Purim, Prayer, Faith & Miracles
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
Before reading Megillat Esther on Purim, we recite the blessing: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who performed miracles for our ancestors on those days at this time.”
It is important to understand that the events we read of in Megillat Esther took place over the span of nine years (from the 3rd to the 12th year of Achashverosh’s kingship). There is no individual event that stands out as statistically unlikely or miraculous. In fact, God’s name is not mentioned explicitly in the entire text. Only when one stands back, takes a deep look, and pieces together all the seemingly unrelated events, does one begin to realize that behind the scenes, a master orchestrator was at work for nine years.
On Passover, we celebrate God changing the laws of nature and, thus, performing open miracles. Purim, arguably, represents a greater and more profound idea—the idea that even behind the seemingly natural order of things lies an orchestrator, who (within the realm of nature) guides individuals and nations.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains that the concepts of prayer, faith, and the belief in miracles are in fact inseparable concepts. Without the firm belief (faith) in God, there can be no prayer. Prayer, per definition, means that one believes that there is a higher entity being addressed. Without the belief in miracles, there can also be no prayer. If one does not believe that God can change the program of our lives (miracles), then why would one pray to God?
Although we believe with perfect faith in the Passover miracles, we live in a time when we rarely merit seeing the open miracles of Passover. Therefore, Purim is the more relatable prototype of Divine intervention in our times. Our sages point out that the exile from the Land of Israel was connected to a lack of faith. Since faith was lacking, meaningful prayer was also lacking. This was corrected by the Jews fasting and praying to God to save them from Haman’s attempted genocide. Their renewed faith in God and heartfelt prayers (filled with the belief that God could miraculously deliver them from their enemies) led to their salvation. The nation was then shown by Esther and Mordechai that God had been plotting their deliverance through a sequence of ‘natural’ events for nine years.
Esther and Mordechai then instructed the Megillat Esther to be distributed widely and to be read annually on Purim. We are to strengthen our faith in the one and only God, the orchestrator of nature and history. May this belief in God and miracles strengthen our prayers for deliverance so we may merit to see the final redemption soon in our days. Amen.