When I drove to work yesterday morning, a thin, stationary layer of translucent upper atmospheric clouds was diffusing the sun’s light and causing the sun to appear as a circle of white in the eastern sky. As thicker, low clouds floated past, that white-circle sun kept transitioning between fully and partially obscured. Watching the transitions over the course of my drive, I couldn’t help but think about Gd, Purim, and the nature of our existence.
Last week at Purim, we read the story of Esther, which is the only book of the Hebrew Bible that does not contain an explicit reference to Gd. The story is set in the Persian Empire after the fall of the First Jewish Temple, and there, a Jewish girl, Esther, was selected to be the King’s wife. As Queen, Esther was able to thwart a plan by one of the King’s ministers to kill all the Jews in Persia, making Esther a hero whose bravery and success are still celebrated all these generations later.
As my congregation read and studied that text, the issue of Gd’s “absence” from the text was raised. People discussed whether Gd was or wasn’t there. Others asked why we should read Gd into a story about human action.
But, to me, the idea that Gd could be “absent” from a story, ANY human story, is as illogical as insisting the sun doesn’t exist in the sky when it is fully obscured by clouds. We may not be able to see the sun every hour of every day . . . but it remains the source of all our natural light, a prerequisite for plant-based (and thus animal-based) foods, and an absolute requirement for our continued existence on this planet.
. . . just as Gd is the source and substance of all material existence, and without Gd we (and everything we can see and experience) would vanish in an instant. That Gd is obscured most days by finite matter, which we can more easily visually perceive and physically touch, does not mean that Gd is not still present everywhere and in everything.
It means only that we must have faith.