Unlike any other book of the Bible, Megillat Esther (which we read on the Purim holiday) does not explicitly mention the name of G‑d. Yet, as the story of the miracle of Purim unfolds, it becomes clear to all that a Divine hand has directed the miraculous events, albeit in a hidden way. Seeing and experiencing G‑d from behind the "mask" of the material world is not only a theme in the Purim story – it is perhaps the most prevalent theme in our lives.

Rebbe Yitzchak Isaac Y.Y. Safrin, the Komarno Rebbe, reveals that the gradual revelation of Divine Providence found within is actually hinted at in its first verse.

"And it came to pass in the days of [King] Ahasuerus...." (Esther 1:1)

In the parables of the Sages, the phrase "And Haman said…" (ibid. 3:8) refers to the trait of strict Judgment and "Ahasuerus" refers to G‑d, to Whom all endings and beginnings belong, as the verse states: "I am First, and I am Last". (Isaiah 44:6)

In a roundabout way, the Hebrew letters which make up the name "Ahasuerus" construct the Hebrew words for "end" - in Hebrew, "acharit", and "beginning" - "reishit". In addition, in the above verse from Isaiah, the numerical values of the Hebrew words for "first" (in Hebrew "rishon", = 557) and "last" ("acharon", = 265), equal the numerical value of "Ahasuerus", = 821 (plus one for its entirety, the kollel). Inasmuch as G‑d originally ("first") created the world with the intention of revealing His Oneness at its conclusion ("last"), so too, in a mystical sense, does King Ahasuerus embody this theme in the Scroll of Esther.

If a person knows that G‑d is hiding there, then there is really no hidden-ness whatsoever…

And on the idea that the Sages teach (Hulin 139b) that Esther appears in the Five Books of Moses in the verse "I will certainly hide [in Hebrew, ‘Hester, esthir’] my face," (Deut. 31:18) I heard from my Teacher (Rebbe Tzvi Hersh of Ziditchov, see Toldot Yaakov Yosef on Gen. 1, in the name of the Baal Shem Tov), that if a person knows that G‑d is hiding there, then there is really no hidden-ness whatsoever. This is because when a person, through great faith, knows that the Master of the World is infused in every facet of Creation, immediately all destructive spiritual forces are dispersed, since there is nothing [really] existing outside of G‑d, even at a time of harsh Judgment. And so, if a person is aware that the Master of the World is hiding there, immediately the forces of Judgment are sweetened and the Light [of Divine mercy] becomes revealed.

This is taught regarding the verse in the song at the Splitting of the [Red] Sea: "the enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide up [the spoils]…’" (Ex. 15:9) [in Hebrew, ‘amar aoyev ardof aseeg achalek’ – each of these words beginning with] five letter alefs; that there [i.e. even when the enemy has every reason to be confident of victory, and hope for the forces of righteousness seems pointless,] the Master [in Hebrew, "Alufo"] of the World is hiding. This is the secret of the divine name Samech Alef Lamed.

Here, in the phrase "Master of the World", the word for "master" is the same as that of the letter alef, the first in the alef-bet, illustrating G‑d’s "firstness", or oneness.

The divine name Samech Alef Lamed is the 45th in the series of 72 triplets which make of the 72-Word Name, derived from three verses describing the Splitting of the Red Sea. While 45 is the numerical value for the Hebrew word "adam", meaning "person", the letters samech alef lamed form an acronym for the Hebrew phrase "ata seter li", usually translated as "You [G‑d] are a shelter for me," (Psalms 32:7) but which can be understood as "You are hidden to me". This illustrates the idea that while G‑d may seem concealed to us on the outside, really each person can find G‑d within himself. (Be’er Eliyahu)

And after a person is conscious of the fact that there really is no barrier between him and his G‑d, even when foreign thoughts (i.e. thoughts of "otherness") arise, he will know that they are only [Divine] "garments" and "covers" – just like a gemstone, whose degree of worth parallels its coarse outer casing. In the same way, a person must understand that there [in a place of great difficulty and concealment of G‑dliness] is enclothed a holy spark. And he should come to trembling and awe, because he’s in a state of danger: either he will elevate the holy spark on high, and then a holy fiery love for G‑d will burn with an awesome brilliance, via the elevation of this holy spark – or he, too, will remain there [in the depths].

And with great faith and awe he should arouse himself to ascend from "the end to the beginning", for there in "the end" [i.e. apparent distance from and concealment of the Divine], too is G‑d’s presence – as if the verse "There is nothing but G‑d" (Deut. 4:35) is written on his heart.

