Behind the Mask – A Purim Message

Where in the Torah is Haman, the wicked villain of the Purim story, mentioned?

How about Esther, the heroine of the story?

Although the Purim story took place many hundreds of years after the Torah was completed, Jewish tradition takes it as axiomatic that everything, past and present, minor and major, has some allusion in the Torah. Sometimes we are granted insight into the Torah reference, and many times not.

Regarding Esther, the Talmud tells us that her name has the same root letters as the Hebrew word for “hidden,” and that her name is alluded to in the verses in the Torah (Devarim chapter 31) that speak of the times in history where G-d’s presence is hidden. The connection to Purim is obvious. Unique among Jewish holidays, the Purim story does not tell of any open, obvious miracles performed by G-d. Indeed, His name is not mentioned in the Megillah at all. The lesson of Purim is that even when not obvious, when G-d’s face is hidden, He is still there pulling the strings from behind the mask. (This is one of the reasons we wear masks and costumes on Purim).

The reference to Haman in the Torah is a bit more complicated. The Talmud refers to a verse (Genesis:3) that speaks of G-d admonishing Adam about eating from the forbidden fruit, noting the similarity between the words that G-d uses and Haman’s name. The question is obvious: What is the connection between Haman and Adam?

The Rabbis teach that by comparing the two, the Torah is teaching us a fundamental lesson. Adam had it all. The entire world was at his fingertips, every pleasure was his for the taking. Everything except for one tree. He couldn’t restrain himself from eating from that one tree, and the rest is history.

The same is true of Haman. He had it all — fame, wealth, family, and power — yet he was miserable. The Megillah tells us that Haman felt that everything he had was worthless as long as one Jew wasn’t willing to bow down to him. Instead of enjoying what he had, he was driven to misery by jealousy, lust, and false pride, and his evil inclinations ultimately led him to the gallows.

Sadly, many of us have not yet learned the lesson of Adam and Haman. We tend to focus on what we lack instead of what we have, on our desires instead of our gifts.

So take the lessons of Purim to heart. This Purim raise your glass and make a toast — a toast to G-d for the many blessings he has granted us, and for the many hidden miracles that sustain us daily. L’Chaim!

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