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Why Isn’t G‑d’s Name Mentioned in the Megillah?

Why Isn’t G‑d’s Name Mentioned in the Megillah?

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Question:

Someone pointed out to me that throughout the entire story of Purim in the Megillah, G‑d is not mentioned once. I understood that this is a story about G‑d miraculously saving us. If so, why do we leave Him out of the story?

Response:

You are in good company. Many of the great Jewish commentators had this same question and discussed this issue at length. Here’s just one of many answers:

Compare the story of Purim with that of our other holidays. Ever notice how the plot features no open miracles? No seas split, no mass revelation, no dwelling in clouds for forty years, and no overcoming an enemy a hundred times our size using guerrilla warfare. What did happen? A lot of people were in the right place at the right time to provide just the political clout necessary when needed. What a coincidence.

Of course, the word “coincidence” is not part of the Jewish lexicon. All these events were deliberately orchestrated from Above—only that the conductor stood behind stage.

Now you understand why Purim is a holiday of masks. The costumes conceal one’s real identity, just like the dough of the hamantash hides over the fruit filling, just like natural events hid over Divine intervention. And the Megillah conceals G‑d’s name.

But it doesn’t end here.

The teachings of Chassidut analyze both types of miracles—hidden and revealed—and reach an astonishing conclusion: a miracle masked behind natural events (e.g., Purim) is actually more profound than one that breaks natural law (e.g., splitting seas). Why would this be? I’ve got a great analogy to explain:

My younger brother used to be a whiz at video games. You would give him a new game and he’d beat it by the end of the day. Eventually, however, he discovered there’s another way to beat a game: Cheat Codes. Push a few buttons, and before you know it, Super Mario can fly, runs through walls, and becomes invincible. But of course, play like that and it doesn’t prove that you’re a true master of the game.

What’s this got to do with Purim?

G‑d created a system for this video game we’re starring in that we call “the laws of nature.” He did such a good job that people actually believe that this system runs itself. After all, the weather influences the crops, the stock market our finances, and our lifestyle the state of our health. Now, the laws of nature say that if you’re surrounded by the world’s largest army on one side and the Red Sea on the other, there’s no hope.

As Jews, we know better. We realize that G‑d, not the system, is in control. The question is: how?

One way is by overriding the system. The laws of nature say that a sea must flow? No problem—today, that won’t apply. The laws of nature say the sun has to set soon? No problem, we’ll override that for a few hours. This is the classic miracle—the “physics breaker.”

But then there’s way #2: the system doesn’t have to be changed. You can play by the rules and still find a way to win.

That’s Purim. The aim was achieved without any natural laws being broken. Vashti was ousted. Esther was chosen. Mordechai overheard a plot. Achashverosh couldn’t sleep. Esther found favor in the king’s eyes. Charvonah offered advice…

Miracle #1 shows that G‑d is not limited by the laws of nature. But Miracle #2 shows that all these laws of apparent cause and effect are no more than another tool in the hands of G‑d. He can use them to get whatever He wants, and it will all still look perfectly natural. This is far more relevant to our lives today. (See Why Doesn’t G‑d Show Himself Anymore?) And this is a far deeper expression of G‑dliness. Not only is He not limited by the rules He made, He’s not limited even by their logic (which He made as well).

In fact, the Kabbalah teaches that this type of miracle relates more to G‑d's essence than to any of His specific attributes. Which gives a deeper insight into why G‑d’s name is not mentioned in the Megillah. Each of His names represents another relationship to one of His attributes. (See How Many Names Does G‑d Have?) But during Purim, we witnessed a miracle that transcended any such attribute. And G‑d’s essence has no name.

For more on this, read Miracles Masked. For a fun exposition of the two kinds of miracles, enjoy The Shushan Files.

Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Borys Warsaw March 12, 2017

Purim b"h

after many l'haims one can confuse haman and hymen easily.
This is why we should get drunk once a year. Reply

sue Kanata, ON April 2, 2011

That name The essence was the loving nature of little Esther and the true friendship between nations, so the name of God is within it. Reply

marc fredericton, NB March 17, 2011

a big clue the name Esther could come from the hebrew hester or hidden. please correct me if i am wrong Reply

Ms. Tana Goodwin March 17, 2011

Absence of G-d Just because He isn't mentioned specifically, doesn't mean He is absent. On the contrary, G-ds presence and guidance shine throughout the Purim story. Reply

Alexander Heppenheimer Brooklyn, NY March 10, 2011

Drinking parties Yechiel, the Jews' "big time drinking party" at the end of the Megillah is accompanied by "sending portions of food (mishloach manot) to each other, and gifts to the poor (matanot la'evyonim)." This is the difference between their feast and the non-Jewish one at the beginning of the Megillah - and what a world of difference that makes! Reply

Yechiel Greene New York, NY February 21, 2010

Absence of G-d in Megillah At the beginning of the story, the Gentile world is celebrating something or other with the king of Persia. They're doing it by having a big time drinking party. At the end of the story, the Jews are mimicking the Gentiles - they too are celebrating with a big time drinking party. Maybe the lesson is that in the absence of G-d, the Jews are no better or different than their gentile neighbors. Reply

John Brosseau Racine, WI./USA March 9, 2009

Presence of Hashem's Name in Esther Avigdor Bonchek, in "What's Bothering Rashi: Megillas Esther", notes that Rabbi Elazar Ashkenazi' (circa 1500) found encrypted references to the Hebrew word for the Divine Name in two places in Esther. One, the first letters of four sequential words in E. 5:8 as Haman is is on the rise. Two, the last letters of four sequential words in E. 7:7. as Haman descends from the King's favour. Reply