Dovie had gone shopping with his mother. “Oh, Mommy!” he cried, pointing to an attractive Purim costume hanging on the rack. “I like that costume. Could you buy it for me?”

“Dovie,” his mother replied. “We’ve already prepared your costume. It’s the one Moishe wore last year and I hemmed it to fit you perfectly. You look adorable in it.”

“Please Mommy,” begged Dovie. “I like this one better.”

“You have a beautiful costume, Dovie,” his mother said shaking her head. “Besides, I have only enough money for the groceries and shalach manos.”

Dovie knew Mommy was right. He had a very nice costume. Still, like many other children, he liked new things. “If you don’t have any money, Mommy,” he said meekly, “Why don’t you just write a check?”

“Dovie,” explained his mother patiently. “A check is only a piece of paper. You need money in the bank to cover the check, otherwise, it’s not worth anything. Right now all our money in the bank is going for other things we need. Writing a check for a new costume would be like giving the store a worthless piece of paper. Of course, we wouldn’t do that.”

* * *

We all have a personal account which HaShem keeps. It works like a checking account. When we ask HaShem for something, it’s like giving Him a check. Our good deeds are like the money in the bank that covers the check. When we have enough good deeds, we have “money in the bank” for HaShem to “cash our check” and grant our requests.

Mordechai and Esther knew this when they were trying to stop Haman’s plan. Mordechai held a high position in the palace. He was respected for his wisdom, and he had saved the king’s life. Esther was the queen, and King Achashverosh favored her above everyone else.

Doesn’t it make sense to think that the first thing to do after hearing about Haman’s decree would be to make an appointment to see the king? Shouldn’t they have immediately used their influence to save the Jewish people?

But that was not what they did. Instead, even before Mordechai sent his message to Esther, he put on sackcloth and ashes and went about the city urging Jews to do teshuvah. Only afterwards, he sent word to Esther.

And what was the first thing Esther did when she realized that she would have to save her people? She instructed the people to fast, and told Mordechai that she and her servants would fast also.

Isn’t this strange? Esther was very worried about approaching Achashverosh. By entering the king’s throne room without being called, she was risking her life. And she hadn’t been called to the king for a while. She knew that the king favored her looks, and she was hoping that this would save her.

Now, fasting for three days certainly doesn’t make a person look pretty. Esther would be faint and weak. Would that make her look beautiful?

But like Mordechai, she knew that the first thing to do was to “put money in the bank.” Teshuvah and good deeds were needed to “cover” the “check” — the request to HaShem to save them.

After those three days of teshuvah, Esther went to approach the king. She wasn’t counting on her good looks, but on the good deeds of the Jewish people. She prayed that HaShem would be willing to cash the check because the account was now full. And indeed He did.

(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, p. 189ff)