Each year at this time, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s Kesher Israel Congregation sends Purim care packages to our college students. This is a beautiful project our shul is proud to carry out. Over the years, many students have told me how much these care packages have meant to them. I am always happy to write a short holiday letter to be included in the package.
After writing my letter for this year’s Purim package, it struck me that while it was written for today’s college students, the message is one that applies to all of us – regardless of age. So, with a few very minor revisions for a wider newspaper readership, here’s what I wrote:
We are all familiar with Rambam/Maimonides and his 13 Principles of Belief. Those Principles are the 13 Ani Ma’amins that are found in just about every siddur. According to Maimonides, these Principles are the basis of traditional Jewish belief. (By the way, did you know that the Yigdal prayer is based on those 13 Principles as well?)
Let’s take a minute to review the 1st and 10th of Rambam’s Principles:
1) I absolutely believe that God created and continues to guide all of His creatures…
10) I absolutely believe that God is fully aware of all of mankind’s activities . . .
At the core of traditional Judaism is the belief that our world has a Creator. This Creator knows all that goes on in our world, and remains actively involved in all of its events – no matter how insignificant some of those events might seem.
Sometimes we may wonder why God bothers to take such an active interest in every single one of the world’s events. After all, doesn’t God have more important tasks to attend to?
I think the answer to this question lies in one of our people’s most important and celebrated experiences. About 2,500 years ago, God showed us how – despite all of the other pressing matters going on in His world – He was aware of and involved Himself in the outcome of something as silly as an official state-run Persian beauty pageant.
That’s right, it was that “silly” little beauty pageant which ended up saving our entire Jewish people.
Very soon, Jews around the world will once again gather to read Megillas Esther. We’re all familiar with the events of the book of Esther. From start to finish, the entire megillah is all about God’s ongoing involvement in and stewardship of our world.
Is there any other way to explain how Esther, a nice Jewish girl, was chosen from among the most beautiful woman in the entire Persian kingdom to become the next queen? It was all Divine Providence.
Our commentators explain that every step of the entire Purim episode, from start to finish, was a case study of God’s continued involvement in our world and the survival of the Jewish people.
Was it clear to anyone at the time as to why God should have taken an interest in that “silly” Persian beauty pageant? Absolutely not. In retrospect, however, God’s actions became completely understandable. It was only by Esther’s winning that pageant, and becoming queen, that the Jewish people were able to survive Haman’s decree of extermination. That seemingly insignificant beauty pageant played a major role in God’s plan in the great scheme of things.
The story of Purim reminds us all about God’s ongoing involvement in our world and our people’s survival. It reminds us that:
A) God is fully aware of and involved in all that goes on in our world.
B) Despite all of His many responsibilities, G-d is perfectly capable of multi-tasking and involving Himself in events of seemingly minor human interest.
C) All that goes on around us is part and parcel of God’s orchestrating our world’s events. We have no idea how one seemingly minor event can potentially have massive ramifications. As the world’s director, however, God has the ability to make those connections and understand why it’s important to use His Divine Providence to influence world events of all shapes and sizes, so that His ultimate plan can be brought to fruition.
As we celebrate Purim, let’s thank God for His continued interest and involvement in our world and in each of our lives.
My wife, Layala, and I wish all a Happy Purim.Rabbi Akiva Males
About the Author: Rabbi Akiva Males served as rabbi of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s Kesher Israel Congregation from 2007 to 2016. He and his wife have just relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, where he will serve as rabbi of the Young Israel of Memphis.
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