Selected Sermon/Article
2000-03-31 Pekudei by Rabbi Ze'ev Smason

To the man in the street, the Torah often seems like a fairy tale - the sea splits, the evil die, the just are rewarded. G-d is so active, and life is so orderly. But is that the way our own lives go? The world that we see, read about and perhaps even personally experience seems quite different - it's disorderly, unfair, and cruel. The evil prosper, and the just become cynical. We live in a world in which G-d is concealed. Where shall we look for Him?

"Nature", The Ramban - a prominent 13th century Spanish rabbi said - "is what we call miracles that we're used to." Our daily life is so filled with miracles that we ignore them altogether, coming to take them for granted. The birth of a child, or the blossoming of the trees that we noticed on our way to shul this morning don't astound us because we're used to them. The mundane, according to the Ramban, is really the profound.

In Persia 2,500 years ago, Haman authored a plan to murder Bnai Yisrael en masse. Through a complicated series of events his plan backfired, and he and his conspirators were hanged on the gallows. Stunned by the perilous threat to their lives and their sudden salvation, the Megilla tells us 'Kimoo v'Kibloo' - Bnai Yisrael recommitted themselves to HaShem and His Torah. What they'd accepted at Sinai amidst thunder and fire, they reaccepted peacefully in the calm aftermath of the victory over their enemies. Purim teaches us to find God in the mundane.

In the Megillah of Esther, G-d is 'nistar', concealed. There are no signs and wonders, no prophecies, no open miracles - just an extraordinarily ordinary story of the first attempt at a final solution of the Jewish problem.

To celebrate these events on Purim it's a mitzvah to drink. When we drink, we let down our guard and expose ourselves to the world. One who thought he lived alone in a hostile world and suddenly discovers G-d is really there laughs aloud in joy. On Purim, it's a mitzvah to laugh aloud.

Have you ever wondered why there's a custom to wear costumes and masks on Purim? I'm sure you recall that when the curtain is pulled back, the Wizard of Oz is revealed as a frail old man wielding a powerful illusion. Someone confident and powerful disguises their fear with outer self-assurance. On Purim, we wear masks not to conceal, but to reveal our true selves. We mock the pretensions which we wear year round. The skits we do on Purim mock foolishness and false values.

Who needs these mechanisms of coping in a world where G-d is no longer concealed, but is revealed?

Mee sh'nichnas Adar marbin b'simcha. On Purim we send food to friends and give tzedakah to the poor. We reach out to others, so that one should miss the joy of the occasion. G-d may be concealed. He may not intervene openly. But G-d is still there - guiding, directing, steering us and those about us - a joyful recognition in an otherwise bleak and frightening world.

(taken, in large part, from an article written by Rabbi Nachum Braverman)