Not a coincidence

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.

Haredi kids in Purim costumes (photo credit: Hadas Parush)
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 un-miraculous manner.
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 was Jewish.
Mordechai, Esther’s uncle, coincidentally heard people scheming to assassinate the king and foiled the plan.
Coincidentally he was not immediately rewarded for his loyalty.
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.