I read Megillat Esther no less than 13 times this past Purim! I made every effort to ensure that everyone in Shaarei Orah and Torah Academy of Bergen County (partnering with alumnus and executive director Judah Rosenbaum and sophomore Ari Mazin) had the opportunity to hear a live Megilla reading. A week after a Megillat Esther-infused Purim, we share some thoughts inspired by these many readings as to why I am thoroughly convinced that Megillat Esther was written with ruach hakodesh (Divine influence).
The Gemara (Megilla 7a) observes that the stunning prediction made toward Megillat Esther’s end that Jews will always celebrate Purim demonstrates the Divine influence (ruach hakodesh) on this magnificent scroll.
Wise people hedge their predictions. For example, watch Mike Pyle, the chief investment strategist for Blackrock, in an interview aired on CNBC, where he predicts 2021 market performance. Notice how Mr. Pyle, already in the first 40 seconds of the interview, wisely uses no less than five “hedge words” or phrases, such as “I think” or “we expect,” to couch his forecast. The interview may be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibuygkNPCMQ&t=36s&ab_channel=CNBCTelevision.
The Gemara (Brachot 4a) encourages us to use such cautious terms. The Gemara states, “Lamed leshonecha lomar eni yode’a,” habituate yourself to expressing some uncertainty about your assertions. Expressing certitude when predicting the future runs the significant risk of appearing like a fool. The Gemara (Yevamot 39b) teaches that people make every effort to avoid revelations that will cause them to lose all credibility. The Gemara (Bava Batra 12b) also writes that since the Churban, prophecy is given only to fools and children.
The Book of Esther is universally acclaimed as a literary masterpiece written by an exceptionally talented writer. It is studied seriously in secular Bible departments in fine universities throughout the world.
Why does this skillful author issue a prediction that runs the risk of making him appear foolish? Moreover, predicting that the Jewish people will always observe Purim assumes the eternality of Am Yisrael. This is quite a bold assertion to declare after describing the Jews’ very narrow escape from destruction.
The reasonable conclusion is that an intelligent mortal author would not make such a prediction. This prediction is a compelling indication of Divine involvement in the composition of Megillat Esther.
A People of Extremes
Chazal (Megilla 16a) make another stunning observation. They state, in the context of explaining Haman’s advisers’ reflections on Haman parading Mordechai around Shushan wearing the king’s crown and clothes while riding on the royal horse, that Sefer Bereishit compares us to both stars and earth. When we are running low, we reach the lowest depths, but when we are riding high, we attain the highest levels. Haman experiences untrammeled success, but once things are turned in Mordechai’s favor, Haman is warned that he is doomed to abysmal failure.
In other words, the Gemara is saying that we are a people of extremes: We are either at an extreme high or an extreme low. Sadly, this Gemara very much resonates with our experiences of the last 80 years. There is hardly a more extreme low than the Holocaust. At the other end lies the exceedingly outsized success of Medinat Yisrael in the military, economic and scientific spheres. Chazal in Megilla 15a make quite a prescient Bereishit and Megillat Esther-based claim!!
The Megilla Is Our Story
Many years ago I was at a Shabbat meal where a cynical guest expressed deep skepticism about the veracity of Esther drawing very close to the most powerful man in the world and influencing him to save the Jews. I responded by noting the story of the anti-Semitic Harry Truman becoming best friends with a Jew from Kansas City named Eddie Jacobson, who influenced the president to ignore his cabinet and the State Department’s stern warnings and facilitate the creation of the State of Israel.
Megillat Esther, like the rest of Tanach, is not an archaic story. It is the story of the Jewish people of all generations. The stories of Tanach are a blueprint for the future of the Jewish people, as famously noted by Ramban to Bereishit 12:8. Eddie Jacobson’s daughter’s emotional recounting of her father’s special connection with President Truman is archived at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7f5p42rorg&t=1s&ab_channel=AIPAC.
The skeptic is likely to respond that these points are all a matter of coincidence. The believer responds that nobody is that fortunate unless Someone behind the scenes manipulates the situation in his favor. Just as in Megillat Esther!
Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.