Editor’s note: due to the usual circumstances beyond my control, this piece appears today, as opposed to the day after Shushan Purim.
I love all our holidays. Each one brings its own beauty and a balm to the sometimes weary soul. Each reinforces its own message, but all of them remind us again of our unique place in the world and our demanding and privileged relationship with The Master of the Universe. But before I progress with sharing my meager knowledge, let us remember the eight Yeshiva students brutally slain last year on Rosh Chodesh Adar, may G-d avenge their blood!
On Purim we celebrate the escape from a total annihilation and a sheer beauty of being alive; we eat, we drink, we wear costumes, we share food, and we make sure to remember the needy. We also remember the "hidden" miracles that The Almighty performed on our behalf - hidden because on the surface they look like a natural chain of events, and only through deeper study and understanding do we realize that there was nothing "natural" about these events and their timing.
We also have an opportunity to remember what happens when we forget to be properly proud of whom we are. After all, Jews did not eat or drink something not Kosher; they just went to the feast that in essence celebrated the fact that the prophecy about Jewish redemption did not come to fruition (supposedly), and they drank from the vessels that were taken out of the destroyed Temple by the people who destroyed it (collectively spitting into their own faces). The results were immediate (although not immediately felt): right after the description of the festivities we hear about Haman and his rise to power - G-d had "hidden" Himself from His people.
Another reminder - our continued well-being usually depends (at least in part) on the few righteous people present in our midst. In this particular story we have Mordechai and Esther. Again, I do not presume to claim to even understand what they were feeling and thinking, because these people existed on the level we would never really achieve or truly comprehend. Still, with our puny understanding, try to imagine this scenario: man's wife is kidnapped and taken to a harem of a lecherous and powerful king. For a couple of years, he continually watches over her, sitting by the palace day after day. In the process, he uncovers a plot against the ruler and saves him; which, by the way, is another lesson of Purim: Esther conveyed the message about the plot in the name of Mordechai, teaching us that we should always give proper credit (no matter what the cannons of modern marketing and PR are telling us).
Then the terrible news about the official plans for the total extermination of all Jews broke out Mordechai tells Esther to go straight to the king and beseech him to spare our people. Esther seemed to be hesitant; why? Because not only would her life be in danger if she would go to the king without summons, but by voluntary going to him she would also be unable to return to her husband. But Mordechai sweeps aside her objections, telling her instead that the only probable reason for her to become a queen was for the sole purpose of saving her people now. So, after informing Mordechai that she would fast and pray for three days, and asking him to urge all the Jews in the city to do the same, Esther cleverly outmaneuvers Haman and begs the king for the life of her people.
Another interesting and very important lesson of Purim: perception and cause. After Haman rose to power, everybody was bowing down and genuflecting to him. Everyone, that is, except Mordechai (who, by the way, did not attend the infamous feast either). So, according to the surface story, Haman got really angry, observing that everyone bows down to him except that Jew Mordechai; and that situation inflamed his Jew-hatred to the point of his hatching the plan of "the final solution to the Jewish problem". It sounds pretty plausible, but it is completely wrong. Mordechai did not genuflect in order not to bow down to the idol that Haman was wearing (thus strictly observing the first and fundamental rule of our faith, never mind truly preserving his Jewish dignity). He was not part of the problem - he was part of the solution; but in order to comprehend this, you need the true clarity of vision, which, unfortunately, was and still is not widely found.
But the most important lesson of Purim is the fact that our Heavenly Father never truly abandons us. He is always watching over us, both as individuals and as a nation. During our biggest transgressions He, even in His Anger, sows the seeds of the solution. And there is always hope for a salvation, even (and especially) in our darkest hour.
So, here is to the continued health and well-being of our nation! May all our enemies be destroyed! And may we always keep our dignity, clarity of vision, and true pride in being Jews! May we always be able to have great feasts, be merry, and help each other! And may we always have love and unity, not just in times of great sorrow, but in times of great joy! L'Chaim!
On the very light note, here are my Purim highlights:
Munchkins (due to the great wisdom of their Mommy) were both Elmos. Of course, the slight scuffle broke out because both wanted "Elmo padzamas" as opposed to "Elmo dzaket".
Both Elmos run into another Elmo, who was accompanied by a Cookie Monster.
I thought of a great costume to myself, but, since this great thought came to me a bit late, ended up just wearing my usual clothes. What costume? Well, I wanted a T-shirt with "member of the NRA" in big letters and a big picture of a gun. That, of course, was my second choice. My first choice would have been too dangerous to wear in the five boroughs.
Did not run into one person I usually try to avoid - yeah!!! On the down side, missed my friend Moish and his leather get up again.
For the first time actually visited somebody in The Bronx (as opposed to just passing through this borough in a car or a train). In the process discovered that Jews are funny everywhere: not only was that Riverdale, but, apparently, Riverdale in the slang of Jews gets split up into few parts (somebody was living specifically in the Mid-Riverdale).
Got fed a fantastic meal by my friends, which included another funny element. My hostess, always being an inventive type, served very cute hors d'oeuvres: chunks of spicy salami with veggies on the barbeque sticks, all stuck in the big bright mug. Every woman present, without fail, recognized it as a food item, and partook in it. Every man present, also without fail, deemed those things decorations and had to be explained what is was.
My hosts had a very cute costume arrangement: father was Tigger, Mother - Rabbit, and their tiny twin son and daughter: Eeyore and Piglet. The Big Brother (being almost three) spoiled the whole scheme by refusing the wear his Pooh outfit.
Yours truly, being herself, had two half-glasses of wine, after which the pleasant mellowness followed (OK, I got slightly drunk).