On Purim, it’s a mitzvah to hear the story of Esther read from a scroll—called a “megillah”—both by day and by night.

The Talmud tells us, “If you read the story backwards, you haven’t read the story.” (Megillah 2a.)

Of course, that means you have to read the story in the order it’s written.

But the Baal Shem Tov provided a deeper meaning:

If you read the story of Esther and of her people, of the rise of Haman and his own self-destruction, of secret heroes and hidden miracles…

…if you read all this as though it was all a backstory —something that occurred a long time ago and now provides only historical context —you haven’t read the story.

Because Jews have never had the luxury to retell this story as something we have put behind us.

Haman persists to reappear in his many incarnations, as a dictator, as a terrorist, as an ideology, as an advocate of war, as an advocate of peace, or, most pernicious of all, as the cold apathy that chills our own hearts from within.

He remains to remind us that as a nation, as well as individuals, we rely every day on G‑d's miracles simply to remain the nation we were chosen to be. And when we stand firm and united, we see those miracles.

A Jew looks around and discovers: We are standing in the middle of the story of Purim right now.

Keter Shem Tov, Hosafot, 100. Likutei Sichot vol. 6, p. 189, 385. Ibid vol. 7, p. 332. Purim, 5736, 5742.