By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
The sefer which tells the tale of Purim is called Megillas Esther. In truth, the name contains two words which are diametrically opposed. The word megillah has at its root the word gilah, as in giluy, which means to reveal. The root of the name Esther is seiser, as in hester, which means hidden.
Thus, the translation of the words Megillas Esther would indicate that this is a sefer which reveals that which is hidden. If so, we would imagine that the Megillah would reveal the Hand of Hashem in all that transpired when Haman and Achashveirosh plotted to kill all the Jews in the 127 medinos under the dominion of Achashveirosh.
But, in fact, the Megillah doesn’t appear to be revealing any secrets. If you read the story the way it is written, without the Medrashim and the drashos of Chazal in Maseches Megillah, you would think that the Megillah is simply a depiction of a story which happened without any Divine involvement.
If the Megillah is, in fact, living up to its name of being megaleh the nistar, revealing that which is concealed, it should go beyond the tevah and relate how the Yad Hashem guided all the events that transpired.
The truth is, the Megillah does just that. During the time the events took place, the Jewish people were devastated. One day they celebrated in the palace of Achashveirosh and the next day they were slated for destruction. When one of their own was picked to be the new queen, sadness was felt throughout the Jewish world. When Haman publicized his plan to eradicate the Jews, they were despondent. When the king’s messengers fanned out across the kingdom, all hope was lost.
It was only when the story was complete and the people experienced it from beginning to its successful end that they saw how everything that had taken place was intertwined and coordinated from on High. They were able to trace one event after the other and see how they followed a pattern and were designed not only to deliver the Jews from the hands of their tormentors, but also to restore them to their former position of glory and strength.
Thus, the title of the sefer which tells this amazing tale is indeed correct. The Megillah really does perform the task which its name indicates. It is megaleh and reveals that which was nistar, hidden.
The halacha (Orach Chaim, Hilchos Megillah 690:6) therefore dictates that the Megillah must be read in order, and if one skips around, reading the later pesukim before reading the earlier pesukim, even if he reads the entire Megillah, he has not fulfilled his obligation. In order for the message of the Megillah to be absorbed, the story has to be read in its entirety, following the sequence of events. It is only in that way that the mitzvah of pirsumei nisah is realized.
Furthermore, the halacha (ibid., 17) is that the Megillah is folded before being read aloud in shul. The bracha that is recited following the reading can only be said when the Megillah is properly rolled up. This is to signify that it is only when we read the entire story from beginning to end and go back to the beginning that we can understand what really took place and celebrate the miracles which the day of Purim commemorates.
It is interesting that the bracha which we recite after the reading is written in the present tense, unlike most brachos recited to commemorate past events, which are said in the past tense. It is telling that before reading the Megillah, we say, “She’asah nissim laavoseinu bayomim haheim bazeman hazeh,” thanking Hashem for miracles which took place “on this day in those times.”
Perhaps that is because before we read the Megillah, we acknowledge that on this day of Purim, we are celebrating the miraculous deliverance of the Jews from Haman’s evil plan. But once we finish reading the entire story from beginning to end and we roll up the scroll, we recognize that just as the Yad Hashem becomes evident when reading the entire story as it transpired, so will we begin to realize the Divine Hand in so many other happenings which we thought were merely coincidental.
Therefore, when the Megillah is rolled up, we recite the blessing in the present tense and thank Hashem for fighting our battles, exacting retribution on our enemies and saving us in our times of danger. We now realize in hindsight how so many things which happened to us were not happenstance. We see history in a different light. We see our lives differently. Things that happened to us which we thought didn’t make sense are now viewed differently. People who are living through difficult, trying experiences are given new hope as they realize that everything happens for a higher reason and purpose. They look forward to the successful culmination of the nisayon.
These thoughts came to me in the merit of Sholom Mordechai ben Rivkah Rubashkin, whom we all daven for. He called me asking for a vort and some chizuk, and Hakadosh Boruch Hu put these ideas into my head to convey to him. For now, the purpose of his extreme suffering is still unrevealed. The way he accepts his lot, with emunah and bitachon, as he awaits his private giluy and geulah, can serve as a lesson to many of us as we stumble our way through life’s trials and tribulations in periods of seeming hester.
