Purim in an Upside Down World: Finding Hidden Joy Purim 5781/2021
מִשֶּׁנִּכְנַס אָב מְמַעֲטִין בְּשִׂמְחָה וְכוּ׳ אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה בְּרֵיהּ דְּרַב שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר שִׁילַת מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרַב כְּשֵׁם שֶׁמִּשֶּׁנִּכְנַס אָב מְמַעֲטִין בְּשִׂמְחָה כָּךְ מִשֶּׁנִּכְנַס אֲדָר מַרְבִּין בְּשִׂמְחָה
§ The mishna teaches that from when the month of Av begins, one decreases acts of rejoicing. Rav Yehuda, son of Rav Shmuel bar Sheilat, said in the name of Rav: Just as when Av begins one decreases rejoicing, so too when the month of Adar begins, one increases rejoicing.

(א) וּבִשְׁנֵים֩ עָשָׂ֨ר חֹ֜דֶשׁ הוּא־חֹ֣דֶשׁ אֲדָ֗ר בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁ֨ה עָשָׂ֥ר יוֹם֙ בּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִגִּ֧יעַ דְּבַר־הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ וְדָת֖וֹ לְהֵעָשׂ֑וֹת בַּיּ֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֨ר שִׂבְּר֜וּ אֹיְבֵ֤י הַיְּהוּדִים֙ לִשְׁל֣וֹט בָּהֶ֔ם וְנַהֲפ֣וֹךְ ה֔וּא אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִשְׁלְט֧וּ הַיְּהוּדִ֛ים הֵ֖מָּה בְּשֹׂנְאֵיהֶֽם׃

(1) And so, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month—that is, the month of Adar—when the king’s command and decree were to be executed, the very day on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to get them in their power, the opposite happened, and the Jews got their enemies in their power.

אסתר מן התורה מנין (דברים לא, יח) ואנכי הסתר אסתיר

Where is Esther indicated in the Torah? [In the verse,] And I will surely hide [asthir] my face. (Deuteronomy 31:18)

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Murmuring Deep, p. 113.

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world" - W.B. Yeats

A lavish banquet, the destruction of one queen and her replacement by another, the discovery of an assassination plot, the annihilation decree against the Jewish population - loosely strung beads, these promise little in the way of meaningful pattern. The protagonists act in unintelligible ways: Esther refuses to speak of her origins, Haman's fury knows no bounds, Mordecai endangers his people by refusing to pay proper respect to to a representative of royal authority, Ahasuerus refuses Haman's bribe in his unqualified enthusiasm for the plot against the Jews. Human nature seems bizarre and human action arbitrary.

Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, Kedushat Levi

Know this: The miracles that the Blessed Creator has done for us are divided into three types. There are [two types of] hidden miracles (nissim nistarim) and there are revealed miracles. In the revealed miracles, such as those that were done for our ancestors in Egypt like the 10 plagues and the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, there was a change in nature, and everyone saw these miracles. The hidden miracles, such as in the days of Mordechai and Esther, everything appeared to be according to the laws of nature. . . Also the miracle that we recall in “Al Hanissim” - the many fell into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, and so on - this is a hidden miracle (nes nistar) because it took place in the way of war…

