The Megillah is not only an historical record of the miracle of Purim, but demonstrates truths relevant to all ages. Although they had representatives in the highest echelons of government, the Jews caused Haman’s evil decree to be rescinded only by first repenting of the sins for which the decree was heavenly retribution. Thus, although G‑d’s Name is not mentioned anywhere in the Megillah, He was always present. G‑d is in nature as in miracles, in everyday affairs as in holy matters.

The mishnah states:1 “One who reads the Megillah backwards has not performed his obligation.” The Baal Shem Tov offers2 a unique interpretation of this mishnah: One who reads the Megillah thinking that the events related in it happened only in the past — “backwards” — and the miracle is not relevant now, has not performed his obligation. The purpose in reading the Megillah is to learn how a Jew must conduct himself at all times, now as in the past.

This interpretation applies to all the ideas and verses of the Megillah,3 and certainly to the verse which explains why the festival is named Purim. The name of a thing expresses its essence,4 and thus the verse which explains its name describes the quintessence of Purim.

“Purim” is a Persian word

The Megillah states,5 “Therefore they called these days Purim from the word pur.” Pur means lot, for Haman, persecutor of the Jews, had cast lots to determine the date on which the Jews were to be exterminated. The festival which celebrates Haman’s downfall and the deliverance of the Jews is thus named Purim — Lots.

Purim is a Persian word.6 A lot in the holy tongue is goral. Indeed, when the Megillah states7 that “Haman...had cast a pur,” it adds the words, “that is, the goral.” In other words, the Megillah explains that pur means goral in the holy tongue, the language in which the Megillah is written.

Two questions come to mind: Why is the name of this festival in the Persian tongue, Purim, and not in the holy tongue, Goralos, as are all other festivals? Secondly, it would surely be fitting that the name of this festival express the miracle and deliverance experienced by the Jews, as do all the other festivals.8 But the name Purim expresses the exact opposite: It is named for the lots which Haman cast to determine when the Jews would be exterminated.

Concealment of G‑dliness

We find a further puzzle in the Megillah. Unlike all the other sacred books wherein G‑d’s Name appears many times, there is no mention of G‑d’s Name in the entire Megillah. This is a concealment of G‑dliness of the highest magnitude. A Jew, in general, has “G‑d’s Name fluent on his lips;”9 and even when writing, it is a universal Jewish custom10 to begin with the words, “With the grace of G‑d.”11 Yet in the Megillah, one of the twenty-four sacred books, G‑d’s Name is not mentioned even once.

As noted above, a name of a thing expresses its essence. The concealment of G‑d in the Megillah is also alluded to in its name, which in full is “Megillas Esther,12 Esther meaning concealment.13 Moreover, the Talmud asks:14 “Where is there an allusion to Esther in the Torah? and answers, “V’onochi haster astir ponai — I will surely hide My face.”15 The double haster astir indicates a double concealment of the Divine countenance.16

On the other hand, the word Megillah is etymologically related to gilui,17 which means revelation, leading to the paradox that the name Megillas Esther indicates both concealment and revelation. In similar vein, this festival is called Purim, a Persian name, and one which recalls the decree against the Jews. Yet simultaneously, the festival of Purim is celebrated with a joy greater than other festivals, to the degree that one is instructed to drink “until one does not know the difference between ‘blessed is Mordechai’ and ‘cursed is Haman’”18 — a joy that transcends all bounds.

Salvation not by natural means

The paradox is resolved through clearly understanding the nature of the Purim miracle. When Haman issued his evil decree to exterminate the Jews, Jewry possessed representatives in the highest echelons of government. Mordechai, the Megillah informs us,19 “sat at the King’s gate,” and was highly respected by the king.20 Moreover, he had saved the king’s life when he exposed the plot hatched by Bigson and Seresh.21 Esther was queen, and had “won the king’s grace and favor.”22

With such powerful representatives at court, it would seem logical that efforts to have the decree against the Jews revoked start with their intercession.

