Most of us have experienced in the course of our lifetimes what we like to call "moments of truth." These are times when something very deep inside us is challenged, and we respond in ways that those who know us—and even we ourselves—would never have thought possible. We find ourselves capable of feats of sacrifice, courage and ingenuity greatly exceeding our "normal" facility.

As impressive as these feats are, they are almost always as transient as they are magnificent. It seems that their very nature dictates that they be moments of truth—flashes, but only flashes, of something beyond our actual selves.

(If we think about it more deeply, the idea of a "moment of truth" is almost an oxymoron. Is not the most basic definition of truth that "this is the way it is"? If something is true, shouldn't it always be that way? And if it's usually not that way, doesn't this imply that it's not true, or at least lacking in truth?)

Therein lies one of the most amazing aspects of the story of Purim. As related in the Book of Esther, even after Haman had fallen out of favor with the king and was hanged, the decree he initiated remained in effect: the only thing that Esther was able to achieve was that the king should issue a second decree, in which the Jews were given the right to resist those who came to kill them. The first decree, calling upon all citizens of the realm to annihilate the Jewish minority in their midst on the 13th of Adar, remained in force until that date, when the Jews were victorious in their war against their enemies, killing 75,000 of their attackers.

In other words, for nearly a full year (Haman's decree was issued on 12th of Nissan, a full eleven months before the victory of Purim), a decree of annihilation hung over every single Jew alive on the face of the earth, as their enemies had royal sanction to take their lives. Yet throughout this period, not a single Jew "broke ranks" to save himself by renouncing his Jewishness. In fact, the Megillah relates that so impressive was the Jewish stance that many non-Jews converted to Judaism in this period. Such a display of sustained commitment is unparalleled in the history of man.

On that first Purim, every Jewish man, woman and child was a hero. More significantly, their's was not a "moment of truth" heroism, but the awakening of a bond to their G‑d that no external threat or internal erosion could loosen. It is from this font of commitment and self-sacrifice that we have been drawing ever since.