Thursday, December 24, 2009

On the Trail of Blessings: Eisav 2.0

[This is the seventh instalment in the series. Begin the Trail here.]

Yosef has dreams. Strange dreams. Dreams no one ever had before. Yosef sees people bowing to him.

When he shares his dreams with his family, his father reacts strongly: "What is this dream that you dreamt? Will I, your mother and your brothers come and prostrate ourselves on the ground to you?!" (37:10). Yaakov is concerned, ואביו שמר את הדבר.

Yaakov had good reason to be concerned. Years back, Yitzchok had a beracha for Eisav, a beracha that Yaakov stole. And in that beracha Yitzchok said, "וישתחו לך לאמים... וישתחוו לך בני אמך", "Nations will bow to you... your mother's children will bow to you!"

Yitzchok had a vision for Eisav. Eisav was to be the man of the field, going out into the world in support the divine work of his spiritual brother in Israel. And his brother Yaakov would bow before him, appreciating and honoring Eisav's crucial role. In light of the reality of Eisav HaRasha, Rivka rejected her husband's plan and forced Yaakov to take all - but Yaakov didn't want it. He wished to remain an איש תם יושב אהלים. Yaakov agreed with Yitzchok: leave the material to Eisav. In direct contradistinction of the beracha, Yaakov insists on bowing repeatedly to Eisav instead of the other way around. True to his beliefs, Yaakov ultimately transfers all of the wealth he made in Charan to Eisav (cf. Rashi to 46:6).

The tragedy here is that Eisav's personal failure ruins Yaakov's life. As hard as he tries to flee from the material blessings that are now his burden, Yaakov never gets to live his dream, the life of an איש תם יושב אהלים. Just as Yaakov is settling into a peaceful retirement in his tent (Rashi to 37:2), Eisav's beracha, that beracha/curse that Yaakov never wanted, returns to haunt him. We can well imagine the terror that gripped Yaakov when he heard that Yosef dreamt that his brothers would bow to him. Yosef is dreaming dreams of power, the dreams of Eisav! His beloved son Yosef is heir to his evil brother's destiny!

It is not only the bowing that evokes Yitzchok's Beracha for Eisav. In Yosef's dream he sees his brother's sheaves bowing to his sheaf. Grain? This is a family of shepherds, not farmers! But Yaakov surely recognized this as another materialization of the beracha which he stole. Yitzchok promised: "God shall grant you from the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth, much grain and wine..." (27:28). The fact that Yitzchok referred to grain and not sheep was an important point for Yaakov. When Yaakov returns to Israel from Charan, he sends a messages to Eisav in which he says, "I have oxen and donkeys" (32:6). Rashi quotes a Midrash which explains Yaakov's intent: "Father said to me 'from the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth,' these [animals] are neither from heaven nor from the earth!" In other words, in repudiation of the beracha he was forced to steal, Yaakov deliberately avoided farming, reserving that for Eisav the איש שדה. (Parallels with the Cain and Hevel story are beyond the scope of this essay.)

And now Yaakov's son Yosef dreams of grain! The beracha of Yitzchok is inescapable. If Yaakov won't accept it, then he shall be a carrier and it will express itself in the next generation. Yosef becomes the Eisav that Yitzchok always dreamed of.

Yosef ascends to greatness outside the Land of Israel, which was Yitzchok's vision for Eisav (as described here and here). The ברכה of טל השמים and רוב דגן, the blessing of agricultural abundance which comes directly from heaven, was originally bundled with the gift of the Holy Land. However, when Yitzchok gave wealth to Eisav and Israel to Yaakov, the two blessings were divorced. And so, when Yosef picks up Eisav's destiny, the stage is set for the delivery of a miraculously blessed crop in Egypt - and it all belongs to Yosef.

As the master of grain, the world bows to Yosef. And his brothers bow too, for he supports them.


As we know from the life of Eisav, physical blessings come with a unique set of challenges - the powerful drive of desire. This is why, from a young age, Yosef must struggle against interest in his own appearance (e.g., combing his hair, Rashi to 37:2) and the seductions of Potifar's wife (cf. Sotah 36b). Like Eisav, Yosef must also deal with the lure of paganism (cf. Rashi to 39:11), for paganism gives license to hedonism, and hedonism is the antagonist of Yosef's spiritual mission of selflessness. When your spiritual mission is to elevate the physical, the Yeitzer Hara will use the physical to drag you down. It comes therefore as no surprise that some of the greatest idolaters of Jewish history - Yeravam, Achav and Yeihu - are descended from Yosef (cf. Rashi to 48:8). Of course, some of the greatest warriors against idolatry - Yehoshua, Gideon and Pinchas - are also descendants of Yosef (cf. Rashi to 48:19; Sotah 43a). Yosef is Eisav 2.0.

