Photo Credit:
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

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The stories of these redemptions could not be more different. Why, then, did our sages underscore that the celebrations of both festivals had to be contiguous in time?


The people of Israel in Egypt were a nascent nation. We were Hashem’s firstborn but incapable of orchestrating or even sustaining our own existence. We were infants who required the nurturing of a loving Parent. Sunk to the 49th level of impurity, we were barely distinguishable from the pagan nations with whom (and to whom) we were enslaved.

The sojourn in the wilderness reinforced this sense of helplessness and vulnerability. We relied on Hashem directly for our food and water, for our protection from the hostile elements that surrounded us, both human and natural. We survived only by virtue of Hashem’s miracles.

When we entered the land of Israel, the era of open miracles began to recede, and slowly – at times hesitantly and painfully – we took control of our own destiny. We had to sow, plant, reap, harvest, build and develop, and defend the land against an endless series of would-be invaders. The scales of hishtadlut (individual or national striving) tilted on the side of our own efforts, bolstered by our faith in Hashem and our fidelity to His law.

In the land of Israel we began to live natural lives, implementing the full complement of Torah law that pertains to every area of life. There were constant reminders of Hashem’s governance of our national lives – especially when sin precipitated a protracted period of conquest (several centuries, in fact), temporary military setbacks, and even times of extended foreign occupation that always ended with a return to Torah observance.

Despite the vicissitudes in our fortunes occasioned by the varying levels of commitment to Torah and mitzvot, we had indeed embarked on a new era in which we were primarily responsible for our destiny and realized – to inconsistent degrees – that our residence in and possession of the land of Israel were utterly dependent on our spiritual commitment.

Nevertheless, the age of open miracles of the Egyptian experience, coupled with the passivity of that redemption, was a distant memory – not a practical guide for modern life but a catalyst for self-determination and independence.

The terrible blow of the churban, the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, stunned the Jewish people. They were hastily turned into helpless refugees, humbled, degraded, persecuted, and homeless. And rather than arouse themselves, seek to eliminate the exile, and return home in accordance with the revealed prophecies, they became complacent and soon embedded themselves in the Babylonian and then Persian exiles.

The story of Purim was a wake-up call that exile is meant as a punishment – a temporary punishment – and that Hashem’s plans for His people find their fulfillment only in the land of Israel.

But something else was required to extricate ourselves from the Persian morass and threat of extermination from a mad Persian dictator (strange how things never change): a desire to seize our destiny and take the initiative in bringing about the salvation.

For sure, Mordechai (one of the local leaders of the Jewish people and a member of the Sanhedrin) was perceived as an alarmist who was exaggerating the threat. Others blamed him for the rupture in good relations that (they assumed) had heretofore existed between the Jews and the host country because he had criticized the Jews who attended the king’s banquet and refused to kowtow to his mercurial minister.

They chose not to see – even this never changes – that the crisis was orchestrated by Hashem in order to elicit from His people repentance, prayer, and increased Torah observance. What was unique about this episode in Jewish history was that, as the sages put it, the arousal came from below.


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– Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is Israel Region Vice-President for the Coalition for Jewish Values and author of Repentance for Life now available from Kodesh Press.