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Taanis Esther – Responsibility

Today, 6-3-2023, was – taanis Esther – the fasting day of Esther. A day of reflection, a day of Teshuvah – turning to HaShem. For it was on this day that Esther called on the people to fast so that she could go to the king, thus reversing the sentence that had been passed on the people.

The Sages teach that if a Jew has a dispute with a Gentile this is the best time to resolve it. Just as Mordechai and Ester, through Hashem, overcame Haman, so a Jew will overcome the dispute at this time.

On another level, you can extend this to the idea of a “dispute” with the Yetzer hara. The evil inclination. Each of us has a “Mordechai and Ester” and a “Haman”. It is this time to overcome our own “Haman” with Hashem’s help.

Every time we allow our choices to be influenced by our Yetzer hara, we will eventually have to take responsibility for it. Responsibility is the Hebrew word “achrayut”. It contains the word “achar” which means “after”. Taking responsibility has everything to do with time. There is a time before, during and after a thought, word or action.

In the time “after” a thought, word or action, we face its consequences, consequences we have to (learn to) live with. If it is a word, an action said or done against a fellow human being, it can have irreversible consequences, even if we regret it and sincerely express our regret. People are not always able to forgive you. Although as a Jew or Noahide, we should always strive for that, that when others ask us for forgiveness, we give it.

Hashem is merciful and will forgive a person if he sincerely – with a broken heart – returns to Him. That is the meaning of the word Teshuvah – return to HaShem. Every person makes wrong choices – prompted by the Yetzer hara – but if we sincerely say sorry, clean up our mess and promise not to repeat the wrong behaviour in the future, He will forgive us.

A sincere Teshuvah He will answer and the relationship that was damaged by a wrong choice will be restored. More than that, the relationship will be strengthened by this return.

So Teshuvah also has everything to do with taking responsibility. You take responsibility by reflecting on it after a wrong action, expressing regret about it and promising that AFTER your Teshuvah you will (try to) keep making better choices.

By Angelique Sijbolts

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