Haredi kids in Purim costumes.
(photo credit: Hadas Parush)
On Purim, we celebrate the miracle of the Jewish nation being saved from
genocide about 2,300 years ago.
The story of the Purim miracle took place
when the nation was returning to the Land of Israel after the first exile, which
lasted 70 years. Haman, an important minister in the Persian empire and an
adviser to King Ahashverosh, got angry at Mordechai the Jew, a leader of the
Jewish nation at the time, due to Mordechai’s refusal to bow when Haman walked
by. Haman searched for a way to take revenge on the Jewish nation and got
permission from the king to act against them as he saw fit. He planned to kill
all the Jews in one day, sending emissaries around the Persian empire with the
royal decree to do so.
Due to a series of surprising coincidences, Esther
– Mordechai’s niece – was anointed Queen of Persia, and she cleverly foiled
Haman’s scheme. Haman and his sons were hanged from the tree they had prepared
for hanging Mordechai, Mordechai was appointed a minister in the Persian
kingdom, and the Jews obtained permission from the king to defend themselves
from their enemies. The pair of words taken from Megillat Esther – “venahafoch
hu,” meaning “the opposite happened” – symbolizes the change in the Jews’ status
from a group whose murder was permissible, to a nation with the right to protect
and avenge itself.
Surprisingly the miracle of Purim happened in an
Nothing took place outside accepted diplomatic
practices. Why, then, is it called the “miracle of Purim”? It is a miracle
because this surprising series of coincidences is evidence of Divine supervision
hidden among natural processes. It just so happened that the king got angry at
his first queen, had her killed and replaced her with Esther, who by coincidence
Mordechai, Esther’s uncle, coincidentally heard people
scheming to assassinate the king and foiled the plan.
was not immediately rewarded for his loyalty.
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Coincidentally, on the same
night that Haman decided to go to the king to get his approval for hanging
Mordechai, the king was suffering from insomnia and could not fall asleep. He
asked to read from his royal diary and, coincidentally, opened the book to the
page that documented Mordechai’s long-forgotten display of loyalty. All these
separate coincidences were tied together to save Mordechai, and ultimately all
the Jews, from imminent death.
MEGILLAT ESTHER is the only book in the
Bible in which G-d’s name is not mentioned even once. This is not a coincidence.
The message of Megillat Esther is that even when G-d is not visible to all and
does not change nature, it does not mean his supervision over reality is not
present. G-d is present in daily life and in the history of the world. Sometimes
it is difficult to notice Divine Providence, but when we look back and see the
coincidences that occurred as though by chance, we understand that someone has
been directing the processes from above.
This is true of the history of
the Jewish nation, and it is true also regarding the individual who sometimes
thinks his life is going along on its own, without Divine intervention. Success,
failure, experience, opportunity – none of these are coincidences. Our lives are
conducted and supervised by G-d, and we can recognize this mainly when we look
back – and believe that also looking forward, it will be so.The writer
is rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites.
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