(י) וַתֹּ֤אמֶר אֶסְתֵּר֙ לַהֲתָ֔ךְ וַתְּצַוֵּ֖הוּ אֶֽל־מָרְדֳּכָֽי׃ (יא) כָּל־עַבְדֵ֣י הַמֶּ֡לֶךְ וְעַם־מְדִינ֨וֹת הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ יֽוֹדְעִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר כָּל־אִ֣ישׁ וְאִשָּׁ֡ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר יָבֽוֹא־אֶל־הַמֶּלֶךְ֩ אֶל־הֶחָצֵ֨ר הַפְּנִימִ֜ית אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹֽא־יִקָּרֵ֗א אַחַ֤ת דָּתוֹ֙ לְהָמִ֔ית לְ֠בַד מֵאֲשֶׁ֨ר יֽוֹשִׁיט־ל֥וֹ הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ אֶת־שַׁרְבִ֥יט הַזָּהָ֖ב וְחָיָ֑ה וַאֲנִ֗י לֹ֤א נִקְרֵ֙אתי֙ לָב֣וֹא אֶל־הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ זֶ֖ה שְׁלוֹשִׁ֥ים יֽוֹם׃ (יב) וַיַּגִּ֣ידוּ לְמָרְדֳּכָ֔י אֵ֖ת דִּבְרֵ֥י אֶסְתֵּֽר׃ (פ) (יג) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מָרְדֳּכַ֖י לְהָשִׁ֣יב אֶל־אֶסְתֵּ֑ר אַל־תְּדַמִּ֣י בְנַפְשֵׁ֔ךְ לְהִמָּלֵ֥ט בֵּית־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ מִכָּל־הַיְּהוּדִֽים׃ (יד) כִּ֣י אִם־הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי֮ בָּעֵ֣ת הַזֹּאת֒ רֶ֣וַח וְהַצָּלָ֞ה יַעֲמ֤וֹד לַיְּהוּדִים֙ מִמָּק֣וֹם אַחֵ֔ר וְאַ֥תְּ וּבֵית־אָבִ֖יךְ תֹּאבֵ֑דוּ וּמִ֣י יוֹדֵ֔עַ אִם־לְעֵ֣ת כָּזֹ֔את הִגַּ֖עַתְּ לַמַּלְכֽוּת׃ (טו) וַתֹּ֥אמֶר אֶסְתֵּ֖ר לְהָשִׁ֥יב אֶֽל־מָרְדֳּכָֽי׃ (טז) לֵךְ֩ כְּנ֨וֹס אֶת־כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִ֜ים הַֽנִּמְצְאִ֣ים בְּשׁוּשָׁ֗ן וְצ֣וּמוּ עָ֠לַי וְאַל־תֹּאכְל֨וּ וְאַל־תִּשְׁתּ֜וּ שְׁלֹ֤שֶׁת יָמִים֙ לַ֣יְלָה וָי֔וֹם גַּם־אֲנִ֥י וְנַעֲרֹתַ֖י אָצ֣וּם כֵּ֑ן וּבְכֵ֞ן אָב֤וֹא אֶל־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹֽא־כַדָּ֔ת וְכַאֲשֶׁ֥ר אָבַ֖דְתִּי אָבָֽדְתִּי׃

(10) Esther told Hathach to take back to Mordecai the following reply: (11) “All the king’s courtiers and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any person, man or woman, enters the king’s presence in the inner court without having been summoned, there is but one law for him—that he be put to death. Only if the king extends the golden scepter to him may he live. Now I have not been summoned to visit the king for the last thirty days.” (12) When Mordecai was told what Esther had said, (13) Mordecai had this message delivered to Esther: “Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. (14) On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.” (15) Then Esther sent back this answer to Mordecai: (16) “Go, assemble all the Jews who live in Shushan, and fast in my behalf; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens will observe the same fast. Then I shall go to the king, though it is contrary to the law; and if I am to perish, I shall perish!”

