By Rabbi Daniel Lichman
God is absent. The kingdom is ruled by the desires of shadow-King Achashverosh. Lacking vision and bereft of values, the shadow-King unknowingly becomes a mouthpiece for the upsets of those around him. The scene is set for Haman’s jealousy to become the organising principle of government policy. War and destruction are upon us!
Haman’s troops advance; we sit, terrified bystanders to the violence that will unfold.
Mordecai, the one who was exiled, declares the evil of Haman. He despairs. He laments. He mourns.
Esther has faith: she focuses beyond the palace-powered-by-upset-and-desire, she listens beyond trauma, she reaches out beyond fear: she makes space for the Steady Stillness. Might this be the return of God?
Esther, powered by Steady Stillness, sits with the 1,700 people arrested across the 47 cities of the Kingdom.
Esther, powered by the Steady Stillness, shelters in the city metro as the bombs fall.
Esther, powered by Steady Stillness says: ‘Go, assemble all the people and fast on my behalf.’ (Esther 4:16)
In this moment of terror and despair I call on you to lean into Jewish sacred mythic time.
I call on you to reach beyond the scientific materialism of our contemporary age to our ancestral knowledge that all human hearts are one heart.
I call on you to reach beyond the cynicism of our age to our ancestral knowledge that religious devotion in one place can change reality in another.
I call on you to heed Esther’s request that we fast on her behalf!
When we rest on Shabbat we are resting after the six days of creation.
When we eat matzah and Pesach we are leaving Egypt.
When we heed Esther’s call to fast on the fast of Esther, the day before Purim, we accompany her in prison cell, in her bomb shelter and in the battlefield. We offer her solidarity in whichever palace she has to enter in order to stand up to tyranny.
I have never felt called on to fast on the fast of Esther in my life before. This year I have heard Esther’s call.
If you too have heard the call please join this WhatsApp group for us to plan this day of lament on the fast of Esther (15 - 16th March).
Please spread the call. Who knows: perhaps relief and rescue will come from elsewhere? (4:14)