In our constant struggle to build successful lives, it is all too easy to be pulled down by hardship, dark recollections, terrifying fears, and sad thoughts. Dealing with the hysteria, as well as the reality, surrounding the coronavirus is only one example of the negativity that abounds. Nonetheless, we can confidently focus on moving forward by treating each day as its own opportunity to achieve success and happiness.
Tonight and tomorrow we celebrate Purim on which we read the Book of Esther. Like all “stories” in the Bible that we first meet as children, we often neglect to elevate our study of Esther to a more mature level. The book opens:
And it was in the days of Ahasuerosh, he was Ahasuerosh who reigned from Hodu to Kush, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces.
The number 127 occurs only one other time in all of Scripture—at the end of Sarah’s life.
And Sarah was a hundred and twenty-seven years old…
Ancient Jewish wisdom links the two occurrences. In Scripture, numbers have great meaning. If a number only appears twice, we need to note the connection between the two occasions.
Imagine seven pennies lined up in a row upon a table. You spin each penny until they are all laying either heads or tails.
After the first spin, the arrangement of coins on the table might look like this (H=heads; T=tails):
H H T H T T H
After the second spin, the line of coins will probably look different. Some will fall the same way as the first time, while others will fall differently.
How many different ways can the seven coins fall?
Each coin can fall in one of two possibilities, heads or tails. The total number of possible arrangements is:
2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 = 128
Now, let’s forget coins and instead think of the seven days of the week. Each 24-hour day comprises night and day, which represent darkness and light.
You will surely agree that seven coins each of which is made up of two parts, heads and tails, is the same, mathematically speaking, as seven days each made up of two parts, night and day.
So the first possible arrangement of seven days would be:
night night night night night night night
and the 128th arrangement would be:
day day day day day day day
Based on Biblical language, darkness or night is almost universally recognized as a metaphor for tough times while the bright light of day depicts brightness and optimism. This means that there are 128 ways for my week to turn out. Number 1 is seven dark and dismal days in a row and number 128 is a rapturous sequence of seven wonderful days.
We omit number one because any sequence of seven days must include a Sabbath. Any week that includes a Sabbath cannot, by definition, be entirely bad. This leaves us with 127 potential ways for a week to turn out.
Ancient Jewish wisdom links Sarah and Esther through the number 127. Both women’s lives contained intense disappointment, pain and fear, yet both stayed hopeful. Both women were captive in an alien king’s palace and both had one son who played a major role in the future of the Jewish people. Both remained true to their destiny.
The secret we learn is that every day offers us a choice to liberate ourselves from negative emotional anchors of yesterday. Like Sarah and Esther, we will have painful and difficult times, yet we must choose not to see those times as the only model for our future. Each week gives us 127 new opportunities for optimism, joy and the fulfillment of our life mission. We take whatever available steps we can to deflect tomorrow’s possible dangers or to protect ourselves from them as best we can. Thereafter, we live today with gratitude and optimism.
Updated from Feb. 2018