The chief advisor to the Queen of Holland stared out the window, his thoughts as gloomy as the rain-drenched day. It had been raining for over a week, and the torrential downpour had turned peaceful streams into raging tidal waves, threatening the intricate dike system. If the dikes gave way, the country would be flooded, destroying life and property.
On his desk lay the Queen's order: Send a message to Rabbi Elazar Rokeach, leader of the Jews of Amsterdam, to instruct the Jewish community to pray for the welfare of the country.
Through the pouring rain, which turned the cobblestone streets into streams, the messengers urged their horses onward. Arriving at Rabbi Rokeach's home, one of them pounded at the wooden door. The messengers were shown inside the main room, their soaking wet cloaks leaving puddles of water behind them.
The room was brightly lit with dozens of candles, Reb Elazar was seated at the head of the large table, surrounded by his followers in a jovial mood. The table was laden with delicious foods and, more surprisingly, all sorts of wines and liquors.
Surprised by the feasting and drinking at such an hour - it was only the afternoon - the messenger handed the order from the Queen. Reb Elazar read the letter at once. "I will do what I can," he told the messengers, and they left the room.
After the messengers left, Reb Elazar read the letter once more. The situation was delicate. On the one hand, the Queen of Holland had ordered that the Jews help avert the harsh decree by lamenting and fasting. But, today was Purim, when we are commanded to celebrate the salvation through Esther and Mordechai.
What should he do, feast or fast? Reb Elazar tucked the Queen's letter into his coat pocket, and called one of his students.
"A song, Dovid," the Rabbi said, as he raised up his cup to be filled. "It's your turn to lead us in a song." The student happily replied, and the messengers' visit had been forgotten. Glasses were filled, song followed song, -even the chandelier seemed to shake with laughter.
Whenever a lull in the merriment, Reb Elazar asked this one to tell a funny story and that one to make a toast. An hour passed, and then another. The group was growing tired, but just when they thought the festive meal was over, Reb Elazar thundered in so loud that even the students wondered. '"Sing!" It's Purim! It's a mitzvah to rejoice!"
Although no one had the stomach to drink, or the energy to sing, Rabbi Rokeach's followers dutifully raised their glasses, and enthusiastically wished one another "L'chaim."
When the afternoon turned to dusk, a second knock was heard at the door. The messengers once more entered the room, and this time they were even more surprised. They had obviously celebrated all day, disregarding the Queen's orders.
"Her Majesty wishes to inform you," the messenger said with obvious disdain in his voice, "that the tragedy has been averted. The rains have stopped, and she thanks you for your 'efforts' on your country's behalf." The messenger turned on his heel and left the room.
Reb Elazar ordered the group to say the Blessing after the Meal, and then to pray the Evening Service. Within the hour there was yet another message from the Queen.
The Rabbi's hand trembled as he read this second letter. He was ordered to appear at the palace at once to explain his traitorous behavior. As he rode down the empty streets in the carriage provided for him, he offered a silent prayer.
"Please don't let the Jewish community suffer on my account," he prayed. "If the Queen is displeased with how I acted, let me be the one who is punished."
When the carriage arrived at the palace, Rabbi Rokeach was shown into the Queen at once.
"How dare you disobey my orders," the Queen said, "to make merry when the country was in danger?"
"It is true, Your Majesty, that you are my queen on this earth," Rabbi Rokeach began, "and when you asked for my help, I wanted to fulfill your request with all my heart. But our King in Heaven commanded me to feast and rejoice because today is a holiday. "I hope you understand," the Rabbi continued, "that I could not obey your command to fast, because that would have meant disobeying G-d's command to drink and be merry. And if I disobeyed G-d's command, how could I possibly ask Him for help?
"I therefore decided," Rabbi Rokeach said in conclusion, "to celebrate our holiday of Purim even more than usual. If I fulfilled G-d's wishes to the best of my ability, He would, in turn, fulfill ours. And I believe, if I am not mistaken, that this is what has happened."
"Go home in peace," the Queen said with a smile, "and may G-d grant you many more years to serve Him - and me."
Rabbi Rokeach was escorted back to his home with honor. Once safely home, he offered a prayer of thanks. Once more a Jewish community had been saved, and a miracle occurred on Purim.