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Entries in Purim (3)

Thursday
Mar152012

Can I come to the King in the Inner Court?

This year I was reading the following verse from Esther 4:

11. All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, know, that whoever, whether man or woman, shall come to the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is a law; to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden scepter, that he may live; but I have not been called to come to the king these thirty days.

The woman sitting next to me at the megilla reading had what looked like a children's megilla full of midrashim, and it cited a midrash that Achashverosh was indeed furious to see Esther there unbeckoned, but then he suddenly saw her and remembered how much he loved her, and could not be angry any more.

It's a well-known idea that although G-d's name is not mentioned explicitly in Megillat Esther, we can take (some of?) the references to the king as referring not, or not only, to Achashverosh but also to the King of Kings.

On a daily basis, or perhaps more powerfully on Rosh Hashanah, we feel "How can I go into the King? I am not desired. I am not in relationship. We have not communicated for many days. I have not heard Him call me." So we hesitate to enter. But know - once you enter, G-d will not be able to help Him (Her) self, but instantly fall in love with our beautiful souls.

Thursday
Mar152012

A new festival bursts forth from the darkness

Chiddush heard from Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden: Why did the date of the decree to destroy the Jewish people fall on 13th Adar? Because that's the day furthest away from Pesach. The next day, 14th Adar, we already begin to plan towards the next Pesach as it says in the Shulchan Aruch, 30 days before the festival we begin to plan.

This tremendous idea got me thinking. From the very darkest place, where the light of redemption was the dimmest, a brand new festival broke through, an entire marvelous new festival of redemption (with yet more eating, of course!). From within the darkness the most amazing things are born.

Such born things may differ from their source in unexpected ways. The Purim energy is not by any means identical to the Pesach energy. The latter seems clean, clear and straight, while the former seems dark, concealed, twisting and turning.  I would go so far as to suggest that this world is divided into Purim people and Pesach people. (I know which one I am... which one are you?)

In any event it's good we have both. So thank you Haman - couldn't have done it without you.

Tuesday
Aug242010

Haman the Ungrateful

As R Shalom Arush points out, Haman's evil lies in his not being satisfied with his life. Haman says in Esther 5:13:

וְכָל זֶה אֵינֶנּוּ שׁוֶֹה לִי בְּכָל עֵת אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי רֹאֶה אֶת מָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי יוֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ

Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.

Haman had so much - supportive wife, many children, friends, high position, wealth, but he cared about none of it because he was eating himself up alive over another person. This is the essence of Amalek. Being ungrateful means you are seeing daily miracles and scoffing at them, belittling - which is what Amalek, Haman's ancestors, did after the miracles in Egypt.

My friend Mosheh Givental pointed out to me that we Jews go by three names: עברים - meaning we are boundary-crossers; ישראלים, we are Godwrestlers; and יהודים, we are thankers - Jew coming from Judah, whose name came from his mother's decision to stop pining after Jacob's love, after her lack, but thank instead for what she had.
The person known most prominently as the יהודי in the Tanach is Mordechai. Mordechai the grateful (though I don't know if we necessarily see this trait explicit in the megillah - what do you think?)

Hold him up against Haman the Ungrateful and contrast.

The joy and gratitude of Purim prepares us for the דיינו of Pesach. And that is freedom - where no matter what happens in our lives, we hold on to our inner practice of gratitude.