Today is Purim, when we celebrate the Jewish victory over the evil Haman and his conspiracy to annihilate the Jews in the Persian Empire. Haman drew a lottery to determine what he thought was a fortuitous day, the 13th of Adar, to murder the Jewish people and pursued this plot through a decree by King Achashverosh. But as we know, G-d made miracles through Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai, and Haman and his ten sons ended hanging by the noose that he built for Mordechai.
This has been my personal experience as well, as I can see both now and in 20/20 hindsight that there is a definite Divine method and not just a world of random chance and madness.
Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, Success, “Israeli Cuisine Style.”
This notion of success and failure in life makes you think about not only the imperative to be successful in our lives, but also to question what does that success even mean and look like? Is success really the goal or is the journey with its growing pains and lesson learned the real goal towards purifying our souls?
When we read the Ten Commandments, we are reminded of what the foundational elements of success in life actually are all about: How did we treat others (were we compassionate and giving)? Did we behave as Mensch’s in our lives? Did we try our best to do the “right thing” by our fellow man and by G-d? If you can answer in the positive to these latter questions then maybe you have achieved real success, regardless of what any culinary chef or life maven would tell you!
As we know, Pharaoh refused to let the Jews go from Egypt, whether because G-d hardened his heart for some of the plagues or he just couldn’t bear to see his Jewish slaves free through the final knock-out rounds. Through ten plagues that destroyed Egypt and much of their people, including their first born males in the tenth plague, Pharaoh is intransigent and suffers the terrible consequences….Aside from Pharaoh, perhaps the second most stubborn individual in the Torah is Bilam, who was asked by Balak, the king of Moav, to curse the Jews….even though each and every time, G-d instead blessed them.
In both cases, it is clear that no individual, whether a king or a prophet, can go against that which G-d has decreed!
The lesson is clear: it is best to try to see what direction G-d is leading us forward in and to follow Him all the way, not only because that is the path of least resistance, but because that is what we are meant to do and where we are meant to go in our lives.
G-d, who is infinitely compassionate, did the most compassionate thing, which was to create us and give us the ability to be compassionate on others. The way we bring Hashem to reside with us is to transform the world (tikkun olam) “to make it a place that G-d can call home.” We do this by performing acts of loving kindness, making the mundane holy, and manifesting G-d’s divine providence. In essence, it’s not enough for us to know G-d exists, but we need to be a light unto the nations to reveal G-d’s unity, sanctity, and ongoing relationship with his creations to everyone in the world.
Like the story of the priest from the Holocaust, we don’t believe G-d exists, but rather, we know He exists. And when we perform our mission in this world by doing good deeds and manifesting G-d’s oneness and divine providence then we make this a place where G-d wants to reside with us in this world as well as in the world to come.
Clearly, from the President on down to each and every one of us, we can be certain that none of us is perfect. However, G-d put us here, precisely, to have the opportunity to repair our imperfections. In this earthly world, our soul is tested, and we thereby have the opportunity to come out stronger and better because of it. The challenges in this world provide the “purification by fire” that our souls need to elevate themselves from past mistakes or imperfections. In essence, G-d in his ultimate benevolence — of love, kindness, and giving — bestows on us, His children, the chance to learn and grow and to realize our potential!
In short, while our elections leave us a lot to be desired in terms of the candidates for the highest office of this great land, we can see from the presidential candidates on down to the citizens of this country and to those around the world that there is both shortcomings and the potential for becoming the people that G-d knows we can really be. 😉