Yosef succeeds, for Yosef heroically overcomes and subdues his natural self-interest, outgrows his נערות and focuses instead on the needs of others. It is fascinating that it is דוקא in חוץ לארץ that Yosef develops this מדה, first rejecting the advances of Potifar's wife, knowing that this will land him in prison, and then in prison, where he is sensitive to the fluctuating moods of his fellow inmates, asking the butler and the baker why they look upset (40:6-7). It comes as no surprise that it is this very sensitivity to the other that ultimately leads to Yosef's own redemption.

In Egypt, Yosef also lives up to the national mission that he inherited from his uncle. He won't sell the starving Egyptian people food unless they circumcise themselves - and Pharaoh backs up this strange demand! (Rashi to 41:55). The purpose is not convert them to Judaism; in no way does this circumcision constitute a Brit Milah. What Yosef is trying to do here is subdue the Egyptian affinity for promiscuity. For this is the Jewish responsibility that comes with the blessing of materialism in the Diaspora - to elevate the morality of the gentile. 

The emergence of Yosef revives Yitzchok's vision for the nation and, at the same time, spells the end of the original Eisav. Usurped by Yosef, Eisav is obsolete. Indeed, it is as the prophet said: "The house of Yaakov shall be a fire, the House of Yosef shall be a flame, and the House of Eisav for straw" (Ovadiah 1:18). (Cf. Rashi to 30:25.)

[Continue the Trail with part 7.25 by clicking here.]

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On the Trail of Blessings: אל שדי Returns!

[This is the sixth instalment of the series. Begin the Trail with part-one here.]

Thus far, we have seen how Hashem blessed Avraham with both material and spiritual riches, we have seen Yitzchok's attempt to divide up these two berachos between Yaakov and Eisav, and we have seen Yaakov's repudiation of the blessing of materialism that his mother forced him to steal. We continue pursuing the trail now, but first we must go back and take another look at the language of the original Berachos.

As we pointed out in the first post of this series, the Beracha that Yitzchok saved for Yaakov (28:3-4) is the very same Beracha that Hashem gave Avraham at the end of Parshas Lech Lecha (17:1-8), albeit in abbreviate form. Yitzchok retains all the key words and themes of the original Beracha, with one exception - he makes no mention of the ברית that Hashem promised Avraham, the eternal relationship, the "והייתי לכם לאלהים". It would seem that it is not within Yitzchok's power to grant that part of the Beracha to Yaakov. A ברית is a covenant between two parties and as such it obviously cannot be created by an outsider. Ultimately, the question of Yaakov's relationship with Hashem and his destiny as an אב can only be determined by Hashem Himself. Although Avraham gave the beracha of כל to Yitzchok (25:5), after Avraham passes away Hashem has to come and bless Yitzchok directly (25:11). So it must be with Yaakov as well.

This explains the oath that Yaakov took at Beis El. Yaakov has just stolen טל השמים from Eisav and received ברכת אברהם from Yitzchok, but yet he says the following:
וידר יעקב נדר לאמר אם יהיה אלהים עמדי ושמרני בדרך הזה אשר אנכי הולך ונתן לי לחם לאכל ובגד ללבש ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי והיה יהוה לי לאלהים, והאבן הזאת אשר שמתי מצבה יהיה בית אלהים וכל אשר תתן לי עשר אעשרנו לך
Yaakov asks not for the fulfillment of any of the blessings that he has received, rather he focuses on the one beracha that he lacks, the piece his father left out: והיה ה' לי לאלהים.
There is another significant difference between what Hashem says to Avraham at the end of Lech Lecha and what Yitzchok says to Yaakov at the end of Toldos. While Hashem blesses Avraham directly, אני אל שדי... ואתנה בריתי, Yitzchok merely expresses his hope that אל שדי will bless Yaakov with ברכת אברהם. Yitzchok can do no more than pray ואל שדי יברך אתך for the very same reason that he can make no statements about a ברית. It's in God's hands.

