The famous dictum in the Talmud (Megilla 7b), מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי (M’Chayiv inish l’besumi b’Puriah ad d’lo yada beyn Arur Haman l’Baruch Mordechai), a person is obligated to sweeten himself (often interpreted as to drink) on Purim until he no longer knows the difference between Curse Haman and Bless Mordechai, has a much deeper meaning than merely instructing us to become intoxicated with joy on Purim. It’s also telling us that, from a certain perspective, both Haman and Mordechai are equally effective in reminding us exactly who we are and bringing us back to our Jewishness. Historically, and just as true today, we can allow ourselves to be inspired by the sweet incense of Torah (a play on the name Mordechai מורדכי = מור דכא, Mor (myrrh) – dacha (pure)) or oppressed with the rabid Jew-hatred of Haman and his present-day descendants, in the end we have no alternative to returning to who we are as Jews.
Another lesson is in the word פורים, Purim, itself. If we remove the “ו” (Vav), the letter of connection (see my previous article on Vav), we’re left with פרים (parim), cattle. Parim, as we know from the daily liturgy which describes the Temple Service, were the animal used for the twice-daily תמיד (Tamid) sacrifice (as well as being used in many other sacrifices).
Yes, Purim calls out for fun, merry-making, even a degree of intoxication. But, like our Jewish people in ancient Persia as the story begins, mindlessly feasting with Ahashuerus as he mocks and desecrates our holiest traditions (he wears the clothes of the Cohain Gadol, the High Priest, and drinks from the holy vessels looted from the Temple), without the Vav of God’s Holy Name, the Vav of connection, the Vav of Yosef the Tzaddik (יוסף הצדיק), we share the status of cattle, standing to be slaughtered. But when we allow ourselves to be seduced by the heavenly scent of Torah, inspired by Moredechai, connect ourselves by means of the Vav to God’s Holy Name, model ourselves after Yosef and his unassailable morality, we הפיר* (he-feer), nullify, the plan of each generation’s Haman and, furthermore, we פרו (p’ru) become fruitful and thrive.
חג פורים שמח–Happy Purim
* The letters ו (vav) and י (yud) resemble each other, one a point and the other the line extending from that point. They are often interchanged and both appear in the Holy Name י-ה-ו-ה.