- Avraham Avinu, the preeminent opposer of human sacrifice, appeared to be about to sacrifice his own son.
- The birth of Yitzchak Avinu after Sara Imeinu’s imprisonment in Avimelech’s palace cast false aspersions on the status of both Sara Imeinu and Yitzchak Avinu.
- Moshe Rabbeinu was suspected of impropriety with women (despite a total lack of evidence), among other things.
- The Jewish children of Megillat Esther were unjustly imprisoned.
- The Talmud presents several instances of very holy Sages going to jail or even execution for either false charges or unjust charges (like keeping Torah & mitzvot).
- Likewise, great tzaddikim such as the Ohr Hachaim, the Ben Ish Chai, Malbim, Rav Levi Yitchak Bender, Rav Eliyahu Chaim Rosen went to prison on either false or unjust charges.
- Others, such as Rebbe Nachman & Rebbe Nosson of Breslev, struggled against the onslaught completely baseless slander.
And so it goes in the story of Purim.
Queen Esther's 180-Degree Turn (or so it seemed...)
Yet in inviting Haman to a private party with the king, Esther Hamalkah extinguished even that straggling glimmer of hope.
But it was exactly that lost hope which propelled the Jews to pray from the depths of the heart, effecting their own salvation.
Esther Hamalkah was not a traitor after all. She was even wiser, more perceptive, more faithful, and more courageous than they’d ever realized.
And so it goes throughout Jewish history.
When a Commitment to Non-Commitment Leads to Salvation
And while the Torah’s obligations regarding justice & self-protection preclude us from assuming the best about non-tzaddikim when the evidence is clearly against them, we can still give the benefit of the doubt to the real greats.
The Yismach Moshe, Rebbe Moshe Teitelbaum (1759 – 17 July 1841), remembered himself in a previous incarnation as a member of Sanhedrin in the time of the Moshe Rabbeinu-Korach controversy.
While all his fellow Sages joined the camp of Korach (the masses followed Moshe Rabbeinu), the Yismach Moshe-as-Sanhedrin-Member retained a certain doubt as to whether Korach was really in the right.
When his grandson expressed astonishment as to how the Yismach Moshe could have indulged in any speculation against the righteousness of Moshe Rabbeinu, the Rebbe explained that Korach's position was so persuasive, his doubt was actually very precious in Shamayim.
Ultimately, the Yismach Moshe said, "Not wanting to be part of the machlokes [controversy], I ran into my tent and closed the entrance tightly. I refused to come out until it was all over."
Astonishingly, his thoughtful doubt & refusal to pick sides became his salvation.
(For the original story, please see Not Everything is Black & White & Parshat Korah: The Jewish Eye.)
The Virtue of Sincere & Thoughtful Doubt
But really (IF it's honest & not escapist), it’s okay to look at the all the facts you have & conclude:
"I’m not completely sure.”
"I don't really know how to precede."
"Something's missing, but I'm not certain what."
"I just can't decide — yet."
"I honestly don't know."
"I think I'll sit this one out until I get more clarity."
Many times, boldness and confidence in one’s position derive from insecurity (“Indecision feels uncomfortable or threatening to me”) or narcissism and immaturity.
(Unless, of course, the position is 100% correct. For example, I’m completely convinced of Hashem’s Existence and the Torah’s Correctness. That's not insecurity, narcissism, or immaturity — no matter what any detractors say.)
And I don’t mean being wishy-washy or skipping along in rose-colored blinders due to an addiction to blissful ignorance — both of which allow evil to flourish.
I mean investing thought and research into a subject and still unable to come to a clear conclusion.
Personally, the ability to hold off and say, “I’m not 100% convinced about this” is one of the major factors that led to some of my most profound spiritual growth. Not that I’m on a high level now, but you should have seen me before… ;)
It’s neither politically correct nor socially acceptable to retain a thoughtful & educated doubt.
But sometimes, it’s the only honest choice.
And that can actually hold weight in Shamayim.
(Plus, you’re more likely to earn Heavenly Assistance toward resolving your doubts when you’re in a state of honesty and humility. After all, Hashem cannot stand to be anywhere near 3 types: a liar, a flatterer/hypocrite, and an arrogant person.)