web analytics
August 1, 2015 / 16 Av, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

The Capacity to Change

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Rabbi Avi Weiss
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Fundamental to the idea of the korban, which we begin reading about this week, is the power to change oneself. After all the term korban comes from the word karov, meaning coming closer to God. Yet change is not easily accomplished. On its most basic level, the process involves a belief that one has the capacity to transform.

This capacity is implicit in the Purim story. Note how Queen Esther undergoes a fundamental metamorphosis in chapter four of the megillah.

When told that Mordechai was in sackcloth, she wonders why. At this point, Esther does not even know the Jewish people had been threatened. She had become so insulated in the palace of the king that she did not feel the plight of her fellow Jew. Furthermore, when asked by Mordechai to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people, she refuses, claiming that the rules of the palace did not allow her to come before the king.

Yet when Mordechai rebukes her, declaring that she too would not be able to escape the evil decree, perhaps the most powerful moment of the megillah takes place. Esther courageously declares that she would come before the king, even if it meant she would perish.

Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadassah. Once she becomes queen, she adopts the Persian name Esther. This name, which means “hidden,” reminds us that at the outset of her rulership she abides by Mordechai’s request that she hide her Jewish identity. But as the narrative in chapter four reveals, she returns to her roots. At a key moment she is ready to speak out powerfully on behalf of her people. Esther provides an important example of how change is possible.

Rabbi David Silber notes that one of the smallest words found in the megillah, dat, is used often and teaches an important lesson about Purim. Dat means law. In Persia, the law was immutable, it could never change. And so when Vashti refused to come before the king, Achashveirosh asks, “according to the law (dat) what shall be done to Queen Vashti?” And when it is decided that a new queen would be selected, the megillah once again uses the term dat – the law of selection. And when Haman accuses the Jews of not keeping the king’s laws, again the word dat is used. Indeed, the decree that the Jews be killed is also referred to as dat.

Even when told of Haman’s plan to destroy the Jews, Achashveirosh declares that he cannot change the prior decree that the Jews be killed. The law must remain. All Achashveirosh can do is allow the introduction of a new dat, a new law that stands in contradiction to but cannot take the place of the first.

Rabbi Silber points out that not coincidentally, when Esther agreed to come before Achashveirosh, she declares, “I will go to the king contrary to the law. Esther had been so transformed that she is prepared to defy the immutable law of Persia.

About the Author: Rabbi Avi Weiss is founding president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. His memoir of the Soviet Jewry movement, “Open Up the Iron Door,” was recently published by Toby Press.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “The Capacity to Change”

  1. G-d always has a plan to defeat Israel’s enemies.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Matt Lee of the Associated Press at the State Department press briefing.
ObameDeal Exposed: It’s not ‘Secret’ from Congress but not in Writing
Latest Judaism Stories
Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

By internalizing the Exodus, it is as if we ourselves were redeemed from Egypt.

Neihaus-073115

Each Shabbos we add the tefilla of “Ritzei” to Birchas HaMazon. In it we ask Hashem that on this day of Shabbos He should be pleased with us and save us. What exactly do we want to be saved from? Before we answer this question, let’s talk about this Friday, the 15th of Av. Many […]

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Amongst the greatest disagreements in Judaism is the understanding of the 1st of the 10 Commandments

Daf-Yomi-logo

The Day He Heard
‘One May Seek Revocation Of A Confimation’
(Nedarim 69a)

The director picked up the phone to Rabbi Dayan. “One of our counselors lost his check,” he said. “Do we have to issue a new one or is it his loss?”

Six events occurred on Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av, making it a festive day in the Jewish calendar.

Why would Moshe Rabbeinu have thought that the vow that disallowed him to enter Eretz Yisrael was annulled simply because he was allowed to conquer and enter the land of Sichon and Og?

Question: When a stranger approaches a congregant in shul asking for tzedakah, should the congregant verify that the person’s need is genuine? Furthermore, what constitutes tzedakah? Is a donation to a synagogue, yeshiva, or hospital considered tzedakah?

Zvi Kirschner
(Via E-Mail)

Snow in Jerusalem! For many New Englanders like me, snow pulls at our nostalgic heartstrings like nothing else can.

Man has conflicting wishes and desires. Man has forces pulling him in competing directions.

Perhaps the admonition here is that we should not trivialize the events of the past by saying that they are irrelevant to the modern Jew.

One must view the settlement of Israel in a positive light. Thinking otherwise is a grievous sin.

Reaching a stronger understanding of what Moses actually did to prevent him from entering the land

Anti-Zionism, today’s anti-Semitism, has gone viral, tragically supported globally & by many Jews

More Articles from Rabbi Avi Weiss
Rabbi Avi Weiss

Devarim often parallels the stories in Bereishit but in reverse & can be considered as a corrective

Rabbi Avi Weiss

When living in Israel, how can we be a light to the world’s nations if we don’t live among non-Jews?

With Ruth, The Torah seems to be stating that children shouldn’t be punished for the sins of parents

Halacha isn’t random; it’s a mechanism guiding individuals and society to a higher ethical plateau.

Essential principle of arguments for Heaven’s sake is recognizing no 1 person has monopoly on truth

It becomes clear that the problem the Jewish people faced wasn’t temporary but endemic to its core

Mitzvot, even restrictive laws, often teach self-discipline which is a venue to freedom.

Torah learning is valueless unless it enhances personal morality, fostering closer connection to God

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-capacity-to-change/2014/03/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: