Our sages teach, “All the festivals are destined to be nullified [in the Messianic age], but the days of Purim will never cease to be observed.” (Midrash Mishlei 9:1)
This startling comment may be understood if we consider the placement of Purim in the sequence of the other Jewish holidays. It may be suggested that the progression of our holidays correlates to the entire timeline of Jewish history. Passover, falling in Nissan, the first month of the Hebrew calendar, would correspond to the spiritual state of the Jewish people at the beginning of their history. Purim, celebrated during Adar, the last month of our calendar, relates to the spiritual state of the Jewish people at history’s climax.
Each of our holidays marks a critical, miraculous occurrence during our history. Our rabbis explain that there are two kinds of miracles. Supernatural miracles powerfully point to the hand of God behind them. These are called “revealed” miracles – nigleh in Hebrew. Other miracles are much more subtle and ambiguous. These “concealed” miracles – nistar in Hebrew – are often not even perceived as miraculous.
Passover is the holiday par excellence of the revealed miracle. The year-long parade of spectacular supernatural plagues that struck Egypt prior to our Exodus 3,300 years ago left a profound impression upon our young nation. God left no doubts about who was redeeming us. Even our Egyptian taskmasters understood, proclaiming, “It is the finger of God!” (Exodus 8:15).
The climax of the Exodus was the dramatic salvation of the Jewish people and drowning of their pursuers at the Sea of Reeds. We became so electrically aware of God’s presence there that each Jew was practically able to point to the Shchinah and proclaim, “This is my God!” (Rashi, Exodus 15:2). Indeed, our sages in the Mechilta declare that a simple maidservant was able to see more at the splitting of the sea than the greatest prophets would behold in the future.
At the end of the Jewish calendar year, we encounter the holiday of Purim, whose miracles correspond to the spiritual level of the Jewish people at the end of history. The story of Purim is recounted in Megillat Esther. The name of God is curiously absent from this biblical book. This omission seems to reflect the fact that His presence seems to be absent from this story of the salvation of the Jewish people from the genocide bent Persians. Our near-annihilation seems to turn around as the result of coincidences, palace intrigue, incredible timing and extremely lucky breaks.
Yet those who are spiritually sophisticated understand that the Purim story is not simply serendipity – the hand of God is deftly behind each twist and turn of the plot. Indeed, the name of the book, Megillat Esther – the scroll of Esther – in Hebrew can also mean, “the revealing of that which is hidden.” The sensitive reader is able to sense God’s unmistakable fingerprints on every page, because Purim corresponds to the Messianic age when “the knowledge of God will be as widespread as the waters that cover the seas” (Isaiah 11:9).
The spiritual level of the Jewish people at the Purim stage of history will be very finely tuned. We won’t need God to split the sea or bloody the rivers for us to know He’s there. We’ll be able to perceive Him even at small flowing streams where He’s hidden within the quietness of nature.
When our sages claim that all holidays will be nullified in the Messianic age, they may mean that during this time of heightened spiritual sensitivity, we won’t require the overt supernatural manifestations of His presence that typify other biblical holidays.
Rabbi Michael Skobac is director of education with Jews for Judaism Toronto.