“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want... Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me...” Psalm 23, King David of Israel
Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. And, of all the stories in Jewish History, this is the one where the name of God is conspicuously absent.
Some say God does not exist. Some believe God exists. Some guess after all, God could exist. There are those who cannot believe God exists.
But, what is the common denominator in all of these questions?
They simply try to focus on the philosophical question of our existence, on the theological and physical, material reason to explain our presence in this world and of this world, and the reason for it. However, all these are but vain efforts, because the natural thinking process takes them to the notion that maybe all this what exists, just may come from nothing and therefore, that would nullify the existence of God. They try to prove the notion of “nothing” as the alternate to God, the rationale being that because they don’t believe in God, they can come up with “their” solution, i.e., that existence has come into being out of “nothing”.
There was recently an article published about scientist Richard Dawkins, well-known atheist whose liberal and godless views include the assumption that something ‘may’ come out of ‘nothing’. However, Dawkins’ position about nothing is something that should not be dismissed on terms of “unscientific”, or even less by adjectives as “ludicrous” or, worse, as going “also against our common sense and our deepest metaphysical intuitions.” There is more to it than personal opinions.
Is Nothing Something?
The first thought would be, nothing is nothing... But, is it truly...?
Isaac Newton was the father of Calculus which he discovered during 1665-1667 and is best known for his contribution in the Physics, however, warned that mathematicians are and always will be unable to reach the number zero, or nothing....
According to H.S. Akrongold, in his groundbreaking book “Grand Unification of a 2 Photon Universe,” mention is made that, try it as scientists may, the bottom line is that, scientifically speaking, one never gets to find “nothing” and the search and equations can go endlessly, and no matter how the “almost nothing” is found -one can never get to “nothing”.
That’s why also Jewish sages throughout the ages, Kabbalists most specially, have come to the conclusion that no “human mind” will ever comprehend what is God. By the same token, given that we will anyway be unable to understand the notion and magnitude of God, no human word, including God, can or will explain what or who God is.
In the humble opinion of this author, therefore. even the fact that agnostics do not believe in the existence of God, could also mean that they are believing in God, given that there is the part of God that we do not understand and which may make us prone to believe that it does not exist. .
Today, Jews worldwide celebrate our amazing story of Purim, during which period God’s Presence was conspicuously absent. Here is a short version of the story of Queen Esther. The full version is integral part of the Torah:
“One fine day, King Ahasuerus of Persia held a huge banquet for everyone in his kingdom. When Ahasuerus was drunk, he ordered his wife, Queen Vashti, to appear at the banquet wearing her beautiful crown. (Some commentators suggest that this meant that she should wear only her crown...) But Vashti refused. As punishment for Vashti’s disobedience, King Ahasuerus banished her from the palace. To choose a new queen, the king called for a beauty pageant and chose Esther. He married her. She kept her Jewish identity a secret on the advice of Mordecai, her uncle and a very important and influential personality in the Jewish community.
The king’s ministers, Bigthan and Teresh, plotted to kill the king. Mordecai learned of their plot and told Queen Esther, who reported it to the king. The king ordered the two plotters to be hanged. King Ahasuerus then chose Haman as his senior minister. Haman demanded complete loyalty of everyone in the king’s service, and ordered all to bow down to him. But Mordecai refused, giving as an excuse that bowing down to another person was forbidden by his Jewish faith. This angered Haman, and he decreed the destruction not only of Mordecai, but of all the Jews of the kingdom.
To determine the day for carrying out the decree, Haman cast lots, or “purim.” The lot fell on the 13th of Adar. News of the decree spread throughout the kingdom, and the Jews were greatly distressed. Mordecai urged Esther to plead with the king to save the lives of her people. Queen Esther summoned all of her courage and went before the king. By using her feminine wiles, Esther persuaded the king to offer her the fulfillment of any wish. She told him about the plot against her people and asked that it be stopped. The king granted her wish and ordered Haman to be hanged. So, on the day intended for their destruction, the Jewish people were saved. To celebrate their survival, Mordecai declared the 14th and 15th days of Adar to be days of rejoicing, from that time forth and for all the generations to come.”
As G-d would want it, this story happens in Shushan, a province of Iran, in 486-465 BCE. The Book of Esther is a book in the Ketuvim ("writings"), the third section of the Jewish Tanakh. Tanakh is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the three traditional subdivisions: The Torah ("Teaching", also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings")—henceTaNaKh.
As yesterday evening, Jews were attending services at synagogues, the reading of Megillat Esther or the Book of Esther, has surely felt as if those were the news of nowadays events.
Just as back then, today the successor of Haman rules modern day Persia, that has become the Islamic Republic of Iran. The names are changed, but the geographical place is the same. But, goodness in former Persia has given place to Islamic Iran’s current evil, which has persevered and survived.
