Purim comes out of a box we keep stored way up in the tip top of our closet.
Every year when it is dripping wet outside and a bright green in the valley, cold and windy but warm inside our home, our kids (who have grown to be my size) pull the magical box down and begin the ritual of the month of Adar. They parade through the house singing and dancing, happy with new additions stuck into this box. There are costumes of Sadaam Hussein, Bin Laden and other Hamans of the recent past that have not even hid their desire to destroy us. We have other costumes of Queen Ester, witches, Tinker Bell, Spider Man, a Hannah Montana wig and plenty of masks, veils and other disguises too. From the bottom of the box there are relics from the early days of Itamar, wreaths of fake flowers that we used to adorn the head of our then pet, Lolita the donkey. She led the Purim procession through the little row of houses.
There is a Purim that especially stands out in my memory; the day we pulled off the masking tape from the windows and came out of the sealed rooms. It was the year of Operation Desert Storm when Sadam’s missiles flew directly over our heads and exploded in Israel’s coastline cities. As whole buildings were demolished, people walked out without a scratch. It was a low that became a high. When you come to think of it, there are always missiles falling on Israel in different places. All the more so, it seems that there are endless miracles. Our enemies keep coming at us each time wearing different masks. Amalek is always rearing its head. As we prepare our costumes for this year, Iran is reaching the capacity of producing 50,000 centrifuges. Tachliss this means that right now Persia threatens to wipe Israel off the face off the earth. Luckily, we manage to overcome crisis when zero hour hits. Nevertheless, time is running out as Iran’s nuclear capacity perfects itself. True, Purim is a time that the imagination runs wild but don’t let anyone tell you this is all in your mind…
King Achashverosh had a wild imagination himself. He thought that it was over for Am Yisrael (who were exiled into the idolatrous kingdoms of Babylon and Persia just short of seventy years before his reign) They ate forbidden food, worshipped idols, and intermarried, descending to a disreputable low point. This is when Achashverosh made a great feast for all of his subjects using the holy vessels of the Temple as his silver service in a totally sacrilegious act. Many Jews participated in this banquet. Mordechai stood firm and did not give any gesture of respect to Haman, the evil advisor to the King. Ester, incognito, playacted with this wicked man who planned to kill her and all of her people. She eventually unmasked her real identity to the King and overturned the decree. Her bravado is followed by Am Yisrael demonstrating gevurah in driving out and killing their enemies. Shortly after this episode a very significant turn in events that reshaped history happened when Ezra and Nechemia returned to Israel with a small contingency and built the 2nd Temple. There were many more obstacles to overcome, (there was no Nefesh B’nefesh then or AACI ) but they learned from Mordechai and Ester’s examples that “When there’s a will there’s a way”.
Purim is the holiday that focuses on the display of different kinds of people with different identities. While we live in a generation that emulates celebrities, we look to our biblical celebrities and try and learn from their stories year after year. That’s what Purim is all about. Sometimes when someone does not totally reveal himself/herself at first there is a reason for this. This is what we learn from Ester. Also in the story of Yosef Hatzaddik, it took quite a few chapters in that saga until he let his brothers finally know who he really was. Rachel and Leah’s identities were also disguised. (Not to mention the ugly duckling!) Sometimes, even Hashem is not mentioned in a story full of miracles like in Megillat Ester. There is a covering over of reality itself like the clouds of glory that covered over Am Yisrael in the desert. Wearing a costume and disguising oneself is part of the mitzvah of Purim. Maybe it is exactly at this time that we ask ourselves, “Who am I. What am I?” (I sure had an identity crisis last year as a friend and I dressed up as a camel. I was the 2 back legs).
In Masechet Sanhedrin (Daf tzaddik zayin, A) it is revealed that in the final days of the redemption, our reality will be in such a state of topsy – turviness that what is up will be perceived to be down and vise versa. Today we experience this in all realms: The weather is bizarre with the unusual effects of El Ninjo- flooding in deserts, dryness in usually wet places. The stock market is erratic as well as the global economic situation. The world media disguises real circumstances causing millions of people to be brainwashed and ignorant. “This overall divergence,” the gemara says, “will completely cover over the truth.” What’s up is down and what’s down is up, like “adey lo yada!”
The happiness we feel on Purim should surpass any level of rejoicing we experience throughout the year. It is our red letter day as we delight in knowing that as we dance and clap our hands in joy we are abating the harshest of decrees against us. The happiness we feel that we know in complete faith that what goes down must come up, what is hidden will eventually be revealed, and this is the greatest mitzvah of all!
Happy Purim, Shabbat Shalom Leah Goldsmith