By: Batya Hefter
When Mordechai hears the edict to annihilate the Jews, he rends his clothes as a mourner, dons sackcloth, and cries out bitterly from the depths of his being. Rav Zadok teaches that this is the experience of hester panim; Mordechai has lost all hope just as a mourner must face the finality of death.
Desperation brings in its wake an authentic cry which is vital for redemption. When Esther sends Mordechai clothing to cover up his defiance of the king’s dress code, Mordechai is stirred by a new hope. He commands Esther to risk her life to beseech the king to revoke the decree. Esther hesitates, she fears that she will be killed if she approaches the king without being summoned.
Mordechai’s response reveals his inner conviction and teaches us about the nature of faith. He insists that Esther risk her life and approach the king , telling her that if she does not go, “relief and salvation will come to the Jews from somewhere else,” and yet “who knows, perhaps this is this moment that you came to be royalty.” On the one hand, Mordechai has faith that the Jewish people will endure yet he is uncertain whether the Jews of Shushan will survive.. What does “who knows” mean? What does it mean to have hope and faith and yet be uncertain?
Hope is born from the deep hollow of loss and helplessness. To have faith does not mean that we are certain what the outcome of our actions will be. We may even sacrifice our lives and not be certain of the outcome. However, if we act with mesirat nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the sake of Heaven, then perhaps – who knows – our sacrifice may be meaningful.
“Do not have pretentions about tomorrow; for you do not know what today will bring” (Mishlei 27:1). Rabbi Mordechai Yosef teaches this verse to mean that although a person may certainly have hope in the future, he can not be certain about today since he can not know the will of God in any particular situation. Faith, he teaches, is not when the outcome is clear, rather when it is hidden. (MHS Bishalach)
Faith in exile –and not only in exile – is to experience the uncertainties of reality and cry out to God from that place. If we are ready be moser nefesh, to self-sacrifice, if we work hard as individual and as a community, then – who knows – perhaps God will answer us. (מי יודע Shmuel II 12:22, Yona 3:9)
Purim Sameach and may we merit to experience His great hidden Presence.