In this week’s haftara we have a discussion between the Prophet Shmuel and King Shaul. Shaul is commanded to eradicate Amalek in totality. Shmuel then gets a prophecy from Hashem that Shaul did not fulfill the mission as he was directed. Shmuel accosts Shaul and asks him, “Did you do as Hashem directed you to do?” Shaul responds, “I did what I was supposed to do.” Shmuel does not accept this and reiterates his statement until eventually Shaul admits that he listened to the people and saved some of the booty and brought Agag home to be killed. Shmuel tells him, “You did not listen to Hashem, and because of that you will lose the privilege of being the King over Klal Yisrael.” Being that Shaul knew that Shmuel was a prophet, why did he not answer truthfully the first time by saying that he deviated from the command of Hashem just a little bit?
In the Purim story, Queen Esther, a descendant of King Shaul, is given a charge to go to King Achashverosh with certain conditions. At first she balks, though eventually she does as she was told.
I would like to share with you a thought that I had based on something which I once saw. We know that Esther and Mordechai were here to correct the mistakes of Shaul, their predecessor. It seems to me that we make the mistake of sometimes embellishing or adding to a commandment from Hashem in order to make it “better.“ However, we forget that doing so may be a deviation from the Will of Hashem. I believe that Shaul, in his conscious mind, found a way to justify his actions as conforming to that which Hashem asked him to do. Those words in the prophet “I did what Hashem asked of me” were not, Heaven forfend, said by a coward hiding behind a lie. Rather they were said by a righteous king with the full belief that he did the Will of G-d exactly as requested.
Esther, King Shaul’s descendant, also had ideas about how the rescue of the Jews should come about, but she was careful to ensure that she had Mordechai’s agreement, and indeed she eventually followed everything that Mordechai told her to do.
Throughout the ages, people have come up with new ideas on how to perform mitzvos. About this behavior the Chasam Sofer said, “Chadash asur min hatorah” (a play on the word “Chadash”, which in context is the new wheat that is forbidden until the omer is brought on the second day of Pesach; but here he was using it to mean anything new is forbidden). It seems to me that klal Yisrael had a test to listen to Mordechai, for if it would not have been for his stubbornness to not bow down to Haman, we would not have gotten into this entire predicament altogether. Yet Klal Yisrael and Esther followed what the sages said, and that is what brought about our ultimate salvation in the Purim story.
In our own lives, it is usually not necessary to look for better ways to serve Hashem. Just by following our hallowed traditions we will be blessed to have a salvation.