Purim

Megillat Esther – Introduction

June 29, 2006

Introduction

Purim is known as the Holiday of the “nes nistar,” the “hidden miracle.” This is because HaShem saved the Jewish People without splitting any seas, or making mountains dance and catch fire, as he had done with Mt. Sinai, when he gave His Torah to the Jewish People there some thirty three hundred years ago. In the miracle of Purim, nothing that strange happened.

It was rather the way that events were tied together – overheard conversations, the pride of a tyrant that “went before his fall,” the sleeplessness of a King, the watchfulness of the King of Kings, that allowed the People to be saved, once they had done “Teshuvah,” Repentance, for a sin only alluded to in Megilat Esther.

Megilat Esther is the story of men and women, some very righteous, some terribly wicked, and how they interacted – with the Holy One, the Producer and Director of the Play, Who miraculously allows freedom of choice, watching from behind the scenes.

The End of the Babylonian Empire

In the Book of Daniel, Chapter 5, we find the scene of the last Babylonian ruler, Belshazzar, the son of Nevuchadnezzar, at the center of a party. The purpose of the great feast is to celebrate the abandonment of the Jewish People by their G-d. For the Prophet Yirmiyahu had prophesied that the Jewish People would be in Exile in Babylonia for seventy years, following which they would be redeemed. Belshazzar had calculated the seventy years, he thought, and no redemption had come for the Jews. Hence he thought it safe to take out the vessels that were taken from the Temple by his father, and they could be used and abused by the party-goers.

Then a hand had appeared and had written upon a wall the enigmatic phrase “Mene Mene, Tekel Upharsin.” Not one of his magicians or advisors had been able to read, let alone decipher those words. But Belshazzar’s wife had reminded him of the presence in the palace of a Jew from the Captivity of Judea, Daniel, who was able to interpret things that were above the comprehension of other men. Daniel was summoned and told him that the words were a message from the L-rd that the time of the Kingdom of Babylonia had ended. And indeed, that night, there was an invasion by the Persians and Medes, and Belshazzar was slain. Persia and Media were the new ruling nations of the World, and Darius the Mede was the first King of the new Empire.