Purim: From Small Light to Grand Illumination

Image result for Ahasuerus purim
וַיָּבוֹא, הָמָן, וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ, מַה-לַּעֲשׂוֹת בָּאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הַמֶּלֶךְ חָפֵץ
בִּיקָרוֹ; וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן, בְּלִבּוֹ, לְמִי יַחְפֹּץ הַמֶּלֶךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת יְקָר, יוֹתֵר מִמֶּנִּי.  וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן, אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ:  אִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר הַמֶּלֶךְ חָפֵץ בִּיקָרוֹ.  יָבִיאוּ לְבוּשׁ מַלְכוּת, אֲשֶׁר לָבַשׁ-בּוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ; וְסוּס, אֲשֶׁר רָכַב עָלָיו הַמֶּלֶךְ, וַאֲשֶׁר נִתַּן כֶּתֶר מַלְכוּת, בְּרֹאשׁוֹ. וְנָתוֹן הַלְּבוּשׁ וְהַסּוּס, עַל-יַד-אִישׁ מִשָּׂרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ הַפַּרְתְּמִים, וְהִלְבִּישׁוּ אֶת-הָאִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר הַמֶּלֶךְ חָפֵץ בִּיקָרוֹ; וְהִרְכִּיבֻהוּ עַל-הַסּוּס, בִּרְחוֹב הָעִיר, וְקָרְאוּ לְפָנָיו, כָּכָה יֵעָשֶׂה לָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הַמֶּלֶךְ חָפֵץ בִּיקָרוֹ. וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהָמָן, מַהֵר קַח אֶת-הַלְּבוּשׁ וְאֶת-הַסּוּס כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ, וַעֲשֵׂה-כֵן לְמָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי, הַיּוֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ:  אַל-תַּפֵּל דָּבָר, מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ
And the king said, “Who is in the court?” And Haman had come to the outside court of the king’s house, to petition the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him.

And the king’s servants said to him, “Behold Haman is standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him enter.”
And Haman entered, and the king said to him, “What should be done to a man whom the king wishes to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?”
And Haman said to the King, “A man whom the king wishes to honor
Let them bring the royal raiment that the king wore and the horse that the king rode upon, and the royal crown should be placed on his head.
And let the raiment and the horse be delivered into the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes and let them dress the man whom the king wishes to honor, and let them parade him on the horse in the city square and announce before him, ‘So shall be done to the man whom the king wishes to honor!’ “
And the king said to Haman, “Hurry, take the raiment and the horse as you have spoken and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits in the king’s gate; let nothing fail of all that you have spoken.”  (Esther 6:4-10)
We are all familiar with the story. Haman, one of the of the most powerful men in Persia (perhaps the most powerful man, after the king) had gone to King Ahasuerus (the most powerful king in the world) to get his approval to hang Mordechai, having previously sought and received his sanction to exterminate the Jews. Instead, when Haman shows up in the King’s chambers the king asks him what he would do “to a man whom the king wishes to honor”. Haman, thinking that he was that man, came up with delightful way of showering a man with honors: give the man royal garb and a crown, and put him on one of the king’s horses, and parade through the city square. The king then ordered Haman to do all those splendid things for his nemesis, Mordechai. Needless to say, all talk of an already built fifty-cubit gallows lay forgotten. (But not for long–Haman himself was to find himself sentenced to hang from that very gallows before a day had passed.)
The question that should be asked is why. Why did Hashem, in his plan to save the Jewish people from annihilation also include this seemingly minor element? What was the importance of Mordechai getting a royal parade through the streets of Shushan on the king’s steed? For next to the saving of the whole Jewish people residing in the 127 provinces in the Persian Empire, the honor accorded to Mordechai seems of very minor importance indeed. Had Mordechai’s parade through Shushan not taken place, Purim would still be a holiday of tremendous importance and significance, cherished and observed to this day. Conversely, had Mordechai received this gesture from the king, but Haman’s larger plan of wiping out the Jews proceeded apace, Mordechai parade would be considered a bizarre and tragically ironic incident, an event entirely overshadowed by the destruction of the Jewish people. That is, if it would be something that was under a consideration at all. Had Haman succeeded in his ambitions, the name Mordechai–indeed the entire the Jewish people–would be a footnote in history, known only to historians of the ancient Near East.
Why did God, in addition to rescuing the Jewish people, give Mordechai a parade through the city?
We don’t know why God acts the way he does, nor should we pretend we do. But we can engage in some speculation. In Yiddish there is an expression (inexpertly transcribed): “Biz in kraitchmah daf min oichat ah trink”–until you reach the tavern you also need a drink. God performed this kindness to Mordechai, because sometimes, when darkness abounds, a little light is necessary until you reach the stage of grand illumination. For the Jews in Shushan, fasting and praying to stave off the evil decree, this gesture from God gave them hope in the eleventh hour. It signaled the coming of God’s salvation.
We pray to God that the current signal of God’s kindness–the modern State of Israel, which has given succor to the Jews in the darkest of moments–give way soon to God’s ultimate kindness, the redemption.

2 comments

  1. Love the analogy. As you say, we don’t know the master plan but the idea does give some comfort during these turbulent times

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  2. The Jews could not have continued to live as a nomadic peoples forever. Retaking Israel was a necessity. Much to their credit, the Jews do such a good job of ingraining themselves into the societies they migrate to, I fear that a piece of their Jewish identity is lost. This is not to say that Jews have not done a fabulous job of maintaining their Jewish identity through the many centuries without their own country. But without a nation to call their own I fear that they might of become a blip on the map. The Gypsies, Cherokee, Eskimos, and many other ethnic minorities don’t have a place on the world stage. But the Jews can speak with a unified voice on the world stage whether it be at the UN, G4 Summit, or even at the White House with the full backing of a 1st world economy, military and a head of state with a power structure and a government.

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