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March 6, 2007 – 12:38 am | 1,550 views

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In his first inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself. “ (1) Contrast that with Moses, who proclaimed, in his final address to the nation, “All G-d your lord desires from you is that you fear him.” (2)

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Home » Purim

Purim: The Divine Curveball

Submitted by on March 20, 2016 – 4:39 pmNo Comment | 1,655 views

The Curveball

Can you believe its almost April? With the baseball season only days away, my mind turns to my non existent curveball. You see, the curveball is one of the many reasons I will never be a pitcher. My curveball just doesn’t curve. I can throw it straight, fast or slow, but I can’t make it curve. How do pitchers even do that?

I can understand pointing the ball in any direction and letting it fly. So long as the ball is in my hands, I can control its direction. But how do pitchers control the ball’s trajectory after it leaves their hand? Try as I might, I never get it right. I am reminded of the children who release their bowling ball and then twist their bodies to the right, hoping the ball will follow suit. Yes, that’s me and the curveball.

Purim Curveball

It occurs to me that Purim is the ultimate curveball. You know the expression; life threw you a curveball? It refers to situations when we have no reason to expect a challenge and when it arrives, we are caught off guard. Well Purim was certainly one mean curveball.

The Jews were not expecting to be threatened with annihilation. They were comfortable in Persia; wealthy, socially accepted and with friends in high places. Mordechai was a respected minister in the palace and Esther was the queen. One day, out of the blue, G-d threw them a curveball by the name of Haman and the Jews were caught completely by surprise.

But Purim presented our ancestors with yet another curveball thrown across their home plate. In every Jewish crisis until Purim, Jews turned to G-d and He intervened to save them with a direct miracle. It rarely if ever failed. Jews would sin, and when faced with punishment, would repent. G-d would either respond with a miracle and save them or inform them that their sins were beyond salvation. One thing G-d would definitely not do was sit idly by.

Purim was the first occasion, when G-d met the Jewish entreaty with silence. Their heart rending pleas for help ascended to the heavens, but returned empty; their cadence bouncing back to earth, their echoes fading off distant hills with nary a response from above.

Then, out of sheer desperation, Jews, decided to act on their own. Mordechai appointed Esther to appeal to the king. Esther consented and appeared before the king with impeccable timing. Everything fell into place with perfection and the scene for dramatic salvation was set. Esther revealed her true identity with the precision of a maestro and Haman fell off his chair and out of favor. A looming crisis became a joyful holiday in the span of a moment.

How unexpected. A curveball of cosmic proportions. No miraculous arm stretched out from above to scoop up the Jews and save them. No wall of water descended upon Shushan to uproot the Persians and drown them. The heavens were silent that night, but the grounds thundered with the salvation of our people. A most unusual spectacle. Another true curveball.

The Greatest Curveball Of All Time

The book is out on who is the greatest curveball pitcher of all time. Sandy Koufax or Dwight Gooden, your guess is as good as mine. But I can tell you one thing. Nobody’s curveball is quite as good as G-d’s.

A curveball is thrown high, but somewhere between mound and plate, the bottom drops out of the ball and it comes in low. G-d is really good at it, and Purim was His shining moment. The Jews prayed and expected Him to come in high with a heavenly miracle, but He surprised them with a curveball and let the bottom drop out. He came in low with an earthly, non-miraculous, solution.

There is no mystery to the fastball pitcher. He comes in throwing heat and no matter how fast the batter swings, the ball blows right by him. It’s an open challenge. The pitcher stares the batter down and dares him to swing. Everyone knows what’s coming, but he blows it by him anyway.

When G-d comes in throwing heat, no one can stand up to Him. You think you can hurt His children, you think you can annihilate His people, you think you have it all figured out and G-d comes along and stares you down. Everyone knows what’s coming and no one has the power to stop it. The walls of Jericho come tumbling down. The cruise of oil burns for eight days. The first born of Egypt just up and die. Who can stop Him when nature is putty in His hands?

But sometimes we, the Jews, find ourselves in crisis and make a call to the bullpen. We pray and fast and call on G-d for relief pitching. G-d comes trotting in, but refuses to throw the fast ball; refuses to bail us out. The sluggers line up on the opposite side of the ball and swing away at will. They appear to be in control, hitting long hard drives that fly right over the wall. In just another inning or two, the game will be lost. G-d’s children will go down in infamy. Then in the bottom of the ninth, when you least expect it, G-d starts throwing curve balls and strikes out the side.

When G-d overrules nature and makes bread fall from the sky, you know He is in charge. But when G-d lets nature run its course and allows the world’s bullies to have the upper-hand, it seems to all intents and purposes as if nature has slipped from His control. Our enemies appear to be winning and we appear to be losing.

The Divine Curveball

Then at the last minute, G-d throws the curveball. Remember what I wrote at the beginning of this essay? I am fascinated by the curveball because the pitcher controls the ball though it is no longer in his hands? G-d does the same with nature. Rather than taking control of its patterns, He lets it run lose, but astoundingly, remains in control even after He lets go. In some inexplicable way, the randomness of nature ends up delivering the same result that G-d would have delivered had He intervened directly.

Our enemies sit there scratching their heads. How did He do that? We had this one. He wasn’t interfering. He had let go and He still won out. How did He control what He had already released? The Nazis record incredible victories, but the allies discover the bomb first. Just days before carrying out his plan of annihilation against the Jews of the Soviet Union, Stalin up and dies. Five Arab armies converge on Israel and yet manage to lose the war. How does G-d pull of these seemingly random conclusions?

When G-d bends nature to His will, it doesn’t surprise us. But when random patterns of nature save us from annihilation each time we are threatened, we are definitely surprised. When nature chooses to express G-d’s will, we recognize that there is no daylight between G-d and His nature.

The miracle that overrules nature is the hard hitting fastball – every one expects it and no one can stop it. The miracle hidden in nature is the fast dropping curveball. It takes you by surprise. It drops down to earth and strikes you out anyway. It takes your breath away and is by far the more impressive miracle.

The pitch that wins the game.

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