For a holiday that seems to be directed so very much towards our children, and so very little towards adults, Purim sure does raise a lot of troubling issues.
Esther is the only book in the Tanach that does not contain the name of God. The traditional explanation is that God is acting behind the scenes, but that is just not very convincing.
All through our scriptures people are bowing down to other people. It was the customary way of welcoming guests and showing good manners. When the three messengers come to tell Abraham that he is going to be a father (again), he bows to them. This is in no way idolatry – we only bow to God. Yet Mordechai refuses to bow to Haman and endangers all of the Jews in the Persian Empire. Why?
The Megillah is full of such questions.
I would like to look at one more unusual situation, when Mordechai tries to talk Esther into going to see the King. Mordechai tells Esther of Haman’s plot and begs her to go plead for the lives of herself and her people. Esther is afraid and does not want to go. I might expect Mordechai to tell her how much she is needed and how everyone is relying on her. But he does not. Instead, he says that if she decides to sit this one out, not to worry – our help will come from someone else (he does not even call on God). He tells Esther that she is just not that important. He gives her the perfect excuse for not going to her husband.
But then he adds that if she does not help, her name and her family’s name will be blotted out. After all, she could have helped and refused. And maybe, he adds, you ended up queen exactly for this reason.
Mordechai convinces Esther how important she is by telling her that she is not really that important. Reverse psychology – and very dangerous.
Needless to say, it works – and we are safe until next Purim.
Rabbi Stanley Halpern