For the week ending 16 March 2019 / 9 Adar II 5779

Understanding the Purim Miracles

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
Become a Supporter Library Library

Year after year, on Purim we publicize the miracle that G-d wrought for the Jewish People by saving them from the hands of their enemy. But one may wonder exactly which miracle or miracles we are actually publicizing.

Miracles are normally divided into two categories: open miracles that break the rules of nature, and hidden miracles that are manifest within nature.

Open miracles are supernatural, such as the splitting of the Red Sea, the falling of the manna, and the like. These miracles demonstrate to us and instill in the hearts of all humanity that G-d, as the Creator, has the power to alter nature at will. He is omnipotent and controls every force in existence.

Hidden miracles are those events which occur and the physical eye sees no change to the normal course of events, yet the intellectual eye sees and discerns that G-d has altered the natural order that was instituted at the time of Creation. Beneath the surface of these events, the Hand of G-d is recognizable, sometimes to such a great extent that even these miracles have but few deniers.

An example of this is the battles fought during Chanukah. There was no essential change in nature. A war was fought, and wars typically result in victors and vanquished ones. Yet, a vast army, numbering many thousands of trained soldiers, fell to a very small band of untrained rebels, consisting of five Temple Priests and a few others aiding them. This was something entirely impossible in the reality as we normally experience it.

A Third Level of Miracle

It seems that we should add another level of miracle, more deeply concealed. These are the fully concealed miracles that are impossible to detect. So deep is the concealment of this form of Divine Providence that even the person for whom the miracle was wrought doesn’t realize it, nor can he realize it. Regarding this, the verse states: “He does great wonders (miracles) alone,” since due to the great concealment and deeply-hidden nature of this type of Providence, G-d alone knows its secret. This is for two reasons: 1) There is no change at all to the workings of nature. 2) There is no indication within the event that a miracle occurred. Rather, everything appears to have happened simply at random.

One of the Purim miracles was this type. Over almost ten years, G-d’s Hand was hidden from all, and yet His providence permeated each and every event that occurred throughout the Purim story. In the end, when Haman was hung on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordechai, everyone was able to see in retrospect that G-d’s Hand was behind all of the scattered, random events that led up to Haman’s demise. The connection of all these events, culminating with the hanging of Haman, is the main miracle we publicize on Purim.

Yet, even at this point the Jews were not totally saved. They still faced one more threat. On the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar, nearly a year after Haman was hung, the Jews were privileged to witness yet another miracle as they battled against their enemies on the day chosen to annihilate all Jews — man, woman and child.

This part of the Purim miracle was similar to Chanukah, when the Jews fought a battle against their enemies. The Purim battle even includes within it an advantage over the Chanukah battle, when there were casualties on both sides as is the case in all wars. During the Purim battle, however, not a single Jew was killed, something impossible in the type of fighting that took place in those times, not to mention that the Jewish fighters were weaker, outnumbered and untrained for combat. This clearly indicates a miracle of G-d’s intervention. But this miracle is considered a hidden one because the laws of nature were technically not broken.

We can now understand why this victory is followed by such joy and celebration till this day. In it we witness G-d’s unbounding love, not allowing even one Jew to be harmed. G-d’s providence reached each individual Jew as he fought against the enemy. Each sword was controlled — the enemy’s to miss its target and ours to hit.

Within the two levels of hidden miracles we celebrate and publicize on Purim, we see the great power of G-d’s miraculous Hand displaying total control over all actions, big and small. These miracles may technically be classified as hidden, but they are perhaps an even greater testimony of G-d’s unbounding might, greater than the greatest of open miracles.

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