Years later, Yaakov returns to Israel and fulfills his end of the deal, building a בית אלהים at Beis El. He then receives this prophecy:
ויאמר לו אלהים שמך יעקב לא יקרא שמך עוד יעקב כי אם ישראל יהיה שמך ויקרא את שמו ישראל ויאמר לו אלהים אני אל שדי פרה ורבה גוי וקהל גוים יהיה ממך ומלכים מחלציך יצאו ואת הארץ אשר נתתי לאברהם וליצחק לך אתננה ולזרעך אחריך אתן את הארץ
Here "Yitzchok's blessing" is fulfilled! Hashem Himself, coming as אל שדי, grants ברכת אברהם to Yaakov - using the same key words from parshas Lech Lecha and Toldos! This Beracha is transformative, and so, like his grandfather Avraham before him, Yaakov's name is changed as he receives his destiny.

That Yaakov merits ברכת אברהם comes as no surprise; what is facinating is what is missing. Hashem makes no mention of the berachos that Yaakov stole from Eisav! No טל השמים, no שמני הארץ. Hashem never does bless Yaakov with any of the material blessings that were granted to Avraham at the beginning of Lech Lecha (unless you count 46:3). Like Yaakov himself, Hashem seems focused on the original vision of Yaakov, the איש תם יושב אהלים, a man dedicated exclusively to divine service. The fact that Yaakov has usurped Eisav's role is being ignored, and, on some level, maybe even denied.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On the Trail of Blessings: Mother Knows Best?

[This is the fifth installment in the series. Begin the Trail here.]

When Rivkah hears that her husband intends to give the berachos to Eisav, she orders Yaakov to pull off the greatest heist of history. Yaakov does as he is told, but he's not very happy about it. In fact, it can be argued that Yaakov doesn't want the blessing at all.

Beyond the obvious ethical problems that this scheme raises for the man of truth, there is another issue here of no less import. For, as we have seen, Eisav's mission is bound up with his blessing. It follows that to steal the blessing of the man of the field is to take on the responsibilities of the man of the field - responsibilities that Yaakov, the יושב אהלים, would understandably prefer to avoid. We present here several pieces of evidence:

·  Told of Rivkah's plan that he dress up as Eisav, Yaakov is nervous:
אולי ימשני אבי והייתי בעיניו כמתעתע, "Maybe father will feel me and he'll think I'm an impostor!" 

Yaakov's use of אולי for "maybe" is significant. According to the Vilna Gaon, אולי is used when the speaker hopes that the issue in doubt will come true [if you hope it won't, פן is used](Gaon on Bereishis 24:39, see Kol Eliyahu for examples). Based on this Gaon, Rabbi Yitzchok Dov Bamberger (Wurzburger Rov, 1807-1878) explains that despite his mother's orders, Yaakov secretly hoped the ruse would be foiled by his father (cited in Peninim MiShulchan HaGra).

·  Direct evidence of Yaakov's reluctance can be seen here:

ותקח רבקה את בגדי עשו בנה הגדל החמדת... ותלבש את יעקב בנה הקטן
"And Rivka took Eisav's clothes... and dressed Yaakov...

Rivkah has to dress Yaakov herself to get him to participate! Indeed, the Midrash tells us that Yaakov cried as his fulfilled his mother's orders (B.R. 65:15). 

·  At the beginning of Parshas Vayeitzei, Yaakov takes an oath:

וידר יעקב נדר לאמר אם יהיה אלהים עמדי ושמרני בדרך הזה אשר אנכי הולך ונתן לי לחם לאכול ובגד ללבש, “If God will be with me... and give me bread to eat and clothes to wear...” 

This is the man who just received the blessing of wealth! "God shall give you the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth, much grain and wine..." And he asks for bread?! This can be nothing other than a repudiation of the blessing his mother forced him to steal. Yaakov is interested in God, not wealth.

·  As we have learned, Eisav's blessings including the blessing of Leah, who was destined to marry Yitzchok's firstborn son. Yaakov presumably knew this; nonetheless, he wanted to marry Rachel, not Leah. 
·  When Yaakov needs to make some money in order to move back to Israel, he cuts a deal with Lavan (cf. 30:31-33). According to the laws of nature, Yaakov is not going to make very much money and Lavan knows it (31:34). The fact that Yaakov struck it big was due less to his genetic engineering (30:37-41) than to divine intervention (31:9-12). Again, it appears that Yaakov is only trying to provide for his family's needs, no more. The Rashba brings further evidence to Yaakov’s preference for the tent of Torah over financial success: ובכל מאדך – למאוס כל ממונו אם יצטרך לכך לקיים עבודתו ית', כיעקב אבינו ע"ה שמאס בעושר בית אביו ובחר לו להיות יושב אהלים. ואמר כל אשר תתן לי עשר אעשרנו לך (Teshuvos HaRashba 5:55).

