Purim, the holiday which occurs on the 14th day of the month of Adar (for most people), falls out on the 5th day of March this year. As we will discuss in later posts, there are many observances unique to Purim. One of these is the reading of Megillas Esther, the book in Scriptures which tells of the story of Purim. In order to get a good understanding of what the holiday of Purim is all about, the next few posts will deal with the Megilla of Esther. The explanation of the Megilla that will be seen here comes primarily from the commentary of the great commentator, Rav Eliyahu from Vilna (a.k.a. the Vilna Ga’on).
The Vilna Ga’on, at the beginning of his commentary on the Megilla, offers a parable to illustrate how we are to view the story about to be told.
There was a king who had only one child, a son who he treasured more than anything imaginable. The love that the king showed to this child was so great that officers of the king, who devoted their life to the king’s service, began to feel jealous of the attention and affection that the young boy received from the king. While the young boy grew older, he did not always treat his father in a reciprocal fashion. Finally, the boy did something that angered his father so greatly that the king had no choice but to banish him from the castle and forced him to wander in a forest. The son, while in the forest, was sure that his father had forgotten him. In reality, just the opposite was true. The king realized that his son would be faced with countless dangers in the forest, and he wanted to assure that no harm would befall his son. He therefore appointed a select group of servants who were to keep a watchful eye on his son, albeit from a distance. These servants were under instructions to never reveal that they were there on order of the king, in order for the son to reflect on what he had done and his current situation, and possibly repent.
One day, while the son was walking through the forest, he heard sounds, a grumbling from behind him. He turned to see a large bear that appeared poised for an attack. He started to flee from the bear. While running, he heard a commotion behind him. He saw some of his father’s officers trying to hunt down the bear. They were successful in killing the bear and the son was saved. The son never got the opportunity to ask the servants what they were doing in the forest, and he assumed that their presence at the time he most needed help was mere coincidence. Not long after this incident, those officers who were jealous of the son got together and decided that now was the opportune time to rid themselves of the person who they despised – the son. A group of these officers went into the forest, looking for the son. They soon found him, and started attacking him. The son tried fighting back, but he was clearly outnumbered. However, moments after these officers started their attack, another group of the king’s servants arrived on the scene and began fighting off the son’s attackers. This group was victorious and again the son’s life was saved. Now, the son realized that there was no way that the appearance of these officers was mere coincidence. To be saved by the same group of people twice while wandering through a forest could not be a stroke of luck. It had to be that his father was watching out for him, even while he was banished to this exile. The son, after realizing this, felt great remorse for his evil acts against his father, and felt a deep love for him. He truly regretted his actions, and repented from his evil ways. When his father heard about the change that came over his son, he happily welcomed him back to the palace.
The story of Purim occurred during the period of time when the Jewish nation was exiled after the destruction of the First Temple. Although G-d had to punish us for our evil ways, He still loved us greatly and wanted to assure that we would not be harmed. He therefore sent messengers to protect our nation – Mordechai and Esther – and performed miracles through them. Since G-d wanted the nation to repent, no “supernatural” miracles, which would have “revealed” G-d’s watchful eye, occurred. His protection of us had to be undetectable to the undiscerning eye, so that we would think that He, in his displeasure with us, had abandoned us. Therefore, the miracles that occurred which led to our salvation occurred in a clandestine fashion. However, the series of events that led to our being saved from the hands of the evil Haman were too great and numerous to be relegated to the realm of coincidence. They, as Mordechai and Esther knew all along, were clearly the workings of Hashem. As we will see when we study the Megilla, the Jews eventually realized that G-d, not Mordechai, Esther or King Achashverosh, was their true savior, and therefore the nation of Israel repented and accepted G-d’s words and commandments with a complete heart.
When studying the Megilla, we have the benefit of hindsight to aid us in our appreciation of G-d’s workings. We will be able to appreciate how each piece in the story of Purim fell into place, sometimes against all odds. If we keep ourselves focused on the fact that there are no coincidences here, and that the whole story is a series of “miracles,” we will find that the Megilla is much more than a good story – it is a source of inspiration for all times.
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For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.