Waking the King

by Yehoshua Metzinger

There is a memorable incident in Megilat Esther during which the king cannot sleep. Wondering what was keeping him awake, he concluded that it must have something to do with his conduct. He looked in his diary and noticed that two people had attempted to assassinate him and Mordechai had notified him, thereby saving his life. He realized then that he would not be able to sleep until he repaid Mordechai for his good deed. The king called in his chief advisor and infamous enemy of the Jews, Haman, and asked him how he should repay a person who had the king's best interests at heart. Haman arrogantly assumed that the king was referring to him and suggested that the man be placed on the royal horse and led around the capital city, Shushan.

This incident is the beginning of the downfall of Haman and the miracle of the Persian Jews' survival from the harsh decree. In fact, when chanting the Megilah publicly, the reader has to raise his voice in a triumphant tone during the section when he describes the king's sleeplessness. Why should the king's sleeplessness be considered such an important part of the miracle of Purim?

Looking at the incident more deeply, the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that sleep is like our exile. When a person sleeps, his internal powers, such as digestion, function to a greater extent than the external powers, such as hearing. But what does it mean that the king was awake that night? And according to the interpretation that "the king" (when no personal name is mentioned) symbolizes G'd, how can we say that G'd sleeps at all, since He constantly sustains His creation.

When G'd's will is not done, it is as if His is asleep. If the Jewish people act according to his will, he is awake, and when this happens, the barriers created by exile are broken. This will happen when the inner dimension of the soul is revealed; redemption requires awakening the king.

How can the king be awakened? Through self-sacrifice, such as demonstrated by the Jews at the time of Purim. Any Jews who wanted to escape the deadly decree during the year that it lasted could have done so by denying their Jewish identity and swearing to give up Jewish observance. However, not a single Jew in Persia took this option, and this integrity and self-sacrifice woke up the king.

On a spiritual level, self-sacrifice reaches a higher level than the concealment of divine light, even higher than the source of the neshama soul itself. But if the world is asleep, how can such a service reach a level that is higher than the source of the soul? And how is this connected with Esther?

Of course, Esther played a pivotal role in waking up the king of the world. According to Kabbala, the names "Esther" and "Hadassah" are part of the highest worlds and also exist in all the souls of Israel. Hadassah, the original name of Esther, corresponds to the aspect of tiferet (beauty) which includes all ten sefiros as well as itself, especially chesed (kindness) and gevurah (severity) from which tiferet itself is derived.

The name Esther corresponds to malchut, the aspect of concealment Although malchut is the lowest of the sefirot, it is actually the gateway between worlds, and, in the aspect of Esther, has its' source in the highest world, Atzilut, which is beyond all distinctions and limitations. So even though malchut is the lowest level, it is part of the highest world, Atzilut, and just as malchut is characterized by concealment, as a gateway between worlds, it is also the aspect of revelation.

Malchut of Atzilut is the source of all the souls of Israel which have a spark of the Creator. Because every soul is ultimately from Atzilut, the level beyond limitations, every Jew can reach a spiritual level that is beyond barriers. In other words, he or she can wake up the king. How does this relate to the self-sacrifice mentioned earlier?

There are many ways of serving G'd: with one's heart, with one's soul, and with one's might. One works up from one level of service to another. At first, one may connect with G'd on an emotional level, and finally, one may dedicate his or her entire life to serving G'd. But if the world is asleep, how can one reach these levels of service?

In truth, sleep or exile cannot affect the inner dimension of the soul which shines through the darkness of confinement. This light is even brighter than the light of the pure souls before exile, and it is what enables a Jew to give up his life for G'd even if he is not that aware of G'd or knowledgeable about mitzvot. The enthusiasm of self-sacrifice reaches a higher level than an intelligent, calculated ascension of levels. This expression of the essence of the soul reveals the highest levels and wakes the king up from his apparent slumber.

The service of self-sacrifice which reveals the very essence of the soul is more apparent in all generations at Purim than at any other time of the year. This joy of Purim will last even after the Redemption arrives, G-d willing, in our generation.

[Excerpted, translated and adapted from Sefer Maamarim 5719, p. 630.]


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