For the week ending 15 March 2014 / 13 Adar II 5774

From Darkness to Light

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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There are two famous questions asked regarding the Megillah: 1) Why is G-d’s name not mentioned even once in the entire story of Purim? 2) Why did the Sages require reading the Megillah both in the evening, and again the following morning?

Reading a lengthy detailed story twice in one day is hardly logical, since no one will forget the story in the few hours between readings, and since everyone clearly remembers all of the story’s details there is seemingly no addition in publicizing the miracle. So why do we have to read it again?

G-d is No Where

We first read the story of Esther and the Jews of Shushan in the evening, which is a time of darkness, because in exile, which is compared to darkness, G-d’s presence is hidden from us. All we see is the chaos and danger surrounding us. Everything seems so random, it is impossible to see G-d’s hand in the day’s events. Instead, we see the oppression of the weak and helpless, the rich get richer and the poor poorer. Chance and luck are the dreams of the needy. Just as G-d is nowhere to be found in such a world, likewise He is not found anywhere in the Megillah. We see only hatred and schemes, bribery and oppression, as the Jews are sold into annihilation. All this is only for the first reading, when all is hidden behind the darkness, and that is why it is called the story of Esther, for in Hebrew ― the name Esther means concealment.

G-d is NoW here

In the second reading, which is read in the morning, we reread about all of the same confusing and horrific circumstances that the Jews faced in those days. However this time things are different. We are no longer in the dark, for the morning sun has broken through the dark horizon, turning the sky bright blue, reminding us of G-d’s Throne of Glory.

What has changed? We’ve grown through the night, for what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and smarter. We now know how the story will end since we read it the night before, and knowing that G-d will save us in the end is what turns night into day, changing feelings of fear and anxiety into reassurance and tranquility.

Just as G-d created night, He also created its cure — faith. But what exactly is faith? Faith is remembering that no matter what happens in the middle, the end will be ours. That was G-d’s promise to our father Avraham, and it is our promise to our children.

When we start each day saying, “I believe with complete faith that all that G-d does is for our good, and that He will surely save us in the end,” we will never have anything to fear. Once we are not afraid we will be able to look deeper into what is happening in our lives, as well as the world, and suddenly the random events will start to come together. We will see the thread behind all things connecting them together. The hand of G-d will show itself and we will realize that all the times we thought we were alone, abandoned to the whims of the stormy winds, the whole time we were in fact being cradled in G-d’s right hand, the hand of kindness. It was merely concealed, until we, through the power of faith, revealed it.

This is why we call the story of Purim a Megillah, for in Hebrew the word megillah means “to reveal”. That is what our real job is in each generation — to rewrite the Megillah of Esther, namely, to reveal the hidden hand of G-d in the world.

Through the story of Purim we learn that there are no random events under the sun. Rather, all of the random events of a person’s life are in fact hand-delivered to him by G-d Almighty. The reason we must first go through a period of darkness before we experience the light is in order to teach us that G-d is present whether we see Him or not. He is there from before the first word of our life to the last, and even after that. Just as in the days of Purim, G-d is still here, helping and protecting us.

Just in case we sleep through the Purim story, which is in reality our story, we read it again the following day. And, just as G-d, amidst the darkness of night, showed Himself to the Jews of Shushan, He is constantly showing Himself to us amidst our darkness. If we just open up our eyes and look behind the mask, this dark world, where G-d seems nowhere to be found, will transform into a world filled with light, and we will not only see that G-d is now here, but that He was here all along.

In conclusion, one must realize that if the Almighty wants to save someone from harm He need not turn the world upside down, nor inside out. Rather, He can just leave it as it is, continuing to hide behind His mask of “mother nature”, which is neither mother nor nature, but the subtle hand of G-d that guides all things as only G-d can. His presence is everywhere and He is in constant control, allowing each of us to play our role.

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