My soul is intrinsically bound to the Jewish holidays and Shabbat. I feel uplifted as I prepare for Pesach (yes!), Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Chanuka, Tu b’Shvat…
But come Purim each year, I need a bit of wisdom and support to remember why this day is joyful, especially this year, as we complete a full cycle of holidays under the cloud of Corona!
On the surface, Megillat Esther tells the story of an assimilated Jewish community in exile that did not return to Israel, even after Coresh’s decree made this possible, and had to be saved by a miracle from annihilation.
Some even suggest that the Megillah is a Zionist parody written by a Jew living in Eretz Yisrael.
And then there are the many rabbinic hyperboles about this holiday:
We give tzedaka on Purim to whomever asks, without checking their authenticity.
It is a mitzvah to be joyful/tipsy more than any other holiday, until our intellects are blurred.
Yom HaKippurim is literally “a day like Purim” – inferring that Purim is greater than Yom Kippur, and the latter two holy days – unlike our other festivals – will never be annulled (Tractate Megilla).
How does all this increase my happiness on Purim?
The illuminating words of the Netivot Shalom, R. Sholom Noach Berezovsky (Belarus, 1911 – Jerusalem, 2000), helped me this year.
The light of Purim is beyond our grasp, he explains, and illuminates each generation, country, city, and family according to their needs!
Purim is the only day, aside from Yom Kippur, that a Jew can change his/her fate – even something that has been “signed by the seal of the King”/God, as in Megillat Esther.
On this day God turns to us, like the King to Esther, and asks “What is your request? And it will be done. Up to half the Kingdom..”
This is because of Mordechai’s faith in the face of impossible odds, and because of the actions of Esther, who understood that the only way to overcome Haman’s decree upon her “dispersed and divided nation” was through demanding the unity of Clal Yisrael:
“Go gather all the Jews in Shushan and fast for me.”
Perhaps we cannot change our fragmented political situation, but we can fix the divisiveness within ourselves.
If I choose to give Mishlochei Manot this year to neighbors I am in less contact with, and to “invisible” people such as guards, bus drivers, supermarket workers, new Olim, and newcomers to my community, I can start a ripple effect of joy that heals.
If I give tzedaka more intentionally and with less cynicism this Purim, without checking the others’ worthiness, God will behave with me in the same way, says the Slonimer Rebbe.
And my own heart will soften.
The undiscerning warmth and joy we radiate on Purim and the costumes we dress up in are the biggest statements we can make about our world:
Nothing is at it seems, and everything is truly possible.
Especially if we try to carry this love and faith and largeness of spirit into our interactions throughout the year.
Shabbat shalom and Purim Sameach!!