And sometimes [even the fact of G‑d’s] concealment is hidden, as in the above phrase "I will certainly hide my face…", meaning that G‑d will hide even in such a way that they will not even be aware that He is hidden. And that is when punishment may be inflicted. For whenever a person has complete faith that the Master of the World is within every facet of Creation and places his trust in G‑d, no punishment can possibly befall him; punishment can only be imposed on a person when his faith leaves him, but even momentarily. And really, even though [sometimes] "I will certainly hide…", [in any case] "I" am there – as in the verse "I am G‑d [Havayah] your L-rd [Eloke-cha] Who took you out of Egypt." (Ex. 20:2)

In the above verse, G‑d communicates that his essence – "I" – includes both his revealed, merciful, aspect – intimated by the divine name Havayah – as well as his hidden, judgmental, aspect – expressed by the name Elok-echa. That consciousness, that Divinity incorporates both aspects, is to a great extent what the Exodus – and the Final Redemption – are all about.

The generation at the time of Ahasuerus truly received the Torah, for originally [at Mount Sinai] the Torah was given by force. (Shabbat 88a)

The Sages teach that at Mount Sinai the Torah was accepted only out of fear of death (i.e. not whole-heartedly) and, therefore, its acquisition cannot be considered truly legitimate. At the end of the Purim story, the Jewish nation, voluntarily and out of love took upon themselves to embrace the Torah.

The Midrash (on Ex. 16:4) states that "the Torah was only given to those that ate of the manna", implying that the generation of the Exodus considered the necessary involvement in the physical world that would be demanded of them upon arriving in the Land of Israel, such as plowing, planting, and business matters, to be a waste of [time better spent on] Torah; therefore they had to be forced to receive the Torah.

So too are the letters of the Torah found in every aspect of physicality….

The manna fed the generation of the Exodus with hardly any effort on their part. They considered their exclusively "spiritual" lifestyle to be quintessential. This false perspective resulted in the disaster which befell them regarding the Spies (see Num. 13:1) who failed to recognize the value of bringing G‑dly consciousness into our worldly interactions and denigrated the nation’s divine mission to enter the Land of Israel.

But, really, in the same way that there are 22 Hebrew letters in the Torah (in Torah study as well as prayer), so too are the letters of the Torah found in every aspect of physicality. And in each one of the 39 classic acts of labor (see Laws of Shabbat) are found letters of the Torah, and a person much loved [by G‑d] involves himself with them with mystical unifications [utilizing divine names] - "adornments" for the Divine Presence.

Receiving the Torah out of love for G‑d means recognizing that aspects of Torah are in every facet of human experience, not just in books and commandments specified by Jewish law. In the tradition of the Baal Shem Tov, the Komarno Rebbe strongly encourages us to meditate on divine names related our daily activities, transforming the "secular" into vehicles for divinity.

Within the letters lies a divine life-force which brings everything into being….

In everything in the world are found letters of the Torah and "adornments" for the Divine Presence, as the Sages teach that Betzalel [in creating the vessels for the Tabernacle] knew how to arrange the Hebrew letters through which the Heavens and the Earth were created. It’s just that the letters and energy are enclothed in the grossness of worldly things within many garments and encasings, and that within the letters lies a divine life-force which brings everything into being – that "G‑d’s glory fills the entire earth" and that "no place is void of His [presence]". It’s just that He’s hidden.

Everything is letters of the Torah….

And when the righteous are aware of this concealment, then by them there is really no hidden-ness whatsoever, and they elevate all existence to the Life of All Life, the Life-giver of All [G‑d], as the Psalmist says, "Open my eyes, that I may perceive…" – in every thing – "…wonders from your Torah" (Psalms 119:18) – that everything is letters of the Torah and that there is nothing stopping us from serving G‑d, because the Master [the Alef] of the World is totally in every aspect of existence.

And this is what our holy Rebbe, the pure light, our Master and Teacher, Rabbi Dov Ber [of Mezritch], said on the meaning of the statement [that the Divine Presence] is "adorned in ornaments that are not": (Zohar II:91a) Torah and mitzvahs are "adornments that are", but when a person effects [meditative] unifications involving things of This [physical] World and adorns the Divine Presence, that is called "adornments that are not" [i.e. beyond]. And that is what our G‑dly Master the Baal Shem Tov taught on the phrase "Her husband will embrace her in her foundation…" (Shabbat Evening Song of the Arizal) that it is most precious [to G‑d] when a person elevates [something on] a lowly level to the level of Divinity.….

