Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Megilat Esther
To dedicate this lesson

The Four Secrets of the Megillah

One Miracle After The Other; Marching Unyieldingly Towards "Good"; How to Measure? Israel!; The Quadruple Secret


Rabbi Shlomo Goren zt"l

1. One Miracle After The Other
2. Marching Unyieldingly Towards "Good"
3. How to Measure? Israel!
4. The Quadruple Secret

The Nation of Israel is an ancient people, well-experienced in miracles. In fact, its history is nothing more than one long chain of divine miracles - concealed and otherwise. Everything it has gone through, all of its ups and downs, its victories and its defeats, and even those that appear to have occurred via a natural course of events, cannot be taken at "face value." They cannot be analyzed using the normal scientific-historical methodology, nor can quantifiable considerations such as the balance of powers be solely employed for their understanding.

There are historians and researchers who attempt to socio-historically explain the divine phenomenon known as Israel. They endeavor to clarify how, despite the perpetual hatred against them and constant persecution by their neighbors, the Jewish People have managed to survive throughout the centuries as a nation. In trying to explain how this lone sheep can continue to survive and thrive amidst the 70 wolves surrounding it, they ignore the simple historical truth that is the bottom line of the universal bookkeeping - namely, that the Divine Good that is the purpose and destiny of all Creation is the final, determining force.

True, there are frequent and serious breaks in the historic timeline of mankind's progress towards the longed-for aspiration of Supreme Good. There are reversals and deviations from the path towards the goal, and these are manifest in the suffering of entire generations, in ethical decay, in social corruption. But all these cannot put a stop to the unceasing advance of the Divine Goodness, for always in the end, the final determination is towards the good. Goodness is the driving force behind the predestined progress of the universe.

The worldwide standard for measuring good and bad, progress and retreat, the highs and lows of mankind - is the People of Israel. The way in which the nations of the world relate to us, on the one hand, and the ethical tensions within Am Yisrael itself, on the other, are the ways in which the world can measure whether it is progressing towards the ultimate goal, or whether it is in a stage of reversal.

This is the fundamental principle on which the teachings of the Prophets are founded. It is the basic truth on which is based the Torah's ideal of the End of Days for all of humanity.

A most enlightening historic lesson, one which reflects the struggle of the great powers of good and bad, of Amalek and Israel - a struggle that is manifest in a deep-rooted hatred of the nations of the world towards the Eternal People - is provided for us in the Book of Esther, which we read on Purim. Esther herself, the Talmud teaches, asked the Sages to accord "her" Book a distinctive stature among the Holy Scriptures, and for Purim to become a special holiday and be granted a special status in our Torah tradition. As the great Maimonides wrote:

"All the Books of the Prophets and the Writings will become null and void during the times of the Messiah - except for the Megillah [Scroll] of Esther, which will stand forever just like the Five Books of Moses and the laws of the Oral Torah that will never be nullified. And even though the memory of all our suffering will be forgotten..., the days of Purim will never be erased, as is written [Esther 9, 28], "These days of Purim will not fail from among the Jews, nor their memory perish from their seed."

What is the secret of the eternity of this Megillah? What is the vision of the future that is hidden in it and in the days of Purim for the End of Days? The answer lies in four eternal fundamentals of Judaism that came to the fore in a concrete way for the Jewish people during the critical period in which the events of Purim occurred. It is in these four tenets that the holiness and supremacy of Megillat Esther are shown.

The frantic pace of events that occurred during the story of Purim reflected the excellent qualities of Israel. The Book of Esther was not written to teach us only about that specific period or about the kingdom of Persia - but rather about the future and about the entire world.

Fundamental 1: The complete and utter negation of the Exile.
The events of Purim teach us that the presence of Am Yisrael [the Nation of Israel] in Exile is not only a national and spiritual danger for Israel, but also a genuine physical and spiritual threat to each and every individual Jew, Heaven forbid. As far as the Jew is concerned, the nations of the world have no grasp of elementary social laws that will safely guarantee his individual and national existence. The Torah's decree, "You will not find calm amongst the nations," is well in force, and has almost always expressed the bitter and true reality of the relationship between the Jews and the nations.

Fundamental 2: Divine Providence over Israel.
The Megillah teaches us that it occurs in hidden ways, buried among the myriad details of events, each of which is a link in one long and involved chain. We see that the details of time, of place, of form, come together in a great maze of events and people that, in the end, prove to have been intricately woven in advance into one complex and uniform picture. The final picture is what we call a "miracle," even though when it is broken down into its individual pieces we do not see anything unusual.

Fundamental 3: Amalek.
Another aspect that is hidden among the events of Purim is the memory of the eternal war and hatred from Amalek towards Israel. In this case, it was manifest by Amalek's descendant Haman. The concept of Amalek, the source of all corruption and evil in the world, always appears in an individual or a group, weaving itself in wherever hatred and killing are being perpetrated against Israel. This war is the symbol of the contrast between light and darkness, and between good and bad, and it is for this reason that the Torah commanded us to remember what Amalek stands for and to increase our hatred for the root of the world's evil. "By the L-rd's throne, the L-rd will have war with Amalek throughout the generations." [Ex. 17,16]

Fundamental 4: Integrity and Purity in Warfare.
The Torah concept of "Your [army] camp shall be holy" is a constant reminder that the purpose of war in Israel is for the defense and personal and national security of Israel. The Megillah repeats three different times that the Jews "did not take from the booty." This is the true standard for the holiness of the army during battle and victory. For it was not the personal interest of the fighters that stood before them, but rather the salvation and honor of the entire nation, as is written, "The other Jews in the other nations of the King gathered to protect themselves, and had rest from their enemies - and did not lay their hands on the plunder."

These are the eternal basics of Am Yisrael, and within them hides the secret of the holiness and supremacy of Megillat Esther and Purim for Am Yisrael in general and for its army in particular.
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