This weekend we celebrated the feast of Purim, commemorating the deliverance our nation experienced during the exile (after the destruction of the first Temple). The story took place during the reign of the Persian empire and is described in the book of Esther.
This book provides an interesting example of the way the face of the Messiah is hidden from the Jewish people. The very name of the book testifies to this, as the meaning of the word Esther is derived from the Hebrew root STR. This same root translates elsewhere in the Bible as “hidden.” And indeed, this is the only book in the Bible that does not mention the name of God or the land of Israel. Some even call this book the “Hidden Faces Book.”
Its not a happenstance. The very essence of it is the hidden God. Though Esther was chosen to be queen, her relationship with king Ahasuerus is a picture of alienation. She didn’t even dare approach him without an invitation. And though she was chosen to be his wife, she never exposed her true identity to him.
The book describes a period in the history of Israel during which the Face of God has been hidden from his people. However, though He may not be mentioned by name, He is the one pulling the strings behind the scenes and directing the story to its good end, when “for the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor” (Est. 8:16).
The Old Testament itself clarifies the importance of this feast:
These days [Purim] should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews – nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants (Est. 9:28).
How interesting! This decree has not been pronounced upon any other feast in the Torah, not even Passover, which is considered the most important feast in the Jewish calendar. Why? The saying is that all the feasts the Torah commands indicate something that has already happened in Jewish history, while Purim hints to the complete redemption we still await on, redemption by the God whose identity, and even His name, are still hidden from us. The rabbis therefore decreed:
In the future, all of the holidays will be nullified… the days of Purim will never be nullified (Yalkut Shimoni, Proverbs, Remez 944).