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The Miracle of Purim
By Larry Domnitch
On Purim, the reading of the Megillah is in itself a celebration. The entire Megillah read on Purim is a long praise of G-d and His salvation of the Jews, detailing the sequence of events that lead to its joyful conclusion; a "Passover" without the open miracles but rather salvation within the confines of nature.
Following the victories of the Jews over their enemies, Mordechai and Esther instructed their fellow Jews to observe the days of Purim as a holiday. "Now, Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordechai the Jew wrote down all [the acts of] power" (Esther 9:29). The term, "Power" here, refers to the power of the miracles that occurred, the events that lead to the salvation of Jewry, (Rashi, Esther 9:29). Over six hundred years later, scholars of the Mishnah pondered the meaning of the events of Purim. They asked "From what part of the Megillah must one read in order to fulfill one's obligation?" According to one view in the Talmud, they were in essence asking, which event or occurrence in the Megillah was the greatest example of the term, 'power', as mentioned in the Megillah? Which best represents the miracle of Purim? Which part must absolutely be read?
There are several opinions. Rabbi Meir, stresses the emphasis on Achashverosh (Megillah 19A) The Megillah begins with mention of King Achashverosh and an impressive description of his empire in all its grandeur. Despite the Emperor's enormous power, his support for Haman's evil decree was reversed by G-d.
Rabbi Yehudah says that the reading must begin from the introduction of Mordechai, "A Jewish man lived in Shushan the capital, and his name was Mordechai" (Esther 2:5) Mordechai, who sat in the King's courtyard in Shushan, did possess political clout. Yet, despite Mordechai's position as an attendant in the king's court, even he could not have Haman's plan revoked. It was the power of repentance by the Jews that caused Divine intervention, resulting in an improvement in their situation.
According to Rabbi Yosi, the reading should begin with the mentioning of Haman's ascent to political power. "After these events, King Achashverosh promoted Haman the son of Hammedatha the Aggagite and advanced him, and placed his seat above all the princes who were with him," (Esther 3:1). Although the wicked Haman held a position above all other government ministers, from which he could promote and enforce his plans with the king's approval to destroy the Jews, Hashem bestowed mercy upon the Jews and caused his downfall.
Another Mishnaic scholar, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is quoted in the Talmud on this matter, he states that the Megillah must be read from the verse that mentions the night Achashverosh could not sleep and requested that government records be brought to him, (Esther 6:1). While looking through the records he found that Mordechai had earlier detected a plot against the king and had him informed. The Iyun Yaakov points out that the timing was miraculous; the king could not sleep 'that night', and requested to see the records occurred just prior to Queen Esther's appearance before the king to plead on behalf of her people. Also, the king's findings put Mordechai in good stead with him.
These are all momentous occasions in the Purim saga; however the law is as Rabbi Meir stated, that the Megillah must be read from the mentioning of king Achashverosh.
It might seem that the Jews could not survive an adversary such as Prime Minister Haman, but they did and they prevailed over him. Often in history Jewish communities faced adversaries so vicious and in such high positions of power, one wonders how they survived. It might also seem highly unlikely for the Jews to escape the wrath of the mighty Achashverosh. But they survived as his anger was assuaged by Esther and Mordechai.
Friends in high places such as Mordechai could not prevent the issuing of the King's evil decree. Jews in high positions of power do not deserve the credit given to them by their detractors who speak of excessive Jewish influence. Jews don't weather storms because of "Jewish power," but by Divine guidance.
Perhaps, it is also an obligation to read the Megillah from the first mention of Achashverosh, whose name appears in the very opening sentence, to stress an additional message. Since every event, from beginning to end, large or small, contained within the Megillah is part of a great miracle of salvation, therefore each is of vital importance and must be mentioned. Each event signifies a link in chain of events. Thus, no part of the Megillah can be omitted.
Furthermore, whenever the name Achashverosh is read aloud, one can reflect upon how the Jews miraculously survived this emperor who ruled 127 nations. Achashverosh, whose name is scattered throughout the Megillah, allows numerous opportunities for such contemplation.
Throughout the history of the Jews, each era has had its' challenges and somehow the Jews managed to continue. When that saga of the Jews is told from its' beginning, from the time of Abraham, through the millennium, it is all the more amazing.
Thus, to recall the miracles of Purim, the Megillah must be read from its beginning, in its entirety.
from the February 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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