When read for the first time, the story of Purim looks just like any other story with a happy ending; a chain of coincidences changing the imminent destruction of the Jewish people into the defeat of the enemy and the beginning of the redemption process which eventually leads to the end of the exile and the reconstruction of the Beit HaMikdash. To a first time reader, the story of Purim has no religious significance at all. Hashem””s name is not even mentioned once throughout the Megillah – the only sefer in Tanach in which Hashem””s name doesn””t appear.

However this is exactly the point that the Megillah wishes to make – even though Hashem was not visible throughout the story, we must understand that these chains of events ARE NOT MERE COINCIDENCES – this is Hashem running the show behind the scenes. To quote one of my Rebbeim, “Hashem doesn””t orchestrate miracles only when you””re staring at him in the face, such as during Yetziyat Mitzrayim, but even when he””s hiding between the lines.” This is the story of Purim.

The following idea is from a speach I read that was given by HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein shlita, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion. Rav Lichtenstein talked about how two different types of Esther are portrayed in the Megillah. In the first half of the Megillah we see a more passive Esther. She is mainly a follower and doesn””t want to get involved with anything too bold. She is quiet and refuses to reveal her nationality. Mordechai has taken care of her since she was born and still takes care of her while she is in the palace. She follows what Mordechai tells her to do. Esther””s passive side is shown when Mordechai asks her to plead to the king to abolish the death decree against the Jews. “I can””t get involved, I can””t do anything.”

At some point in the Megillah, Esther suddenly changes completely. “Go gather all the people!” She calls for a three day fast, her own idea and initiative. Esther now publicly shows her care for her people and shows how she wants to get involved. Mordechai now “does exactly as Esther has commanded him.” Now he””s following her! She starts planning the two feasts to trap Haman. Esther is now thinking on her own, she has a plan to save the Jews. Her name is mentioned before Mordechai””s when they write the Megillah together. The G””mara even says that she convinced Chazal to include Megillat Esther in the Tanach!

This is a very different Esther from the one we saw before. What happened here? What caused this change inside Esther? Rav Lichtenstein explains that the turning point was at the beginning of Chapter Four. Mordechai asked Esther to go to the king to get the decree abolished. Esther stalled. “The king kills anyone who approaches the throne who hasn””t been summoned to him. I””m supposed to just go and talk with him? The only way I would live would be if he extended towards me the golden scepter, but he wouldn””t do that. I haven””t seen him in a month!” Esther is saying this after “she was distressed” and after Mordechai gave her a copy of the actual decree! Mordechai senses her apathy and says to her, “Do you think you””re going to be safe in the palace? You””re not any safer than any Jew is in Shushan. Esther, are you telling me you don””t want to get involved?! You fool! You””re the most powerful woman in the world married to the leader of the world! DO YOU THINK THIS IS A COINCIDENCE? Hashem wants you to save Klal Yisrael! Wake up! Get going! You were nobody and now you””re the queen of the world. Your people are in trouble and you””re not going to do anything about it?!”  This woke up Esther and changed her life. She now utilized all her powers as queen to save Klal Yisrael. The Midrash Esther Rabbah states that if you are quiet in this world you will be quiet in the next world, too. If you were able to do good when you were alive and did not – now it’s over, now it’s too late. Rav Lichtenstein learns from this that every Zchut (merit) in life has an Achrayut (a responsability) carried with it. If you are given something special in life you are given with it a responsibility to use it for the good. A religious Jew should take his talents and use them to help Klal Yisrael.

Some of us were fortunate enough to grow up in a Jewish religious school system and some of us have even had the tremendous Zchut of learning Torah for one or two years in Eretz Yisrael. We all have the Zchut of having a thriving Kollel in our community which teaches us Torah and shows us that there is more to life than just money, TV and sports. But this Zchut doesn””t come without a responsibility.

We can start by trying to build, to maintain or to even transform our homes into Torah homes. The Kollel, with all its amazing Bachurim and Rebbeim for the last five years, has always been open to answer all our Halachic and Hashkafic (philosophical) questions. It is so easy for us just to drop by and learn, whether it be during a free period, after dinner, Motzei Shabbat or even for a shiur during the hot summer nights. We are merited to have this Kollel in our community. Take advantage of it.

Some people are on a higher level and can also help others besides themselves. Rav Lichtenstein alluded to the fact that unfortunately there are many Jews both in our community and around the world who weren””t brought up in such a religious atmosphere, some totally secular. Some don””t even know the basic things in Judaism such as what a Sefer Torah or a Siddur is. Many Jews had received a Jewish education but somewhere while riding the highway that is life they took a wrong exit and ended up lost. The statistics show an enormous percentage of intermarriage in America and around the world. We are combating another type of genocide here. This time Haman isn””t trying to kill us, rather we are killing ourselves. Don””t be like the old Esther – be like the new Esther. We have to get involved and help out. We have the responsibility to do so, it goes hand in hand with our Zchut.

NOTHING IN LIFE IS A COINCIDENCE. Nothing happens by chance or by chance. If you could spread out history over a huge sheet it would look something like a bunch of scattered jigsaw puzzle pieces. Some are dark, some are light. We are confused – “wouldn””t that piece look nicer if it was a lighter color rather than this dark murky depressing color?” The “dark pieces” are sufferings that happen to us during our life. Even the small ones, why do they have to be there?

Hashem is Nistar, hidden in our lives today. However, Hashem has a plan. We don””t know what it is but right now all we need to realize is that even though some pieces of the puzzle look bad, when all the pieces, both bad and good, are put together they make a picture – a picture of the final redemption and Mashiach. We might not understand now why bad things happen but all we need to have is faith and belief that everything Hashem does is for the best.

We can learn a lot from the story of Purim and how it is connected to what is going on in Israel today. When things looked bad we did T””shuva and Hashem listened to us and saved us. He brought us out of Galut and into eventual redemption. If we learn from our ancestors and do T””shuva along with having a solid foundation of faith and belief in Hashem, hopefully we will merit to see the final redemption with the building of the third Beit HaMikdash and then Hashem will no longer be Nistar in our lives but rather revealed in all His glory. Bimhera b””yamenu Amen.

Chag Purim Sameach!