Friday, March 18, 2011

Special Holiday Blog: Seeing past the mask of Purim

This coming week is the holiday of Purim, a day that commemorates one of the greatest miracles to ever happen to the Jewish people. The story is set in Persian town of Shushan where King Ahauserus (having disposed of his first wife for not doing what he wanted her to do) holds a contest to find a new wife to be queen. Hadasah, a beautiful Jewish girl in Shushan, hides her Jewish identity, takes on the name Esther, and wins the contest. Meanwhile, King Ahauserus' wicked vizier, Haman, forces everyone in the city to bow down to him, a request to which everyone fearfully obliges except for one Jewish man- Mordecai, Esther's uncle. As a result of Mordecai's stubbornness, Haman goes into a rage and convinces the king to sign a decree to annihilate all the Jews. Once Esther and Mordecai find out about this, they realize that Esther, being the wife of the King, is the Jewish people's only hope at averting the harsh decree. She makes the brave decision of entering into the King's chamber unannounced, an act that could result in her execution, and requests for there to be a banquet where both Esther and Haman would be. At the banquet, Esther reveals herself to be a Jew, which would mean that she'd be included in Haman's deadly decree against the Jews. Ahauserus has Haman and his ten scheming sons hung and appoints Mordecai as new Prime Minister to the King. Notice how G-d never shows up in the story in a revealed sense; in fact, G-d's name is never even mentioned once in the entire Book of Esther! For one of the biggest miracles to happen to the Jewish people, G-d's seeming absence is a bit odd, yet from this one detail we can learn a deep life lesson.

When Esther entered into the King's chamber, she was risking everything to save the Jews, including her own life. It is known that Esther had ruach hakodesh (divine inspiration), an intuition that helped her in becoming Queen and figuring out what she had to do, yet when she entered into the King's chamber, that ruach hakodesh left her, leaving her with out any idea as to the outcome of this fateful meeting. This sense of hiddeness, of being left alone, is a theme that rings throughout the entire story of Purim: Esther hiding her identity, G-d's name never being mentioned once, the true nature of Haman's plot being hidden from King Ahauserus, they all come together to convey a very important message. Many times in our lives, things happen for seemingly no reason at all; tragedy strikes and it's very easy to start playing the blame game. We wonder why G-d would ever allow such things to happen, why He would let his creations suffer, yet as difficult as it may be to take a step back, we must be able to do so in order to see the hiddeness for what it really is- G-d hiding Himself. So what should we do when things aren't going the way we planned? We try to find the meaning in our suffering and in doing so, we find G-d.
Life may appear random, yet that only applies to our limited perspective. With the unlimited perspective of eternity, the pattern come to the surface. When Esther went to Mordecai before entering the King's chamber, Mordecai told her "Who knows? Perhaps for this moment were you made Queen?" Esther realized that she was part of a much bigger plan; instead of shaking her fist at the sky and abandoning hope and trust in G-d's saving power, she perceived her own power in this situation, the power that G-d had given her, to take action and save the day. Just as Esther was able to see past her limited understanding, so too must we do the same. When the heat is turned up to broil, we must realize that these trials are just that: trials for us to overcome. We see past the hiddeness and realize that even in our darkest moments, G-d is both there and with us in full revelation.
It is this level of bitachon, of trust in G-d that allows us to be truly b'simcha, happy. Just think about it: if all of our trials are really just opportunities for us to overcome our subjective suffering and to get closer to G-d, then on a certain objective level, there is no struggle! If everything is from G-d, then everything, no matter how difficult it may be for us to see it, is ultimately for the good. We may look around at this world and see immense darkness, yet that darkness is completely from our perspective. To give a parable, imagine a father and the love he has for his son. There are two ways that the father can express this love: he can express it directly through signs of affection such as hugs, kisses, presents, etc. or he can express it indirectly through discipline. The difference is this: when it comes to signs of affection, it's very easy to see from the child's point of view that the father loves the child, yet when the father has to use discipline, the child can often get upset, confused, cry, and be incapable of seeing the good in it. Yet we all know that the mark of a good father is whether or not he can bring himself to discipline his child. Why? Because although it may be difficult to see his child's suffering, he knows that his child will learn a valuable lesson from it, lessons that will strengthen him and shape him into being a better person.
The line between hiddeness and revelation and between happiness and sadness is very fine, almost imperceptible, but it is this line precisely that forces you to care. If we never experiences the deepest depths of sorrow then we would be incapable of appreciating the true beauty of the most elevated heights of joy. There's an old Jewish saying: "simcha poretz geder" joy breaks through all boundaries. If we can maintain a level of faith and trust, then through being joyful, we will be able to break through the boundaries of hiddeness and reveal the infinite light inherent in the darkness. G-d wears a mask, it's up to us to reach out and take it off.
Have a meaningful Purim,

No comments:

Post a Comment