The Gemara (Megillah 12a) states:
“R. Nahman son of R. Hisda gave the following exposition. What is the meaning of the verse, Thus
saith the Lord to his anointed to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden. Now was Cyrus the
Messiah? Rather what it means is: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the Messiah: I have a
complaint on thy behalf against Cyrus. I said, He shall build my house and gather my exiles, and
he [merely] said, Whosoever there is among you of all his people, let him go up.”
So the Gemara is telling us that King Cyrus was held accountable for not completely living up to his task of rebuilding the Beis Hamikdash. Everybody is judged based on their true potential, and Cyrus apparently, failed here to live up to his.
Now let’s learn the Rashb”a.
The Rashb”a expounds further that the real reason Cyrus awakened God’s wrath over here was because had Cyrus been more personally invested in gathering all the exiled and rebuilding the Beis Hamikdash, then that would have brought about the final redemption, i.e. the second Beis Hamikdash would have been permanent; we would have been eternally free of the bondage of Exile and all the pain that has come with it.
This Rashb”a seems baffling. How could it be that the course of Jewish destiny was radically altered by the failure of one man, let alone that he wasn’t even Jewish?
I think this Rashb”a is a stark reminder of the delicate balance of merits with which God runs this world. It must be assumed that Klall Yisroel themselves were very nearly worthy of the Final Redemption at this time. They just needed one more zchus, merit, to cross the threshold of worthiness. And in this case it all came down to the choice of a non-Jewish king: if he fully stepped up to the plate–the Geula would arrive; if not–Redemption would be put on hold for another two and a half millennia and counting. God is full of Rachamim, mercy, but He also executes this world with exact Din, justice, which determines a precise measure which triggers world events. We see from this Gemara that even the most unexpected merits can be factored in to this measure.
A related concept can be seen from the Gemara on 15b where it discusses Esther’s motive for inviting Haman to her party. The Gemara there states, among several answers, the theory of Rabbah:
Rabbah said: [She said], “Pride goeth before destruction.” (a pasuk in Mishlei)
Meaning: Esther’s thinking was to cause Haman to be guilty of exhibiting pride, thereby subjecting him to Mishlei’s prediction that pride leads to destruction.
But this is quite perplexing: didn’t Haman already distinguish himself pretty well as being supremely haughty and evil by passing a decree to eradicate the entire Jewish people (in addition to his previous practice of forcing everyone to bow to himself)? Why wasn’t Esther’s plan beating a dead horse?
It seems that once again, God runs the world according to a very precise measure, and Esther discerned that an additional dose of pride was necessary over here to push Haman over the threshold of destruction. Esther understood the deep Justice with which God runs the world.
In a day and age where the feeling is that anything goes and nothing matters, this is a concept we need to endlessly remind ourselves of: that to God–everything does matter in a very precise way. In the words of the Chovas HaLevovos: “a little from you, matters greatly to Him.”
Let’s focus on this to try and bring the Geula together.