“I davened at the vosikin minyan and immediately walked to the man’s house. There was no one else there yet, so I had plenty of time to speak to him and warm his heart to donate generously for the hundreds of needy bnei hayeshiva. True to form, the man donated generously, two thousand dollars, a small fortune in those days. While this was quite a sum of money, it was far from what we needed to support the talmidim. Realizing that I couldn’t count on the poor baalei batim of the city, I ‘forgot’ (on purpose) something in the benefactor’s room, which would allow me to come back to him. Throughout the entire day, I collected a pittance from the other people. Towards the evening, I returned to the philanthropist’s door.
“‘You were already here,’ said one of the sons as he blocked the entrance.
“‘True, but I forgot something and returned to get it.’
“‘Very well. Go in, but you must promise that you won’t solicit another donation.’
“I promised and I entered. ‘You forgot something here,’ said the rich man with a smile and he returned the object. I thanked him and I turned to leave.
“‘Wait,’ he said. ‘You don’t want any more money?’ I promised not to ask for another donation, so I didn’t. But I wasn’t obligated to lie. ‘Sure I do, and so do the many bnei hayeshiva.’ My ploy worked. The man doubled his original donation.
“Back at the yeshiva, during the festive Purim seudah, I stood up on a table and related the story, and then I added a moral to the story. It is beneficial to leave a pikadon in the hands of a wealthy man. You can end up receiving much more than you left there. Surely, then, if you leave a deposit of Torah, mitzvos and maasim tovim in the hands of the Ribono Shel Olam, you stand to gain a great deal, as your investment is paid up many times over. If you do something for the honor of Heaven, you needn’t worry about the reward. Even if it doesn’t come immediately, it will come with time. Like one who plants a sapling, you will reap the fruits of mesirus nefesh not only in Olam Haba, but even in this world.”
Here is a classic example of this: As Avrohom Avinu was about to be thrown into a flaming furnace by Nimrod for scoffing at idolatry, his brother, Horon, was ambivalent about where his allegiance should be. He decided that if Avrohom comes out victorious, he will side with him, but if Nimrod comes out ahead, he will join with him. When Avrohom miraculously emerged from the furnace, Horon was commanded to declare his allegiance with either side. Proclaiming that he sided with Avrohom, he was thrown into the furnace and burned to death (Rashi, Bereishis 11:28). Even though he was moser nefesh, he didn’t merit to be saved because he wasn’t as resolute in his emunah as Avrohom was. Surely his reward would be great. “Those killed by the malchus for their Yiddishkeit, no one can stand with them in the same compartment in Shomayim” (Pesochim 50b). But did Horon receive any reward in this world? Let’s take a look.
Horon was the father of Lot, who fathered Amon and Moav. Rus was a descendant of Moav and a forbear of Dovid Hamelech. From Amon came Na’amoh, wife of Shlomo Hamelech, mother of Rechavam and the entire chain of Malchus Bais Dovid until the Melech HaMoshiach. Besides being the father of Sarah Imeinu, Horon was also the father of Milkoh, who was the mother of Rivkah and grandmother of Rochel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah. So all of the imahos hakedoshos originated from Horon. All of the Yidden who sanctified Hashem’s name throughout history emanate from Horon, who gave up his life for kevod Shomayim even if it wasn’t with the fullest kavanah. Can there possibly be a greater reward than this?
We see from here, “Your Employer can be relied upon to pay the wage of your labor” (Avos 2:19). No good deed goes unrewarded, and we often reap the benefits in this world.
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“Rabi Chaninah bar Papa opened his drashah on the megillah with the following posuk: ‘You mounted a mortal over our head, we entered into fire and water, and You brought us out into abundance’ (Tehillim 66:12). We went into the fire in the times of Nevuchadnetzar Harasha, who cast Chananya, Mishoel and Azaryah into the flames. Into the water in the days of Paroh when the little babies were thrown into the river. And You brought us into abundance in the days of Haman with the miracle of Purim” (Megillah 11a).
