The Greatest Miracle

Purim is the greatest Jewish holiday! How do I know? The Kabbalah says that Yom Kippur, or as it’s sometimes spelled out in full, Yom HaKiPURIM can be read as “the day that is like Purim” (Tikkuney Zohar #57b) The Midrash explains, “Even though all other holidays will be annulled in the future with the coming of Mashiach, the days of Purim will never disappear” (Midrash Mishlei 9:2).

How do we understand this? On Yom Kippur, we dress in white and fast and pray in the synagogue all day, resembling the exalted level of the angels. But on Purim, not only is work permissible, but we spend a good part of the day enjoying lavish meals and even drinking to the point of drunkenness. Some angels! Furthermore, if on all the other festivals we say Hallel in gratitude to God, why on such a special day like Purim do we not recite Hallel?

The Talmud answers that on Pesach, we became free men, but on Purim we remained enslaved to King Achashveirosh (Megillah 14a). Only a free man can say Hallel. The Talmud adds that since we are already reading the Megillah, it serves in lieu of Hallel. These answers are seemingly contradictory opinions, as one implies that it really is fitting to say Hallel, but we already read the Megillah instead, and the other disagrees with that. However, according to the pro-Hallel view, why does the Megillah which is read in lieu of Hallel describe in such vivid detail the exaltedness of Achashveirosh’s kingdom and recount the lavishness of his party celebrating the unfulfilled prophecy of our redemption (see Megillat Esther, chapter 1)? If the reading of the Megillah is in lieu of Hallel, why read so much into the greatness of the very person whom we remained enslaved to? According to the other opinion, it was precisely because we were still enslaved to him that we don’t say Hallel on Purim in the first place!

Purim took place after the Holy Temple was destroyed and the prophecy of our redemption seemed to be unfulfilled. Precisely then, Achashveirosh made his party and invited the Jews for a specific purpose. His goal was to push us down so much that we would even stoop to eating at the party that celebrated our demise as the God’s special people. Achashveirosh wanted us to accept him as the ultimate power and authority behind everything in our lives. Likewise, Haman made the Jews bow down to him and the idol that he wore. He sought to tear us away from our belief in Divine Providence and subjugate us to foreign fears and beliefs.

This is the power of Amalek (the ancestor of Haman). Amalek scares us into believing in all our problems, fears and anxieties, because we are not worthy of God’s attention and blessing. Likewise, our prayers are in vain and our mitzvos worthless.

But Esther approached the King (aka God) “without permission” (ibid. 4:16). Although Esther knew she was not worthy of approaching God and serving as the agent to save the Jewish nation, she would still try. For God’s compassion never ceases and He will never desert His People.

This is the greatest of all miracles. There are no differing opinions in the Talmud; each opinion complements the other. Even when we are at our lowest state, subjugated to the rulership of the powerful evil king that the Megillah describes in such detail, God’s providence never leaves our side. We may not say Hallel because we are slaves to a foreign master, but the reading of the Megillah reveals an even greater miracle: that even in this state, God never forsakes us. Though He may seem hidden, if we turn to Him, He will reveal that He has been present all along.

Based on Likutey Halakhot, Hilkhot Bechor Beheimah Tehorah 4

Author: Yossi Katz

Yossi Katz currently lives in Lakewood, NJ where he runs the BRI American Office. He studied in Beth Medrash Gevoha, as well as the former Breslov Kollel of Lakewood headed by Rabbi Shlomo Goldman.

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