Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz regards the festival of Purim as the festival of the Diaspora and the Book of Esther as “the scroll of the Jewish people in its exile”. In the Diaspora the challenges were sometimes physical, sometimes spiritual, and sometimes both. What preserved us was centuries of sheer miracles.
Rabbi Steinsaltz writes, “This book (the M’gillah) is the essence of Jewish life in exile, and of the faith that, behind all external causes, hides the ‘guardian of Israel’. The M’gillah teaches us that the Jewish people must learn to live this sort of life, expecting miracles… not miracles like the parting of the Red Sea, done ‘by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm’, but rather miracles hidden within the tortuous, winding ways of history.”
It is an inspiring thought, but how does it square with the rabbinic notion, “We do not rely on miracles”?
Perhaps the answer is that we should never consciously place ourselves in a situation of peril, asserting blithely, “Don’t worry; God won’t let us down”. We have to opt for the least risky Jewish environment and exert ourselves to be the best possible Jews we can be, maintaining the faith that God will operate through “the tortuous, winding ways of history” to preserve us and protect His heritage.
It may not always happen in open, obvious and immediate fashion: God has to work in His way, even if it takes longer than we expect.