·  On Yaakov's return to Israel he attempts to appease Eisav's wrath by returning to him the blessing of wealth which he stole, sending Eisav jewels (Rashi 32:14), goats, sheep, cattle, camels and donkeys (see, however, Rashi to 32:5). When they finally meet, Yaakov says it explicitly:

קח נא את ברכתי, "Take my blessing!"

Admittedly, Yaakov's statements to Eisav prove little - Yaakov would obviously say anything to save his life - nor is it within Yaakov abilities to transfer the blessing back to his brother - nonetheless, I believe it is unlikely that Yaakov would attempt this tactic if he wasn't sincere.

We must note that Yaakov forces the angel of Eisav to recognize his right to the berachos 
(Rashi to 32:27) and demands that he do so immediately (Rashi to 32:29). In the end, Eisav himself explicitly cedes the berachos to his brother! (Rashi 33:9) 

[Continue the Trail here.]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On the Trail of Blessings: Having It All

[This is the first installment of a series on the development of the Berachos in Sefer Bereishis. I encourage you to follow it through to the end - it is one extended בנין. Before you begin, read this post which explores the multiple delivery systems of divine blessings.]

Hashem loves the Avos and He blesses them, promising them the world. Avraham is the first recipient of these extraordinary divine gifts, but it is obviously the nature of blessings of nationhood and legacy that they are to be inherited by succeeding generations. Indeed, although the language does evolve and new elements are added, we can easily trace the Berachos as they pass from Avraham to Yitzchok and then from Yitzchok to Yaakov. But when Yitzchok grabbed the horns of destiny and attempted to bless Eisav, things get complicated. Are the blessings a package deal? Or can they divide in two when they hit a fork in the road? Let's pick up the trail from the beginning.

In Parshas Lech Lecha, Avraham receives two very different Berachos. In the beginning of the Parsha, Hashem promises him this:
ואעשך לגוי גדול ואברכך ואגדלה שמך והיה ברכה: ואברכה מברכיך ומקללך אאר ונברכו בך כל משפחת האדמה. יב:ב
In other words, Hashem blessed Avraham with power, wealth, fame and influence. Later in the Parsha, by the Bris bein HaBesarim, Hashem is even more explicit: טו:יד) ואחרי כן יצאו ברכוש גדול). "Great wealth" is promised to Avraham's progeny.

The part about becoming a nation obviously cannot happen during Avraham's lifetime, but wealth, power and success certainly can, and does:
ויהי לו צאן ובקר וחמורים ועבדים ושפחת ואתנת וגמלים... ואברם כבד מאד במקנה בכסף ובזהב. יב:טז, יג:ב
נשיא אלהים אתה בתוכנו. כג:ו
וה' ברך את אברהם בכל. כד:א
באורך ימים ועושר וכבוד ובנים, וזו כל חמדת האדם - אבן עזרא
Avraham has it "all;" a long life, wealth, honor and children. As the Ibn Ezra says, it's everything a man could ever want. But is it, really? Compare this Beracha from the end of the Parshas Lech Lecha:
ויהי אברם בן תשעים שנה ותשע שנים וירא יקוק אל אברם ויאמר אליו אני אל שדי התהלך לפני והיה תמים: ואתנה בריתי ביני ובינך וארבה אותך במאד מאד: ויפל אברם על פניו וידבר אתו אלהים לאמר: אני הנה בריתי אתך והיית לאב המון גוים: ולא יקרא עוד את שמך אברם והיה שמך אברהם כי אב המון גוים נתתיך: והפרתי אתך במאד מאד ונתתיך לגוים ומלכים ממך יצאו: והקמתי את בריתי ביני ובינך ובין זרעך אחריך לדרתם לברית עולם להיות לך לאלהים ולזרעך אחריך: ונתתי לך ולזרעך אחריך את ארץ מגריך את כל ארץ כנען לאחזת עולם והייתי להם לאלהים: יז:א-ח
Here Hashem introduces Himself with a new name, "אל שדי" and changes Avram's name to "Avraham." He then promises Avraham that he will be fruitful and multiply "וארבה אותך... והפרתי אתך", ultimately leading to a monarchy "מלכים ממך יצאו" blessed with both an eternal relationship with Hashem "ברית עולם" and the Land of Israel "אחוזת עולם". This blessing speaks of Avraham's descendants' destiny as God's chosen nation in the Holy Land. No mention here of money or fame. It seems there is more to life than having it "all."

