War is raging in Ukraine. People are fleeing for their lives, including some of the over 300,000 Jews living in the region. When we see this devastation we sometimes feel helpless. What can we do thousands of miles away? Of course we can donate to help people escape or resettle but is there something we can do?
In the story of Purim which we will read next week, we learn about how a politically savvy Mordechai and Esther saved the Jewish people from an evil plot. But if we think about the story it is actually quite the opposite, when the Jewish people were most politically connected the worst decree possible of total annihilation of the Jewish nation came about! How is such a thing possible?
If we look at Mordechai and Esther's response to Haman's plot we can see how they viewed the situation. Their response was to gather Jewish children to study Torah and establish days of fasting and prayer. They didn't engage in diplomacy until they solidified their spiritual standing. They understood that the decree against them was spiritual and the response had to be spiritual as well.
In 1983, Russia was locked deep into the Cold War with the West. Nuclear tragedy was being openly discussed and the world was on edge. In response, the Lubavitcher Rebbe chose to highlight the great power we have by responding to the physical danger with a spiritual campaign. He proposed that before the morning prayers we should commit to loving your fellow by saying Hareini mekabel alai mitzvat aseh shel v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha - “Behold, I hereby take upon myself the positive commandment of ‘You shall love your fellow as yourself.’ ” And after the prayers we should say Ach tzadikim yodu lish-mecho yei-shvu yesho-rim es ponecha - “Indeed, the righteous will extol Your Name; the upright will dwell in Your presence.”
In the spirit of Mordechai and Esther let us say these prayers every day and know that our actions of prayer and doing mitzvos are the key to world peace.