In every aspect of the world a person is able to unite and connect and involve themselves with the letters of the Torah….

For this is the essence and root of a Jew’s job: to serve G‑d with every aspect of reality. And that is why, at first the Torah had to be accepted by force, and [later] "the generation accepted it [out of love] in the days of Ahasuerus" – that they arrived at the consciousness that "He is First and Last", that the Master [Alef] of the World is in every little motion and that in every aspect of the world a person is able to unite and connect and involve themselves with the letters of the Torah - in eating, drinking, sleeping, and every else. Everything is for effecting [meditative] unifications. Plowing and planting and performing every one of the 39 categories of labor – as the verse says: "In all your ways, know Him." (Proverbs 3:6)

It is said that the Komarno Rebbe had a dictionary of sorts that included 1000 words, each associated with particular divine names and concepts, with which he could accomplish most of his daily affairs.

And when they got to the level that they could actually see with their very eyes that these physical aspects are infused with G‑dliness, they accepted the Torah out of joy. And that is why the era in which they attained this consciousness is called "the days of Ahasuerus" – [his name suggesting the idea of] "I am First and I am Last": that the "Last" of the levels of constricted consciousness [distance from divine revelation] and the "First" [G‑d’s greatness revealed] are all His and that the Master [Alef] of the world is in every little motion.

…And the [meditative] unification to be made on the phrase "And it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus…" is that it has the same numerical value, that of 914, as the six spellings-out of the divine name Eh-yeh found in the meditations on the six directions [of the shaking of the lulav in the Sukkah. (Pri Etz Chaim, Sukkot, sec. 3)]

Perhaps this hints to the idea that G‑dliness can – and should – be accessed in every aspect, i.e. every direction, of our lives. Each of these six names corresponds to a specific direction and are spelled out as follows:

Alef lamed pei, hei yud, yud vav dalet, hei yud = 161, towards the south.

Alef lamed pei, hei alef, yud vav dalet, hei hei = 147, north.

Alef lamed pei, hei alef, yud vav dalet, hei alef = 143, east.

Alef lamed pei, hei yud, yud vav dalet, hei hei = 156, up.

Alef lamed pei, hei hei, yud vav dalet, hei yud = 156, down.

Alef lamed pei, hei alef, yud vav dalet, hei yud = 152, west.


"And it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus…": in Hebrew, "V’yhi b’yamei Achashverosh", has the numerical value of 914, and, adding one for its entirety (the kollel), it equals 915. In the continuation of his commentary on the Scroll of Esther, the Komarno Rebbe points out that the phrase "his [Ahasuerus’] royal palace", in Hebrew, "beit malchuto", (Esther 2:16) is also the numerical value of 914, illustrating that the Sukkah is a "house" – in Hebrew, "beit" (i.e. a vessel) - to receive G‑d’s sovereignty, or malchut.

…The first verse of the Scroll of Esther continues: "…Ahasuerus who reigned from [the land of] Hodu until Cush."

"Who reigned from Hodu…" refers to the [level] of "Beginning".

Not only does the Hebrew word "hodu" mean "give thanks", but its numerical value is the same as the divine name Y-ah, associated with the higher consciousness of mind, or the partzufim of Abba and Imma; in addition, the Hebrew words for "who reigned from Hodu" is 151, the same as the word "mikveh", or ritual bath, through which one becomes "reborn", so to speak, returning to one’s original unspoiled spiritual root. (Be’er Eliyahu)

This hints at favorable conditions in which G‑dliness is revealed and all seems to be connected with the Divine Plan.

Certainly this hints at favorable conditions in which G‑dliness is revealed and all seems to be connected with the Divine Plan.

"…until Cush" refers to [level] of "Last" .…"Cush", meaning darkness and [dominance of] the forces of Judgment, referred to as "Last".

Cush is considered a north-east region of the African continent, perhaps Ethiopia. While the Sages refer to the people of the land of Cush as being very beautiful, in this case they are distinguished by their dark complexion, hinting at a type of spiritual darkness, far from the light of holiness. One should not mistake the term to refer to any negative quality of the people of Cush, rather here "Cush" is a code-word for spiritual alienation from the Divine.

In the same way that King Ahasuerus ruled from one extremity to the other, so too does the King of the Universe rule – not only in the expression of His revealed wonders, but in the aspect of His hidden-ness, as well.

Translated and adapted by Baruch Emanuel Erdstein from Ketem Ophir, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Y.Y. of Komarno's monumental Kabbalistic commentary on the Megillah.

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