Three years ago, I was traveling through Israel and met a man who is now known as my husband. We met in the mystical city of Tzfat, in a magical way, as if Divinely orchestrated by the grand conductor Himself. We are both originally from the United States, so when we decided that our union was going to be a long-lasting one, we traveled to the US to meet each other’s families. Like a proper Ashkenazi gentleman, my husband asked for my father’s blessing and like a holy shtetl fairytale, my father poured him a shot of Cognac and the deal was sealed. Then the wedding planning resumed. We needed a date. Instinctively, we both wanted to get married on Purim. We consulted with three astrologers, Western and Vedic, who unanimously said that Purim was not in the stars for us. We were heartbroken, but the date lurked through the deep canals of our consciousness.
By “chance,” or by hidden miracle, we spoke with a Rebbetzin about our struggle in finding a date. We shared our astrological woes with her. She told us that according to the Jewish tradition, the chuppah is known to be “above the stars.” Although ideally, we would have liked to get married in alignment with stars, chuppah and all other signatories of good luck, something inside of us resonated with this idea, so once again, we affirmed that Purim was to be our wedding date.
In the Jewish tradition, there are many holidays where one is not allowed to marry or rejoice. Purim is not one of those holidays. On Purim, one is commanded to celebrate b’Simcha! There are many reasons we chose to be married on Purim, some superficial, others deeply spiritual. But like in the best Purim story, the superficial and spiritual, the physical and mystical, the magical and mundane, the supernatural and earthly meet in one place, in one consciousness, in one reality. Purim and its lessons became the pillars for our life together as husband and wife.
A masquerade wedding. I have always envisioned my wedding as a masquerade ball, more like an Edwardian Ball, with guests waltzing around a beautiful hall in long gowns and tuxedos, concealing themselves with elaborate and splendid masks. Masks always felt so mysterious to me. I wanted our relationship to have that flavor of elegance, wonder and intrigue. Neither of us were lured by a marriage with predictable partners. We both knew that humans have so much complexity and dimensionality to them and we wanted to experience every aspect of each other’s humanity. By wearing masks at our wedding, we gave each other permission to explore all the hidden realms within ourselves and each other.
At the Bedeken ceremony, our rabbi asked all the guests to close their eyes, so that my husband and I could have a private moment to stare into each other’s eyes. “We all wear masks.” The rabbi said. “Layers upon layers of masks. And as this couple has decided to marry on a holiday where we are permitted and encouraged to wear external masks, we ask ourselves to de-mask our internal masks, the infinite many of them. We bless this couple that through their love and union, the many masks that we wear shall shatter, so we could know the essence and truth of who we really are to each other.” As I stared at my husband, I felt like I was staring into a house of mirrors and in the center of all the fractal reflections, there radiated a most loving and beautiful heart.
Adar, the month of Joy! Every month in the Jewish calendar symbolizes many things, one of which is the general energy for that month. The energy of the month permeates through every aspect of our lives, if we pay attention. The month of Adar, the month in which Purim falls, is the month of Joy! What better month to get married than on the month where Joy rains upon us? But there are two types of Joy. There is the light-hearted, ecstatic, playful and in my reality, bouncy, joy, like the joy of a child at play. That was the kind of joy we wanted to manifest. We wanted our lives to be easy, joyful, carefree and fun.
But there is another kind of joy. It’s that Joy that comes from toiling all night or all week or all month or all year with the spirit. The joy after hours or days or weeks or months of cleansing the soul of the many darknesses that it holds from past mistakes, negative conditioning, and mistaken projections. It is the Joy that once you have journeyed to the depths of your Gehenum and rectified whatever needed to be cleansed or awakened there, you can now experience the Joy that I now call Freedom. It’s a Joy that has no bounce because it permeates the entirety of your reality and your Universe. It is the Joy of being on the Journey of a Lifetime, knowing that even when you are in the depths of despair, there is a Light awaiting you on the other side. And I didn’t know this before I was married, but marriage has the capacity to take you to the darkest places within yourself. But it also has the capacity to bring you to a Light you have never experienced before. Your True Light.
Pass the Vodka, please. Well, this was an easy one. We thought, everyone was going to get drunk at our wedding anyhow, why not give everyone the gift of a mitzvah by drinking on Purim? One of my fondest memories from Hebrew school was when my inebriated father was twirling around in circles with my intoxicated rabbi on the dance floor at our Purim party. It still amazes me that we are commanded to become drunk on Purim. We should be so intoxicated that we cannot tell the difference between the Goodness of Mordechai and the Evilness of Haman. That is a tall order! And it is such an important realization for a marriage to be successful. Not seeing something or labeling something as Good or Evil. If I begin to label my husband’s actions as wrong or right, good or bad, selfish or generous and the myriad of other ways I can label “him and his ways,” I fall into a trap. I am not seeing him as the whole person who he is. I cannot see through my looking glass that in front of me is a person whose heart has shattered a million times, but remains whole. And when each of us unconsciously shatters the others’ heart, if we can get to that intoxicated state, we know that Shattering and Wholeness are One. That is the teaching of Purim.
