The Gemara1 explains that one of the reasons the Jewish people were threatened with annihilation — heaven forfend — during the time of the Purim story was that “they derived pleasure from the banquet of that evil person [King Achashveirosh].”

The text indicates that it was not because of their attendance at the banquet that the harsh decree came about, for attending the banquet was mandatory,2 and moreover the food and drink served the Jews at the banquet was kosher.3 Rather, the decree resulted because the Jews “derived pleasure”from attending the royal banquet of “that evil person.”

What was so appalling about “deriving pleasure” from this banquet that it nearly resulted in the destruction not only of those Jews who attended, but even of the predominant majority of the Jewish people who were not invited to attend?

Our Sages4 liken the existence of the Jewishpeople in times of exile to a “solitary sheep that finds itself surrounded by seventy wolves.” Thus — continue the Sages in their statement regarding Jewish existence during exile — “great is the Shepherd Who protects and guards His flock.” Consequently, the continued existence of the Jewishpeople is sometimes dependent upon miraculous means — the watchful eye of the “Great Shepherd.”

The Jewishpeople are assured of G‑d’s protection only when their conduct is consonant with relying on Him for protection. However, when they choose to rely entirely on natural means — on one or more of the “seventy wolves” — then they remove themselves from G‑d’s Divine protection5 and place themselves at the mercy of natural forces.

The reason “deriving pleasure” was the cause of such a terrible decree will be understood accordingly: It was not punishment for a sin, but rather the natural consequence of our conduct.

After King Achashveirosh elevated the evil and anti-Semitic Haman to a position of exceptional power, the situation of the Jewishpeople was similar to that of the “solitary sheep that finds itself surrounded by seventy wolves.” Concurrently, their conduct — “deriving pleasure...” — forfeited miraculous protection.

The reason for this forfeiture was that the invitation to the feast was overly important to the Jews of Shushan; they were so extremely honored by the king’s invitation that it caused them tremendous pleasure. Thus they partook of the banquet not because they were compelled to do so, but because they were utterly delighted at having been recognized and invited by so nefarious a personality as “that evil person [King Achashveirosh].”

Since the Jewishpeople themselves gave credence to one of the “seventy wolves” and took pleasure in being invited by “that evil person,” they annulled their supernatural guardianship. Instead, they placed themselves at the nature and mercy of the “seventy wolves” — something that threatened the continued existence of the solitary sheep.

It is true that while the Jews are under the dominion of another nation they are obligated to honor that nation,6 obey its laws,7 and pray for that country’s peace and welfare.8 Thus, when King Achashveirosh invited the Jews to attend the feast, they were compelled to do so.

Nevertheless, they should have understood that the existence of the Jewishpeople is not at all contingent on any king of flesh and blood, but wholly dependent on G‑d. Moreover, the ongoing existence of the Jews is a miracle clothed in the garments of nature — “great is the Shepherd” Who guards us in a manner that transcends the world.

Thus, their taking pleasure in being invited to a meal by such a miscreant as King Achashveirosh — upon whom they felt their lives depended — indicated that they had forsaken their trust in G‑d and had placed their faith in the hands of one of the “wolves.”

This also helps us understand why Purim is unique among all the Festivals that celebrate G‑d’s miracles on our behalf, in that it commemorates a miracle that was completely clothed in nature.9

The reason for this is understood in light of that which has been explained above:

Since the evil decree came about because the Jewishpeople chose to rely totally on the forces of nature, the Purim miracle therefore revealed, within nature, that G‑d’s conduct with the Jews — even as they exist in the natural realm — is truly above and beyond nature.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXI, pp. 170-174.