Thoughts on Purim.
So many. I'll just jump right in.
Today is Purim. It's a day we celebrate (and boy do we celebrate) the salvation of the Jewish people and the downfall of her enemies (woohoo!). For the full story (and a whole lot more) check out: https://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/default_cdo/jewish/Purim.htm
There's a lot we can learn from this story, and I'll just share some thoughts I had this morning while listening to the Megillah reading.
The Purim story took place some 2400 years ago. The Holy Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed some 50 years earlier and most of the Jews were exiled from the land.
Empires came and went and King Ahasuerus (good luck pronouncing that) was sitting on the throne of the vast and mighty Persian Empire.
He was three years in, feeling pretty secure (back then term limits were enforced via poisonings, beheadings, etc.) in not only his position, but in the overall hierarchy of things.
Some time before the destruction, the prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) prophecied (is that a word?) that after 70 years G-d would wreak vengeance on the nations and that the Jews would return to Israel and rebuild the Holy Temple.
Anyways, this was bugging the king until his third year when, according to his calculations, the 70 years were up.
So, feeling powerful and indestructible, he made a massive party. For 180 days the people ate and drank and ate and drank and did whatever people did back then at parties.
He also used the precious and sacred vessels that were plundered years earlier from the Holy Temple. Yikes. He obviously hasn't watched Indiana Jones, or any other of that sort of movie...
Now, lets' go to the Jews. They've been chucked from their land, their people decimated, now under the whims of whatever winds happen to flutter through the minds of the various rulers.
There's this massive party, celebrating the emperor and all he stands for, to which they are invited, and their absence will be obvious and possibly dangerous.
The Jews have been, for the most part, under their own rule and in their own land ever since they left Egypt almost 1000 years before.
This whole exile thing is new, and frankly, terrifying.
There's no blueprint, and Egypt was, well, different, and a really long time ago. They weren't even really Jews back then.
Some of the Jews are like "what?! the King is making a party? He's celebrating our defeat? Wait, what, he's using the holy vessels from the... awww hell no!!"
And others are more "Yikes, I don't know. We're already persecuted and hated, not going to this thing will REALLY tick "them" off, I think we just gotta suck it up and go.
(And I'm sure there were a few of, "Oh man, a party!! Gonna get my party sandals and rock it!")
Contrary to Moredechai's take, many Jews go. Some sadly, some happily.
Then the whole Vashti scandal goes down, Esther becomes the new queen, and things die down. For a spell.
Sometime later Haman (boo), a descendant of Amalek (remember not to forget!) is appointed Prime Minister (all decrees are delivered within two days) or whatever that position was called back then.
Haman is immensely rich and now powerful to boot. Low self-esteem though. So, as happens, he orders that "all must bow" as he passes by. Cool cool.
What are you gonna do? I mean yeah, we aren't supposed to bow to humans or idols, or human idols, or idle humans, but sheesh, it would be madness not to.
So everyone does.
Except on old Jew. Mordechai. His head is probably stuck in a massive book, and well, he just isn't going to bow. Not even bend.
Haman is NOT happy. Capital letters. He was a newbie to the royalty/wealthy scene, having gotten his money (and thus power) illegitimately. You know how it is, you tell a lie, a whopper, and know matter how many people believe it, if there's one who sees through it, and she gives you that look, oh man it gets to you.
He flies into this massive rage, and after consulting with his wife, decides to punish the entire Jewish people. He offers loads of cash to Ahasuerus, and he's like "yeah whatevs man, here's my ring, go to town, what's on Netflix?"
Remember all those people who said that maybe we should just bow down and not poke the bear. They kind of had a point it seems.
Unpause (also known as "play"). I'll get back to that.
Okay so now there are two major directions the Jew peeps can go. They were at a crossroad in their history. One that would have repercussions all the way down.
1. Damage control. Disown Mordechai, send a delegation to the king, raise some money to counter Haman's offer, kiss some Persian derriere, just do what you got to do. Work it. Worst comes to worst just pay lip service and fake convert (heaven forbid). Play the game.
