A young man was having a difficult time getting married.
He was set up with girl after girl, all to no avail. After a first date, the girls just wouldn’t want to see him again. They didn't tell him why, but he knew it had something to do with the large scar on his cheek, which was difficult to look at.
He felt short-changed. After all, he was a man with a big heart, and good character. He went to visit a great rabbi for his council and wisdom.
"Rabbi," he said tearfully, "I don't know what to do. I don’t want to be lonely. I want to be a husband and a father."
He told the Rabbi that he felt that his physical appearance was getting in the way of his chances.The saintly Rabbi suggested to him softly, "The next time you meet a girl, bring up your scar in conversation. Tell her about it, how you got it, and how it makes you feel. Speak of it with confidence and without shame,” the Rabbi told him.
The fellow had never considered this approach and decided to give it a try.
A couple of months later someone suggested that he meet a girl. She was described to him as a very special and vibrant individual, kind and sweet. But what worried him was that they also told him that she was very beautiful. "If she is as attractive as people said, then she will not be interested in a damaged person like me."
Can you imagine his pain? He comforted himself; "People exaggerate; perhaps she is average!" And he took her out on a date.
When he met her, he saw that she was as beautiful as people had said and his heart sank. He thought to himself that there was no chance this would go anywhere.
They started talking. She was charming, sweet, and open. And though he would have preferred to do just about anything else in the world, he awkwardly shared the following: "I am sure that the first thing you noticed about me was the horrible scar on my cheek. My teacher told me to share the story about this scar on the very first date. Would it be ok for me to share?"
She said yes.
He went on to tell her that when he was 20 years old, he was heading home from the Yeshiva one night, and the streets were dark and deserted. Suddenly, he heard a cry. A young girl was screaming. He saw a man running after the Jewish girl, who was fleeing and crying out in fear. Without thinking, he immediately gave chase and with a pounding heart he caught up to the predator and held him down long enough for the girl to escape!
But in the struggle the man took out a knife and slashed him across the face. Though he survived, his face would never look the same. “That is the story of my scar," the man concluded.
To his shock, the girl began to shudder, and wiped tears from her eyes. He was surprised by her intense emotional reaction, until she said to him, "I never thought that I ever would find you. You see, all those years ago, the girl you saved was me. And since that day, I have never stopped wondering about the man who saved me? Who is he? Where is he? Is he ok? I wish I knew his name. Will I ever have the opportunity to thank him?"
The young man and woman in the story are happily married today.
Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
This is the underlying message in the story of the Festival Purim that we celebrate this month.
The mystics teach that when G-d created our world He did so by hiding His revealed Presence in history, nature, and human affairs in this mundane world.
Indeed, the Hebrew word for the “World” is “Olam,” which is etymologically linked to the word He’elem, meaning hidden, teaching us that G-d concealed his Presence in the world, to allow humanity to exercise their free will, to choose whether to see this world as secular or sacred, as purposeless or providential, as mundane or miraculous.
It is for each one of us to decide whether we see history, in the words of writer Joseph Heller, “As a trash bag of random coincidences torn open by the wind” or whether we subscribe to the belief that, “Coincidence is G-d’s way of choosing to remain anonymous.”
For this is precisely what makes Purim different from all other Jewish festivals.
The Megilah is the only book of scripture that does not mention G-d’s name explicitly, and the story of Purim is the only Jewish holiday which does not feature open miracles and instead reads like a series of well-timed random coincidences whose convergence results in salvation.
Correspondingly, the heroine of the Purim story is named Esther. which means concealed, and indeed for this reason we wear masks on Purim, all in order to celebrate the hidden Presence and providence of G-d in nature, in history, and in our lives.
As the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks summed it up well in saying:
“Faith is about seeing the miraculous in the everyday, not about waiting every day for the miraculous.”