Purim

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Tonight is the 14th Adar which is the date of Purim in most places. As a resident of Jerusalem I will be celebrating Purim tomorrow on the 15th of Adar.

On Purim we commemorate and celebrate the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.”

We read Megillat Esther which tells the story of our survival. One of the points that stands out most in the book of Esther is that God’s name is never mentioned. This is the only book of the Tanach that does not mention God at all. The title of the book, Esther, also alludes to God being hidden throughout the story as the name Esther comes from the Hebrew verb “l’hastir” which means to hide. One of the basic messages of the book of Esther is to point out that even when it seems that God is far away, that He has “hidden His face” from us, He is still pulling the strings behind the scenes and watching our backs.

This is an extremely pertinent message for any Jew living in the past two thousand years, including us today. We’re a people that have journeyed from country to country, wandered the globe, been persecuted almost everywhere we go, but somehow survived it all. It’s remarkable we’re still around. It’s incredible that we’ve returned home after a two thousand year exile. This is easy for me to say sitting in Jerusalem and I wouldn’t be able to say it were I living in Europe and we turned back the clock 70 years. Nor would I be able to say it if everyday there was the constant worry of another pogrom. Nor could I say it living in Israel during the Crusades or in Spain during the Spanish inquisition or in Yemen in the Middle Ages, etc.

But we don’t live in any of those time periods and nowadays we do have the benefit of hindsight and being able to see that things worked out at the end of the day. The history books don’t mention God guiding the Jewish people through the difficult times and neither does the book of Esther. But the message of the book is clear. God is there even if He isn’t mentioned, even when it seems like He’s hiding.

To this day the miracle of the Jewish people continues. It is a people that continues to thrive, continues to survive, a people that refuses to give in. In every generation it seems like another of our foes rises up against us to annihilate us, but we survive. Today, we have the Arab world desperately trying to wipe us out. Palestinian terrorists firing rockets at our homes whenever they get the chance. Others blowing themselves up on our streets or taking captive innocent Israelis. From Iran we have the threat of nuclear warfare. Ahmadinejad threatening to destroy us. The central idea we celebrate on Purim is that God is with us. No matter how bad things get “I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God.” (Vaykira 26:44).

The message of the Purim has never been more relevant than it is today. In a world where we may struggle to see God’s role in our day to day lives. A world where the weather can be predicted a couple of days in advance, where it seems more than ever that we are totally in control of our fates. The Purim story challenges us to see God working behind the scenes, leading us as a people, every step of the way.

Two articles I recommend reading about Megillat Esther:

R Leibtag’s – Purim and its Hidden Message

Yehuda Radday – Chiasmus in Hebrew Biblical Narrative (the bit on Esther)

Purim Sameach

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