Rabbi Shimon Mordechai Cohen
based on a shiur by Rabbi Avigdor Miller
Almost 50 years ago, the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael were in grave danger. A miraculous salvation took place in what became known as the Six Day War. What was the most miraculous aspect of this war? Was it the annihalation of the Egyptian airforce? The panic that overtook the Arab armies? Would you say it was a miracle that Nasser came to power in Egypt and got into a position from where he could threaten the entire Jewish people?
That’s more or less what our Sages said about the miracle of Purim. The Mishna in Megilla 19a discusses from which point Megillas Esther must be read on Purim. The Gemara explains that this depends what the most important factor in the miracle was.
According to R’ Yehuda the most important factor in the Purim miracle was that Mordechai was in the right place at the right time for the salvation of Am Yisrael. R’ Meir holds that the most important factor in the Purim miracle was the fact that such a fool as Achashverosh came to be in such an extraordinary position of power. R’ Yose’s answer is even more startling: The greatest part of the Purim miracle was that our arch-enemy, Haman, rose to favor, and became Achashverosh’s number 2!
Rav Avigdor Miller explains (as found in sefer אור עולם) that our Sages are teaching us that the Purim miracle was not just about the salvation of the Jewish people from physical harm. The fact that there was a decree of annihalation in the first place amounted to a Heavenly proclamation that Hashem wanted Am Yisrael to return to Him. The miracle was that just when we needed to do teshuvah, the characters who were to facilitate that process, in whatever capacity, came to prominence. They were placed in the positions where they would do just what they were meant to do in Hashem’s amazing puppet show.
Even when bad things seem to be happening, it’s all Hashem, running His puppet show
In that context, the wicked king Achashverosh and the nefarious Amalekite Homon, were no less vital to Am Yisrael’s teshuvah process than the righteous Mordechai and Esther; perhaps even more so. That, explains Rav Miller, is why telling the difference between ארור המן and ברוך מרדכי is something that takes intellectual discernment, which can be taken away by drinking a small quantity of wine.
In the aftermath of the Six Day War, too, many Jews were inspired to return to Torah, in the teshuvah movement, whose effects are felt to this day. To start off that process, not only did there need to be the courageous soldiers who defended us. There also had to be, להבדיל, our enemies and their leaders, who were so menacing. Without them, there would have been no need for miracles. And without the miracles, there would have been no teshuvah.
Even when bad things seem to be happening; when the bad guys out there are menacing us once again, it’s all Hashem, running His puppet show. Not for His entertainment, but for our spiritual growth.