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Purim: Redeeming the Sin of Eden
Video 6 of 7
Let's go back to Esther and the king for a minute. As we spoke about in our last video, what she's really doing is starting with the king's desire but then taking him to somewhere that he may actually not want to go on his own. She makes that journey from good, in terms of desire, to good in terms of what's right to do. She makes a moral argument to him.
Zeresh never makes that journey; she starts with what Haman wants to do and ends with what Haman wants to do. Oh, so you don't like everything in your life and the one thing that you're missing is Mordechai, you want to kill him? Sure, why don't you do that, why don't you kill him? That way you'll go to the king's feast and you'll be so happy. She's trying to make him happy. The tragedy of Zeresh is that she thinks she's doing the right thing for him, she's trying to help him, facilitate his desires. What more can someone want from their spouse then someone who will just fulfill every desire they could possibly have? So she says, go make the tree. She starts with his desires and ends with his desires, and if that's all you do, you're not really much of a spouse at all.
The original role of a spouse as defined way back in the Garden of Eden was to be an Ezer Kenegdo, somebody who could help them, but also somebody who could oppose them. The word Ezer Kenegdo means to help and to oppose and sometimes the way you help most is by opposing. Sometimes you have to stand up and say, no, the way I'm going to make you happy actually is by not just catering to your desires, but helping you place those desires in context, helping you to see what's right.
But now ask yourself this, a little bit of a deeper question. How do you help a spouse see what's right? Even as I say those words, isn't there a part of you that your flesh is kind of crawling? You're saying, one second, I don't want my spouse to teach me moral lessons. I don't want my spouse to preach at me. I'd be enraged if they tell me what's right and wrong. I want them to love me for who I am. Ah, here's the amazing thing, those two things, what's right and loving someone for who they really are, at a very deep level those two things are very intertwined. Loving someone for who they are is actually the greatest moral truth you can ever impart to your spouse. It's true for Zeresh and Haman and it's also true for Esther and the king. Let's see why.
Let's go to Zeresh and Haman. What's the greatest gift that Zeresh could have given Haman her husband, at that moment that he came home so devastated? I have everything, he tells her. I have riches, I have children, I have power, but none of it means anything to me. All I want is the one thing I can't have, he tells her. All I want is Mordechai dead.
What gift could she have given him in that moment? You know what she could have said? She could have said, look at you, you're not valuing yourself for who you are, why do you think you don't like anything that you have? Is it a coincidence that every last thing that you have you don't like? You know, you think you don't like the Jews, you know who don't like even more than the Jews? You hate yourself. It's because you hate yourself that you hate every last thing that you have, and if you had the one thing that you don't have, you'd hate that too. Stop thinking about your desires, what you really need to do is start liking what you have. Maybe if you start liking what you have, you'll start liking you. If you don't believe that, just look at me. I don't need you to have the one thing that you don't have in order to like you. I love you for who you are. If that's enough for me, can it be enough for you?
Had she been able to give that gift to him, it would have been the first steppingstone to break out of the prison of desire and to be able to see the other meaning of good, what is right, what is true, what is noble. It would have saved Mordechai's life and in the end, it might have saved her husband's life too.
In a deep way Esther was just doing the inverse of this with the king. Zeresh could have accepted Haman for who he was, Esther demands of the king that he accept her for who she really is. Esther's argument is, it's not enough that you love me as an anonymous person. Why don't you find out who I really am, where I really come from, can you still love me then? Can you accept me then? When he does, she wins her first battle. But then she leverages that love even further, it's not enough for you to accept just me, I need you to accept the existence of my countrymen too. You can't stop with recognizing just my own humanity. If I'm a human and I am from them, then they are human too, aren't they?
So all told, in the Megillah we see just underneath the surface, two competing ways of replaying the story of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; it's almost as if the tree of knowledge of good and evil kind of splits in two. One way of replaying the story is to give your spouse the one thing that he doesn't have yet, to cater to his every desire and in so doing, to destroy him. That's a Zeresh and Haman, the failed replay of the tree of knowledge. The other way is to provide forbidden knowledge, knowledge that might seem dangerous but it is actually essential. Knowledge about who you really are, and to ask that your spouse accept you for that. Esther does this and takes the king on a journey. A journey from what you might have thought you wanted to what is right and good.
In the end Esther is the heroine of the Megillah, but her actions might be significant at not just locally for the many hundreds of thousands that she saved, but even more globally perhaps, on the macro-historical scale. For right here, at the very end of the Hebrew Bible, someone has finally put to rest the terrible crime that has haunted mankind ever since the enchanting, confusing fruit of the tree of knowledge, first [beckoned to us 6:59].
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