The primary focus on Purim is the story of the Megillah (Book of Esther).
The Megillah contains a rather long and detailed account of what transpired.
It begins by telling us what led up to King Achashverosh seeking a
new queen, which ultimately paved the way for Esther to become the queen. The Megillah
continues with describing the other variables as well, culminating with our
salvation from Haman’s decree to eliminate the Jewish People which occurred
with the help of Queen Esther. We don’t just take a few moments to reflect on
the miracle. We read the entire Megillah, once at night and then again the
following day. What is so important about the story of the Megillah that every
person must spend so much time reviewing it in detail, twice, every year?
The Rambam writes (in the end of Minyan Hamitzvos), “And they
commanded to read the Megillah at its time, to mention the praise of the Lord
and the salvations He sent us, and that He was close to us [in being attentive to
us] when we cried out… and in order to reiterate for all future generations the
truth of what He promised us in the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:7), ‘For which [other]
nation has a god close to it as our God [who is close to us] whenever we call out
This passage of the Rambam spells out clearly the purpose of reading
the Megillah. Reading the Megillah is about instilling in our minds the concept
that no matter how dire our situation might be, God is always close by, waiting
for us to reach out to Him in prayer. Rashi echoes this idea in explaining why we
read the Megillah once at night and once by day. Rashi says (Tractate Megillah
4a) that this corresponds to the fact that Jews cried out in prayer day and night.
The sequence of events in the Megillah illustrates clearly how our salvation was
guided by the Hand of Heaven. In the same token, the Megillah stresses the
fashion in which all the Jews shook heaven and earth in prayer. This isn’t just a
side note. This is what the Megillah is about. The Megillah is intended to imbue
us with the feeling that whenever we are in trouble, we should revert to
prayer as the primary initiative to seek salvation. God is always near, ready to
rescue us, when we engage properly in prayer.
Rabbi Parach would routinely give a lecture on Torah topics to the
unaffiliated, in Tel-Aviv. One day, a storm was raging, and only one person came
to the class. Rabbi Parach was eager to share Torah ideas with more people, so
he decided to go out and see if he could find at least one more person who would
be interested in attending. He crossed the street and knocked on a door. He
heard some movement inside, but no one came to the door. He made a few
more attempts to attract people passing by, but to no avail. Rabbi Parach
decided to return to the home he had approached originally to make a second
attempt. This time, the door swung open. Standing at the door was an
intimidating figure; a large, tall man, whose body was full of tattoos, topped off
with long hair. The rabbi gently presented his offer to attend the Torah class.
“Who sent you here?” muttered the man. Rabbi Parach explained how he was
just looking to offer people to join the class since there was a low attendance on
that day. The man ushered the rabbi into his house and showed him a rope
dangling from the ceiling. He then proceeded to tell the rabbi what had just
transpired. “I live all alone. I haven’t spoken to my parents in years. No one ever
knocks on my door. I became so depressed and I decided to end it all. But
something inside me didn’t want to do it. For the past two hours I was praying
to God, asking Him to send me a sign; someone who will connect with me,
give me encouragement to live. I finally gave up and put the noose around
my neck. That’s when I heard the first knock. I was excited about the sign from
Heaven, but by the time I got to the door you were gone, and I figured it was my
imagination. I returned to my rope, and at the last moment you came back.” This
indeed became a turning point in the fellow’s life. He was drawn to Torah, and
continued on to lead a meaningful life. This is the product of sincere prayer.
Purim is very exciting, but we must not let the excitement drown out the
message of this holiday: No matter how bleak the situation may look, no matter
how far gone we might be, God is always there for us. God is waiting nearby to
hear us cry out to Him. This is the true source for salvation. God has all the
resources and power in the world to bring salvation under any circumstance.
While we may not have our wishes granted every time, prayer should be our
focus of action. We should never underestimate the power of prayer.
Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber (email@example.com)