Purim 2001

Two short lessons from the Megilla before we start to read it.

The first is based on the pasuk when King Ahashveros appoints Haman to his high position. Before that, there was a sense of uneasiness among the Jews in exile, but it didn’t seem like they could pinpoint it. After all, they appeared to have every freedom in the world, including the privilege, as Rashi tells us, to even drink kosher wine at Ahashveros’s feast. But still, we sing of the exile which brought Mordechai and his people to Shushan in the mourning tones of Eicha, Lamentations.

We also are reminded in rabbinic commentaries that Ahashveros was an even greater symbol of evil that Haman.

However, we also have been taught and assured that everything, including all the evil in our historic experience, is ultimately transformed to good. That is to say that somehow, even if we can’t understand it at the time, perhaps not even fifty or hundreds of years later, everything presents an opportunity to grow and evolve. Not to trivialize such horror as The Holocaust, whose meaning is still hidden from us, “no pain no gain”. Judaism is ultimately a very optimistic tradition with a firm belief that the path, no matter how it might seem at times totally chaotic, pointless and hopeless, ultimately leads to a final state-change of the ultimate evolution of the world and of ourselves.

Thus, Ahashveros not only begins what might become the ultimate downfall of the state of mind we call “Israel”, he also, inadvertently, opens the possibility of healing by identifying the problem, always the first step towards reaching a new level of awareness. As we’ve seen all too often in our historical experience, we survive because of external enemies. Thus Haman and his plans create the Achdut, the unity which is not only our goal but our path to it. And on a deeper level, instead of looking at this process as some sort of avoidance of responsibility by blaming it on something outside of ourselves, what we’re really doing is refining ourselves through processing our inner obstacles and expelling them–not always easy and rarely without risk.

The second incident in the Megilla I want to address was explained by the Sfat Emet. He points out that we read first about Mordechai emerging in royal costume followed by the city of Shushan being filled with joy. Why on earth would the majority, non-Jewish, population care about Mordechai, and obscure bureaucrat from an insignificant tribe of foreigners, one way or the other? The simple and yet profound answer is that whenever someone stands up to a challenge, performs any positive act, be it small or huge, the entire world profits. The Mishna in Avot says that in a place where there are no men, and by this we’re not discussing gender but humanity, strive to become a man. Each moment of compassion, of helping, of doing something positive does have a significant effect on all of Creation.

Now let’s begin the fun. Chag Purim Sameach!

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