April 14, 2024
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The Lesson of Mordechai: Keeping Faith in Our Youth

Any parent, teacher, or professional who spends considerable time with children and adolescents faces unique challenges and frustrations. The fact is that as young people go through the long process of growing up and trying to find their way in life, they often have rebellious attitudes and seemingly callous indifference to the world around them. And so, we must ask ourselves, how are we to keep our sanity through the many ups and downs of a child’s life? How can an adult “stick with” a child, despite all of the difficult challenges he or she may present, and how can the adult always be there to help guide the child through?

As the megilla records the story of Mordechai and Esther, the story describes how Mordechai raised Esther because her parents were not present. In describing the fact that Mordechai was raising Esther, the Torah uses the phrase “Vayehi omen et Hadassa.” The word “omen” in this context is somewhat curious, as it typically implies a sort of training or grooming, not simply the raising of a youngster as we would have expected.

The Chassidic masters explain that this phraseology of the megilla is quite deliberate. The word “omen” has a clear connection with the word “emunah,” or “faith.” The megilla is telling us that Mordechai did not simply raise Esther, but that he did so with a deep faith in her potential to grow into the exceptional person she was destined to become. He did not simply take care of her needs, but he had a deep faith in the potential she had to become someone great.

The megilla teaches us that Mordechai was from the generation of those who were exiled from Eretz Yisrael into Bavel. As he saw the next generation born as “Babylonian Jews,” Mordechai easily could have become despondent and lost faith in the future, considering the glorious past that was no longer. And yet, to the contrary, Mordechai not only raised Esther, but he did so with a spirit of faith and dedication. “Vayehi Omen at Hadassa”—Mordechai raised Esther with a sense of “emunah,” the faith that she could grow to be a precious part of the Jewish people. It was this emunah that served to give Esther the character and fortitude that she needed to eventually be the vehicle that saved the Jewish people.

It is this secret of Mordechai’s that I believe is vital for all of us who are involved with Jewish youth in any way. It is easy to dismiss and write off kids for so many reasons. Yet Mordechai teaches us to have faith in the potential of every child. We must treat each youth with an absolute “emunah” of their potential for greatness, and only then will we allow them to reveal their potential. As we read the megilla this year, let’s be sensitive to how Mordechai’s faith challenges us to show true emunah in one another, just as he showed such emunah in Esther. It is only with our belief in the great potential in our youth and the future of the Jewish people will we merit the redemption of Hashem.

By Rabbi Yaakov Mintz

Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School

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