The beracha to be fruitful and multiply stands out for two reasons. First, it happens to be the very first thing God said to Adam (Bereishis 1:28). Second, does it really belong in the context of spiritual blessings? The answer is self-evident. These two points resolve each other: Hashem is telling Avraham that he is the new Adam: Be fruitful and multiply, for we are starting over with you. You, Avraham, are the father of a new species of man: "homo religiosus." Maybe this is why, along with Avram's new name, Hashem Himself gets a new name: אל שדי - A God Who says, "Enough!" Adam failed his test, as did Noach. But now we have Avraham. דיינו!

The Birchas HaAvos thus consist of two very different elements. At the beginning of Lech Lecha, Hashem blesses Avraham's material future, promising him wealth, success and fame. And at the end of the Parsha, Hashem gifts him with a rich spiritual destiny - he is to be the father of the Nation of God. This explains why the mitzva of ברית מילה arrives packaged together with this second Beracha at the end of the Parsha (cf. 17:9-14). More powerfully than any other mitzva, circumcision demands transcendence of our physicality (the act speaks for itself, but we can also point to the symbolism of the number eight). The vision of a spiritual Chosen Nation described in the second set of blessings is thus anchored in the private mitzva of מילה, in contradistinction to the public act of לך לך which defined the physical dimension of the nation found at the beginning of the Parsha.

While both blessings refer to a great nation in Avraham's future, one wonders if God is actually talking about the same nation. Are these blessings supposed to be merged into one people? Or maybe there are two nations here, making Avraham a true אב המון גוים? This seemingly bizarre line of questioning turns out to be the key to understanding Parshas Toldos.

In Parshas Toldos, Yaakov purchases the birthright from his brother Eisav for a bowl of soup. What exactly did he buy? According to Rashi, the birthright is the privilege of performing the service in the Temple; according to the Chizkuni, the birthright is the right to the Land of Israel (both views are found in the Midrash). Either way, the birthright has nothing in common with the material blessings found the beginning of Lech Lecha. (This explains why Eisav was happy to sell it for soup, cf. Ibn Ezra.) It is the blessing of spiritual riches found at the end of Lech Lecha that is the privilege of the firstborn. And this is the blessing that Yaakov wants.

At the end of Parshas Toldos, Yitzchok attempts to give a Beracha to Eisav, but Yaakov, following his mother's orders, "steals" it. In contrast to his readiness to sell the religious responsibilities of the birthright, Eisav is devastated when he realizes that he has lost his father's blessing. What exactly did he lose? Here's the text:
ויתן לך האלהים מטל השמים ומשמני הארץ ורב דגן ותירש: יעבדוך עמים וישתחו לך לאמים הוה גביר לאחיך וישתחוו לך בני אמך ארריך ארור ומברכיך ברוך: כז:כח-כט
Wealth and power, but no mention of ברית or Israel. This blessing is clearly an elaboration of the blessing given to Avraham at the beginning of Lech Lecha, as evidenced by the reappearance of the promise to "bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you." Yitzchok only intended to give this blessing to Eisav; he was saving the spiritual blessings for Yaakov (Seforno to 27:29; see however Ramban to 27:4). Indeed, when Yitzchok sends Yaakov away at the end of the Parsha, he grants him this blessing:
ויקרא יצחק אל יעקב ויברך אתו ויצוהו ויאמר לו לא תקח אשה מבנות כנען: קום לך פדנה ארם ביתה בתואל אבי אמך וקח לך משם אשה מבנות לבן אחי אמך: ואל שדי יברך אתך ויפרך וירבך והיית לקהל עמים: ויתן לך את ברכת אברהם לך ולזרעך אתך לרשתך את ארץ מגריך אשר נתן אלהים לאברהם: כח:א-ד
This is exactly the same Beracha that Hashem gave Avraham at the end of Lech Lecha! The same אל שדי, the same ויפרך וירבך, the same ארץ מגריך. This is the spiritual ברכת אברהם. And, if we are correct, this is what Yaakov purchased from Eisav for a bowl of soup. There's no money in it, just an eternal covenant with God.

