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.”