“And the city of Shushan was bewildered” 3:15
“And the city of Shushan was cheerful and glad” 8:15
In Megillat Esther we read about the conflicting descriptions of the city Shushan, reflecting the different mood of the Jews, which in turn reflected the anxiety and tension on the one hand, and the excitement and incredible relief on the other.
Rav Zevin in Latorah Velamoadim further examines the connection with the above description of the city Shushan, and the comparison used in tenach of the Shoshana [rose] to Am Yisrael. In Shir Hashirim, we find that Yisrael in the time of Exile is referred to as “an everfresh rose of the valleys. Like the rose maintaining its beauty among the thorns, so is my faithful beloved amongst the nations” 2:1-2. The beautiful rose grows and blossoms in lowly places, from within the unwelcoming thorny bush. This is the powerful comparison that is made in Shir Hashirim, which reflects our existence in exile. In yet another Megilla- Eicha we read “…she has descended astonishingly” 1:9. This is a direct reference to exile where the connotation clearly is one of depression and regression. Knesset Yisrael suffered untold numerous hardships and setbacks throughout the ages, but we were never abandoned or forgotten. The Talmud in Megilla 29a clearly states” they were exiled to Egypt, the Divine Presence was with them, they were exiled to Bavel, the Divine Presence was with them” We find that this assurance of Divine protection in Galut has its source in Bereishit when Hashem says” I will go down with you to Egypt” 36:4 and also we find in Psalms 91:15 ” I am with him in sorrow”. Therefore, when our nation is indeed suffering with limited hope on the horizon, we say “And the city of Shushan was bewildered“; in contrast, when we salute and celebrate our deliverance and survival, we say “And the city of Shushan was cheerful and glad“.
With reference to Hashem’s Presence being pulled towards us during exile, we find a further enlightening source in Shir Hashirim ” My beloved , you came like a gazelle or like a young hart on the distant mountains” 2:17 The gazelle moves rapidly, and the hart can jump from mountain ranges to lower ground. The revelation during galut is on “distant mountains” a place of impurity; in order to pull it closer, we need the ‘vehicles’ of the gazelle and the hart.
Rav Zevin explains that the beginning of the Divine revelation in galut occurred in the days of Mordechai and Esther. The miracle came through the medium of nature- the intense love and obsession that Achashverosh displayed towards Vashti and later Esther. This reflects the connection of Hashem’s Divine presence in exile – from “distant mountains”.
Why is it that sometimes the Megilla is referred to as a scroll and sometimes as a book? “Regarding all the words of this scroll ” Esther 9:32
“..written in the book” Esther 9:28. What is the essential difference between them? A scroll or letter serves a purpose at the time when the message is being read, but not later; a book has everlasting timeless value. The initial story of Purim- its intrigue, potential tragedy and subsequent triumph is a ‘scroll’- serving the purpose of recording a particular period in our history where victory over our enemies triumphed over potential tragedy. But on a deeper level the Purim story is indeed a ‘book’ with an everlasting timeless message for all future generations.
“Anochee ered imcha Mitsrayima” – “I will go down with you to Egypt” Bereishit 36:4. Hashem ‘accompanies’ us at all stages in our lives; our mission is to recognize and appreciate this unique relationship- even during the challenging times.
May we all merit to enjoy the simcha and realization of Hashem’s guiding Hand that our ancestors felt, as the Megilla states “And the city of Shushan was cheerful and glad” 8:15