Sunday, March 4, 2012

The 2 Forms of Divine Providence: Purim and Passover

Divine providence exists in two forms. One, symbolized by Passover, is explicit providence. This is when it is clear God is in charge. During the Exodus, when He brought the Ten Plagues, even the Egyptians realized God was orchestrating events to free the Jews.

The second form, symbolized by Purim, is implicit providence. This is when God guides our lives behind the scenes. There were no blatant miracles during Purim, no plagues brought against the wicked Haman. The commentators point out that to symbolize this concealment of Divine providence, in the Megillah, the written story of Purim, God’s name does not appear once! Nevertheless, we are awed at how our Creator wove disparate story lines into a breathtaking tapestry, culminating in our salvation.

Only if God wills it

Both Passover and Purim illustrate the key principle of faith that no one can harm or help us without God willing it to happen; nothing occurs without His permission. During the Exodus, who enslaved the Jews? Pharaoh. Who later begged them to leave? Pharaoh. During Purim, who authorized the extermination of the Jews? King Achashverosh. Who was later instrumental in saving them? King Achashverosh. Both were powerless to act against or for the Jews without God’s permission.

If God does not will something to happen, it won’t. Before attempting to benefit yourself, ask your Creator for help; you will only succeed with His assistance. Because God is all powerful, there is no difficulty or crisis He cannot solve; He can do anything. No situation or person is too far gone; God can still redeem them from the abyss. Because of this, never give up: Never give up on life, on others and especially not on yourself. With God’s help, anything is possible.

“God, are You there?”

Most of us believe God created the world. For some of us though, there is a doubt which lurks in our hearts. “Does God care about me? Will He help me?” During times of profound darkness this doubt rises to the surface and we ask, “God, are You there? Are You guiding my life? Where is Your help?”

Perhaps, during the period of slavery in Egypt and when threatened with extermination during the era of Purim, some of our people had similar questions. God answered them then and His answer continues to be a source of faith for our people. During the Exodus, God showed through wondrous miracles that He does care about us and that He is there for us. He is willing to move heaven and earth to redeem His people. Later in history, during Purim, God demonstrated that He does not need to perform blatant miracles to show us His love; His love is the undercurrent running through our lives, helping us behind the scenes.

The Jewish people have experienced many perils, many times when we asked, “Where is God?” You are alive because the Jewish people have survived in the face of unrelenting threats. The survival of our people is clear proof that God has continued to answer our questions. He has continued to show us His love and care. Not always when we want or in the way we want, but always when and what we need.

Even when our lives are filled with pain, nevertheless, we still have experienced sufficient blessings and help to answer doubts about God’s involvement in our lives. To each one of us He has whispered in our ears, “I love you. I care about you. I am with you in your pain. Trust Me and come close to Me.”

Make a list of the times God helped you in the past, the blessings He currently gives you, and the ways He is easing your burden, amidst your difficulties. Use this list to remind yourself that God is there for you, giving you comfort, guidance and strength.

Transcending our limited perspective

During the Exodus, it was clear to the Jews that God was orchestrating their redemption. In contrast, during Purim, the Jews thought they were in mortal peril. Yet, in truth, Haman’s decree of annihilation was as much for the benefit of the Jewish people as the splitting of the sea. The Talmud states that when King Achashverosh removed his signet ring to sign the decree against the Jewish people, he triggered among them an unprecedented spiritual awakening and return to God (Megillah 14a).

In our lives, we may think we know which circumstances would be beneficial to us and which ones would not. The reality is we don’t have a clue. Even as we do the best we can to improve our lives, we need to humbly let go of insisting on a specific outcome. Only God knows what is truly beneficial to us.

To gain an accurate perspective of events in your life, picture the Jews during the Exodus, crossing amidst parted waters. They knew with the same certainty as they felt the dry ground beneath their feet, that, “God is my shepherd, I shall not lack (Psalms 23:1).” Pick a specific challenge in your life. Regarding this challenge, imagine you have the same clarity they had. You know for certain that as you reach stormy passages, God will clear a path for you. You know without a doubt that He is guiding the issue for your eternal benefit, and that this struggle is there to bring about your personal redemption.

How does this viewpoint change the way you feel about this challenge? Like the Jews who sang the song at the sea, if we fully had the realization that God is our shepherd – guiding our lives – we would be singing praises to Him for all that He does for us.

In truth, we will sing these praises to God. King David describes the time when we will understand the Divine plan and perceive the incredible hidden goodness within our lives, “Then, our mouth will be filled with laughter and our tongue with joyous song…(Psalms 126:2)”

It is hard to imagine laughing over painful events. Yet, even now, there may be past challenges which we understand in hindsight were for our benefit. In addition, in the future, we will measure our lives against the ultimate good – that which benefits our souls and our eternal existence in the Next World. We will then appreciate the endless love our Creator has for us and how He filled our lives to capacity with Divine goodness. We will realize that the temporary difficulties we experienced in this world were well worth the eternal benefits we will receive.

As in the story of Purim, if we maintain our faith, our struggles will turn into joy, guaranteed, either in this world or the next; it is only a question of when. Furthermore, we do not have to wait for our difficulties to end to celebrate; nor do we have to wait for God to reveal the reason behind our challenges to be happy. Just knowing He is guiding our lives for our eternal benefit is reason enough to celebrate. Just knowing He is with us always and will never abandon us, is reason enough to be happy.

On Passover, we celebrate God’s mastery of the world through His explicit miracles and His redeeming us from Egypt to be His people. On Purim, we celebrate that His providence and our indestructible bond with Him continues to this day. Not only are we joyous over the events we understand in hindsight, but also over the realization that we do not need hindsight to celebrate; we can be happy, right here, right now.

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1 comment:

  1. Jacob, thank you so much for pointing me to your blog. It has given me a deeper understanding not only of the two holidays but what lies at the basis of the Jewish faith. I will read on....