Parsha Vayikra/Zachor: Purim – One Day More
One day more
Another day, another destiny
– Les Misérables
I will never get an Apple watch or the Android equivalent. It’s bad enough that my phone distracts me as much as it does. The last thing I want is for it to be notifying me on my arm when it’s not at arm’s length. I am not interested in being that connected and at the beckon call of others so easily.
Once, while playing doubles tennis, without warning my partner starts talking into his wrist between points. He is going on and on while we other three players are tapping our feet, waiting for him to finish up. He is a doctor, so we gave him the benefit of the doubt, figuring it must be a medical emergency. But when I went over to him after a couple of minutes into his conversation, I overheard him instructing his son about a return to Amazon. Not such an emergency.
Stories like these make one wonder – does anyone have the ability to just wait and not immediately react in our day-and-age? Is anyone able to delay that call, not answer that email or text as soon as it arrives? Can’t you shut it out and shut it down – at least until we switch sides on the tennis changeover and then you can check your phone?
Delayed gratification is an essential trait we try to teach our children. It is critical for their maturity and well being. People who react to every ping in their immediate environment, vision or earshot are forever pinballing through life, bouncing from bumper to bell to whirring and spinning lights – never in control and always on edge. I can’t thank God enough for Shabbat where I shut off my phone for a full 24 plus hours.
The rabbis mention in the Talmud that the sign of a wise person is that he or she, when asked a series of questions, answers the first question first and the second question second. Avoiding knee-jerk response to the last thing that happened is a sign of control, maturity and wisdom.
Delay. Wait. Don’t answer the bell as soon as it rings. Not only will it make you a healthier human but this trait has far reaching benefits. It was a crucial component to the Purim story and actually saved the Jewish people in Persia almost 2500 years ago. Yes, delay and postponement were key to keeping the Jewish people alive.
There is a very strange part of the story in the Book of Esther that almost goes unnoticed. As we know, Esther had been chosen by King Achashverosh to be his queen. Soon afterwards, Mordechai found out about a plot to kill the king, told it to Esther who informed her husband about it, thus saving King A’s life. The whole incident was recorded in the Persian chronicles but King A never acknowledged nor responded to the fact that Mordechai saved his life.
The Megillah then narrates the plot by Haman to kill all the Jews. Mordechai presses Esther to speak with her hubby to save her people which she is reluctant to do. Reluctant because of the innate danger in approaching her king-husband without being summoned by him. Theirs was not the normal marriage of a wife asking willy nilly, “Honey, be a dear and do this for me.” No, it was a bit more complicated than that and one wrong move could mean Esther would forfeit her life. After all, we know what happened when King A got upset at his last wife – remember Vashi?
At any rate she approaches husband-king who, upon seeing the lovely and beautiful Esther, is smitten by her charm. Danger averted. Sensing her consternation, he asks what is troubling her and what does she want. She says she wants him and Haman to come to a banquet that she has prepared for them.
So Haman is summoned and at this little soiree King A again presses Esther as to what is bothering her and what does she request. The King’s curiosity is really piqued and he even offers her up to half the kingdom if she so desires.
Now this is where it gets a bit strange. You would think at this point Esther would have made her pitch to save the Jewish people. But she doesn’t. And she even builds it up like she is about to ask for something big, but then leaves King A hanging.
And Esther answered, “My request and my appeal: If indeed I have found favour in the eyes of the King, (and) if it pleases the King to grant me my request and to do what I implore – then let the King and Haman come to a banquet that I prepare tomorrow” (5:7-8)
Hunh? What’s the point of asking him to come to another banquet? He is already at a banquet! Isn’t she already over the hump of worrying about speaking to the king without risking her life? She has his attention. She has him practically eating out of her hand; after all he offered her up to half the kingdom. Wouldn’t now be the time to make the request to save the Jews from the designs of Haman? Why jeopardize the moment and maybe have King A respond, “Excuse me, I am already here at your banquet – you want me to come to another? Stop wasting my time. Is this why you had me come here – to tell me to come back again?!”
But curiously enough, King A doesn’t respond this way but fully acquiesces to this odd request. And this is crucial because this delay was vital to saving the Jewish people. Because it was on that very night in between Banquet 1 and Banquet 2 that King A couldn’t fall asleep, ended up reading some old newsclippings and thus was reminded about how Mordechai saved his life. Also during that self-same night, Haman was busy building gallows to hang Mordechai for not bowing to him.
So it ended up that during those few nocturnal hours between Banquet 1 and Banquet 2 that the status of Mordechai and Haman became completely reversed. It all came crashing down on Haman’s head after the king found out of Haman’s plan to kill Mordechai; Mordechai, the very man who saved his life! And only at Banquet 2 did Queen Esther finally reveal her true Jewish identity and that Haman wanted to do away with her along with her entire people, thus further sealing Haman’s fate and demise.
How did Esther know to delay the matter one day more? To not let the cat out of the bag at Banquet 1? I don’t know. Prophecy maybe. Women’s intuition perhaps. It really doesn’t make a difference. All we know is that because Esther had the ability to follow her gut not to seize the moment at the earliest possible time, to have the patience to remain, to stay, to give it one more day – because of that she saved the lives of countless Jews. And we’ve been commemorating that decision for over two thousand years with the holiday of Purim.
So on Purim have a drink, relax and slow it down. Put down your phone and take off that Apple watch. Don’t suddenly react to every electronic demand. Hold off for just a bit and leave it until later. Who knows, it may very well change the course of your life and those around you forever.
Tomorrow we’ll discover
What our God in Heaven has in store
One more dawn
One more day
One day more