(א) וַיְהִ֣י ׀ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֗י וַתִּלְבַּ֤שׁ אֶסְתֵּר֙ מַלְכ֔וּת וַֽתַּעֲמֹ֞ד בַּחֲצַ֤ר בֵּית־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ הַפְּנִימִ֔ית נֹ֖כַח בֵּ֣ית הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וְ֠הַמֶּלֶךְ יוֹשֵׁ֞ב עַל־כִּסֵּ֤א מַלְכוּתוֹ֙ בְּבֵ֣ית הַמַּלְכ֔וּת נֹ֖כַח פֶּ֥תַח הַבָּֽיִת׃ (ב) וַיְהִי֩ כִרְא֨וֹת הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ אֶת־אֶסְתֵּ֣ר הַמַּלְכָּ֗ה עֹמֶ֙דֶת֙ בֶּֽחָצֵ֔ר נָשְׂאָ֥ה חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינָ֑יו וַיּ֨וֹשֶׁט הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ לְאֶסְתֵּ֗ר אֶת־שַׁרְבִ֤יט הַזָּהָב֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּיָד֔וֹ וַתִּקְרַ֣ב אֶסְתֵּ֔ר וַתִּגַּ֖ע בְּרֹ֥אשׁ הַשַּׁרְבִֽיט׃ (ס) (ג) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לָהּ֙ הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ מַה־לָּ֖ךְ אֶסְתֵּ֣ר הַמַּלְכָּ֑ה וּמַה־בַּקָּשָׁתֵ֛ךְ עַד־חֲצִ֥י הַמַּלְכ֖וּת וְיִנָּ֥תֵֽן לָֽךְ׃ (ד) וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אֶסְתֵּ֔ר אִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ ט֑וֹב יָב֨וֹא הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ וְהָמָן֙ הַיּ֔וֹם אֶל־הַמִּשְׁתֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁר־עָשִׂ֥יתִי לֽוֹ׃ (ה) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ מַהֲרוּ֙ אֶת־הָמָ֔ן לַעֲשׂ֖וֹת אֶת־דְּבַ֣ר אֶסְתֵּ֑ר וַיָּבֹ֤א הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ וְהָמָ֔ן אֶל־הַמִּשְׁתֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁר־עָשְׂתָ֥ה אֶסְתֵּֽר׃ (ו) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ לְאֶסְתֵּר֙ בְּמִשְׁתֵּ֣ה הַיַּ֔יִן מַה־שְּׁאֵלָתֵ֖ךְ וְיִנָּ֣תֵֽן לָ֑ךְ וּמַה־בַּקָּשָׁתֵ֛ךְ עַד־חֲצִ֥י הַמַּלְכ֖וּת וְתֵעָֽשׂ׃ (ז) וַתַּ֥עַן אֶסְתֵּ֖ר וַתֹּאמַ֑ר שְׁאֵלָתִ֖י וּבַקָּשָׁתִֽי׃ (ח) אִם־מָצָ֨אתִי חֵ֜ן בְּעֵינֵ֣י הַמֶּ֗לֶךְ וְאִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ ט֔וֹב לָתֵת֙ אֶת־שְׁאֵ֣לָתִ֔י וְלַעֲשׂ֖וֹת אֶת־בַּקָּשָׁתִ֑י יָב֧וֹא הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ וְהָמָ֗ן אֶל־הַמִּשְׁתֶּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֣ה לָהֶ֔ם וּמָחָ֥ר אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֖ה כִּדְבַ֥ר הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃

(1) On the third day, Esther put on royal apparel and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, facing the king’s palace, while the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room facing the entrance of the palace. (2) As soon as the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won his favor. The king extended to Esther the golden scepter which he had in his hand, and Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. (3) “What troubles you, Queen Esther?” the king asked her. “And what is your request? Even to half the kingdom, it shall be granted you.” (4) “If it please Your Majesty,” Esther replied, “let Your Majesty and Haman come today to the feast that I have prepared for him.” (5) The king commanded, “Tell Haman to hurry and do Esther’s bidding.” So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. (6) At the wine feast, the king asked Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to half the kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” (7) “My wish,” replied Esther, “my request— (8) if Your Majesty will do me the favor, if it please Your Majesty to grant my wish and accede to my request—let Your Majesty and Haman come to the feast which I will prepare for them; and tomorrow I will do Your Majesty’s bidding.”

ויהי ביום השלישי ותלבש אסתר מלכות בגדי מלכות מיבעי ליה אמר רבי אלעזר אמר רבי חנינא מלמד שלבשתה רוח הקדש

The verse states: “And it came to pass on the third day, that Esther clothed herself in royalty” (Esther 5:1). The Gemara asks: It should have said: Esther clothed herself in royal garments. Rabbi Elazar said that Rabbi Ḥanina said: This teaches that she clothed herself with a divine spirit of inspiration.

אמר רבא מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי

Rava said: A person is obligated to become intoxicated with wine on Purim until he is so intoxicated that he does not know how to distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai.

