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Rabbi Doniel Staum - Purim 5772 "True Yet Hidden"
by Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

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PURIM 5772


A man getting on to the bus one day notices a young boy sitting next to the driver. In front of the boy is a steering wheel made out of cardboard, covered with tinfoil. The boy is shouting directions at everyone getting on the bus, instructing the passengers where to put their money or tokens. When the driver closes the door the boys begins to parrot his every movement. When there is a turn he turns his wheel in perfect sync with the driver. Then every few minutes the boy looks into the mirror and screams at the passengers to quiet down because he can’t concentrate.

After watching the humorous exchange for a few minutes the man asks the driver for an explanation. The driver explains that the boy next to him is his son. His son is fascinated by cars and driving and he is a terribly annoying ‘back street driver’, always offering his opinion. In exasperation the driver decided on this witty ploy. He made his son his own steering wheel and sat him right behind himself. “It was the best thing I ever did,” said the driver, “he thinks he’s driving so he leaves me alone.”

Rabbi Shalom Schwadron zt’l explains that Hashem is the ‘driver’ of this world and we are the little child sitting next to him. Hashem lets us think we are driving and running the show but really….

In the vernacular of Chazal, the miracle of Purim is deemed a ‘nays nistar’ a hidden miracle. Simply understood, the miracles of Purim did not include any nature-altering miracles or Divine revelations as there were at the time of the exodus from Egypt and the revelation of Sinai. The miracles of Purim were a tapestry of natural - seemingly coincidental - events that worked in favor of the Jews. Therefore, in comparison to other redemptions and salvations, Purim is a hidden miracle.

Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus zt’l notes that there is a deeper meaning to the ‘nistar’ of Purim. The Torah[1] states, “הנסתרות לה' אלקינו והנגלות לנו ולבננו עד עולם- The hidden is for G-d but the revealed are for us and our children forever”.

Every human being is comprised of dichotomous forces - body and soul. The body is physical but not eternal, while the ethereal invisible soul is eternal. One’s soul is thus the nistar aspect of his being, and that aspect is directly connected to G-d. The soul retains its Divine character even while coupled to the corporeal body.

The miracle of Purim brought about a “reconnection” of the Jewish heart and soul. The ‘hidden’ events of Purim which train us to recognize Divine involvement even when it is not so lucid symbolizes our own daily struggle to recognize the Divine within ourselves, within our soul. Therefore, Purim is a ‘nays nistar’ in the sense that it connects him to the hidden yet elite facet of man, i.e. his essence and true self, his soul.

Purim is a holiday that requires probing and searching into the more hidden aspects of man and life. Those who are satisfied with the superficial exterior beauty, jocular nature, and gaiety of the holiday of Purim are cheating themselves out of a holiday that is so much deeper, connecting to the most genuine aspect of who we are.

If so, it in incumbent on us to further probe the many ways in which Purim connects to the infinite and hidden part of our being.

The Megillah records that when Haman requested that Achashveirosh grant him permission to destroy the Jews, Achashevirosh responded by giving Haman his signet ring which granted Haman full authorization to decree as he wished. The Gemarah[2] comments, “Greater (i.e. more poignant) was the removal of the ring than (all of the pleading and prodding of) 48 prophets and 7 prophetesses, for all of the prophets and prophetesses could not awaken the Jews to repent but the removal of the ring (jolted them to) return to the proper path.”

Seemingly, it was not the act of Achashveirosh removing the ring from his finger that so shocked the Jews into mass repentance, but the mere fact that he gave it to their nemesis, Haman. The Gemarah implies that the mere act of Achashveirosh removing the ring from his finger is what caused the wave of repentance? Logically, it would seem that the Jews’ shock lay in Haman receiving the ring. If so the Gemarah should better state, “Better was the placing of the ring” not the removal of the ring?

The Maharsha comments that Achashveirosh himself was consumed with a deep-rooted enmity for the Jews. In fact he was such a rabid anti-Semite that although normally one takes collateral for any major business venture, Achashveirosh sold out the Jews without taking any security from Haman.

Still it is unclear why the venomous hatred of Achashevirosh and the mere removal of the ring from his finger served as the catalyst for the mass wave of national repentance that ensued.

