On your way to (Pesach) Passover, don’t pass over Purim. Ah Purim, how we all appreciate you even though you tantalize us, mystify us and laugh with us as we struggle to understand you. Like Yom Kippur, you help us to reach a destination called forgiveness but what a difference in the trip. You allow us to atone for our sins with merriment and with eating and with drinking– a lot of drinking. On Yom Kippur we abstain. On Yom Kippur we remove our shoes, while you get us to put on an extra pair of clown shoes. On Yom Kippur we refrain from anointing ourselves while you allow us to us smear our faces and bodies with extra creams and cosmetics. On Yom Kippur we stay awake and focused while you – Purim – lead us to take an extra drink and or a little extra sleep. How does this happen?
Maybe we can find an answer using your mitzvah of drinking wine –everything becomes clearer with a little wine and even clearer with more wine . . . Let’s see, where was I ? Oh yes, Drinking can easily bring a person to frivolity and nonsense, yet you, Purim, are (mehapech) the opposite, you make a switch and the wine we drink takes us up the spiritual ladder towards purity and strivings towards kiddusha.
You’re really clever. You fool our (yetzer hora) negative inclination by giving it just what it wants lots of wine and maybe even some more and then all of a sudden, it can’t connive or deceive any more because (nichnas yayin yotzei sod) once wine goes in, on this unique holy day, then the inner yearnings of our pure Jewish soul come out.
You put masks on us to strip our masks away. All of a sudden we may realize that our regular, ordinary, middle of the road conduct is really the result of our inner battle between these two forces. Now we get a chance to glimpse at our dark side and through the special loftiness of this day can actually laugh at it , with that laughter freeing us from its negative influence hopefully not just for this day, but forever.
When we see beyond the mask, we learn how not to judge. Throughout the year we may be guilty of too quickly evaluating and judging others on a very shallow level. On Purim when a (adel) sweet person puts on a scary mask, we are not frightened because we know that behind the mask is a precious soul. So, too, in the real world, every Jew has good points which we should focus on and therefore not be so quick to judge anyone superficially.
Ah Purim, you don’t have us simply ask (mechila) forgiveness, of our friends, you tell us to say it with presents. How so? We give two gifts to at least one friend and minimally one gift to each of two poor people. One of the great Rabbis makes an observation asking why are we obligated to give at least double to a friend and only minimally one gift to each of the poor? He answers that the poor gratefully accept whatever we offer, but we might have offended our friends over the course of the year and they may continue to harbor resentment. On Purim we are commanded to make a special effort to repair these breaches in all relationships especially those which have weakened. Therefore we should “redouble” our efforts with sincere gifts and send a clear message to both close friends and estranged acquaintances that we are sincerely interested in healing the past and rebuilding the future together. Also we give them gifts that don’t need preparation – ie. ready to eat – to hint to them that they do not have to make any – preparations – changes in themselves – in order for us to accept them as they are.
On Purim, the poor can make us rich. One reason we are only minimally required to give one gift to each of at least two needy people is because as long as we don’t see the poor as our friends we ourselves are spiritually poor, however, if we see every Jew, including the needy, as our friends, then we will generously lavish them with gifts thereby taking them out of their physical poverty and ourselves our of our spiritual poverty.
Ah Purim, leave us with one more gift, leave us with your special smile which inspires our hearts as we prepare for the next stage of our journey that being the wonderful Pesach transformation.
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