry a vile and narcissistic idolatrous man. The fact that he was rich and powerful meant nothing to her. But her original husband impressed upon her that this was her mission and G-d had put her there for a reason which would be revealed in due time. And so Esther remained Queen, forfeiting her marriage to Mordechai in order to live in Achashveirosh’s palace, away from her people.
The truth is that in a certain sense Esther’s life in the palace of Achashveirosh is symbolic of the life of the Jewish people in exile. When the Bais Hamikdash stood we were keenly aware of our ‘marriage’ to Hashem. We lived in close proximity of sanctity, the Kohanim performed the avodah, and the Sanhedrin guided our every move.
In exile however, we are isolated and surrounded by a culture that does not ascribe to Torah values. We are surrounded by foreign practices and ideologies, and it is a constant struggle to stay true to the ways of our ancestors. In this exile particularly, we have been blessed with prosperity and comfort, but that has only served to increase the challenge.  
In the beloved song “Shoshanas Yaakov”, we declare “Blessed is Esther (for what she did) on my behalf”. Esther demonstrated to us that one can remain faithful even in immoral idolatrous surroundings. Even in the face of isolation and desperation she maintained her faith and conviction.
Like Esther our one overriding concern must always be whether “I have found favor in your eyes, O king.” All else is trivial and secondary. If we have found favor in G-d’s eyes than we have fulfilled our mission.
Life does not always proceed as planned. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that life generally does not proceed as planned. The test is to consider what it is that Hashem wants of us at any given moment and in any given situation, and to do our best to live up to that mission. Perhaps there was no one who rose to that challenge as Esther did.
Purim. A holiday of extreme joy - borne of faith and devotion. 

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

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