Esther now fully realized the grave danger facing the entire Jewish people. Yes, she would gladly risk her life for her people. But what a hopeless situation! Even if her life were spared and her pleas accepted by the King, the decree which bore the King's own signet would remain irrevocable. Even the King himself could not nullify them! What a slim chance there was for her poor attempt to succeed! Yet, Mordechai was right; there was no alternative, and Esther was resolved that she would not fail her people in their hour of need.
Esther had but one request to make of Mordechai:
"Gather all the Jews of Shushan, young and old alike, and fast and pray on my behalf for three days, until their pleas will reach Heaven and G‑d will have mercy on us. Here in the palace, I and my maidens will fast and pray likewise, for nothing but a miracle of G‑d can save our people. After the three days, I will go to the King despite the law, and if I perish, I perish..."
It was difficult for Mordechai to grant Esther's wise and just request, for the fast would coincide with the feast of Passover, but as the fate of the entire Jewish people hung in the balance, Mordechai readily announced the fast.
All the Jews living in all the one hundred twenty seven provinces of the Persian Empire eventually accepted the fast. In the meantime, wherever Haman's decree was proclaimed by order of the King, all Jews responded with great mourning and fasting, weeping and wailing, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. Thus a movement of sincere repentance swept the Jewish communities throughout the Persian Empire.
In Shushan, Mordechai gathered around him the Jewish children from all the Jewish schools. Sitting in sackcloth and ashes, in the manner of mourners, the children raised their voices in weeping and prayer to G‑d day and night.
When G‑d saw those innocent children and heard their heartbreaking prayers, He was filled with mercy. "For the sake of the children, I will save My people," He said.
Meanwhile Haman heard that Mordechai was raising a great outcry in Shushan, and he rushed to where Mordechai had assembled the children. He found him surrounded by twenty two thousand Jewish schoolchildren, all praying with tears in their eyes.
Haman's cruel heart did not soften. "Your prayers will be of no avail," Haman mocked them. "Nothing can save you now!" And he ordered his men to place the children in chains and keep guard over them. "The children shall be the first to die!"
Heartbroken, the mothers rushed to their children, bringing them food and water. But the brave little children swore that they would rather perish in the fast. "We shall remain here with our dear Mordechai until we are torn from him by force," they declared.
At that moment, twelve thousand Jewish kohanim, priests, each one holding a scroll of the Torah in one hand and a shofar in the other, raised their voices with prayers and supplications to the Almighty:
"0 G‑d of Israel!" they cried, "If Your chosen people perish, who will study Your Torah? Who will praise Your holy name? Answer us, 0 G‑d, answer us!"
Then each one blew his shofar. The sound of the shofar joined with the supplications of the children, and pierced the very Heavens...