A “theory” is a logical presumption about what’s going on behind the scenes to explain a continuing confusing phenomenon in the world. Some theories are mere guesses and some are educated guesses that are more likely to be true, though not necessarily so.
Suppose, for example, a friend and I found ourselves in a strange and foreign environment after travelling for a long time (and not knowing where we were going). “Where are we?” one of us would say. “I have a theory,” I might say. “Everyone around us seems to have Eastern features, they seem to be eating foods favored by Chinese people, and they seem to be engaged in Chinese practices. I’m thinking we must be in China.” So my theory would be that based on what we see all around us, we’d come to be in China in fact.
“Wait a minute,” my friend might say. “Maybe we’re in Chinatown in San Francisco?” After all, most people there have Eastern facial features, eat Chinese food, and are engaged in Chinese practices, too. “My theory is we’re in Chinatown” he says.
Well, both would be reasonable theories, except for the fact that no matter how far we went we couldn’t see a sign of anything that San Francisco is famous for. So it seems that my theory — that we were in China after all — is the more reasonable one. Besides, I happen to read Mandarin, and I read about everyday things that would be typical of life in China going on there day after day, so based on my expertise, my educated guess would be more conclusive, though not absolutely certain, since, who knows, maybe we were whisked off to Japan in an area where a whole swath of Chinese people lived and still spoke and wrote about home a lot. We were simply not privy to all we’d need to arrive at the absolute truth.
Along the same lines, suppose a large number of things were simply and entirely inexplicable in life, and a friend and I were trying to explain what lie behind them. “My theory is that what’s going on is all circumstantial and by chance,” my friend might say, “since that often happens”. I have a hunch that things aren’t so chancy, based on my studies and years of ruminations, and I offer the idea that there’s “someone” behind all of this who’s purposeful, omniscient, and omnipotent. I could be wrong, but I really believe that, so I’m sticking to it. My friend offers no other theories, and no one else knows for certain (since one would have to be omniscient himself to know after all), so we’re left in that position.
The holiday of “Purim” itself is named after the lots (purim in Akkadian) that were cast to determine the fate of the Jews (see Esther 3:7). As such, by not mentioning God it seems to offer proof for the theory that life — its political machinations, its causes and effects, its outcomes, etc. — is chancy, and is rooted in “the throw of the dice”. After all, there doesn’t seem to be a purposeful, omniscient, and omnipotent being anywhere to explain it.
What we people of faith believe, though — based on the thinking and ruminations of the best of us, to say nothing of direct revelation — is that the best theory of all behind everything that happens here is in fact the existence of just such a Being, God, who, while hidden, is still behind it all. So while not offering that theory itself the Book of Esther was included in Tanach to underscore the idea that God does indeed control life’s machinations, and that belief in Him is in fact the most viable theory of all.
(c) 2013 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).