Change the World

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, February 23, 2022

“Then Mordecai returned this message to Esther: “Do not imagine that you, by being in the king’s palace will escape with your life any more than of all the Jews. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.” (Megillat Esther 4:13-14)

The Kotzker Rebbe once asked an honoured visitor: “why was humankind created? Why are we humans here on earth?” The visitor replied: “Each person is created to work on their spirit, to repair the soul.”

“No”, responded the Kotzker Rebbe. “That’s not the only reason. God put us here on earth to keep the heavens aloft.”

As Purim approaches, I’ve been listening to several songs from my Jewish music collection that reflect on the themes of the story of Esther. One comes from my mentor and teacher, Cantor Jeff Klepper and tells the story of Esther’s bravery in saving our people. It’s entitled “You can Change the World” and the refrain has the words of Mordecai challenging Esther to go to the King: “You can change the world, you can make the world complete, take the pride you feel inside and never accept defeat”. You can listen to it on YouTube.

The second song isn’t directly although not explicitly about the story of Esther, shares the same message. This one comes from Elana Arian, a newer voice in the Jewish music community, among the next generation of Jewish musicians and composers. It’s entitled “I Have A Voice” and the chorus declares “I have a voice, my voice is powerful, my voice can change the world”. You can listen to it on YouTube.

One more musical reference, this one from pop/rock musician John Mayer: “Waiting on the World to Change”. The lyrics reflect a growing sense of powerlessness against oppression and inequality in the world today: “Now we see everything that’s going wrong, With the world and those who lead it, We just feel like we don’t have the means, To rise above and beat it, So we keep waiting (waiting), Waiting on the world to change.” You can listen to it on YouTube.

When Esther goes to the King, she makes her appeal not for herself alone. She requests of the King “save my life and that of my people”.

Our lives, the Kotzker Rebbe teaches, are not about ourselves alone. We must engage in the struggles and injustices of the world. We keep the heavens aloft by our acts of kindness, our deeds of caring, by reaching out our hearts and hands, by speaking out and standing up for what is right, by not looking away from the pain and suffering of others.

Esther came to understand that her part in the struggle was to use her strength and power to speak up, that her voice was powerful, that by using her voice she would not only save her own life, she would change the world. Holding up the heavens for others is also holding up the heavens for ourselves.

We can’t keep waiting for the world to change. The story of Esther shows us that each one of us can change the world. Our voices are powerful. Each one of us can make an impact. We have the capacity to stand up against the wrongs in our society and take action against oppression. On Purim we celebrate not only our own survival. We celebrate and remember that with compassion, courage, and encouragemtn, we can change the world.


Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

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