The Abrahamic legacy consisted of two blessings. Eisav knew this, but Eisav also knew that his father wasn't planning on giving him everything.
Eisav himself had never expected that Yitzchak would confer upon him the whole blessing. He immediately askes his father: הלא אצלת לי ברכה, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me?" (v. 36). That is to say, had you given me the blessing, you surely would have reserved a blessing for Yaakov; that blessing - give to me!
Rabbi S.R. Hirsch
Eisav knows good and well that his father has another blessing in his pocket - "!?הברכה אחת היא לך אבי" - but even when he begs his father for a blessing, any blessing, Yitzchok refuses to put the Holy Land into the hands of Eisav. This infuriates Eisav even more than his brother's treachery: וישטם עשו את יעקב על הברכה אשר ברכו אביו, "Eisav hated Yaakov for the Beracha that his father blessed him" (27:41) - Eisav's hatred for Yaakov has its source not in Yaakov's theft per se, but in Yitzchok's refusal to give him Israel! All Eisav got was a vague, watered-down blessing that places Yaakov as a yoke around his neck.
This much is clear: Yitzchok wanted to divide up the Berachos between his sons. This is not a violation of the family legacy; on the contrary, the Berachos in their original form do seem to speak of two different nations. Yitzchok naturally assumed that Hashem's two blessings referred to the two nations of Yaakov and Eisav.

Yitzchok knew his sons and he envisioned a bi-national partnership; a joint venture where Yaakov, the יושב אהלים, could dwell in the tents, devoting himself entirely to divine service, while Eisav, the איש שדה, went out into the world to claim the blessings of wealth -לך לך- in order to support his brother's holy work (cf. Malbim; however, see Teshuvos HaRashba 1:134).
Such was Yitzchok's vision, but it is not to be. Yaakov takes all.

[Continue the trail with part-two here.]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vashti Lives!

This post interprets the Megillah in a way that is not p'shat but remez. In other words, there is more to the Megillah than what meets the eye. Alongside its straightforward meaning, there is another dimension to the text which tells a second, parallel story. Yes, the Megillah is both history and allegory at the very same time; as God unfolds history, He speaks.

We must first accept two givens:

1) The Gaon of Vilna teaches that every time it says the word "King" in the Megillah it is an allegorical reference to God.

2) The sages tells us that the covenant at Sinai was a "marriage" between God and the Jewish nation. (King Solomon's Song of Songs takes this allegory and runs with it.)

If we add up these two traditions we get this result: The wives of Ahashveirosh are the Jews. Stay with me here.

In the beginning, God provided us with an unending, indulgent feast. Our every whim was provided for and the King asked for only one thing in return: that His wife come to Him. To show the world how beautiful she is. But we refused.

The King had no choice. He decreed that his wife lose her position as His queen. This is the destruction of the First Temple. But nowhere does it say that Vashti was actually killed.

Maimonides writes that one of the ways of repentance is to change your name, casting off your old, sinful identity. At some point during the Babylonian exile, the Jews repented. Vashti became Esther.

However, even "Esther" does not come of her own volition. When God chose the Jews at Sinai, He menacingly held the mountain over them, giving them no choice but to accept. Esther and the Jews are "Chosen." One cannot chose to be Chosen.

The relationship thus remains unconsummated. The King wants the Queen to prove her love. He still pines for the day that His Queen will overcome all obstacles and come to Him on her own. So He comes up with a creative plan: He orchestrates a disaster. The King decrees that the Queen be destroyed. (Of course, the King loves His wife and intends her no harm. That is why, in the Megillah, even as the decree is signed by the king's signet ring, the queen is perfectly safe in the palace.)

The plan works! Risking her life, the Queen comes to the King, recognizing that He is the only one who will save her.

Of course, coming to the King wasn't easy for Esther. It meant losing her beloved Mordechai, for the King is obviously not willing to share the Queen. Coming to the King is synonymous with transcending all of our personal desires and agendas. But there is nothing to fear. The King promises to spilt the kingdom with the Queen 50/50!

The story is indeed bizarre. The Queen turns to the King for help when the King is the one who created the problem in the first place?! But this paradox is the reality that we must recognize on Purim: Ad D'Lo Yada... Drink until we don't know anymore what good and what is not...

The decree was a ruse, but it accomplished its task. The Jews embrace their relationship with God, accepting their traditions with love. At long last, the Temple can be rebuilt.

Happy Purim!