My hero, Mordechai. I forgot to mention that my husband’s name is Mordechai David, so naturally, this holiday was very dear to him as he is named after it’s hero. So, when we got married on Purim, I felt like I was marrying a superhero, someone who could damn and save the Jews of Shushan in one breath. That’s powerful and sexy! But then we asked ourselves what Mordechai did that was so inspirational and how that could apply to our marriage. First, he would not bow down to Haman. He held true to his values and ideals. We wanted this for our union. We did not want to melt into the other and follow their ways. We wanted each of our characters to have a strong place in our marriage. That meant that we each had to expand our consciousness for living and stretch our way of thinking, being, dreaming, breathing, and relating in the world. And like a rubber band, at times, the stretching led to snapping of self or other, but never of our union.
The other aspect that inspired us about Mordechai was that he sacrificed what was dearest to him, Esther, for the greater collective of the Jewish people. Of course, no one wants to sacrifice what they hold dearest, but when one lives in Holy Action, like Mordechai did, what one construes as a sacrifice one moment may become a blessing the next. A very important lesson for marriage.
My heroine, Esther. Like my husband, I too had a stake in the story of Purim. My maternal grandmother, who is the heroine of my life, is named Esther. My grandmother is a woman filled with beauty and grace, elegance and optimism, kindness and appreciation for all of life’s gifts, a wise sage and a loving poet. That is how I always knew her to be. But before I entered this world, her world was not so rosy. Esther, my grandmother, was orphaned at the age of sixteen, losing her parents and brother in the Holocaust. After the war, she returned to her beloved city of Odessa, which was in shambles. When she reconnected with the love of her life after the war to begin a life together, that life began with the loss of two children. She then lost her husband at a young age, her best friend who was like a sister to her, and many loved ones. But this heroine, Esther, at the age of 91, is still with us, still laughing, still guiding, and still embodying the infinite joys of Adar.
She, like the heroine of the story, did not volunteer for the role that Life would have her play. And yet, she played that role like a Queen, in the most dignified and noble way. This lesson was an important one for me. We never know what marriage will bring us. What families, what tzuris, what issues, what tragedies, but we know that to save our marriages as Esther saved the Jewish people, we have to act nobly. We have to know that we are guided by a power beyond us, but within us, a power beyond Love but overflowing with Love, a power beyond miracles but comprised only of miracles. Esther knew this which is why she was able to reign as Queen in every dimension, the Queen of Shushan and the embodiment of the Shekhinah. When we read the Megilat Esther, let us ask the Shekhinah to bathe us in her holiness.
Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles. Like in a great plot twist, the villain of the story of Purim is exposed and assassinated. The heroine saves her people and the hero is anointed and appointed to the highest possible rank. We have heard this story many times. What we have not heard or seen are all the concealed miracles that had to take place before a story like this can prevail. It is through stories like this that we believe in the goodness of the world and it’s redemptive quality. It is a “happily ever after” story, a story of fairytales. Do you here the chimes and see the fairy dust shooting through the atmosphere? We wanted our marriage to consist of miraculous tales. We knew that we wanted our lives to be imbued with miracles, revealed and concealed.
In the Purim story, Queen Esther appears (to plea for the Jewish people) before the King unannounced, knowing that this visit could endanger her life. “When the King saw Queen Esther standing in the corridor, she evoked grace in his eyes, and the King stretched forth the golden scepter in his hand. Esther approached him and touched the tip of the scepter.” (Esther 5:2) In Avraham Sutton’s book, Purim Light, he quotes Rabbi Yochanan who said that “Three angels came to Esther’s aid at that moment. One held her up by the scruff of her neck (for she had literally fainted). One drew down upon her a thread of heavenly beauty. One extended (stretched) the king’s scepter until she was able to touch it.’
So many hidden miracles in one brief moment! I cannot begin to fathom how many hidden miracles have rained upon our lives and our marriage. I know that if Mordechai and I relied only on the two of us to figure out this thing called marriage, we would be doomed. We could not rely on anything short of the miraculous. The Purim story was a confirmation to us that whether we see them or not, our life is imbued with miracles. And so is yours. Happy Purim. L’Chaim.