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ב"ה

Hiding in Plain Sight

Wednesday, 24 February, 2021 - 9:42 pm

A popular joke tells: It had been raining for days and days, and a terrible flood had come over the land. The waters rose so high that one man was forced to climb onto the roof of his house.

As the waters rose higher and higher, a man in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the L-rd; the L-rd will save me." So the man in the rowboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for G-d to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and suddenly a speedboat appeared. "Climb in!" shouted a man in the boat. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the L-rd; the L-rd will save me." So the man in the speedboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for G-d to save him.

The waters continued to rise. A helicopter appeared and over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the L-rd; the L-rd will save me." So the helicopter went away. The man on the roof prayed for G-d to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually they rose so high that the man on the roof was washed away, and alas, the poor man drowned.

Upon arriving in heaven, the man marched straight over to G-d. "Almighty G-d," he said, "I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?" G-d gave him a puzzled look, and replied, "I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"

***

In the Purim story we read about the “Hidden Hand of G-d.” There were no supernatural miracles. But a proper review of the events reveals a “master plan” was in place to save the Jewish people from annihilation. As the Talmud states, G-d provides the cure before the illness.

While it’s easy for us to see that in hindsight – it must have been difficult for the Jewish people to see it as such during the looming decree of destruction.

The Megillah relates that Mordechai, the leader of the Jewish people and a cousin to Queen Esther, implored Esther to “go to the king to beseech him and to plead with him on behalf of her nation.” Esther responded that, “All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes to the king and enters the inner courtyard without being summoned, his is but one verdict: execution; except for the person to whom the king extends his golden scepter – only he shall live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for thirty days now."

Esther is conveying a strong message to Mordechai: ‘Your plan will only backfire, because I am currently not in favor in the king’s eyes. He hasn’t called on me in a long time.’ It seems like a compelling argument.

But instead of seeking alternative solutions, Mordechai pressures Esther with the powerful words: “Do not think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews by being in the king's palace. For if you will remain silent at this time, relief and salvation will come to the Jews from another source, and you and the house of your father will be lost. And who knows if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position."

What compelled Mordechai to treat Esther so harshly and demand her participation? Did he not grasp that it could backfire? Why not explore other options first? His obstinacy seems unfair and reckless.

***

When Esther was chosen as Queen of Persia there may have been varying responses in the Jewish community. Some may have cheered her success with exclamations of Mazal Tov – a Jew in the Royal Palace is the ultimate achievement. We have finally integrated successfully into society! Yet others may have mourned her plight. Nebuch, a good Jewish girl in the hands of a ruthless tyrant.

But Mordechai took a different viewpoint, the true Jewish perspective. Mordechai recognized that ultimately Esther’s ascension to royalty was neither triumph nor tragedy. Rather, it was part of a Divine plan. Judaism teaches that all events in our lives – outside the moral and spiritual decisions we make – are in the Hands of G-d. When Esther became queen, Mordechai asked himself, “How is this part of G-d’s plan?”

After Haman began his strategy of extermination, Mordechai realized the purpose of Esther’s regal status. Looking through the prism of Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence), it was plainly obvious that Esther would play a critical role in saving the Jewish people.

Mordechai’s insistence was not the result of stubbornness. Rather, he was a model for how Jews look at life.

The miracle of Purim, then, is not only about G-d’s hidden hand. Perhaps, it’s just as miraculous that we were cognizant of that Hand.

The past year has challenged us. Somehow, we need to take Mordechai’s lead and find the Hand of Hashem in our own lives. Sometimes it's hiding in plain sight.

Happy (and healthy) Purim!

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