Did you ever imagine yourself as a biblical character? How would you have responded being placed in one of the complex and monumental situations they faced? Let's take Mordechai and Esther as examples. At a climactic moment in the Megillah story, Mordechai informs Esther of the planned annihilation of the Jews, and then requests that she go to the king and beg him to rescind the decree.
Esther is hesitant to do so, explaining that an unsolicited visit to the king would endanger her life.
As Mordechai, how would you have responded?
I think a normal response would be to give Esther a guilt trip. "Really, Esther, how can you be thinking only of yourself at a time like this?"
Or perhaps an impassioned plea: "C'mon, Esther you've got to do it! We need you! Don't let us down!"
The Jews will still be saved from somewhere else.
Surprisingly, Mordechai's response is the diametric opposite. He tells Esther, "If you are silent at this moment, the Jews will be saved from somewhere else, and you and your father's house will be lost. And who knows if it's only because of this moment that you attained royalty?"
To paraphrase, Mordechai appears to be saying, "Esther, don't worry about the Jewish people. They will be saved one way or another. But in not exercising your option to assist the Jews when you are in a position to do so, it is you who loses out. And why do you think God put you in this lofty position in the first place?!"
After hearing these words, Esther opts to endanger her life and fulfill Mordechai's requested mission. It appears that Esther saw how power and position bring with them responsibilities, and at times a greater need for self sacrifice.
These words of the Megillah often resound in my mind as I face a personal challenge which entails stretching beyond my comfort zone to assist someone in a unique way. I sometimes wonder, "Who knows if all my life experiences and this series of events have conspired just to test my reaction?"
Even with this awareness, I don't always rise to the challenges that come my way. The clarity of spiritual vision is often obscured by more vivid "this-world" images. It's easier to shrug things off as coincidences, with no obligation on my part, then to interact with the world in ways that demonstrate an awareness that nothing in life is by chance.
But is this not precisely the Purim message?
Even a lottery is Divinely directed.
The name Purim, literally a lottery, denotes randomness and arbitrary picking. But as Mordechai tried to tell Esther, and as the Purim story demonstrates, in truth, all of life's occurrences -- even lotteries! -- are Divinely directed.
The name of the scroll we read on Purim is Megillat Esther. The word megillah means "revealing," and the word Esther (or hester) means "hidden." Together it is "revealing the hidden." Amazingly, Megillat Esther is the only book in the Bible in which God's name does not appear even once! Despite this, His presence is felt throughout the book, as He orchestrates seeming coincidences from behind the scenes. One needs only to delve a bit deeper, beyond the "world mask," to reveal God's inconspicuous, ever-present guiding of destiny.
Loss of Potential
The Almighty has given us each a unique mission in this world, and the tools we need to achieve it. The myriad occurrences in our lives are not by chance, but rather Divinely sent, to help bring out our latent strengths, and to accomplish the tasks for which we were sent to this world.
On the other hand, if one's outlook is that choices are basically inconsequential, and that just as opportunity knocked today so it will tomorrow, one may end up sorely disappointed with life. A missed moment is a one-time opportunity to reveal our inherent greatness and advance closer to fulfilling our ultimate potential. It is a chance that quite likely will never recur in our lifetime. In the final analysis, the loss is primarily ours. It's the loss of self-actualization.
The lesson of Purim is that life's opportunities are not an accident. The magnitude of each moment must not be overlooked, but capitalized upon. And if we find it difficult to internalize this concept, we have a role model to use for inspiration. Her name was Esther.