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Through The Lens with Rabbi Eric Walker – Heroes of the Faith

Over the course of history we have recognized heroes for their valor and extraordinary feats of bravery under the most difficult of circumstances. If these heroes had any regard for their own lives it did not show in their courageous actions. There are those who were heroes because they were in the military and their acts of heroism went above and beyond the call of duty. There are those we look up to as heroes whose acts of bravery were the start of social and political changes. Regardless of their acts of heroism these individuals are a rare breed of person who is willing to take extraordinary steps that impact many more lives than just their own.  Heroes make a difference because they are willing to stand apart. It is when they break away from the status quo, the majority position, the pack, the crowd and are willing to be set apart they can be used for a greater purpose.  As a society we have come to only recognize a hero as someone who is notable. In fact we are drawn not only to the icon of a hero, but we have become enamored with the super hero. It is the Lone Ranger’s, The Superman’s and the Spiderman’s that have captured our imaginations and glorified the battle of good versus evil. I can almost go back to the 50’s and 60’s and hear those theme songs!

The great part about these fictitious super heroes are they gave us hope when the world around us was crashing down. We found solace in believing in super powers and imagining we had them. Xray Vision, the ability to fly, super strength and speed, and the ever-powerful cloak of invisibility. We would have the power over evil and could defeat ever our arch enemy. The sad part about these fictitious super heroes is that they were just that – fictitious. Our hope in them only lasted until we outgrew them or we came to the end of the comic book or the last episode of the show. It is only fitting that on this day commemorating the feat of Purim that we would look at the lives of Mordechai and Esther. The story is well known, but the back-story – well – not so well known. Esther 2:5-7 Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah.  On the surface not much is told, but the back story is where the life of Mordechai becomes the closure of a prior event.  Since Mordechai is a Benjamite that makes him a descendant of Saul and you remember Saul’s error. Saul was to kill and blot out ALL the Amalekites, yet he spared the life of Agag, their King. This brought about, 16 generations later, the birth of Haman, son of Hammedatha, an AGAGITE.

It seems that Mordechi was sent to fulfill a prophesy of G-D that began all the way back in Gen 36:12  In Genesis we encounter the first Amalek, son of Eliphaz, who was the son of Esau by Timna, Esau’s concubine. These details make it clear that there was no title or inheritance in Israel entailed to Eliphaz nor his descendant, Amalek. Even from the beginning there was Opposition by Amalekites to Israel. Exodus 17:8-9  “Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. “Exodus 17:14-16  “And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Adonai nissi:  For he said, Because the LORD has sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”  This is the back story of the Book of Esther and shows us that what G-D has in mind to fulfill, He will fulfill in HIS TIMING. As a Jewish man raised to bow down to no man Mordechai drew his strength from the knowledge of G-D and His faith. He knew that G-D would prevail no matter how that looked. He was a man who was set apart by faith and in that faith was called to impart and invest in Haddassah, Esther for the salvation of the entire Jewish people. The first to be set apart was Mordechi who was by bloodline ordained by G-D to fulfill and correct the error of a 16th generation relative – Talk about your generational curses!  G-D again was showing us in the natural the supernatural battle revealed to us by Rabbi Shaul in his letter to Ephesus Eph 6:12-1312 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  And in the heavenly realm there is an ANTI- MESSIAH Battle to eliminate the Jewish people to prevent the Messiah’s return. The relationship between Mordechai and Esther were seemingly disconnected for a period of time until Esther’s FAVOR with the King and Haman could be established. With favor from G-D comes access and through this access we hear the powerful exchange between Mordechai and Esther as she prepares to stand apart and put her life on the line: Est 4 When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. 2 But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 3 In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes. 4 When Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why. 6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to urge her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people. 9 Hathach went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” 12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” 5 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” 17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.  We know the end of the story and the Jews were redeemed through the courageous acts of two of Israel’s heroes.  Today, like then, we face many battles and enemies. But the words of G-D ring in my ears:Ex 14:13-14 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”2 Chron 20:17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.'” Ps 33:8-12  Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, 1 Cor 15:50-58 50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Messiah Yeshua. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Cor 16:13 13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong

As believers we are called to be heroes of the faith. We are called to stand firm even in the face of certain death. In Esther’s own words, “If I Perish, I perish”. James writes in Chapter 4:8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 5:7-9 7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.

As we celebrate the redemption of the Jewish people by the hand of one whose courage has been remembered for over 2400 years let us be reminded that we are all called to be heroes of the faith.  As persecution looms right around the corner, the only thing that separates cowards from heroes is that first step past fear. The only thing that separates the perishable from the imperishable is that first step towards faith.

Blessings,

Rabbi Eric

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