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The Billion Dollar Purim!

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil

We live in the billion generation.

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but let’s try to put that figure in perspective:

A billion seconds ago, it was 1959.

A billion minutes ago, the Roman Empire was in full swing.

A billion hours ago, our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

And….

A billion dollars ago, was only 8 hours and 20 minutes at the rate Washington spends!

We live in a blessed generation.

With the onset of technology, people are able to build up businesses and sell them within years for billions. Recently Facebook bought messaging app WhatsApp in a deal worth a total of $19bn (£11.4bn) in cash and shares! Wow!

What makes these companies run, how do they start and what ensures success.

Perhaps the key lies within the story of Purim!

Times were difficult for the Jewish nation in Persia. Haman with the help of King Achashverosh had sent out an edict to destroy the entire Jewish Nation in One Day!

In the twelfth year of Achashverosh’s reign on the thirteenth day of Nissan, Haman sent out a letter in the name of the king to the vast empire of Persia: “On the thirteenth of Adar, destroy, annihilate, and lay to waste the entire Jewish nation – every man woman and child.”

But the Jewish Nation had a special card to play. Hashem had brought forward the cure before the illness – the new Queen of the land, was none other than Esther a righteous Jewish lady.

The Midrash tells us that Mordechai was told about this decree by Eliyahu HaNavi. He was informed that it wasn’t Haman alone who signed the decree; HASHEM orchestrated these events because of the sins of Klal Yisrael.

Mordechai immediately directed Esther to see the king and beg him to have mercy on her people.

[Esther said:] “Go and assemble all the Jews who are present in Shushan and fast on my behalf. Neither eat nor drink for three days, day and night. My maidens and I will also fast in a like manner, and then I will go to the king – contrary to the law. And if I perish, I perish.

So Mordecai passed and did all that Esther had commanded him.”

Esther requested that the Jews fast for three days before her going in to see the king. Mordechai agreed and set the next three days as a time for fasting and Teshuvah.

Our Sages question the words ‘Mordechai passed’ – what did he pass?

Rashi explains that the second day of that fast was the fifteenth of Nissan – Pesach.

That meant that when they fasted for three days, it overlapped (passed) with the festival of Pesach.

That year, instead of drinking four cups of wine and eating matzah, the Jewish people fasted.

This was not a simple task, for the Torah clearly commands us to eat Matzot, Marror.

We can understand why Mordechai initiated the fast – it was a time of Pikuach Nefesh – the Jewish Nation was in danger and hence it was permitted to put aside the important mitsvot of Pesach in order to fast and gain forgiveness from Hashem.

But why the urgency?

The edict was not take place for more than eleven months. Surely they could have kept the mitsvot of Pesach, eaten Matsot, celebrated the Seder and then after Pesach had finished, they could have gathered all the Jews to fast for three days.

Why the insistence to fast now?

A few years ago Microsoft was in trouble. The kind of trouble that we would love to be in!

They had excess cash on their balance sheet of about $40 billion dollars.

Apparently they didn’t need it for research and development or for marketing.

It was deemed by investors as a waist of resources.

At the time the CEO and founder of Microsoft – Bill Gates was interviewed.

He was asked about his incredible wealth and success. The conversation turned to how he had started out.

He responded, “I was in the right place at the right time, and luck has something to do with that.”

He then continued, “In fact there were a lot of people at the same place, but I had vision.”

He paused and then said “Many people had vision, but the difference is I took massive and immediate action”.

In those days the world had just witnessed its first PC. Bill Gates was one of the few that had a vision, he foresaw the ability for this PC to one day be a part of every household.

That idea is commendable, but an idea alone without action eventually evaporates.

He developed the idea and created software for the future PC placing him (in terms of wealth) the richest man on earth.

Every great accomplishment in history began with an idea.

But an idea alone is useless unless put it into action.

The difference between those that succeed and those that are left on the side lines are that the successors take immediate action.

There are times in life that we are motivated and times when we are down.

The key is to seize the moment and put it into concrete action.

The Mesilat Yesharim (Perek 7) states: “There is no danger as great as the danger of time”.

All you have to do to ensure you never realise your ambitions is to let time cool them down; let time pass and it will become more and more difficult to pursue.

Back to Mordechai:

The Jews had just heard about the most terrible decree. They were frightened and devastated.

Mordechai understood that it was important to play immediately on their emotions, to help bring forth a serious and successful Teshuva. He therefore decreed that everyone should fast straight away, even if that meant forgoing on the Mitsvot of Pesach.

Such was the turnaround of the generation, that everyone headed to his call, fasted, prayed and repented, ensuring a Hitaruta Deletata – an awakening from down below on earth, that caused the evil decree to be abolished and the success of the Jewish Nation.

For us billions is not a value for how many dollars we have, it’s a value to our actions and servitude of G-d.

We all have great ideas, we all have sparks of spirituality that are fired up on occasions, especially on Purim – lets seize the moment! Develop that idea, join one of the many programs available to you in your community and create a brighter future.

Mordechai’s seizing the moment and quick decree, coupled with the peoples actions of repentance helped us be here today.

Now that’s worth much more than billions!

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