Wednesday, March 10, 2004
"Poor Purim. It has become the Jewish mardi gras, a day of revelry, drinking, and masquerades. But it is much more than this.... Gradually we begin to understand the role of masks in the Purim story. The entire deliverance of the Jewish people is masked. It is a story wrapped in a disguise, hidden behind a costume, concealed behind a mask.
Even that strange dictum in the Talmud (Megillah 7b) that ordains us to become intoxicated on Purim ad delo yada, "until we know not the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai" -- even this is part of the theme of hiddenness. For how strange is the Talmudic advice. Ours is, after all, a tradition that abhors drunkenness. We are a people of the mind, discernment, analysis -- all those things that fall under the rubric of data, knowledge. But on Purim we are bidden to become intoxicated and conceal our vaunted data -- to the point of ad delo yada --"until there is no data" -- and to enter a universe where reality has no meaning and we begin to realize that it is not our intellects that guide the world but the One Intellect above that guides the world."
-- Rav Emanuel Feldman, from "The holiday in hiding"
"When we sit in a theater, we willingly suspend our disbelief. We know that everything that is happening on the stage isn't real, but the playwright, the actors and the audience all enter into a conspiracy of poetic faith in an attempt to bring to life a quasi-reality that will transcend and communicate some perception about life in this world.
Unlike other religions, there are no leaps of faith in Judaism. Maybe a couple of steps at the end of a long well-lit boulevard, but no leaps into the dark. Judaism is not so much about belief as the willing suspension of disbelief.
This world is a cosmic drama littered with tell-tale clues. The Protagonist, however, is hidden. Judaism is not so much a matter of belief; rather it is taking positive action to remove those forces that bring to disbelief. It's not difficult for a Jew to believe. We are all natural believers. We come from a long line of believers, all the way back to Avraham. "
-- Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair, from "The Willing Suspension of Disbelief"
"This was not Jeremiah's city of destruction, not a city in mourning. It was the city of the Zechariah filled with people and light. An open, free, unwalled, sovereign City of God with half a million residents; a city which the prophet said would one day reach all the way to Damascus. Here was the crown of the Judean hills and the Land of Israel. True, it was not yet complete, this vision of Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is still empty; the crown jewel still missing. But in due time, that too will come. And what better time than Purim to hope and wait and prepare.
This is the season when the unexpected becomes reality.
For Purim is the time of Venahafoch Hu, of sudden reversal, when the world turns in dizzying circles and nothing is what it seems. This is the season when the unexpected becomes reality. Even Jerusalem is 'disguised'. But our contemporary costumes will turn into Bigdey Kehuna -- the clothes of the High Priest. And Har Habayit -- the Temple Mount -- will shed it's foreign structures. A new Beit Hamikdash, Temple, will rise up as a beacon of light for the Jewish people and the world. The empty places in the Land of Israel will once again be filled with Jews and the glories of ancient Shushan will fade into oblivion before the glory of the future Jerusalem."
-- Yaffa Ganz, from "From Shushan to Jerusalem"
"The writers of the Megilah left us with a message that would accompany us throughout our long exile. You will not always see G-d's signature openly emblazoned upon every circumstance. However, throughout persecution and deliverance, He is always there. And just like on Purim His obvious interference is undocumented; but we know and feel it -- and we search for it, and we find it! So, too, in every instance we must seek His name, find it, and recognize it. It may not be emblazoned on the bumper; it may be hidden on the console -- but it is there. For Hashem is always speaking. All we have to do is listen."
Rav Mordechai Kamenetzky, from "Hear Conditioning: A Purim Story"
"Among the most distinctive features of the Purim festivities are the special pastries known in Hebrew as oznei Haman, literally 'ears of Haman'. We may ask why particularly this body part was chosen -- the triangular shape of these cakes could just as easily correspond to Haman's nose. We may also ask why specifically Haman's ears were chosen for this eponymous pastry and not those of some other figure from the Megillah....
Consuming the ears of Haman at the Purim meal symbolizes eliminating wicked opinions -- the evil da'at, which is symbolized by the hearing ears. This is the particular spiritual danger of Amalek, who was the progenitor of Haman....
Through the joy and abandon of Purim we do not seek to escape from this world but rather to rise above it. We consume and overwhelm our lower faculties in order to focus on our higher powers of perception, to rejoice in the Divine plan in which the threats and schemes of the wicked are ultimately turned to eternal good."
Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, from "The Deeper Meaning of Hamantashen"
"A recurring theme throughout the story and holiday of Purim is the idea of seeing beneath the surface. The Book of Esther tells the Purim story and is the only book in the Bible which never mentions the name of G-d; yet at every turn in the story one can't help but sense a transcendent presence. Purim is the only holiday in which we are told not only to eat and drink, but to actually get drunk! (See page 30 for a discussion of this issue.) Yet, while the observance of the holiday includes eating, drinking, costumes, and parties, both the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria and Maimonides, the renowned sage and philosopher, assure us that Purim is a day whose spirituality is rivaled by no other. And the Hebrew term for the Book of Esther, Megillat Esther; when literally translated, means to reveal (megillat) that which is hidden (esther). From all sides the holiday of Purim calls out to us, in fact challenges us, to look beneath the surface.
The wonders of the world around us are without end. Majesty and awe are commonplace in nature, but there is more to this awe than meets the eye. The complexities of the human organism are just beginning to be understood. Yet, this homo sapien is not just another genus or species. There is far more to the human being than meets the microscope. In all aspects of life, Judaism looks at one level and then proceeds to perceive and reveal quite another. In every detail of living, Judaism sees a dimension of an ever-deeper life form, and a richer quality of potential. It is to these depths of perception and living that Purim calls us."
-- R' Shimon Apisdor, from The One-Hour Purim Primer