We are living through a historic period, when events are transpiring at a rapid pace. Countries are spiraling out of control, as the rest of the world watches helplessly. For no explainable reason, a plague of revolution has taken root in Arab states and is spreading like wildfire. Entrenched monarchies, dictators, and murderous sycophants who exercised tight control over a domicile public are either gone, going, or teetering.
Wise men who study these things are at a loss to explain how this all began and where it will lead. Egypt, the bulwark of normalcy in a sea of radicalism, is under military junta as it heads for democracy. The man who stood by America’s side against al-Qaeda, Hamas and Iran was publicly vilified by the leader of the free world and told to leave “now.” As he sits in isolation in his beachfront palatial estate, while neither we nor anyone else has any pity on him, Iran continues it victorious march throughout the area, celebrating the loss of its greatest nemesis in the region.
Mubarak was far from perfect. He was a virile anti-Semite who used State propaganda to vilify Israel in particular and Jews in general. Egyptian authorities are investigating how much money he plundered from the poor state he ruled over with an iron fist for three decades. But he served as a reliable and steady ally, and if Iran gains entry into that country and the Islamists win power, his removal will prove to be a detrimental turning point in history.
Already, Iran has sailed two warships through the Suez Canal, which Mubarak never permitted. The ships were on their way to Syria, where they will sit in port to remind the world of Iran’s overarching ambitions for the region and the world.
This took place as word leaked out that Syria is presently operating at least three nuclear enrichment sites. They are back in the nuclear weapons business and no one seems to know or care about it. The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency is lobbying not to include Syria is his upcoming UN report on the nuclear menace. He says that it will remove the focus from Iran. As if the world is about to focus on Iran. Perhaps the UN will issue another statement, as it has done previously and as it has done in the case of Libya and its maniacal dictator, who mows down innocent civilians in a bid to stay in power.
It should be obvious by now that a toothless UN resolution will stop neither Muammar Gaddafi nor Iran. Nothing short of total isolation coupled with a strong stand for democracy and basic human decency will influence events in those troubled areas governed by out-of-touch, irrational men.
We look around the world now and see Israel surrounded by a strengthened Hamas. We watch a revolution brewing in Jordan and Hezbollah in control of Lebanon. Among America’s few remaining Arab friends, Yemen is on fire, as is Bahrain and Oman. Saudi Arabia is quaking in its oil-drenched boots, praying that it will not be affected next by the spreading wildfire.
At a time like this, America is governed by a president who has lost the trust of the majority of his people and the world. People are at a loss to explain his lack of action in the face of the historic changes sweeping through a region vital to America’s immediate future. His disappearance from the world stage is as mysterious as it is dangerous. He has neglected his responsibility to encourage and support the forces of decency and democracy. He reads faint words of condemnation against the forces of evil and doesn’t back them up with anything real.
Analysts compare the American leader to former presidents and wonder what they would have done had they been in power, as simple people across the world seek freedom. In the place of a powerful advocate for liberation, we see an apathetic and arrogant president. It wasn’t that long ago that French fries became freedom fries as a symbol of a world furious with French vacillation in the face of terror. Today it is France which is taking the lead, together with England, in exercising leadership standing up to tyranny and dictators.
People search for answers as to how this all started and why this is happening. They wonder why Obama is so impotent in the face of a historic opportunity to spread democracy in parts of the world which have never experienced it. People fear how all this will end. Where will the street revolutions lead? Will the forces of liberty triumph or will those who seek to pull the world backwards emerge victorious?
We, who read the Megillah, know that we have to wait for the last chapter to be written to understand the inexplicable events of our day. Currently unfolding in front of our eyes is a historic drama whose outcome no one can predict. It is a time for us to do as the Jews in Shushan did, bayomim haheim bazeman hazeh, engaging in self-improvement and beseeching Heaven that the story ends positively for us and for all of humanity.