Judaism attaches particular importance to our being happy. Contentment and happiness are not just factors which enhance our existence; Judaism tells us that they are essential building blocks. Without them, man cannot attain spiritual perfection. Even if a person keeps all the tenets of the Torah scrupulously, but his heart is sad within him, he is not considered fully righteous and perfect.
The Torah itself clearly states that joy is an essential ingredient in the fulfillment of the commandments; without it, one’s deed is not considered perfect and complete:
“When you had plenty of everything, you would not serve G-d your L-rd with happiness and a glad heart. (Deuteronomy 28:47)
How then, are we to attain happiness? In the Book of Psalms, King David gives us an insight as to the answer to this question:
“Serve G-d with joy!” he urges us. “Come before Him in exultation!” (Psalms 100) The psalm continues: “Know that G-d is L-rd; it is He who has made us, and we are His.”
The key to contentment and happiness is our awareness of our status as creatures formed by the Master of the Universe. We are in His hands, and He is aware and in control of all that happens to us, and to the world at large.
A person who feels that he is abandoned to his fate will experience a sense of helplessness which leads to depression. With no source of support, with no permanent values to lean on, it is understandable that man experiences emotional pain. A person who views life as an on-going series of accidental events, with no purpose, and no goal to be achieved, is indeed to be pitied. He is a spiritual pauper.
In contrast, the individual who is convinced that everything is controlled by a Master Conductor and Director who manipulates events in order that man achieve a sublime spiritual goal, will find himself reassured by the knowledge that his Creator will never abandon him. He does not suffer from despair, and does not allow depression to rule his life.
If we take a look at the events of Purim, we perceive the guiding Hand of Providence. This insight serves to strengthen our own personal faith in G-d’s protection. The events described appear to all be a “natural” flow of events. There is no clear indication of supernatural happenings which would clearly point to Divine intervention.
This is characteristic of a period of hestair pamin, when G-d so to speak “hid His countenance” from mankind. At such times, He does not relinquish control, but rather chooses to direct events from behind the scenes, without letting us witness His control of history directly.
At the time of the Purim story, G-d was testing His people, to see whether they would attribute the events to their true Source, or to the evils and frailties of flesh and blood. Therefore He allowed Haman to rise to power and to propose his satanic decree of genocide against the Jewish People.
The very fact that G-d related to His people at this time with hester panim is in and of itself an act of providence, as it was a direct response to the Jewish people’s own “mode” of behavior at the time. As the Sages put it, “G-d is our shadow.” That is, He relates to us just as we relate to Him, just as our shadow mimics our every move.
When we conduct our lives in a manner that implies there is no Superior Authority watching over our every act, G-d, on His part, responds in kind and conducts His world with hester panim, a “mode” of conduct in which He provides all sorts of “natural causes” to which we can choose to attribute the good or bad fortune which befalls us. (For instance, we attribute “natural disasters” to unusual weather conditions, and fail to ask ourselves just Who brought about these unseasonable temperatures and winds. That is our personal decision as human beings endowed with the divine spark of free choice which distinguishes man from beast.)
When the affairs of the Jewish People are conducted with hester panim – from “behind the scenes” – far more perception is required to see that it is the Hand of G-d which molds the events of both the nations and of our daily lives.
Following the enactment of Haman’s decree of genocide, the Jewish people did indeed reflect on their state of affairs. As a result, they renewed their faith in G-d and His providential supervision of the universe. The miracles of Purim and the rescue of the Jews from destruction reaffirmed and deepened the generation’s faith in G-d’s Protective Hand. The People of Israel came to realize that, in the words of King David, “The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.”
As a result, they consolidated their faith in their Creator and enhanced their observance of His commandments. They intensified their study of His Torah.
The Megilah describes the transformation that took place on several levels. On the spiritual plane, the nation’s faith was strengthened and deepened. Their hearts were filled with renewed confidence that their Father above would protect them from the evil designs of their enemies. This increased trust in G-d brought with it relief and joy.
Each year, we relive the events of the Purim story and renew our bond with our Creator and Protector. This is our spiritual goal for the month of Adar, and it is the key to the emphasis on rejoicing that characterizes these days.
This is reflected in the words of the liturgical poem sung after the public reading of the Megilah, Shoshanas Yaakov:
The rose of Jacob (the Jewish People) was cheerful and glad,
When they saw Mordecai robed in royal blue.
You have been their eternal salvation,
And their hope, from generation to generation.
To make it known that all who place their hope in You will not be shamed,
And those who take shelter in You, will never be humiliated.
The joy of Adar is not a phenomenon of the past alone; when we observe Purim, our joy will be firmly enshrined in our hearts, here and now, for G-d is “our hope in every generation.”
We, too, like our ancestors of old, undertake “to make it known that all who place their hope in Him will not be shamed” or disappointed.
The believing Jew, stalwart in his faith in his Creator, never loses hope. His joy persists in his heart, and his lot is happiness all his days.