Some people are good at filling out forms, some are excellent at organizing, and others are great at parallel parking. We all have our talents. What about when we are required to reach beyond our comfort zone? How do we feel? Do we dread it, go for it, or just try to get through it? The story of Purim is the story of being pushed and pulled out of our comfort zones, rising to the occasion, and mastering the moments.
Who was Mordechai? A respected sage and member of the Sanhedrin who spent his days studying, teaching, and writing. He lived a quiet and unassuming life in Shushan before Haman rose to power.
Who was Esther? An orphan raised by her older cousin Mordechai. The Talmud advances that Mordechai married Esther, and together they maintained a faithful Jewish home in Persia.
Then fate and destiny determined that Esther competes, against her will, to become the queen of the Persian empire. She dreaded her plight and preferred to not be chosen for the throne. However, she was summoned by G-d to another station in the palace of Persia to inspire and lead the salvation of her nation. Mordechai left his studies and began to frequent the king’s palace daily to look after Esther as well as to protect the Jews of the Persian empire. Mordechai rose to greatness in the court of Ahasuerus and worked together with Esther to save the Jews from the first known attempted Holocaust in Jewish history.
The common denominator between both of them is that neither signed up for their positions and would prefer to never be called upon at all. However, when they were pulled out of their comfort zones, they embraced the challenges, vanquished evil, and restored goodness for the Jews and the world.
How ironic and providential that over 2,500 years later, we see a similar story in front of our eyes. A modern-day dictator, Vladimir Putin chose to invade and attack the nation of Ukraine. Much like the Jews in Persia, the Ukrainian population has been targeted for destruction. Just as Esther and Mordechai ascended to leadership in their day, an unlikely actor, Volodymyr Zelensky, left his law degree and acting career to lead his nation towards justice. He is standing up to Putin and has won over the hearts of the free world in his struggle for the freedom and sovereignty of his nation. It is uncanny how history repeats itself. As King Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 1:9: There is nothing new under the sun. We pray that just as Esther and Mordechai led the Jews to safety, so too will Zelensky lead his nation to security and freedom.
A takeaway for us this Purim is that like Esther and Mordechai, when we are pushed out of our comfort zones, know it is happening for a reason. Let us support Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainians through the Federation’s relief efforts as they have been far out of any comfort zone. Let us also aim to embrace any challenges that are foisted upon us and achieve great things in the process.
Community Scholar in Residence