For the week ending 23 February 2013 / 12 Adar I 5773

Purim: Revealing the Hidden

by Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz
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Rabbi Nachman of Breslov used to tell the story of a poor man who once dreamt that if he would travel to a certain bridge in Viennahe would discover a great treasure.

After having the same dream two or three times in a row, he began the long trek by foot. Arriving in Vienna after many months, he noted that the bridge was patrolled by foot-guards and as a result he could dig at the base of the bridge only for a few hours in the middle of the night and had to laboriously cover up his work before the morning.

After digging for months he was finally apprehended. When the guard accused him of espionage, the Jew responded that he was simply following the dream he had in Warsaw. The guard laughed derisively: "How stupid you are to follow your dream. I too had a dream that under a pauper’s hut in WarsawI would find a buried treasure. Do you think I would ever bother to make such a foolish trip?"

And lo and behold, the pauper went home to his own town, his own house, his own bed, and discovered that the treasure was there all the time. He didn’t have to go anywhere. All he had to do was look and he would find.

Rav Nachman commonly offered no explicit moral for his parables. He used to say that even if you learn nothing from the story, at least you enjoy the story. Here, however, the moral here is clear.

We spend our lives and energies looking for excitement, fulfillment, happiness and closeness to G-d. We somehow dream that it exists elsewhere, wherever we are not! If we only had another job, another family, another community, then…. This story reminds us that happiness and fulfillment must come from within, that G-d is close to us in whatever situation we find ourselves, and if all we do is look — we will find. If we don’t look, however, the wealth that is literally at our feet will never be discovered. We will live and we will die never realizing who we were and never discovering who we could have been.

And as Rabbi Zusha taught us long ago that although there is no tragedy in our not being as great as our forefather Avraham, how infinitely sad it is if we never become our essential selves.

The message of this story is important the entire year but has special connection to Purim. We often seek the Hand of G-d in the flamboyant, the dramatic, the miraculous or the supernatural — that which is far removed from the mundane experiences of our daily lives. Purim, which is a nes nistar (a hidden non-supernatural miracle which could be misunderstood as a series of coincidences) occurring in galut (a time of concealment) through a heroine whose very name connotes concealment (Esther) teaches us to see G-d and feel His loving embrace in whatever place we are.

And by reminding us that surface appearances do not correspond with inner realities, ultimate purposes, and final meanings, Purim should impel all of us to search for that hidden treasure within, the core reality that underlies the superficial. And if we search, we shall surely find.

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