Back in History, the King, thanks to his good Queen, Esther, came to appreciate the Jews in his midst.
Fast forward and the leader of that same country, nowadays the Islamic Republic of Iran, is no longer a righteous King but an obnoxious version of evil incarnated. Iran’s people have now allowed and accepted that Haman’s evil successor lead them.
Iran’s people seem complacent and indifferent when their leader and leaders, in the name of Iran and the people of Iran, call for the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of the Jews. They are also untouched by the vile attacks and accusations that the Holocaust never happened.
And, as such, Iranians at large are becoming accomplices, once more, in helping their modern-day-Haman, Ahmadinejad and his ilk, in planning on the destruction of Israel and the Jews.
Beyond Iran as well...
The situation of Jews worldwide is worsening, antisemitism is rampant.
Here, in America, we are witnessing a state-sponsored-Judeophobia in the rise. American leaders are allowing and promoting the enemies of Israel and the Jews’, and make no secret of what their plans are, regarding the Jewish people and Israel, as well as their broader plans of world domination.
And, just as the impassive Iranians, Americans at large are not feeling the pressure to react and stop the snowball of Judeophobic antisemitism, which they hope will only be aimed at the Jews. Sadly their future disarray will prove them wrong and, should they ever react, one has to hope it will not be too late to stop the debacle.
Chillul Hashem and Kiddush Hashem
Chillul Hashem: The source for this commandment in Judaism, is to be found in the Book of Vayikra or Leviticus 22:32: "And you shall not profane My holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the Lord who hallows you.”
Therefore, this commandment warns the Jews not to bring dishonour or shame to God's name by an action or by a lack of action. It includes any behavior or action that disgraces, harms or shames God and his Law, all of which is regarded as "desecration of God's name."
Kiddush Hashem is the duty of Jews to sanctify God's name (Hebrew kiddush Hashem.) It means any action that brings honor, respect, and glory to God. It is usually expressed as: “To sanctify His Name” and conversely “Not to profane His Name,” both appear on Vayikra or Leviticus 22:32. Thus Kiddush Hashem is the obligation a Jew has to act and behave in a way that brings honor, respect, and glory to God and is aimed at hallowing His name
Jewish Queen Esther of Persia
Then, Haman hastily published the decree, which was not to be executed for eleven months, and he did it because he was afraid the king would change his mind -but most of all, he wanted to torture the Jews and provoke a long agony among them, throughout Persia by letting them know of the impending massacre very far in advance.
The method remains the same, even though the perpetrators have changed names and are no longer only reduced to nowadays Persia, i.e., Iran under Ahmadinejad, but also all other countries that silently and viciously are plotting against the Jews worldwide.
When Esther, the Jewish Queen of Persia, was called to intervene for her people, her uncle Mordechai who was the leader of the Jewish Community in Shushan, encouraged her with his words of wisdom that can be applicable to so many undecided Jews and friends of the Jewish people worldwide nowadays: “You may, by some remote twist of fate, manage to save your body. But how will you save your soul?”
Yes, Queen Esther saved her people, and King Ahasuerus of Persia “granted permission to the Jews of every city in his country to organize themselves; to destroy, to slay and to exterminate every armed force of any people or province that threaten them... on one day in all the provinces... upon the thirteenth of the twelve month, of Adar...”
The Power of God
We, Jews, know that God is everywhere and beyond our wildest imaginations.
We have the word “seder” which means “order”. And, God in His Creation has left testimony, wherever we can look around and beyond, that His Presence is immutable. Furthermore, God does not need anyone to believe in Him for Him to exist.
That said, God clearly chose His Children, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to carry the torch of His Torah and to establish in the Land He Gave to them: The Land of Israel.
Sure, Hashem has punished His Children, rightfully, when they have misbehaved and caused Chillul Hashem, because through their actions or inactions, some of them have caused the world to think that God is not watching over them, when in reality they have abandoned His Teachings and Commandments. When a godless ruler of the Land of Israel negotiates the fate of Israel with the godless enemies of the Jews, *that* is Chillul Hashem.
But, the world should not be mistaken. While many seemingly powerful cultures have disappeared as a result of their licentiousness throughout history, the Jews have survived until now -thanks to the righteous Jews who abide by the laws of God.
And, because the Jews are His Children, even though He must punish insurrection among them, through millennia it has always been that those righteous Jews like Queen Esther of Persia, and many others, have prayed to God for the salvation of His Children.
And G-d has always answered.
Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, Rembrandt (1660), 73x94cm, Pushkin Museum.
The painting is rather dark, because of the varnish that was once used.