Purim, Passover, and Miracles
By Avi Lazerson
The Jewish year begins with Passover, which is in the month of Nissan, the first month, and ends with Purim which is in Adar, the twelfth month. This peculiarity occurs because our New Year is in the seventh month, strange, but true! We didn't make up the calendar; G-d did, so he is to blame for the confusion.
Never the less, there is a profound point in Passover coming in the first month and Purim in the last month. Let us analyze this and we will come to a profound understanding of the nature of miracles.
Passover marks the beginning of the Jews becoming a people. It was a time that forged its national identity and values. We left Egypt amidst the most unbelievable miracles that could be imagined. Starting with the ten plagues, which included the Nile turning into blood and the slaying of all the first born of Egypt, it culminated with the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea, saving the Jewish people and killing the advancing armored Egyptian armies.
When we think of miracles, we reckon the splitting of the Red Sea as the magnus opus of the miracles. Here each individual saw a tremendous supernatural occurrence. From this exodus, our national character was formed. Our unswerving belief in the G-d of gods, the King of kings, was founded and has continued with each generation.
Passover was the time that our belief in G-d was developed beyond a mere intellectual concept. Through the open miracles that our forefathers witnessed, our national identity became firm and unyielding and our individual belief became unshakable.
All this was due to the massive occurrence of miracles during the time of the exodus from Egypt.
During the time of Purim, we also witnessed miracles. However the Talmud debates exactly what the miracle was. Was it that Achasverous could not sleep or that Esther made her wine feasts? It is not really clear what the miracle was. Certainly it was not a clear and open miracle. The name of G-d (the chief performer of miracles) is not even mentioned in the Migalah.
Why is this?
The answer is very simple, yet deep.
G-d unquestionably rules the world. He alone possesses the ability to change nature. He changes the hearts of kings and rulers. He is the ultimate cause; we only see the effects.
He possesses two ways to affect changes. One is through the suspension of nature; the other is within the natural process.
Miracles through the suspension of nature, such as the splitting of the Red Sea, impress upon us G-d's ability to rule the world in a very absolute and undeniable manner. Water, whose nature is to fall, changes and stands like a stone. This is a major change in the nature of water. It is not water as we know it. It is similar to water, but not exactly water, since it does not fall. The nature of water changed and then later it reverts back to its original form.
The second form of miracles (the ones that occur within the nature but with out nature changing) show something different. Perhaps we are not overtaken or initially impressed by them since they are not evident as miracles. However, they show the complete compatibility of nature to performing the will of G-d. In this form of nature, nature does not change, the laws and rules of nature are in effect, yet the logical outcome of nature is changed. What should have happened, didn't. Instead of nature being changed to produce results that comply with the will of G-d, nature complied with the will of G-d to produce results that were compatible with the will of G-d.
Perhaps to us, the third party observer, this is a lesser miracle since we can neither comprehend nor apprehend the actions of G-d without contemplation. To nature, however this is a greater and more difficult accomplishment, since nature remained nature, maintaining all of its inherent properties which should have not permitted such an occurrence from happening, yet nature did it anyway.
Looking at it from another vantage point, it is likened to a slave who is forced against his will to do the will of his master. Through coercion, the master forces the servant to accomplish his tasks. The servant's inherent desires and nature are changed by pressure from without, temporarily, to accomplish his task. Yet, a greater advantage comes when the servant is convinced through his own reasoning that doing the masters will is greater importance than his own desires. Here the servant remains a servant, yet his will is not forced to change because his will is to perform the will of his master.
Similarly, the individual Jew, who undertakes to perform the commandments of his own volition is on a much higher level than he who performs the commandments in order to secure his own personal reward. Performing commandments of the Creator, to achieve personal benefit does not show any positive individual initiative, but rather a subtle coercion based on personal gain. Only he who serves G-d with a true desire to do only G-d's will remains true to his own personal inner nature, since every Jew desires only to be at one with G-d, yet, like nature, this performance gives much satisfaction to his Creator.
This is the message of Purim and it's hidden miracles. Only through a service based on not receiving nor seeking reward can a person achieve his goal. He has not changed, he has revealed to himself his own personal inner spiritual dimension; he is he, yet as he is, he serves G-d.
The person who takes reward or makes it a basis of service, whether in form of honor, money, or next world pleasures, must disregard his natural personality to accommodate this service since it is does not come from his heart.
In Purim, all is hidden. The true service to G-d is hidden. Falsity together with its onerous baselessness which is destined to fail is not considered. Only the inner dimension, that which exposes our true desire for G-d is revealed, but only to us and not for public viewing.
from the March 2001 Edition Jewish Magazine