Purim The Hidden Presence by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky

Nov 17, 2014

In a leap year, such as this one is, Purim is
celebrated during the second Adar, rather than the first one. The reason the Talmud gives for this is in order to link the miracles of Purim to the miracles of Pesach. In explaining why Adar is a month of special joy, Rashi (Ta’anith 29a) writes that it is a time of miracles, including both Purim and Pesach. What is the relationship between the miracles of Purim and Pesach? Why does the Halacha insist on linking them?

The miracles of Pesach were public demonstrations of the supernatural, serving as a most visible and undeniable intervention by G-d in nature and in history. The ten plagues, the exodus of a downtrodden people after two hundred ten years of enslavement by Egypt, the world’s greatest power, the splitting of the Red Sea, the sustenance of an entire nation in a desert all attest to G-d’s presence in the world.

In contrast, the events of Purim were much more ambiguous. Had they been reported by today’s journalists, every incident could and would have been presented in political, psychological or historical terms. What could be more natural than a decree for the annihilation of the Jews, frequently viewed as a thorn in the side of many societies. Unanticipated outcomes, like Haman being executed, Mordechai promoted, and the Jews saved, can be viewed as part of the historical process. Esther happened to be in the right place at the right time, while Haman wasn’t so lucky.

Divine intervention seems completely absent, both from the predicament in which the Jews found themselves, as well as in the fortunate outcome. This is what our Rabbis call “hester panim,” the hidden face of G-d.

It is easy to recognize G-d when He performs supernatural miracles. The challenge of the Jew is to recognize G-d’s hand in the ongoing events of our national and personal lives. But it was precisely the recognition of the Divine intervention in the decree for their annihilation that led the Jews to the behavior changes necessary to bring about Divine redemption. G-d’s presence was hidden, and it required an elevated perspective to discern that presence.

Pesach serves as the frame of reference for Purim, informing us of the Divine presence even when it is not readily apparent. Contemporary events in Israel need to be viewed within this frame of reference. Israel is “the land which the L-rd your G-d looks after… on which He always keeps His eye.” A discerning eye, informed by the miracles of Jewish history, has the ability to clearly see the hand of G-d at work in contemporary events.

We are witnessing an historical struggle over the future character of the State of Israel. Our many students and alumni who are learning and living Torah in Israel are playing a major role in the outcome of that struggle. Living their lives with the recognition of the Divine presence is surely contributing to the complete blossoming of the long-awaited redemption for which we all yearn.

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