The Megillah tells us otherwise. The first thing Mordechai did was, “he put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried loudly and bitterly.”23 Mordechai’s first action was not to intercede with the king but to repent, and to arouse all other Jews to repent.24 Only then did he instruct Esther “to go to the king, to appeal to him and to plead with him for her people.”25

Esther followed the same pattern. The success of her plea to the king to renounce the decree depended, one would have assumed, on her personal appeal and favor in the king’s eyes. Moreover, the law of the court was explicit: “Anyone, man or woman, who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned...will be put to death; except for the person to whom the king shall extend the golden scepter.”26 Esther had not been summoned to the king for the past thirty days. She certainly needed all possible grace and favor when approaching the king uninvited.

Yet we find that Esther’s preparations for her royal audience were not measures designed to strengthen her personal appeal. Indeed, they were the very opposite: She told Mordechai,27 “Go, gather all the Jews...and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I also...will fast.” Fasting — especially for three straight days — does not contribute to a person’s beauty.28 Yet it was specifically such measures Esther chose as preparation for her plea to the king.

Decree rescinded through repentance

Mordechai and Esther, however, knew that the decree against the Jews was not a chance occurrence, set in motion by natural events. Instead, as with every trouble that befalls Jews, it was a result of their misdeeds and wrongdoings.29

Knowing this, the course of action adopted by Mordechai and Esther was inevitable. An effect cannot be eliminated without first removing the cause. Thus their first steps were to remove the cause and, accordingly, they decreed a fast and called on all Jews to repent. Moreover, Esther clearly spelled out the sin which led to Haman’s evil decree and the appropriate repentance.30 The sin was that the Jews ate and drank at Achashverosh’s feast; the appropriate repentance was “ not eat or drink.”

Only after repentance had eliminated the cause of Haman’s decree was Achashverosh approached to rescind the decree. Because G‑d wishes us not to rely wholly on miracles, but to make a “vessel” — by natural means — through which the salvation will come, it was necessary for Esther to plead with the king. However, since this is but a “vessel,” and the cause of salvation is repentance and fasting, principal emphasis was laid on the cause, not the “vessel.”

Renewing bond with G‑d

This is the lesson of Purim: When trouble befalls Jews, G‑d forbid, the first thing to be done is to strengthen our bond with G‑d by learning His Torah and performing His mitzvos. Only then should we search for natural means wherewith to be saved from the trouble.

The same applies to an individual: A Jew is connected with G‑d, who is not limited by the laws of nature. And while G‑d’s blessing comes through the work of man’s hands,31 that work is only a “vessel” — and therefore the principal emphasis must be laid not on the vessel, but on Torah study and performance of mitzvos.

The miracle of Purim teaches further that the above applies even in the times of exile, when G‑dliness is concealed by veils of darkness. The times of Achashverosh were a time of exile for the Jews,32 when they were “spread out and dispersed among the nations,”33 and still the miracle and salvation came about through repentance and fasting — through returning to G‑d.

That is why the festival is called Purim, a Persian name, reflecting the decree against the Jews; and also why G‑d’s Name is not mentioned in the Megillah — indicating concealment, “Esther.” For Jews are not limited by the laws of nature — not in spiritual matters, nor even in their worldly dealings. Even when dealing with non-Jews, when one must speak in their language (Persian), a Jew transcends nature. Purim is a Persian word, and Esther means concealment. But these are only outward manifestations. The pur, the Megillah takes pains to tell us, is “the goral.” The outcome of a goral, a lot, is determined not by human reckoning, but is purely in the hands of G‑d: in the pur is G‑dliness. And in the concealments, in the haster astir, is the “I” — “I will surely conceal My face.” A Jew need but remove the veils, and the “I” — the Essence of G‑d — is revealed.

G‑d is in nature as in miracles

When, therefore, a Jew reads Megillas Esther, he must know that the concealments of G‑dliness (Esther) are in reality a revelation (Megillah), that G‑d is found in nature also — for the pur34 is in reality “the goral.” And when he reads Megillas Esther not “backwards,” but as something that exists now, relevant to him, he experiences the highest type of revelation — Megillah. This is turn produces the greatest joy, beyond all bounds — “until he does not know the difference between ‘blessed is Mordechai’ and ‘cursed is Haman.’”

Then, from the redemption of Purim we proceed to the future redemption,35 when the darkness of exile will be illuminated — just as the concealments of Esther are shown to be revelations of G‑dliness.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, pp. 189-195