God in the Megillah

The Megillah of Esther is unique in the Bible in not mentioning God at all.  The story of Esther is entirely one of human agency: Human pride and foolishness, human honor and courage, human plotting and foiling and revenge.

I was teaching the Sunday School kids this morning one of my favorite Purim songs:

Utsu eytsa v’tufar, dabru davar v’lo yakum, ki imanu El.

Plan plans, but they will be confounded;
talk all you want, but it won’t come to pass,
for God is with us.

Now I had to explain how it is that the Purim song could say “God is with us” when God isn’t mentioned in the megillah!

The usual explanation of where God (almost) appears in the megillah is when Mordechai says to Esther, “If you don’t speak to the King, help and deliverance will arise for your people from another place; but you and your family will perish.”  (Esther 4:14, my own paraphrase)  “Another place” is sometimes taken to be a reference to God.

But I thought of something different, and told them so.  Esther’s reply to Mordechai: “OK.  You and all the Jews of Shushan, go pray for 3 days.  And we’ll pray for 3 days in here.  And then I’ll go speak to the King, even though I might be killed for interrupting him.”

That’s where God was in the Purim story.  Not outside somewhere, doing miracles that broke the laws of nature.  God was inside Esther, giving her courage.  Ki imanu El.