Posts tagged " Book of Esther "

Esther and Sarah vs. Viruses and Villains

March 9th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

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.
(Esther 1:1)

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…
(Genesis 23:1)

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.

On occasion, God lifts the curtain of history (His story) and gives us thrilling instances where the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies play out. Starting in Genesis and moving through the book of Judges and the Scroll of Esther, our generation has seen prophecies come to life that our ancestors could only accept on faith. In honor of Purim, we invite you to dig deeply into Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam that explores these amazing verses and delves into paths of history that are continuing today as Persia (Iran) and others once again threaten to wipe out the children of Sarah and Esther. Be sure to check out the special offer on this astounding CD teaching.

Rabbi Lapin DownloadSALE

Updated from Feb. 2018

See Something; Say Nothing

March 1st, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

Today is Purim. Among other things this means that, this week, many people with an agenda are trying to validate their ideas by quoting verses from the Scroll of Esther. Are you a staunch 2nd Amendment advocate? You can find Scriptural support. Do you think that gun ownership should be outlawed? You can find Scriptural support. This doesn’t mean that Scripture has nothing to say on the topic. It means that the ancient Jewish wisdom that emanates from Scripture can’t be easily absorbed or transmitted in one quick column lacking context, subtlety and serious arguments and debate.

On the other hand, it is Purim, so I am going to join the crowd and link to the holiday, not directly on the gun issue, but on two news media items I saw in the press this week. The first was an article by the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency claiming that the speech given at CPAC by the NRA’s executive-vice-president could exacerbate anti-Semitism. Since Wayne LaPierre mentioned Saul Alinsky, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros, his speech could be seen as a dog whistle to anti-Semites. To the author’s credit, he acknowledges that it is hard to discuss the gun-control movement without mentioning Soros and Bloomberg as leaders in it, but he thinks that it, somehow, well, kind of, shouldn’t be said because even if Wayne LaPierre isn’t anti-Semitic himself, he might be seen as encouraging others to be so.

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Ties that Bind

March 15th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Recently, I received exactly the same answer from two separate people to whom I had asked two separate questions. I asked the first about marriage and the second about business.

The first person told me that his daughter was engaged to a ‘gem’ of a man. I challenged him on how he knew that his daughter’s beau was indeed a ‘gem’.

His response: I know several men with whom he served in the army.

The second question I asked of a client who had consulted me on succession issues in his company. I asked him why he had bypassed the procedures we had set up by abruptly finalizing the hire of one particular candidate.

His response: I know several men with whom he served in the navy.

Other responses which could generate similar confidence might be (i) We’ve served together on the board of our synagogue for years; (ii) All the folks in his Rotary Club have known him for ages and think the world of him.

What factor contributed to the sense of trust about the person being discussed? The individual was a respected part of a respected group.

Examine your own life to ensure that you are adequately connected to worthwhile and identifiable groups. Being isolated damages your income producing potential and being a loner harms your capacity to find love and lasting happiness.

While building and maintaining relationships within groups it is important to recognize the restraints that such affiliations place upon us. Serving in the United States military is a privilege but it also restricts one from criticizing the president. Being part of a family bestows benefits but it also carries responsibilities and restraints.

About 2,500 years ago, Persian Jews faced genocide. The plot was launched when the Jewish community leader, Mordechai, refused to bow to Haman. See the following verses from Esther, chapter 3.

After these events, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman…and elevated him, setting his position above all the aristocrats…

All the king’s servants in the king’s gate bowed and prostrated before Haman for so had the king commanded… However Mordechai did not bow and did not prostrate himself.

Then the king’s servants…said to Mordechai, Why do you violate the king’s commandment?

As they repeatedly spoke to him daily and he did not listen to them, they told Haman in order to discover whether Mordechai’s words would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew.

When Haman saw that Mordechai neither bowed nor prostrated himself, he was filled with fury.

He scorned the idea of attacking only Mordechai because they had told him Mordechai’s people and Haman resolved to destroy all the Jews in the entire kingdom of Ahasuerus, the people of Mordechai.

The giant question is why Mordechai didn’t bow just as everyone else did? After all, bowing was (and still is) a very common way to express humility and respect.

Many in Scripture bowed for this reason: Abraham to three travellers (Genesis 18:2); Abraham to the Hittites (Genesis 23:7, 12); Jacob to Esau (Genesis 33:3); Jacob’s sons to the ruler of Egypt (Genesis 43:28); Moses to his father-in-law (Exodus 18:7). There are many other similar instances.

In most cases, Mordechai would have been quite comfortable showing respect and humility. But Haman was known as a notorious anti-Semite. As a leading member of the Jewish people Mordechai knew he was representing his people, not only himself. Bowing would have diminished the Jewish people as a whole conceding power over the Jews to a human being rather than to God. The group affiliation circumscribed his behavior.

This coming Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of Esther, Purim. Purim is way more than the celebration of a historical event. Esther’s adventures long ago in faraway Persia are part of a chain which formed the DNA for today’s headlines about Iran, Islam and Israel. The deceptively simple Book of Esther contains hints to recent events and to those yet to happen. Travel through history with me in my audio CD set Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam, only $19 through Purim.

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