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Masquerade!

Masquerade!

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On Purim, nothing is as it seems.

That ferocious monster is really sweet shy Sarah from second grade. That beautiful Queen Esther with the jewel-studded crown is really your brother Moishe. Is that a gigantic three-cornered poppy-seed-filled cookie walking down the street? And how did little Michael grow that luxuriant white beard?

Why do we disguise ourselves on Purim? Because on Purim nothing is as it seems. Was the banishment of Vashti simply one of those things that happen when a debauched Persian emperor gets drunk? Was it just coincidence that Mordechai happened to overhear a plot to kill the king? Did Achashverosh choose Esther to be his queen because she happened to be the most beautiful woman in the empire? Was it plain bad luck for bad Haman that he happened to come visit Achashverosh just when the king was having Mordechai’s heroic deed read to him? Was it Esther’s charm and Achashverosh’s flippancy that made the king suddenly hang his favorite minister?

Purim was instituted because the Jewish people at the time understood that it was G‑d Himself who did all of the above, to save His people. He was just disguising Himself as a Persian palace soap opera.

When G‑d took the Children of Israel out of Egypt on Passover, the entire neighborhood, from Giza to Gaza and from Memphis to Mesopotamia, resonated with the miracles wrought by the G‑d of the Hebrews. When a small jug of oil burned for eight days on Chanukah, the most skeptical Hellenist saw that it was an act of G‑d. Purim (“lots”) is unique in that the most miraculous of salvations was shrouded in the garments of nature, luck and coincidence. G‑d was hidden and remained hidden—His name does not once appear in the entire Megillah (Scroll of Esther)!

Purim is a masquerade. Esther (“I shall hide”) is scrolled up. Even the poppy-seed filling is barely peeking out of the folds of dough of the hamantash (or is it prune?), not to mention the wholly concealed meat (chicken?) filling in the kreplach.

Not paradoxically, Purim is also the most joyous festival on the Jewish calendar. It’s great to celebrate miracles, but how often does a miracle come your way? Far more exhilarating is the realization that nothing is as it seems, that G‑d is always pulling the strings, even when things seem to be “just happening.”

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Annella Offenbacker Audubon, NJ March 8, 2012

Celebrate Purim Sovereign
G-d is ever present; working behind the scenes for our best and His glory. Miracles happen all around and fix your eyes in the hidden and eternal things of G-d. Thank you G -d for moving in our behalf. Help us obey and trust You. Praise Your Holy Name. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma March 7, 2012

the gold coin in coincidence! This story so clearly turns on coincidence. We see it. I read the other story about Dice, and we know, don't we, that G_d does NOT play dice with the universe, and that this is a deep story that can be plumbed for its depths of meaning, and it all coheres and applies to our lives, today, as then.

Paradise is a word that has a curious echoic connect to Pair of Dice. Do you hear it? I have to mention this in this context, because I know this story has reverbs that will carry into that Promise, the Messianic one, though I never thought of myself as ever writing about these things. But something, as they say, happened, and it is a life that is overflowing with coincidence, and a record that cannot be refuted, in one small life.

In English we can turn the word, to I'm Pure, and I think this is also about mitzvot and Ruth, the Book of Ruth. It all coheres, and in beautiful ways. We will keep explicating these things, about Ruah itself. About Amalek. What we need to do, to "save" the world Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma March 20, 2011

the visibility of invisibility I was out in my garden on my knees. It is spring and the world is springing into new life. I found a light bulb on my property, in front of the barn, and it was such a message, because the bulbs within the earth do burst into a splendor of color, a fragrance of de Light.

For me, G_d is visible wherever I go and what is deeply hidden is a story that is so much about love it sends me to my knees, especially in my garden, rake in hand, enabling those green shoots, and knowing full well, there is a greater hand holding mine, at all times.

This holiday, PURIM, is so important for all the reasons given, and it is deeply a story about identity, about coincidence, rather the astonishment of coincidence, because it is for story, we are marveling, and marveling still. Here is a joyous masquerade. Time to put on our make-up and perhaps, make up, because folks, we're going to dance around the world. Something amazing is happening. So enjoin, and, ENJOY!

G_d is in the wings. Reply

Anonymous pismo beach, california March 20, 2011

Interesting article! Moshiach is also hidden. It appears this story represents Moshiach. It appears to reveal a transfer of G-d’s Divine Attribute of Justice/Judgment to G-d’s Divine Attribute of Mercy. After three days of fasting, prayer, and repentance, when the law (Justice/Judgment) was against Esther for entering the king’s inner courtyard without being summoned, the king extended his scepter (Mercy) to her. Instead of death, Esther received mercy. The three days of fasting, prayer, and repentance is reflected in the three days Jonah was in the whale’s belly, before Nineveh also found mercy. Haman the Amalekite represents flesh, hung on the gallows, as the Royal Baker in Egypt was hung on a tree. Just as the Royal Cupbearer lived, so also Mordechai lived. Joseph’s life reversed for him, just as the Jew’s lives reversed for them from grief to joy. Reply

Maria March 3, 2009

Thanks! Now I finally know where the masks come from, and it absolutely makes sense! What a great time to remember that Israel will always be protected. Reply

Anonymous sc February 25, 2007

another point how hidden Hashem was in the purim story-not even once is Hashem's holy name mentioned! Reply

barri atlanta March 10, 2006

wonderful i loved this, yes, God does seem to hide at times, yet He always comes through.
Happy Purim Reply

Sonia College Park, MD March 15, 2005

Thank you very much! Your articles are always so deep and so simple to comprehend at the same time. If you don't mind i will quote you in my future classes, G-d willing. Reply