The Children have the Answers

From a Talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, adapted by Rabbi Israel Rubin

  T he Midrash (Esther 7:17) relates that soon after Mordechai found out about Haman's wicked plot to annihilate the Jewish people, he saw three Jewish children walking on the street, returning home from school.

Despite the gravity of the situation, and all the pressure weighing on his mind to save Israel from destruction, Mordechai took the time to approach the children and strike up a conversation with them.

This unique encounter was also being observed by Haman, who was following along behind, trying to overhear the conversation between Mordechai and the children.

Mordechai approached the three school children and asked, "Please tell me your Torah verse?"

The first child answered,   "Do not fear sudden terror, and the threat of the wicked..." (Proverbs 3:25)

The second child said, "You can scheme, but it will be nullified; you may plot, but it will not succeed, for G‑d is with us." (Isaiah 8:10)

And the third child replied, "Even unto your old age, I remain with you..." (Isaiah 46:4)

Upon hearing the three children recite their verses, Mordechai's desperate and downcast mood quickly changed to great joy, and he became very happy. Curious to know what could have made Mordechai so happy during such a terrible situation, Haman walked over and asked Mordechai to repeat his conversation with the children.

"These children brought me great tidings!" Mordechai exclaimed to Haman.

"They assured me that we have nothing to fear from your evil designs!"

Upon hearing this, Haman became furious and flew into a rage. "It is these small Jewish children whom I will kill first!"

* * *

These otherwise obscure scriptural references are today commonly familiar and known because they figure so prominently in this Purim story. Certain prayer books list these verses at the end of the daily morning prayers, and they are recited after the final Alenu prayer in many congregations.

Indeed, the Hebrew words 'Utzu Etza' of the second verse have caught on as a lively, highly popular tune that is sung today by young and old at weddings and other simcha celebrations.

Surely there is much to be learned by carefully analyzing the specific wording and phraseology in each of these Scriptural verses, and studying the commentaries on the books of Isaiah and Proverbs.

But before we examine the verses themselves, let us first study and observe the general context of the story and the behavior of the persons as described in this wonderful Midrash.

It seems strange that this crucial Divine message didn't come to Mordechai through a respected prophet, a sage or scholar, but almost haphazardly from the mouths of small children, who probably didn't fully understand the depth and impact of what they were saying.

Mordechai had just been confronted with a national calamity that threatened all of Israel, yet he paused to speak with young schoolchildren to hear what they studied. Mordechai did so before rushing off to meet his contacts in the palace and pursue the diplomatic channels to get Queen Esther to intercede on behalf of the Jews. Instead of stooping to speak with children, shouldn't he have sought the counsel of great sages or communal leaders on how to deal with such a difficult situation?

With Haman just a few footsteps behind, and the evil plot just revealed to Mordechai moments earlier, why did Mordechai spend such precious time with children when so much was at stake?

What possible advice could they offer him? What could little children teach Mordechai, a leading member of the Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court), that he didn't already know?


In questioning the children, Mordechai was looking for something more than just a Divine sign as an omen or prediction.

As he was preparing to plead and argue the case for Jewish physical survival, Mordechai sought to be assured of the quality of our spiritual future. Obviously, the commitment and dedication of young children is a much better indicator of Jewish continuity than the greatest scholars.

Back to Sinai

The children are our future. Indeed, at Sinai, G‑d demanded that we should present guarantors for Torah's survival through the ages. The Jews first suggested the Patriarchs or the Prophets as guarantors, but they were not deemed sufficient. The only reliable and enduring guarantee that G‑d accepted was the continuity of Torah through the children.

Out on the Street

To test the quality of the children's education, Mordechai didn't enter the classroom to conduct an examination during school hours. Instead, he encountered the children after school, when they were out on the street, in a candid and casual setting.

Of course, children are on their best behavior under their teacher's supervision. But Mordechai wanted to find out what's on the minds of the children during 'free-time,' when they're out there, strolling in the street on their own.

They proudly and lovingly proclaimed their faith, even with a Haman lurking right behind them in the background. These verses were at the tip of their tongue even after school, and it flowed naturally without the coaching or prodding   of a teacher or parent.

Quality Education

This teaches us all a most important lesson.

We must provide our children with a meaningful Jewish education that remains with them long after they leave the classroom. It must continue to inspire them later, when they venture out to the streets and confront the harsh realities of life.

Children's Jewish education is our utmost priority. It forms the very foundation and the future of our people. Before meeting with the communal elders, Mordechai first listened to what the youth had to say. Without an inspiring education for our youth, even Queen Esther's successful intercession with the mighty king could not assure a Jewish future.

No wonder the children's response triggered Haman's wrath. He wasn't merely trying to 'kill the messenger.' Even a Haman could realize that it was the spiritual level of the children themselves, not just the message they happened to carry, that was his nemesis.

"Your Verse"

Mordechai did not ask the children to quote from their studies, or to quote their teacher. It isn't sufficient to just memorize or parrot a quote from the Scriptural classics. Mordechai asked the children specifically: "tell me your verse." He wanted the children to choose their own favorite saying, their own motto, something that they personally loved and believed in.

Fortunately, Mordechai was able to see firsthand the children's pure faith and trust in G–d. Obviously, these children had internalized what they learned. The words of Torah were relevant to them, alive and meaningful, not merely a subject they studied just to get good grades.

Mordechai wasn't testing the children for their scholastic memory, skill or proficiency, but for their genuine pride and love of their Jewish identity.

Three Children

Mordechai was not satisfied with the response of just one child; he got three responses. This was not only an exceptional case of one or two good children, for it reflected a cross section of all Jewish children. We know that by Halachic rule, three repeated instances create a definite "chazaka" pattern that is considered to be representative of the whole.

Children who feel happy and comfortable with their Judaism give us true Nachas.

Such children represent a promising future; they are surely our best answer and response to the negative forces of the world.