Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Disturbed Sleep

Parshat VaYikra
3 Adar, 5771
March 9th, 2011

...בלילה ההוא נדדה שנת המלך
That night, the king’s sleep was disturbed.
Megillat Esther, 6:1
אמר רבי תנחום, “שנת מלכו של עולם”
Said Rabbi Tanhum, “that is, the sleep of the King of the world was disturbed.”
Talmud, Megillah 15b

Megillat Esther is a see-saw.

It’s a strange image, I know, but accurate. The book begins with inanity, chaos, instability, and the threat of death despite the worth of its Jewish characters.

But within Esther is a fulcrum, after which entropy becomes order, hatred is defeated, and our fate rises (can you see the see-saw?) towards redemption.

The verse you see above is that fulcrum. It is roughly the center of the book and exactly the turning point (clearly a term well-fashioned) of the story.

Interestingly, our rabbis rarely read this verse as applying to Ahashverosh; rather, it was God’s sleep being disturbed. The Holy One, finally, decided to wake up and intervene upon our behalf.

This interpretation is shocking. Not only does it imply that Holy One can choose to be absent from human affairs, but that God is also open to changing God’s mind. The Kedushat Levi, a brilliant hassidic commentary, teaches that the righteous in each generation possess the power to persuade the Holy One onto a different course.

In this case, let us be Godly rather than righteous. If the Divine can change opinions, it is certainly human virtue to allow oneself to be persuaded. Sometimes changing our principles is the best evidence that we have them.

No comments:

Post a Comment