Everyone, and everything, has a role to play in fulfilling the destiny of the universe. Some play their role willingly, while others are manipulated into fulfilling the task assigned to them, but no one remains on the sidelines.
“From the time that the month of Adar begins, we increase our joyful celebration.” The month of Adar, and the following month, Nissan, are the happiest of the year, because they are marked by Purim and Pesach, respectively. These two holidays mark the victory of good over evil, in the past and in the future.
This is a victory in which everyone is a winner. When nations battle each other, the loser is either destroyed or becomes subjected to the victor. While the winners celebrate wildly, others mourn the loss of lives, freedom, territory and property.
When good vanquishes evil, the victory is unique in that even the defeat involved is beneficial. This is because it heightens our awareness of the eventual futility of wrongdoing. In the end, evil and corruption have not succeeded, but are defeated.
It is constructive to reinforce our awareness of the fact that, in the long run, evil will destroy itself, and dissipate into oblivion. In this sense, even the evil contributes to the reign of good, in that it proves – as it were, against its will – the superiority of good over evil. Its disappearance from the world scene constitutes its contribution to sanctifying G-d’s name; we see that in the end, it is G-d’s will which is fulfilled. Those who oppose Him are given their trial period and their opportunity to repent, but eventually they are doomed to fade into oblivion.
So it was in ancient Egypt, and so it was in the days of Mordecai and Esther.
In the time of the Jewish exile in Egypt, Pharaoh was informed by his astrologers that, in the near future, a Jewish woman would give birth to a baby boy destined to lead Israel out of their bondage. This would entail a major blow to the Egyptian economy and national prestige, to be avoided at all costs.
Pharaoh reacted with a cruel, heartless decree, in an attempt to save his regime and his country: all male babies born to the Jews must be drowned in the Nile River! Among them, he was certain, would be the supposed savior of the Hebrews. His massive force of slaves would remain in bondage, at his beck and call.
No Egyptian citizen, in his wildest dreams or worst nightmares, could have foreseen that it would be Pharaoh, and none other, who would eventually save the life of Moses, rather than eliminating him from the scene. What is more, Pharaoh eventually raised Moses as his own son.
Furthermore, the events that brought about this so improbable development were the direct result of the very decree that Pharaoh had designed in order to eliminate any chance of Israel's rescue.
Let us review the sequence of events as described in the Book of Exodus: Pharaoh's daughter, Batya, discovered a small, floating basket woven of rushes, in which Moses' mother had hidden him to save him from the evil decree. She took him to her home and raised him as her own son. Where did Moses grow up? Secreted away in a stuffy, hidden attic? In a dark, dank underground cavern, hidden from the prying eyes of Pharaoh's agents?
Not at all. He spent his youth in the palace of Pharaoh! And who was it that brought about this paradox? None other than the ruler of Egypt himself, author of the cruel decree that caused the death of countless innocent, Jewish baby boys. Had Pharaoh not attempted to circumvent the Creator's plans for the redemption of Israel, Moses would have grown up in the home of his parents, like all other children his age.
Paradoxically, it was through Pharaoh's intervention that Moses became a member of the royal house.
Had we been asked to concoct some scheme that would achieve this end, it is very doubtful that we would have the slightest inkling how to go about it. However, the Creator, who holds the reins of the universe in His hands, can manipulate events to achieve His aims regardless of man's attempts to thwart G-d's will. The events in the time of Pharaoh are an excellent case in point.
In the Book of Esther, we find a similar turn of events in the story of Purim. Haman advises his sovereign, Ahasureus (Xerxes), to eliminate his queen, Vashti, in revenge for her affront to the throne. As we read in the Scroll, it was the demise of Vashti that led to the appointment of Esther in her stead, and her eventual intervention to save her people from Haman's evil designs to annihilate them entirely.
In a similar turnabout, Haman aspired to be celebrated as a national hero, as revealed when he proposed a fitting reward for superior service to the crown. When the king consulted him as to an appropriate means of rewarding someone who had proven himself a loyal subject of the crown, Haman silently gloated to himself, as the Book of Esther tells us:
Now Haman said in his heart: "Whom would the king delight in honoring more than me?"
So convinced was the prideful minister that it was he who was about to be honored, that he contrived an elaborate ceremony to honor the king’s chosen servant:
"Let royal apparel be brought which the king is accustomed to wear, and the horse that the king rides upon, and on whose head a crown royal is set; and let the apparel and the horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man therewith whom the king delights to honor, and cause him to ride on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him: 'Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.'"
— Book of Esther 6:8-9
Although Haman anticipated that it would be he, and no one else, parading the streets of Shushan (Susa) attired in the king's crown and royal robes, and mounted on his royal steed, what, in fact, took place? The king ordered Haman, to garb his own arch-enemy, Mordecai the Jew, in the royal garments, and to lead him through the streets, all the while proclaiming:
"Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor."
Of course, Haman had no choice but to obey orders and to ensure that his majesty’s orders were carried out to the last detail.
In another paradoxical turn of the tables, we find Haman being hung on the very gallows that he had prepared for his chief adversary, Mordecai the Jew.
Again, these reversals are obviously the work of a Supreme Power, allowing each individual free will to choose his path in life, yet shaping the events of history in keeping with His will, not that of human beings who rebel against Him.
This is one of the messages of Purim: In the final estimation, G-d arranges matters so that His will is fulfilled, not despite man's actions, but because of them. And His will, of course, is that good should triumph over evil. The events related in the Book of Esther took place over a span of approximately one decade. With his extraordinary insight, Mordecai was able to interpret events accurately, but to the untrained eye, the pattern of events was far from evident. It was only in retrospect that Hashem’s intervening Hand became evident to one and all.
On Purim, we renew our awareness that, in the final estimation, everything is in the Hands of our Creator, and we can rest assured that He will act only for our good, in the long run. Just as a doctor or a surgeon occasionally inflicts temporary pain in order to effect the best cure, so, too, does our Healer.
This, too, is a cause for rejoicing. Even when things don't go the way we think would be best for us, we can rest assured that the hand at the reins, which is directing our life-vehicle along the path of destiny, is that of a loving Father. Although it may not be immediately evident, just as in the days of Mordecai and Esther, in the long run, we can rest assured that everything that happens is for our own good.