Shortly before the Purim story begins the Persian king Cyrus issued a decree urging all Jews to return to their ancestral homeland and rebuild their central house of worship (see Ezra 1:2–3). One can imagine how high the Jews’ collective spirits must have been at that time. Yet, just as things had improved for the Jews quickly, they would sour almost as rapidly, eventually bringing the Jews to a collective sense of despair and near destruction.
Despite Cyrus’ mandate and the Jews’ initial enthusiasm, a mere 50,000 Jews actually returned to Israel. Their attempts to rebuild the Temple were thwarted by a scheming local population, who convinced Cyrus to quickly reverse his edict. These Jews soon headed towards despair and assimilation. Cyrus’s successor, Artaxerxes, led the Jews of Persia down a different path of dashed hopes. He transferred executive power to Haman, whose edict sent tremors throughout the Jewish world.
What ultimately saved the Jewish people at that time was the great degree of faith that they were able to achieve under the devoted leadership of Mordechai and Esther. Through fasting and repentance, they reconnected with God to such a degree that they came to “re-accept” His Torah (Shavuoth 39a, based on Esther 9:27). In so doing, they invoked God’s compassion and brought about their own stunning and complete reversal of fortunes (see Esther 9:1).
Of course, peaks and valleys are part of our personal experiences as well. How can we manage the ups and downs and live a balanced life? The following strategies can help us navigate through the vicissitudes of life and maintain a well-adjusted lifestyle and perspective.
When you’re up:
- Relish the moment – Find ways to celebrate your successes in a manner that deepens your appreciation for what you have. List some things that you can do today that would be impossible without your material or other blessing and good fortune.
- And extend it – Identify opportunities to give, monetarily or with your time, to others in a manner that will help your high moments live on. Recognize that our abundance is not intended to be hoarded but shared. Let your rising tide raise other ships as well.
When life throws you a curve ball:
- Look for the good – At times of challenge, it becomes easy to get lost in our problems. We begin to look around us and ask why others seem to have it so much easier than we do. Think about the many things that you have and acknowledge that some people lack even these.
- Be confident – You’ve done it before and you will do it again. Remain confident in your strengths and abilities, while seeking ways to expand your skills and capacity.
We are bound to experience many highs and lows in life. For some, such fluctuation will fall within a relatively tight span. For others, the range will be much wider. Maintaining a positive, balanced outlook, one that helps us to keep all of our experiences in perspective, will go a long way in providing us with the comfort, stability and true happiness that we all seek.