Today is the festival of Purim, named after the “lots” used to decide the date when the Jews would be destroyed. There is certainly a widespread belief in the idea of fate and destiny, sometimes revealable through the use of oracles or divining or – in this case – the drawing of lots.
The Book of Esther is the story of how people refused to accept the inevitable, defeating the fate-driven plans of our enemies. Esther and Mordechai work to change fate at every level, showing that a determined minority can defend itself even against overwhelming odds.
Our world is full of similar stories. Everyone knew the Ukrainian military would fold when the Russians rolled in. Everyone, apparently, except the Ukrainians who refused to accept their fate. Everyone “knows” all kinds of things that, when actually tested, may prove to fail. Though fate only fails if people have the will to write their own future.
And this is the story of Jewish survival from our very first expulsion into foreign lands – once Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome, and now all over the settled globe. It makes no sense that the Jews should both remain distinct and still survive – and even thrive. And thrive we do, in the face of unstoppable odds, because we are living proof that we can, with G-d’s help and blessing, create our own future.
There is a lesson here for all mankind: if we are conscious of our own potential, the future is not written. It is not pre-ordained. It is not governed by the laws of inevitability. Instead, the future is within our grasp, to shape, change and craft for the benefit of all that we hold dear.