Hey — I am trying to get ready for Purim — by that I do not mean the shopping list for Mishloach Manot, Wine and the seudah (meal)
I am searching for the real story. What happened in the original story? I ask the following questions:
- Why is the story still relevant today?
- What is the message for us today?
- What comparisons can we make with then and now?
- How can I use Purim to make others feel special or just help others? (in other words what is behind Mishloach Manot and gifts to the poor)
- How can we really be Happy on Purim? Why the costumes and Purim spiels (plays)?
For some inspiration, I picked up Joe Bobker’s book — “From Fasting to Feasting.” In it he writes
“The Megilla describes the Persian Jews as an assimilated community heading towards extinction. Not only an Am Mefuzar – a scattered folk among the nations, but also Meforad divided from within.”
The community complacency is shattered by the call of death by Haman. It is a wake up call.
Amazing – in one short paragraph we have the answers to questions a-c.
Yes, the story is still relevant – swop Persian Jews for American Jews or World Jewry today with its high assimilation rates. And what is our wake up call ? – Increased anti-Semitism, Moslem terrorism, a world refusing to recognize our rights to be a free people in our Land with Jerusalem as our capital.
As Rebbi Nachman writes – the main theme of Purim is the story. Rebbi Nachman says through stories we can learn about life. We have the stories of our fore fathers and mothers in the Torah and through these stories and the stories of our lives we can hopefully become better people.
When I look at the story of Purim – I look at the end of the story.
The Megilla instructs us to remember these days as a day of feasting, and gladness, and for sending delicacies to one another and gifts to the poor. So – it instructs us to be happy and make sure those less fortunate are looked after while we enjoy the good times. A very nice thought that fosters a good community.
But as an accountant, I am always amazed the last paragraph. King Ashsueras levied taxes and Mordechai was viceroy to the King.
But, I feel that the Megilla stops short of what happened next. The return to our Land and the building of the Second Beit Mikdash.
What troubles me is the lack of the connection. After a lot of complacency and near annihilation, the Jews are allowed to return to their Land. Again, now, after the Holocaust we have returned to our land.
Like the Jews at that time, a small proportion returned, and unfortunately many Jews chose not to return, despite the hidden hand of God in our Return. But wait… it gets worse, many Jews not only do not wish to return but are now supporting the claims of enemies. So, Hashem is once again sending the descendants of Haman to wake us up!!
How can we inspire our fellows (and ourselves) to be more connected?
In order to do that, lets take another look at the Megillah and the mitzvot of Purim. All of these have deep significance.
Just like in the Megilla, where there was feasting , dressing up for the banquet and lots of wine. We use these same symbols in our celebration of Purim.
I attended a talk by Rabbi Nathan Adler in Jerusalem this week. He explained some of thoughts behind dressing up, wearing costumes. He quotes the Rema that it is even permissible for men to wear woman’s clothing (and vice versa) which overrides the Halacha in the Torah. This is quite an amazing thing. He brings further examples of the joking atmosphere and Purim spiels (plays) that our great Rabbis allowed, encouraged and participated in. He mentions that for many centuries, even until today, Jews were not able to escape persecution. But on Purim, when we make a noise on hearing Haman’s name in the Megillah, it is a celebration. It is our once a year chance to get the better of our enemies.
Another emphasis is on dressing up. Just like Eisav and his descendants covered up their true feelings, their hatred for Yaakov and the Jewish people, so too do we dress up on Purim and camouflage who we really are.. The main time for this is at the Seudah (meal) where we let go. It is a time to forget all our frustrations and disappointments. A time to celebrate the gifts of God and the joy of life.
I will end with a deep thought, At the seudah, we should not be able to recognize who is next to us. We should put all our differences aside. On Purim we drink (not only to NOT know the differences between Haman(evil) and Mordechai (goodness), but also to blur out all distinctions – the differences between us. We need to connect to all Jews (even to those with different views, G-d Forbid)
It is the same when we give gifts to the poor. It should not matter which community he belongs to, or if he dresses differently to use, we need to try to be non judgemental.
Only by having compassion and helping others can we be truly happy.
So shout GOOD PURIM, HAPPY PURIM !!!! Think and meditate on how we want to be close to all Jews (not only those who think like us)!!