ר' נחמן מברסלב, ליקוטי מוהר"ן, מהדורא קמא, סימן נו ]ג[ כי יש שני הסתרות. וכשהשם יתברך נסתר בהסתרה אחת, גם כן קשה מאד למצאו. אך אף על פי כן, כשהוא נסתר בהסתרה אחת, אפשר ליגע ולחתור עד שימצא אותו יתברך, מאחר שיודע שהשם יתברך נסתר ממנו. אבל, כשהשם יתברך נסתר בהסתרה תוך הסתרה, דהיינו שההסתרה בעצמה נסתרת ממנו, דהיינו שאינו יודע כלל שהשם יתברך נסתר ממנו – אזי אי אפשר כלל למצא אותו, מאחר שאינו יודע כלל מהשם יתברך. וזה בחינת: 'ואנכי הסתר אסתיר' )דברים ל"א(, דהיינו שאסתיר ההסתרה, שלא ידעו כלל שהשם יתברך נסתר. ואזי בודאי אינו יכול למצא אותו יתברך, מאחר שאינו יודע כלל שצריך לבקש אותו יתברך, כי אינו יודע כלל שהשם יתברך נסתר ממנו, כי ההסתרה בעצמה נסתרת כנ"ל. ]* דברו על הפִׁ סקה הזו בשפה של החיים שלכם[ אבל באמת, אפילו בכל ההסתרות, ואפילו בההסתרה שבתוך הסתרה, בודאי גם שם מלובש השם יתברך. כי בודאי אין שום דבר שלא יהיה בו חיות השם יתברך, כי בלעדי חיותו לא היה לו קיום כלל. ועל כן בודאי בכל הדברים, ובכל המעשים, ובכל המחשבות, מלובש שם השם יתברך כביכול. ואפילו אם, חס ושלום, עושין דבר עברה, שהוא שלא כרצון השם יתברך, עם כל זה בודאי יש שם חיות השם יתברך, אך שהוא בהעלם ובצמצום גדול. והתורה היא החיות של כל דבר. נמצא שבכל הדברים, ובכל המחשבות, אפילו מחשבה דבור ומעשה של עברה, חס ושלום, יש שם גם כן התלבשות התורה, אך שהוא בהעלם ובצמצום גדול, בבחינת הסתרות. ... על כן צריך לגלות ההסתרות הנ"ל, ... ועל ידי זה הדעת, יוכל לידע שאפילו בתוך ההסתרה בעצמה, ואפילו בתוך ההסתרה שבתוך הסתרה, גם שם מלובש השם יתברך, דהיינו התורה. ומאחר שיודע שאפילו בתוך ההסתרות יש שם השם יתברך – מזה בעצמו נתגלין ההסתרות, ונעשה מהם תורה.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav - Likutey Moharan I #56:1 – 3 (1772-1810) C. There are two concealments. When God is hidden in a single concealment, then it is very difficult to find God. Yet when God is hidden in a single concealment it is still possible for a person to strive and dig away until they find God, since they are aware that God is hidden from them. But when God is concealed in a concealment–within–a-concealment, in other words the concealment itself is concealed from them so that they are completely oblivious to the fact that God is hidden from them -- then it is entirely impossible to find God, since they are not at all aware that God is hidden there. This is analogous to "I will haster astir (thoroughly hide) (Deuteronomy 31:18) – that is, "I will conceal the concealment," so that they will be completely oblivious to the fact that God is hidden. As a result, one will certainly not be able to find God, since one is completely unaware of the need to look for God; A person is completely oblivious to the fact that God is hidden from them, because the concealment itself is concealed from one, as explained above. Yet, in truth, even in all the concealments - even in a concealment-within-aconcealment – God is certainly enclothed there as well. Indeed, there is nothing that is without the life force of God, since without God's life force nothing would exist. Therefore, God is certainly enclothed in all words [devarim], all deeds, and all thoughts, as it were. And even if, Heaven forbid, a person transgresses, which is not in accordance with God's will, God's life force is certainly still there, albeit in a most hidden and contracted manner. [We] must uncover the concealment-within-a-concealment … And through knowledge/awareness [daat] they can know that even within concealment, God – that is, the Torah – is enclothed there as well. And once they know that God is there even within the concealments, this itself causes the concealments to be uncovered and transformed into Torah…

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know."

United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, news briefing on February 12, 2002 about weapons of mass destruction

וְאַפִׁילּו בְהַסְתָרָה שֶבְתֹוְך הַסְתָרָה בְוַודַאי גַם שָם נִׁמְצָא הַשֵם יִׁתְבָרַך

גַם מֵאַחֹורֵי הַדְבָרִׁים הַקָשִׁים הָעֹובְרִׁים עָלֶיָך,אַנִׁי עֹומֵד.

It is written in the Holy Torah: God says to His children: 'I will conceal Myself on that day.' (Devarim 31:18) But the Rebbe [Rabbi Nachman] however explains: Even during a concealment within a concealment, Blessed Hashem is certainly there. Even behind all the difficult things that come before you, I stand."

Veafilu behastarah shebetoch hohastarah bvadai gam sham nimtza Hashem yitbarach.

Gam meachorei hadvarim hakashim ha'ovrim aleicha, ani omed.

Song by Yosef Karduner

Estelle Frankel, The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty, p. 1-2

"Being receptive to the unknown, in all its many facets, allows us to become more open, curious, flexible, and expansive in our personal and professional lives. This openess is the key to all learning and creativity. It is the gate that unlocks our wisdom and courage"