I celebrated my first Purim in Jerusalem six years ago. We were congregating outside the modest apartment of one of Jerusalem’s righteous families — the Machlises. The crowd was eclectic, wild, and, with increasing levels of consumed alcohol, dangerous, as bottles started flying around and fireworks were exploding in all directions.
I was dancing outside with a young kid who told me his twin brother was killed right before his eyes a few months ago, during their army service. I didn’t know what to say. I had not known war. I did not have a twin. My own twin brother, he said calmly, looking into my eyes.
The next moment, his mother emerged with a platter of food for the party, hugged me warmly, and asked me if I was drunk. No, I answered honestly. She wore a blue dress and a blue head scarf, and she was smiling peacefully. I looked into her eyes, but all I saw was faith. Drink, she said, it’s Purim.
Walking back to the Old City, I felt I was trying to walk in their shoes for the first time in my life, the kid and his twin, and their smiling mother in a blue head scarf. You see, I used to believe that all war was evil, and being a soldier was morally abhorrent.
That Purim was the first time I made eye contact with the soldiers by Damascus gate — I turned my head and I smiled faintly. One of them smiled back at me and wished me happy Purim. For some reason, I was wondering if he had a twin brother, too… I was wondering if I could walk in his shoes, if I could see with his eyes, if I could understand the life that he lived and the faith behind it.
If I had a twin, what would he be like?
We were drinking that day, drinking until we knew no difference between cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai. Between those whom we think obey, and those whom we think go against, the Creator’s will.
He who seems to be our enemy, he who has defrauded us, used us, cheated us — paradoxically can turn out to be our greatest teacher. He was the instrument that was used to raise our subconscious sparks. He who stomped on our ego and destroyed it — may have just performed the greatest deed of them all. He raised our consciousness to a new level. And, having done that, became obliterated into nothingness.
Whom do we bless, and whom do we curse, in the great, vast, cosmic oneness? When everything you know is silent and the Creator himself refuses to speak, at this darkest depth of what the mystics call the dark night of the soul — you may just be accomplishing the most important work of redeeming the world.
If we do not recognize the Creator in the good things he does for us, he will be there in the bad things, but he will always be — because God is One. And even the shadow and the depth of our despair are a part of this oneness, in ways that are not comprehensible to the conscious mind.
Purim is the day of the upside-down, of the hidden, of the paradoxical. On Purim, the gate opens into what is not known, what cannot be explained. What is folly becomes a mitzvah. To me, Purim was the day when I first chose to understand the other side, to stand beside those whom I deemed to be my enemies. To me, Purim is the day when I merited to meet my own twin.