Parshas Vaeira (5775)
One of the blessings that we recite in the thrice-daily Shemoneh Esrei prayer is the blessing of Al HaTzaddikim (lit. “On the righteous”), in which we ask G-d to protect and give goodly reward to the righteous and all those who believe in G-d and put their faith and trust in Him.
We end the blessing off by saying that G-d is a mishan (lit. “mainstay” or “support”) and a mivtach (lit. “assurance”) for the righteous.
The mystics teach us that when the great Sages of Israel formalized the daily prayers over 2300 years ago and composed the Shmoneh Esrei, they put special spiritual powers into each word, and not one word is extra or mere poetic licence. If so, we need to ask ourselves what is the difference between mishan and mivtach. After all, both words seem to express the exact same idea – that G-d is a mainstay and an assurance, fully supporting all those who believe in Him.
Rabbi Avraham ben HaGr”a in his work Avnei Eliyahu answers as follows:
G-d is certainly a mivtach, an assurance, for the righteous, so that they can rest assured that eventually their faith and trust will be rewarded and they will ultimately see the salvation of G-d that they hoped and prayed for.
However, G-d goes beyond being just a mivtach for righteous people. He is also a mishan, a support, for those who trust in Him even before salvation comes, fortifying and strengthening their faith in Him with special signs that He shows them as a way of letting them know that their prayers will soon be answered. This mishan makes it possible for their mivtach and ultimate faith to endure.
This was evidenced, for instance, by the Jewish people in Egypt, who witnessed the Ten Plagues and the punishment of their enemies (about which we read in this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Va’eira) even before they left the country. Seeing the Ten Plagues made it possible for our ancestors to continue having faith that they would soon be saved. The miracles they witnessed in Egypt were a great mishan and support for their mivtach, their trust in G-d and their hope for ultimate redemption.
With this we can understand the strange actions of Queen Esther in the Purim story. We know that she and Mordechai had decided that she would invite King Achashveirosh and Prime Minister Haman to a royal banquet at which she would divulge her identity as a Jewess and beseech her husband the king to save her people from the hands of the wicked Haman.
Yet when the king asked her at the banquet what she wanted, she told him that he and Haman were invited to another banquet on the following evening, at which time she would make her request. Why did Queen Esther wait until the second banquet to divulge her identity?
The answer - explains Rabbi Avraham ben HaGr”a – is that Esther knew this idea that G-d is both a mishan and a mivtach for the righteous. And while she certainly trusted that G-d, her mivtach, would ultimately save the Jewish people, she was waiting for that mishan, that sign from G-d before the salvation telling her that her faith would be rewarded and that things would eventually work out.
When Queen Esther attended the first banquet without first experiencing a mishan, she decided to delay things until the following evening. When she woke up the next morning and saw the evil Haman leading Mordechai, leader of the Jewish people, on horseback through the main street of Shushan, she got the mishan she was waiting for. At the royal banquet later that evening, Queen Esther divulged her Jewish identity to King Acahshveirosh in front of Haman … and the rest is history.
And just as it happened in Egypt, so too in the future will G-d show the Jewish people great wonders and miracles prior to the coming of the Messiah as a mishan which will bolster our faith in the Ultimate Redemption. As the Prophet Micah wrote (7:15): “As in the days when you left the land of Egypt I will show it wonders”.
It is my sincere hope and prayer that G-d shows us that long-awaited mishan very soon, so that many of our dear Jewish brothers and sisters who have lost their faith and no longer see G-d as their mivtach can once again believe in Him.