The special simcha of Purim is built upon the contrast between what many call coincidences and what we understand are actually hidden miracles. Let’s begin with an obvious question. Why is the holiday called “Purim” (a drawing of lots)? Why doesn’t it have a name which is related to one of the main themes of the day, like “Salvation,” “Teshuva (return to G-d),” “Unity,” “Kabalat HaTorah (receiving the Torah),” etc.?
It is important to remember that Purim is a Rabbinical holiday. While all of the Torah holidays, like Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, are fundamental to being Jewish, the Jewish people existed for almost a thousand years without Purim. What happened to make Purim an essential part of the Jewish year and Jewish life? In order to understand this, we need to see where and how it fits into Jewish History.
Before the destruction of the First Temple, we seemingly had it all — our own land, physical unity, Beit HaMikdash (the Temple in Jerusalem), prophecy, daily miracles, etc. Then we lost it all with the Churban (destruction of the Temple). Purim played a key role in helping the Jewish people to be able to deal with this new reality of churban and galut (destruction and exile).
The Gemara highlights a verse in the Torah (Dev. 31:18) as a hint to Purim — “V’anochi hasteir astir pani bayom hahu al kol hara’ah asher asah, ki fanah el elohim acheirim — And I will surely hide My face on that day for all of the evil that they [the Jews] did, since they turned to other powers.”
A key to understanding Purim is, therefore, this idea that Hashem is hiding His face and playing a role specifically behind the scenes.
Rabbi Asher Resnick serves as a senior lecturer at Aish HaTorah’s Executive Learning Center, and is a senior training lecturer for Aish’s Rabbinical Ordination program. As a close student of Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, he developed a special expertise in addressing fundamental issues in Judaism, as well as in bringing classical texts to life. As a bereaved parent, Rabbi Resnick’s extensive writings on loss, suffering and trauma provide a sensitive Jewish perspective on coping with these fundamental life cycle issues. OlamiResources.com is happy to highlight several essays over the coming months featured on his website JewishClarity.com. This essay should be l’zechut ul’iluy nishmat Ruchama Rivka, a”h, bat Asher Zevulun.