Purim Knowledge

Lord, You fill all worlds, and surround all worlds. And Lord without You, there is no world at all. – The Zohar

“The Lord does everything. My Divine Mother dwells in all beings, and they do as she wills.”

Swami Premananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna [1]

Everything which occurs – both the good and the bad – all comes from God. Whatever happens to us is the expression of His Will. Whatever troubles befall us, whatever joys come our way – everything comes from the one omnipotent Lord.

The holiday of Purim is about touching this sublime state of consciousness. It is about becoming so deeply immersed in God consciousness that we no longer see the difference between “Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed.”

All of humanity has a role to play in the unfolding of God’s purpose: the hero and the villain, the king and the servant, the wise man and the fool – all are part of God’s Eternal Plan.

If everything comes from God, then whatever we have achieved is not of our own making; rather all is the product of the Divine Power working through us. As Swami Premananda expressed it,

 “Man by himself has no power to do the Lord’s work. What good work you see done is the manifestation of the divine power, it expresses the glory of Mother’s power, beyond thought’s compass.”[2]

This realization leads us to a profound sense of humility on the one hand, and a sense of infinite possibility on the other.

We are humbled because, if everything comes from God, then we cannot claim credit for the results. As the Baal Shem says, “Does anyone praise the pot because it cooks tasty food?”[3] And we feel a sense of infinite possibility, because anything is possible with the help of heaven – no matter what our difficulties, no matter how dire our situation may be.

If God desires, He/She can overturn a person’s destiny in a matter of seconds. In a single moment, He can give us everything, or take it all away.  This truth is portrayed in scene after scene throughout the Purim story: in an instance, Queen Vashti loses her royal position, and then Esther is elevated to take her place. Mordechai is singled out for death by the evil whim of a tyrant, and then lifted to the kingdom’s highest office in a moment of Divine Grace.

If we believe that everything comes from God, then the opportunities that life presents to us are not random events, granted to us to satisfy our own selfish needs and desires. They are Divine gifts that God has given to us so that we might use them to serve other people – so that we can fulfill our part in the Eternal Plan of God.

This truth is also poignantly expressed for us in the Purim story.

After Mordechai hears about Haman’s decree to annihilate all the Jews in the kingdom, he sends a message to Queen Esther asking her to intercede with the king on the people’s behalf. When Esther replies that she is afraid to go into the king’s presence without a royal summons, Mordechai sends her back a stern response:

“Do not think in your heart that you shall escape in the king’s house any more than all the other Jews”, he tells her. “For if you remain silent at this time, then shall relief and deliverance arrive to the Jews from elsewhere; but you and your father’s house shall perish. And who knows whether you are not come to royal estate for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:13-14

With these words, Mordechai is telling Esther that her royal position was not given to her for personal benefit or for her own safety. It is a spiritual opportunity arranged by God, in order that she might rescue her people and save them from disaster.

Knowing that everything comes from God breaks the hold of the feeling of “I and mine.” It removes the ego which declares, “I have worked hard to acquire these objects and I deserve them.” It softens our criticism of others who have succeeded less than us in their lives. It makes us feel more generous toward those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

As a rich man once explained to me, after he lent a large sum of money to an old acquaintance from the early days, “There are a hundred thousand people just like me who never became successful. The only difference between me and them is that I was lucky, and they were not.”

In recognition of this fact, we share our bounty with others as part of the celebration of Purim. We send mishloach manot, presents of at least two different foods, to our friends and relatives. And we give matanot leaniyim, generous gifts to the poor. These acts manifest our understanding that everything we possess has come through Divine grace.

Knowing that everything comes from God also changes the manner in which we respond to the difficulties in our lives. If we truly believe that everything comes from God, then in the same way that He has created our difficulties, He will also provide us with the means of overcoming them.

Rebbe Natan of Nemirov therefore teaches that the first step that we need to take when we are beset by troubles is to turn to God and plead for help. After we have brought God into the picture, then we begin to look for solutions. We use every means at our disposal to solve our dilemma.

This, Rebbe Natan explains, is how Mordechai responds to Haman’s evil decree. First, he tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth and ashes, and cries out to God for help. Then, he goes into action and contacts Esther, urging her to go before the king.

Living with the knowledge that everything comes from God is the essence of the spiritual life. It is a life that has many challenges, a life that demands patience, perseverance and tremendous inner strength. If we want to tread the path, then we need to constantly work on ourselves and continually examine our motives. We need to surrender our plans and ambitions at the sacred feet of the Eternal Lord.

Yet there is no more profound or meaningful way of life than to be an instrument of God. If we give ourselves over to God, He/She will respond to us in kind. She will be with us in all of our trials. She will fill us with Her courage. She will bestow upon us the manifold blessings of the Spirit which are the unique gifts of the religious life.

Whenever they were struggling, Swami Premananada would exhort his disciples:

“Be strong in the strength of God and engage yourself in work as an instrument in his hands. That will bring peace and joy.” [4]

The Book of Esther 8:16 declares: “And for the Jews there was light and joy, bliss and honor.” On Purim, we receive the light of knowing that our lives have purpose and meaning, the joy of understanding that all is part of God`s Universal Plan, the bliss of experiencing the unity behind the multiplicity of existence; the honor of a dedicated life of service as an instrument of God.

Copyright © 2012, by Yoel Glick

 


 

 

Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Swami Prabhavananda, Memories of a Loving Soul: Premananada
  2. Swami Prabhavananda, Memories of a Loving Soul: Premananada
  3. Baal Shem Tov, Tzavat Revash, p. 2
  4. Swami Prabhavananda, Memories of a Loving Soul: Premananada