Uriel Vigler
Uriel Vigler
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Take the mask off!

For Purim this year, I'd like to dress up as myself in the 'before:' before masks and distancing and limited Jewish community events. Before COVID-19.
Haredi Jews revel in Purim at a synagogue in Beit Shemesh, Israel, March 2019. (David Silverman/ Getty Images via JTA)
Haredi Jews revel in Purim at a synagogue in Beit Shemesh, Israel, March 2019. (David Silverman/ Getty Images via JTA)

My kids were excited to choose their Purim costumes this week. Zalman decided to be an astronaut and Mussya a ballerina. When they asked me what I wanted, I realized I’d actually love to take off my mask and dress as a human from the pre-COVID world!

“Remember how we used to walk around?” I asked them. “When we could step out of the house with no mask at all, when we didn’t have to keep six-feet apart from other people? I would love to dress up like that for Purim. Just a normal human who had never yet heard of COVID or social distancing.”

It was exactly a year ago on Purim when the world as we knew it changed drastically. Aside from face coverings becoming the new normal, the world also started wearing a more intense spiritual mask trying to hide its true identity. When you strip off that mask, you see a world filled with G-dliness, joy, purity, good deeds, and kindness.

I wish I could easily hop on a plane to Israel to celebrate my nephew’s wedding this month, but current restrictions don’t allow it. That is Satan and the world’s mask trying to prevent my happiness.

I wish we could have our popular annual Chabad family Purim party, but social distancing laws are stopping us. That is Satan and the world’s mask trying to thwart us from fulfilling the mitzvot of Purim.

I wish we could fly a group of wounded IDF soldiers to NYC to enjoy 10 days with our community, but alas, that too cannot happen. That is Satan and the world’s mask trying to halt us from performing acts of kindness.

I wish we could enjoy a lavish kiddush in shul this week, but Satan and the world’s mask are preventing an enhanced and delicious Shabbat experience.

I wish we could host a massive Pesach seder this year, but it is looking unlikely. That is Satan trying to prevent us from fulfilling our mission to bring the seder to every Jew on the planet.

But on Purim we recognize that that mask, and Satan’s doings, are just a front. A cover. A distraction. And when we peel that away, we discover the world’s true identity: a place that belongs to G-d and is inherently good and true and holy.

So what do we do? How do we peel away the mask and see the world as it truly is? We have to redouble our efforts to be happy. The month of Adar we are required to increase in joy, no matter what life throws our way.

Is it challenging to fulfill the mitzvah of Purim this year? Absolutely, but it can still be done with social distancing.

How do we make this world a home for G-d? With acts of goodness and kindness. By chasing mitzvot and showing G-d we choose to be joyous despite everything going on around us.

By waking up in the morning and saying “Thank you G-d for giving me life!” By lighting Shabbat candles. By putting on tefillin. By reaching out to friends and family who may be feeling lonely.

Our mission has not changed. There’s just an extra layer we need to peel away as we transform the world into a home for G-d, where His truth and light can shine openly.

Happy Purim!

About the Author
Zimbabwean-born Rabbi Uriel Vigler has been directing the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side of Manhattan together with his wife Shevy since 2005. In addition, he founded Belev Echad which helps wounded IDF soldiers. He has a weekly blog on current events. He is the proud father of eight children (including triplets) and leads a very young, vibrant and dynamic community.
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