Sunday Sermon: Purim, God, and Free Will

One of the interesting things about Purim is that nowhere in the entire book is God mentioned. This is unusual for a religious text, to say the least. Over at South Jerusalem, Haim Watzman describes a sermon about Esther and free will. The whole post is worth a read, but I really liked this part:

“Divine intercession says: this is the way things are, and this is they way they ought to be,” Rav Shagar writes. “The world is guided by the laws of divine justice.”
That’s what religious people believe, right? But that is not the endpoint for Rav Shagar.
But he goes one step further and maintains that the believer must go beyond this simplistic reading. The answer to the question “Why is my life like this and not something else” should not be “because that’s what God wills.” One step beyond that is the understanding that the question itself is the wrong question.
Only when we stop asking this question, Rav Shagar says, do we obtain the total freedom of the will with which God endowed us. And at that point we stop asking “What is the truth?” and we begin asking “What do we want the truth to be?” We can then declare: “This is what I believe because this is what I have chosen.” We can decide how we want the world to be, and seek to understand what we must do to make it that way.
In other words, God does not dictate the moral, just, and good choice to us. We must choose it ourselves. God does not save me, or the Jews, or the world; God saves us when we choose to bring God into the world. We see God’s hand in the story of Esther not because the story tells us it is there, but because we choose to bring God into the story.
“And who knows if it was not for this occasion that you were brought to royalty?” Mordecai asks the hesitating Esther. Only when Esther makes the choice to approach the king and acknowledge his ability to save her people can the king act.
God can manifest himself in this world of physical laws only when we decide to read his world as a story of purpose and justice.

Divinity isn’t a guy with a beard, it is us (to make Pogo more optimistic).

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6 Responses to Sunday Sermon: Purim, God, and Free Will

  1. Michael says:


  2. Badger3k says:

    Well, leave out the whole “God saves us” bit and that is a pretty good philosophy. I don’t see the need to add in the supernatural, but one step at a time. Actually, this kind of thought is one reason why I prefer Judaism over the other two Abrahamic religions. Of course, when I read the “What do I want the truth to be” bit I hesitated, expecting the kind of quantum-woo that Chopra and his kind talk about. Glad to see that it wasn’t.

  3. ecoli says:

    excellent post, thank you.

  4. your re-writing of the Pogo quote is mind-blowing!
    Dry Bones
    Israel’s Political Comic Strip Since 1973

  5. your re-writing of the Pogo quote is mind-blowing!
    Dry Bones
    Israel’s Political Comic Strip Since 1973

  6. mirc says:


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