Parshas Tetzaveh (5777)
We have a tradition on Purim that whenever the wicked Haman's name is mentioned during the reading of the Megillah, all the children in the synagogue take their noisemakers, or groggers, and make lots of noise and tumult (kids, don't try this at home) to symbolically blot out the memory of this evil man who tried to annihilate the entire Jewish nation.
A different tradition that we have on the Jewish holiday of Chanukah is to play with a spinning top called a dreidel. The history of this interesting tradition goes back to the days when the Assyrian-Greek Hellenists ruled over Israel and made decrees forbidding the study of the Torah (the Written and Oral Law) and the performance of certain Jewish rituals and customs. Many devoted and courageous rabbis, who perceived that without the Torah and its lessons for life there's not much to live for, ignored the decree and studied the Torah with their students in secrecy. When they would hear someone suspicious approaching their hideaway, they would instruct the students to quickly hide their Holy Books and to pull out their dreidels, thereby fooling the enemy and saving their lives.
Interestingly, the grogger is held from the bottom while the dreidel is generally held from the top. What is the significance of the difference between these two time-honored traditions? Is it random, or is there some deeper message being taught here?
Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro of Dinov (1783-1841), author of the classic Chassidic work B'nei Yisaschar, writes that we can appreciate the difference between the dreidel used on Chanukah and the grogger used on Purim through an analysis of the different types of miracles that occurred on each holiday.
Whereas on Chanukah the Jews witnessed the overt miracle performed by G-d of a single flask of oil lasting for eight nights, on Purim G-d played a more hidden and passive role, allowing human beings to be the agents who would carry out His divine plan.
On Chanukah G-d's hand was clear for all to see, as symbolized by the dreidel that is spun from the top the same way G-d orchestrated the supernatural events of Chanukah from His heavenly abode. The grogger, however, is held from the bottom because G-d allowed Mordechai and Esther to be the key players in the unfolding of the Purim miracle.
As Mordechai said to Esther when she was contemplating the proper time to speak to King Achashveirosh on behalf of the Jewish people, ďÖ and who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position!Ē (Book of Esther 4:14).
Mordechai, the great prophet and leader of the Jewish people, understood that if Esther the Jewess had been chosen from all the beautiful women in the entire kingdom to replace Vashti as queen Ė and was now uniquely positioned as the wife of the most powerful person in the whole world - it was obviously part of G-dís divine plan, albeit in a hidden manner. So that when King Achashveirosh issued the decree to annihilate the entire Jewish nation in one day, Mordechai knew that it was to annul this decree that Esther was chosen to be queen.
Isnít it fascinating how history seems to repeat itself? Here in our own times we have in the White House arguably the most powerful person in the whole world, President Donald J. Trump (who reigns from Hodu to Kush-ner), and yet one of those closest to him and uniquely positioned to influence him in important matters is his own daughter Ivanka, an Orthodox Jew! If this isnít part of G-dís hidden plan, then I donít know what is! Like Mordechai in the Purim story, we just have to wait and see how G-dís plan plays itself out.
The grogger that we hold from below on Purim serves to remind us that just as Queen Esther was a key player in G-d's hidden plan to save the Jewish people, so are all the events that transpire in the world and in our daily lives part of G-d's plan, hidden though He may be.