Esther 4

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Mordechai Tells Esther to Be a Man

Because of the imminent danger to the Jews, Mordechai exhibited the signs of mourning, such as tearing his clothes and wearing sackcloth and ashes. He went out into the city, crying loudly and bitterly. He got as far as the palace gates, but he could go no further, as one was not permitted to enter wearing sackcloth. There was similar lamenting going on throughout the empire, wherever Jews learned of the decree against them. Esther was likewise terrified. She sent Mordechai a change of clothes to replace his sackcloth, but he would not accept it.

Esther sent an attendant named Hasach to inquire of Mordechai as to his actions. Mordechai explained to Hasach about the decree. He gave Hasach a copy to show Esther, along with instructions to speak to the king about it. Hasach gave Esther the message; she returned word that no one may go into the king's inner court without being summoned. If one were to do so, he or she would be subject to the death penalty, unless Ahasuerus extended his scepter towards that person, indicating a reprieve. Since Esther had not been summoned for a month, she was afraid that the king did not particularly desire to see her and that approaching him unbidden would be tantamount to suicide.

"Don't think that you'll escape the slaughter in the palace," Mordechai replied. "If you do nothing, help will come from some other source, but you and your father's house will be lost. Who knows? Perhaps you were made queen specifically to help at a time like this!"

Esther sent word back to Mordechai that he should assemble all the Jews in the capital and instruct them to fast for three days and three nights for Esther's sake; she and her maids would do likewise. Afterward, she would approach Ahasuerus and whatever happens, happens.

Mordechai's attitude in this chapter is noteworthy and worthy of emulation. One should always be confident that G-d has matters well in hand and have faith that He will send help. We must also recognize, however, that that does not absolve us of the responsibility to take action when we have the ability to do so. As the Mishna says (Avos 2:5), "In a place where there are no men, shape up and be a man." ("Man" in this context means a leader.)

Author: Rabbi Jack Abramowitz