2. Step back, re-analyze. Realize/remember it's all up to G-d, who plays by different rules. Maybe an entirely different game.
Well actually here's where my thoughts kind of started about this all.
There's always a game that's going on. And there are rules. Lots of them. Hustle. Work hard. Know the right people. Say the right things. Be born into the right family.
Way back when it was the Game of Thrones. Maybe without dragons. Money was king. Power was king. Rules were for the weak.
Now it's better. But there are still rules. The "rules of nature" we can even call them.
1+1=2. It's just the way it is.
But then there's the creator of the game. Master of the rules.
And connecting with that lifts one above the rules that we live by. Swear by. Sweat by.
And that's what ticked off Haman, and the Hamans of the world.
There's a story of this women who was about to be carted off to a death camp. She asked if she could go to the Mikvah first so she can die pure.
"Du bist nisht kein mensch!" the officer, apoplectic, exclaimed. And then he shot and killed her.
"You're not human!"
That's why Haman wanted to kill all the Jews, not just Mordechai.
He played the game and got to where he was and gosh darn it, everyone else must play it as well.
I hope you realize where this is going...
(Spoiler alert: They chose the second option)
I've played the game. Maybe not so well, but I definitely have. And do. Anytime I prioritize work over G-d. When I think I HAVE to be vocal on social media because I rely so much on it for work.
When I try too hard to come off a certain way.
When I know what my purpose is in life but I let my job get in the way of pursuing that.
Yeah of course we have to work, but only because G-d wants us to. He wants us involved in the world. But the job or who we know or what we know. Whatever machinations we come up with. It's really all up to G-d.
The thing is, the game works. It's a real game played by real rules.
But we don't need to play it.
We really really don't.
I mean you can't just ignore life and expect G-d to take care of you.
But you can find your purpose. Where your passion mixes with something that will change the world (for the better of course). And run with that. Run hard. Run fast. Run true.
Rules be damned.
Ignore the haters. They never really last anyways.
Okay, a few more, possibly related thoughts.
The above is not to say that "believe in G-d and do as he says, and all will turn out okay".
In the long run, as a family, tribe, culture, country, group, species and world in general, yes. But for you and me as individuals, no. Nowhere is that promised.
The Jews didn't make a calculated decision that option B was the best chance of survival.
In the face of the options they realized what their core values were. Who they were. Deep down.
Will a connected and moral life be better? More fulfilling and happy? Usually, yeah. Not always. And that's not why we should do it.
On Purim there is a custom to drink. Alcohol (for those who use the word "drink" to mean other things 🙄 ).
The Gemara says one is to drink until one doesn't know the difference between "blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman".
The point is not to get smashes until you can't tell between Corona Extra and Lagunitas Waldos' Special Ale (good luck getting there). Or whatever.
Sometimes we need alcohol (in the right settings) to uncover some things, to strip down a few layers and get real.
Yes, we know that Mordechai, the doer of good and propagator of morals, will be blessed. He'll be happy and fulfilled. If not in this world, definitely in the next. His name will be remembered for good. And Haman? Yikes, who would want to be a Haman?! Cursed as black cat looking in the mirror on midnight of the 3rd full moon of an odd year.
But that's not why we want to be like Mordechai and not like Haman.
Cursed. Blessed. Blessed. Cursed. Bursed. Clessed.
We do what's right because it's true and right. Not even because we want to do what's right. But we do it because it's right.
Yeah there's a difference. Maybe have another L'chaim.
For some previous thoughts on Purim...
I haven't posted any weddings for a while so here’s one.
Aryeh and Ariela are some of the happiest people I know and, I don't know, they just remind me of Purim. So here's some photos of their (truly) lovely wedding.
Enjoy and thanks for getting through this sea of words!
(now good luck getting through the sea of images 😅 )
Special thanks to the talented Russ Levi for shooting with me! Check out his work!