Purim is around the corner!
Just knowing that things can turn upside down in a moment, is so antithetical to the self-reliant arrogance that you find idealized in society... How do you keep the Big Plan in mind when you are barely able to let go long enough to feel that you can allow yourself to stop your impulsive need to keep controlling the small things that come your way today?
DON’T TRY TO FIGURE OUT THE END OF THE STORY UNLESS YOU READ THE BEGINNING.
One of the most interesting things about Purim is that the story’s beginning isn’t so easy to trace. The first time that we were forced out of Israel led to an exile took us to Babylon. Later when Babylon was conquered by Persia, the rules of the game changed. Achashveirosh ascended the Persian throne, and in three short years after his reign began, the Purim story commenced. The real beginning of the story took place, however, when we were still in Babylon, way before the Persian rule had much of an impact upon us. The Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar, demanded that everyone must bow to him (and to the image that he wore as part of his campaign of self-deification). The vast majority of the Jews did what they felt that they had to do to survive - they bowed. (Nebuchadnezzar had an orchestra play, and anyone within his radius had to bow even if that meant leaving their home.) Anyone on the outside may have seen the throngs of Jews bowing to Nebuchadnezzar as the death toll of our nationhood. The conventional definitions of nationhood were fast fading. We no longer had a common land, would lose our language as Aramaic became more familiar to us then Hebrew, and would soon find our culture melding with the prevalent culture of the people around us.
Hashem knows us better than we know ourselves, and from that vantage point saw that we were still ourselves in the deepest and most authentic sense. He showed the prophet Yechezkiel a vision. In the vision Yechezkiel was in the Dura valley, where the Jews had just bowed down to Nebuchadnezzar. He saw dry bones rising from the ground and coming to life. This told him more than words ever could about the way the Jewish people ultimately will always survive; no matter how moribund our faith is and how many persecutions seem to doom us to collective extinction. We would survive, but then…
…WE FAILED AGAIN
Years later, when Babylon had fallen, Achashveirosh ruled as king of Persia. He made a feast. Nothing new there, Persian kings seem to have a penchant for self-aggrandizement. This feast, however celebrated a very special event. He understood the prophecies about the Jewish return to their land to have come and go. In celebration of our doom as a unique nation, he threw a party to end all parties. There was a façade of religious tolerance, but the intent was to relegate any sense of future that we had to the dust bin of history.
Almost everyone came.
He gave Haman enormous power soon thereafter. Haman’s decree was less draconian than Nebuchadnezzar’s.
The rest of the story is too well known to review, but there is just one more detail that bears repeating. When we had almost lost hope, everything changed.
FAILURE DOESN’T MEAN DEFEAT
This doesn’t mean that you have to lose hope in order to be saved from whatever devils you are dealing with. It means that Hashem can and will save you whether or not you deserve it. For you to appreciate Purim, you have to appreciate the fact that you are alive, and that Hashem’s direct intervention which was the result of his believing in us far, far more than we have any right to believe in ourselves. This took us to the events of thousands of years ago. Everything turned around. What makes this more meaningful is that we actually figured it out. Unlike the response to the many miracles that Hashem has shown us and continues to show us, they knew what to do. They gave. To the poor. To their friends. They gave because they felt that they had so much to give and to They put their faith in Hashem, and didn’t allow themselves to be either guilt ridden after they did tshuvah (which is a cause of continued anxiety), or afraid to give just for the sake of giving, without having to justify themselves.
THE MORE YOU FEEL JOY, THE MORE YOU WILL FEEL STILL MORE JOY!
At least for the day, let go of feeling deprived. Recognize all that you have! And, most of all, Purim Sameach!!
P.S. Mazal tov to our wonderful Toby Rosenblum!