by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – January 29, 2016
On the day of Purim, observant Jews include in their prayers three times a day their appreciation to G-d: “For the miracles, and for the salvation, and for the mighty deeds, and for the victories, and for the battles which You performed for our forefathers in those days, at this time. In the days of Mordechai and Esther, in Shushan, the capital [of Persia], when Haman, the wicked, rose up against them [the Jewish people], and sought to destroy, to slay, and to exterminate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, on the same day, on the thirteenth of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions. But You, in Your abundant mercy, nullified his counsel and frustrated his intention and caused his design to redound upon his own head, and they hanged him and his sons on the gallows.”
In the fourth century B.C.E., in the days of Achashverosh (a.k.a Ahasuerus), successor to Cyrus, ruler over 127 provinces, an unfathomable expanse of land at the time, practically equivalent to sovereignty over most of the inhabited planet, a virulent anti-Semite by the name of Haman gained the confidence of this king and managed to get himself appointed as this ruler’s chief minister. Once in a position of tremendous power that this position afforded him, Haman found the opportunity to devise a plan against the people that became over the centuries every hate-monger’s favorite victim. Haman, in his hate for the Jewish people, persuaded King Achashverosh that the members of this nation, who were not too long before driven out of the land of Israel, were a danger to Achashverosh and his Gentile subjects. Consequently, it was Haman’s opinion, the Jewish people needed to be exterminated, and he convinced the king to put into law an edict to destroy all the Jewish people within his jurisdiction, virtually eliminating the Jewish people from the face of the earth.
However, as a result of an amazing and totally unpredictable combination of “chance” events, skillfully orchestrated by G-d, Haman’s hateful plan “was turned about” (Esther 9:1). The long time queen of Achashverosh suddenly committed an offense to the king that embarrassed him before his subjects prompting him to execute her and search for a replacement. Of all the myriad women under his jurisdiction, the king, perchance, chose an orphaned Jewish young lady, raised, perchance, by a Jewish leader of the time, named Mordechai. This same Jewish leader, perchance, later became privy to a plot to assassinate the king and reported the attempted treason before it could come to fruition. At some later point, after Haman already succeeded in having his hateful edict proclaimed, the king, perchance, was reminded of Mordechai’s act of loyalty and chose to repay him for his loyalty. In parallel, the newly crowned queen took the risk of entering the king’s palace, against strict royal policy, and, perchance, gained favor in the king’s eyes, nevertheless. Esther, then, arranged an exclusive affair for her, the king and his minister Haman, where, the king, perchance, found his previously trusted minister in a rather compromising position in the queen’s presence. Achashverosh is consequently infuriated and punishes Haman, and, in parallel, is convinced, perchance, by Esther to save the Jewish people. After learning of Mordechai’s relationship to Esther, the king, then, perchance, replaces Haman with none other than Mordechai.
In the course of the events of Purim, what could have been, G-d forbid, an unparalleled death sentence upon practically the entire Jewish people, and would have changed the face of the nation for eternity was miraculously averted and deflected. But, it is not just this that we celebrate on Purim. We do not only celebrate our being saved. The events of Purim did more than that. The events of Purim indicated something much broader and far reaching – a message that we should cherish to this day. The events of Purim brought to the foreground for everyone to see and should have led all to recognize a very crucial matter and teach everyone an eternal lesson. The Jewish people faced certain annihilation, G-d forbid. The most powerful regime in the world at the time that virtually spanned the globe was poised to destroy us and there was no outside entity that could be turned to. No country, no regime, no group nor any diplomat, at the time, could contend with or stand up to the regime of Achashverosh, guided by his hateful and anti-Semitic minister who, in turn, incited the regime’s Gentile citizens against all their Jewish neighbors. The future of the Jewish people could not be more dismal. The future of the Jewish people could not look bleaker. There was no human entity to turn to that could pull the Jewish people out of their hopeless predicament. There was no reasonable or sensible manner that the Jewish people could survive this situation – a ruler and his subjects in a regime that stretches virtually over the entire inhabited world that has declared a death sentence against them and allowed anyone in the regime license to execute it. Yet, this otherwise dismal scenario did not come to fruition, because G-d did not allow it to. And if G-d would turn over such a, otherwise, hopeless situation, then we can be assured that no threatening situation against the Jewish people can arise that would not be overturned by G-d if He so wishes.
In Jewish prayer quorums the world over, we daily proclaim in the repetition of the Shemona Esrei prayer: “We thank You, for it is You Who are the L-rd our G-d and the G-d of our forefather, the G-d of all flesh, our Creator, the Creator of the universe. Blessings and thanks are due Your great and holy Name, for You have given us life and sustained us. So may You continue to give us life and sustain us and gather our exiles to the courtyards of Your Sanctuary, to observe Your decrees, to do Your will and to serve You wholeheartedly.”
We need to say “thank you” to G-d for having turned the tables against insurmountable odds during the events of Purim to save the Jewish people at the time – our ancestors. We must, also, beseech G-d that He “continue to give us life and sustain us,” for, if He so wills it, we can overcome any enemy and survive any situation. Purim, is, therefore, not just a celebration of the past, commemorating G-d’s saving the Jewish people in many years gone by. Purim is a message for the present and the future, a constant annual recognition of our ability to rely on G-d. With G-d on our side, no danger is insurmountable and nothing is out of our reach. Let us but stretch out our hands to G-d and He will lead us over all obstacles. This is the lesson of Purim.