When the proclamations were announced throughout the capitol city of Shushan that all citizens were invited to a grand feast in the palace of Achashevirosh, Mordechai assembled the Jews and implored them not to attend. Mordechai was well aware of the sinister ulterior motives that were involved in the formation of the feast in trying to get the Jews to sin and therefore he pleaded that the Jews keep their distance. The majority of the Jews did not hearken to his pleas because they did not want to accept that there were undertones of anti-Semitism involved in the planning and formation of the grand feast. The Jews felt that they had to demonstrate their patriotism to their country and show that they were good citizens of Shushan.

During the feast the Jews mingled with members of every nationality and class. There was an affable atmosphere of equality and friendship that permeated the party and the Jews left feeling more secure and part of the country than ever.

Therefore, when the Jews saw that Achashveirosh sold them out, not only allowing Haman to carry out his nefarious bidding, but also with such blatant enmity, it shocked the Jews to the core. It was not merely WHO Achashevirosh sold them out to, but the mere fact that he was so eager and impetuous to allow the mass genocide to occur. Achashveirosh’s zealous excitement to partner with Haman destroyed the Jews’ sense of well-being. They simply could not believe that such a thing could occur to them after they were so nationalistic and patriotic and proved themselves to be an important part of society.

The message that all of the prophets and prophetesses tried to impart to Klal Yisroel was that they should stop having a false sense of security. Yermiyah castigated the nation, “Cursed be the man who places his trust in man… and from Hashem he will turn away his heart.” But Klal Yisroel shunned him.

Tragically, the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash was a result of the Jews not adhering to the admonishments of the prophets. When Achashveirosh removed his ring however, the message of the prophets came to painful reality. Then they understood the poignancy and veracity of their message. They realized that all of their efforts to prove their loyalty to Achashveirosh was futile.

The message of Achashveirosh’s ring is one that has not faded. September 11th, 2001 will forever be remembered as a day of infamy and horror. Far more than a terrorist attack that caused death, destruction, fear, and chaos, September 11th was a shell shock simply because it had happened. Those who were raised on the distant American shores lived with a sense of security in the manifest destiny of the country. Even when hearing of harrowing and frightening events throughout the world Americans continued to believe that they were somehow impenetrable. America was too powerful, too far away, and possessed an uncanny intelligence and army.

But then it happened and the American sense of invincibility dissipated into the nebulous rubble where the proud Towers had stood. When the twin towers collapsed they took with them a lot more than physical debris and charred corpses. The mere fact that, ‘it happened’ was the symbolic ‘removal of the ring’, i.e. the brutal realization that the world as we knew it had ended, progressing into a completely different world than it was on September 10th, 2001.

Even when the ring was removed from Haman, the process of rectification was not complete until the ring was actually placed onto Mordechai’s finger. When the ring was placed onto Mordechai’s finger it symbolized the repentance of Klal Yisroel. Now they understood that their sense of security and trust can only be in the Eternal G-d and His righteous leaders. “Blessed is the man who places his trust in G-d and G-d is his fortress.”

Purim is a celebration of the Jewish soul! One looking at the holiday naively may conclude the opposite is true, for there is no holiday more oriented toward physical enjoyment than Purim. However, the holiday of Purim celebrates the fusion of our body with our soul.

When we are able to recognize that G-d runs this world and orchestrates all its events we are able to physically rejoice. Without being cognizant of G-d one can never truly be happy within because life is too unpredictable, its vicissitudes too daunting. On Purim we touch our inner reality, which fosters a sense of security in our Creator.

When one becomes inebriated, he loses a great deal of his sense of balance and control. He cannot perform his daily functions as he normally does and requires the assistance of others. If a drunken fellow is left to his own mercy the consequences can be unpleasant, if not dangerous. To ensure that this not occur he must be able to ‘give over the keys’. He must have kind friends or family members who are willing to serve as his guide and protectors.

The Torah is hardly keen on excessive drinking but on Purim the halacha is that one drink more than he is accustomed to drink. The concept here is that while one is intoxicated he forfeits some of his natural bodily control. On Purim, when reading and analyzing the miracles of Purim we are overwhelmed by G-d’s love for His nation and we become infused with belief in G-d. We are prepared to throw ourselves to his mercy in a manner which is unacceptable all year long. We demonstrate this idea physically by allowing ourselves to surrender some of our balance and control via sleep or drink. In so doing, we strengthen within ourselves the conviction that we realize that our only sense of security is in the lap of G-d, as it were.

“Greater was the removal of the ring”

“Blessed is the man who places his trust is G-d”

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[1] Devorim 29:28

[2] Megillah 14a

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