On Purim, our Sages instituted that the megillah, the Book of Esther, be read twice, both on Purim night and day. This is so we can glean from the megillah some of the many lessons for life it has to offer. Let us explore one of those lessons.
The very name of the megillah, Esther, hints at the idea of hester panim, literally “hiding His face.” There are times that G-d hides His face, so to speak, from us, but even then, He is still there behind the scenes. We read the megillah in 45 minutes or so and it’s obvious to us to string together the events that led to the salvation of the Jews, from Mordechai overhearing Bigsan and Seresh’s plot to Esther’s appointment as queen. (Not familiar with the Purim story? Read the story of Megillat Esther.) So we see G-d’s role in the story quite clearly.
But we have to realize that these events happened over many years and were they not written down like this, they would likely have been dismissed (even retroactively) as a series of coincidences. Only when they are told all at once, in sequential fashion, does the clear plot-line emerge and the Hand of G-d in it all is revealed.
It’s important to realize this because this is how G-d acts with us in exile until today. Because G-d doesn’t reveal Himself openly, we must look harder, through world and personal events, to see His hand guiding us. We have to look between the lines of seemingly natural occurrences to see Who is really orchestrating everything.
A small personal example to illustrate: a couple of years ago, we moved to a new apartment. I called a mover a couple of weeks in advance and arranged to have our furniture moved on a Friday. The day before the moving date, I called the mover to confirm but he had a long-winded excuse as to why he wouldn’t be able to do the job on Friday after all. I pushed and I nudged, but he wouldn’t budge. The move would have to be pushed off for Sunday.
We were fairly upset about the seemingly unnecessary delay, but what could we do? Friday morning, we drove over to the new apartment with some boxes that we wanted to move ourselves. Turned out that our landlord had had the carpets cleaned and they were still wet. Had we arrived with all our furniture, there would have been no place to put it. What seemed like an annoying obstacle to us- the mover not being able to do the job on time- was actually to our benefit. In other words, the hidden hand of G-d helping us out behind the scenes.
G-d is still here, we just have to work harder to find Him. Mordechai and Esther did that job for us with the Purim story, making the connections that we might not otherwise have noticed. In our own lives, it’s up to us to do the work, to look out for G-d in the twists and turns that are our life stories. It’s a matter of sharpening our focus and finding the patterns, looking beyond the obvious to see the truth.
May we all have a meaningful and freilichen Purim!
Shmuel Dovid Kirwan