What does this drashah add to our understanding of the megillah and why is this such a fundamental lesson of the story? Furthermore, what is the connection between the hardships we faced in the days of Nevuchadnetzar and Paroh and the salvation of Purim?
One of the greatest acts of self-sacrifice was that of Chananya, Mishoel and Azaryah. They openly defied Nevuchadnetzar’s edict to bow down to his statue. They could have run away, they could have rationalized that the idol wasn’t a real avodah zarah, but they didn’t. Given the ultimatum to either bow down or face being burned alive, they chose the latter. What an outstanding spectacle it was as they walked around amidst the flames followed by the malach Gavriel. When they emerged alive, the proud and mighty Nevuchadnetzar and the nations of the world were forced to admit to the futility of avodah zarah. Many miracles transpired on that day, including the revival of the dead bones of shevet Efraim and the idol falling flat on its face, shattering to smithereens.
But what happened to those tzaddikim after this incredible event? They are no longer mentioned in the posuk. Chazal tell us that all three of them were childless. According to Rav Eliezer Hagadol, they drowned in the spit of the nations of the world. This means that although for the moment they created a great kiddush Hashem, it also resulted in the goyim ridiculing the Yidden by saying, “You have such a great G-d, Who makes miracles for you, and you served idols in your land” (Sanhedrin 93a)? They had such great mesirus nefesh, yet no nachas to show for it.
The Yidden in Mitzrayim, despite having their lives embittered with backbreaking labor, were still moser nefesh to raise large families, thus ensuring the continuity of our nation. Seeing that Paroh decreed that all baby boys be thrown into the river, they should have ceased procreating. But they followed the lead of their gadol hador, Amrom, and continued having children despite the fact that they were mercilessly taken from them. Utter dedication to Hashem…but what did they have to show for it?
Ah! Here is where the story of Purim comes in. The Yidden sinned either because there were those who succumbed and bowed down to Haman’s idol or because they participated in the feast of Achashveirosh. This was such a serious transgression that, according to the Medrash, when Eliyahu Hanovi aroused the avos hakedoshim to plead on behalf of Klal Yisroel to be saved from Haman’s decree and they heard about what happened during the feast, they said that there was nothing they could do.
About this, Rav Chaninah bar Papa said that although, at the time, the Yidden did not have enough merit on their own to save them, there were merits deposited for them from previous generations. Much like parents who put away money for their children for a rainy day, the merits of tzaddikim of yesteryear came to the rescue. Whereas the Yidden of this era were lacking in their mesirus nefesh, the sacrifice of their predecessors bailed them out. The mesirus nefesh of the Yidden in the times of Paroh and Chananya, Mishoel and Azaryah brought about a tremendous yeshuah, a kiddush Hashem, and a new kabbolas haTorah.
Yes, our Employer can be relied upon to pay the wages of our labor. “You have been their eternal salvation and their hope throughout the generations” (Shoshanas Yaakov). The story of Purim and this lesson in particular serves as a tremendous chizuk for all of us. Today, we find ourselves in a seemingly impossible situation. Our enemies constantly get stronger, while the world looks on and doesn’t seem to care about our plight. What’s more, most of our people are alienated from their roots. How can we possibly have enough zechuyos to get out of this mess?
We have the zechuyos of our zaides and bobbes of the many previous generations who were moser nefesh to serve Hashem under the harshest conditions. Their zechuyos are deposited for us, ready to be used at the right moment. Of course, we must try our best to accumulate as many mitzvos as we can, but we can also be confident that theirs is a fortune deposited with Hashem that we can bank on.
It is also reassuring to us, for we often wonder if our efforts in various areas of our avodah are being recognized. Very often, we experience failure, which can be very disconcerting. However, our efforts are deposited with the Ribono Shel Olam and are sure to bear fruit.